Battlefield Dispatches: 'Robbing and Plundering'

Friday, February 12, 2010

During the Civil War, "Robbing & Plundering" were common place and were committed by soldiers in both Blue and Gray, Guerrillas, Redlegs, Jayhawkers, Bushwhackers, Civilian Vigilantes and Outlaws in Kansas and Missouri. This of course complicated and frustrated the Union peace keeping forces in the Jayhawker state of Kansas and the Bushwhacker state of Missouri. That's not a misprint! Part of the Union mission in Missouri was of the Blue Bellied Billy Yanks from Missouri was to keep the peace and maintain law and order in and about their hometowns. This sounds like a "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" which it was! However, they were partially, but never completely successful. Plundering is defined as "to rob of goods especially by force in time of war" and to be sure there was a great deal of plundering throughout the entire state of Missouri between 1861 -1865.

The following after action report describes a good bit of robbing and plundering in the vicinity of Rolla, Missouri in early February of 1864. The report is located on Pages 280 - 281 in Series I, Vol. 34, Part IV of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Headquarters District of Rolla,

Rolla, Mo., February 9,1864.

Maj. 0. D. Greene,

Assistant Adjutant General,

I deem it my duty to inform you that GUERRILLAS & BUSHWHACKERS are getting very troublesome in this district, in the last few days. I hereby advise you of some of their doings. One man by the name of Robert Wade, a good, inoffensive Union man, living 25 miles west of here, on Spring Creek, was attacked by a band of 7 rebels & received two mortal wounds near his own house. On receipt of this intelligence I sent a Scout (Patrol) with an ambulance & had him brought to this place. The man was buried today. The scout was not successful in capturing any of these scamps. On the 4th instant 1 private on duty as provost guard, on his way from here to Little Piney to serve a subpoena was captured by a party of 4 men about 7 miles from here. They relieved him of his horse & equipments, arms & a portion of his clothing & released him & allowed him to return. On the 6th instant an extra stage coach from Springfield was stopped & robbed of the mail 1 mile west of Little Piney. They stripped a soldier who was on the stage of his clothing & money & allowed them to proceed on their way. A party of laborers, employed by the quartermaster, were attacked, robbed of their provisions & dispersed while at work about 8 miles southwest of here.

I have just been informed of an attack made upon a party of Union men on their way to this place with their teams; one of them was killed & one mortally wounded. I dispatched a scouting party after them immediately & will send another after them tonight in a different direction. I hope they will be successful in killing some of the gang before they return. This last gang numbered about 10 men & were DRESSED IN FEDERAL UNIFORM! This same gang ATTACKED & PLUNDERED another party of road repairers. You will see from the enclosed report of Major Fisher, from Waynesville, that his neighborhood is INFESTED with MARAUDERS in the same manner. By the report of Lieut. Bates you will see he was successful in killing 7 of them & wounding several more & capturing a lot of property. A Sergeant just in from Waynesville informs me that a small escort belonging to that post en route from Gasconade to Waynesville & 9 miles west of the latter place, were attacked & 1 man severely wounded & 1 captured. I shall be able to give particulars when a scout after them returns.

This list of depredations will show that there is plenty of work for one small command to attend to. I have at the present time six scouting parties out in this district & shall endeavor to HUNT DOWN & EXTERMINATE these bands wherever they may be found, but I anticipate a continuance of these depredations as long as the weather will permit these bands to lie out in the woods. The country south of Springfield is nearly exhausted of all kinds of supplies. These bands are therefore compelled to rely on their ROBBING & WAYLAYING wagons on the roads for subsistence. We have a large number of rebel sympathizers living in this district, who are on every opportunity aiding & abetting these marauders, otherwise it would be impossible for them to do all this mischief. As this communication is somewhat lengthy, I hope that I have not intruded too much on your patience. I shall continue to keep you advised of things transpiring in this district during my term of command.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieut. Colonel, Commanding District."

The support of rebel sympathizers by actually "aiding and abetting" the Confederate guerrillas with food, lodging, supplies and intelligence were the keys to waging a successful prolonged campaign of guerrilla warfare in Missouri throughout the Civil War and of course the War Went ON!