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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 257: 'Outlaw'

Friday, March 18, 2011

According to Mr. Webster, one of the definitions of an "Outlaw, is "a habitual or notorious criminal who is a fugitive from the law." During the Civil War, there were many "outlaws" who were former soldiers of the Blue or the Gray and there were also those who never wore a uniform and were civilian outlaws. The following is a brief description of the life of a "Kansas Outlaw" by the name of Capt. Marshall Cleveland that was included in Wagon Boss R.M. Peck's article that was published in the Thursday, July 28, 1904 edition of the National Republican newspaper in Washington, D.C. Peck describes Cleveland as a Jayhawker from Kansas, which he was before he went over to dark side and became an outlaw.

The most notable attempt that I remember at carrying on bushwhacking on the Union side (or Jay-hawking as it was more commonly called in Kansas) was that of a man who was known in Kansas as Capt. Cleveland and who had the reputation of being an ex-convict, gambler, counterfeiter, horse thief, robber, murderer and all other kinds of a criminal descriptions.

At the beginning of the war, he had been for a short time a Captain in the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, or "Jennison's Jayhawkers" as the regiment was often called; but the restraints of military discipline were irksome to Cleveland and he soon resigned and taking advantage of the upset and turbulent condition of affairs along the border between Kansas and Missouri without asking any authority from the government. He gathered around him a band of lawless men of his own stripe and attempted to carry on a buschwhacking business on the Union side making raids along the Missouri line, in imitation of the style of Quantrill, who was then gaining considerable notoriety as a rebel guerrilla chief. As Cleveland's principle object was plunder, regardless of parties, he soon took to robbing both Union and Rebel folks indiscriminately.

Capt. Cleveland was one of the handsomest men I ever saw; tall and rather slender, hair dark, beard dark and neatly trimmed. He was very neat in his dress and his carriage was easy and graceful. As a horseman he was superb. A stranger never would get the impression from his appearance that he was the desperate character that he was. His real name was Charles Metz. He was a native of New York state, had been a stage driver in Ohio and had served a term in the Missouri penitentiary. (It appears Cleveland was "bad to the bone"" before he came to Kansas). After his graduation from this institution, he had for a time called himself "Moore," but later settled onto the name of "Cleveland."

As soon as Cleveland's depredations came to the notice of the "Union" Department Commander, although he was ostensibly serving the "Union" cause against the rebels, an order was issued to turn the Union soldiers out to hunt him down, capture or kill him and destroy his gang.

In the spring of 1862 Cleveland and his gang were operating along the border eat of Paola and Osawatomie. His reputed wife had taken up her residence in the latter place, so as to be in easy communication with him. I afterwards learned that the woman who had passed herself as "Capt. Cleveland's wife" was never his wife, but had formerly been employed in "Ben Wheeler's Ten Cent Show," a disreputable "varieties" dive in Leavenworth as a comedy actress and "beer slinger." She was there known as the wife of Tommy Pell, a comedian, whom she deserted to follow the jay- hawker.

A party of the 6th Kansas Cavalry were encamped in the timber near the town, but he managed to elude them for a while.

Finally, by watching this woman's room, the soldiers, corralled him one night. On being summoned to surrender, Cleveland drew his revolvers to shoot his way out, but his pistols misfired. He got the charges wet swimming his horse across the river to reach town and he was compelled to yield. While the soldiers were taking him out to their camp, he made a break for liberty and was shot and killed. He was buried near the camp. According to Adjutant Gen. S.M. Fox of the 7th Kansas, Cleveland sleeps peacefully in the cemetery at St. Joseph, Mo.

In the spring of 1862, it did not matter whether Cleveland's remains were buried in either Kansas or Missouri. What did matter is that there was one less "Outlaw" to rob the folks of the Blue and Gray, and of course, the War Went On!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches