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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 259: 'Land of Misery'

Friday, April 1, 2011

During the Civil War the Union soldiers called Missouri the "Land of Misery" because they believed that all Missourians and the entire state was the enemy. This of course was not true because there were hundreds of "Unionists" or "Missourians" who were loyal to the United States, but that made no difference to the Blue Bellied Yankees from Kansas and other northern states such as Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. In the fall of 1861, a Kansas Brigade consisting of three regiments known as "Lane's Brigade conducted an expedition of revenge, retaliation and retribution into western Missouri. This was an expedition of deliberate mass destruction of every town and farm that Lane's troops located. One of the Union officers in Lane's Brigade was Lt. Joseph Trego of the 5th Kansas Vol. Cavalry Regiment who wrote the following letters to his wife after the expedition was over and the brigade had returned to Kansas. The original letters are located in "Trego Collection" in the collections of the Kansas Historical Society.

"Mound City, Kan.

Dec. 18th, 1861

My Dear Wife,

The withdrawal of the federal troops from Missouri has given Price's armies full possession of Southwestern Missouri and at the same time the Kansas Brigade was divided up until at this time there is more danger of invasion (of Kansas) then there ever has been before. On last Thursday night a party (of Missourians) was sent up on Mine Creek who pillaged Potosi and several neighboring houses, getting all they could carry away. They killed one man and took two prisoners. We were escorting a train from Leavenworth, having gone up towards Pottawatomie to meet it. Since returning we have been on the go constantly. The Infantry had gone to Papinsville and Butler to burn those towns, also to burn every Sesesh (Southern) house on the way. It was but a small party & they were gone so long, a day over their time and no word from them. Montgomery became uneasy and had the cavalry go over to meet them and ascertain if Price had cut off their retreat (back to Kansas.) We rode 40 miles and found them all right and on their way home, having done the work that they were sent to do. It was a hard case as families had to be set out of doors, not however without everything that belonged to them except their buildings.

This was done to stop, if possible, the persecution of Union men in Missouri who have since the federal troops left, been robbed and driven from their homes more than at any former time. Just at this time it is impossible to know what shape affairs will take here, but if the new generals will return to the border the forces that have been ordered away and add to them enough to be able to make anything of a show of defense for the country and the government stores that are now here, then there will be no danger of invasion. At this time, there is 15 to one against us if Price should undertake the job.

Goodbye your loving Husband.

"Camp Defiance, (Linn County, Kan.), Dec. 28,1861.

My Dear Little Wife,

It is impossible for me to express the disappointment I felt in not being able to meet you at Leavenworth at the time I designated. Just about that time we were very apprehensive that the Southern Army would invade Kansas, which they could have done if they had attempted it at the right time, of course I did not wish to have you coming here while that danger existed.

29th: Last evening while I was writing and had progressed so far, our Company returned from a trip twenty miles into Missouri wither they had gone to attend a Secesh Ball. They missed the road on their way down last night, which made them too late for the dance, the company having dispersed. They, however, scoured the neighborhood and took in some prisoners one of whom is an officer in the Southern army who had come home to remain awhile. They (the company) brought inseveral teams (wagons) loaded with bacon, dried fruit, apples, lard, butter, honey, etc., but had no fight. Col. Montgomery has an old Sibley Tent, smoky and cheerless and there is generally a tent full of them, who will lay around him by the hour, talking about Border Ruffian Times (Bleeding Kansas) when they supposed that Montgomery was an "awful man," but they had gone right, far enough to vote for Lincoln and for that they were driven from Missouri. If they had been worth as much as a good cigar, they would have defended themselves at home, instead of running at the first approach of danger. Why the colonel permits such men to occupy so much of his time is only known to himself.

Heavens what a miserable out (mess) the officers of this Brigade have made to the matter of pay. There are lots of men whose families are in a more destitute condition than were the poor of last winter and they cannot get a cent for them. The men are getting very much discouraged but not so much as they might and those who have been neglected of their duty as to cause so very much of suffering on the part of soldiers families should and may be they are, ashamed of themselves to say the least.

Your Impatient Husband."

Note: Lt. Trego served with his regiment for the balance of the Civil War, eventually the soldiers of his regiment were paid, and of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches