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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 281: 'Marauding, atrocities and plundering'

Friday, September 9, 2011

Even before the infamous Kansas "Lane Brigade" invaded the "Land of Misery" ("Union" soldiers' nickname for Missouri), its reputation had already been established by small groups of marauding Jayhawkers who crossed the "line" in small groups killing Missourians and plundering their homes.

In a way, this was a premonition of things to come. These Jayhawkers claimed to be and may have been from "Doc" Jennison's or the Grim Chieftain's (Lane's) troops.

On Sept. 7, 1861, Gen. J.H. Lane was at his headquarters in Fort Lincoln preparing to enter Missouri with part of his brigade to "threaten their rear and confuse them" (the Confederate army, commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, that was advancing north through Missouri to Lexington and the Missouri River). Fort Lincoln had been established by Lane late in August of 1861 to assist in the defense of Kansas after the Battle of Wilson's Creek.

Immediately before the Battle of the Mules or Drywood on Sept. 2, 1861, Lane ordered that all military supplies should be evacuated from Fort Scott, and if the town was attacked by the Confederates it was to be destroyed so it would not be captured by the enemy.

That was the official military reason, but Lane's personal reason for wanting to burn Fort Scott was that it was a pro-Southern/pro-slave town in "Bleeding Kansas."

The following dispatches are located on pages 475, 482 and 485 in Vol. 3, The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, and clearly indicate Lane's "game plan" for carrying the war into Missouri which he and his "brigade" did with a vengeance.

"Headquarters Kansas Brigade, Fort Lincoln, Sept. 7, 1861.

Capt. W.E. Prince, Commanding Post Fort Leavenworth:

I send you the latest news from the front. Although (with) but a handful of men and but little artillery, I propose to pursue (the enemy) far enough and threaten their rear and confuse them.

I can only say again that if the government had furnished us artillery, the army that we are now pursuing would have been blotted out. (Lane was never bashful.)

The object of the pursuit is a hope that we will be able to cut off their train and recover the mules they have stolen from us.

J.H. Lane, Commanding Kansas Brigade"

(Note: This is one of the few references Lane makes to the Battle of the Mules / Drywood because his troops, commanded by Col. James Montgomery, were defeated by Price's Confederates and it is believed that the stolen mules were never recovered.)

The following dispatches are from Capt. W.E. Prince who was a regular "career" U.S. Army officer with 23 years of service in the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment (not the "Union" volunteer forces) and was for a short time in 1861 the commanding officer of Fort Leavenworth. Because he was "regular Army," Capt. Prince had a very low opinion of irregular volunteer troops such as the "Lane Brigade" and their "Jayhawking" or "plundering practices." However, he did not hesitate to give the "Grim Chieftain" his marching orders and to order the Lane Brigade into Missouri in pursuit of Price.

"Headquarters Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Sept. 9, 1861.

General J.H. Lane,

Commanding Kansas Brigade, Fort Lincoln, Kan.:

General: I received your note of the seventh last evening and the communication by Lt. Hollister, U.S. Army, at the same time. I have been and shall continue to be unceasing in my efforts to strengthen you with men and means; but, general, let me advise you to husband (carefully control) all your supplies, especially ammunition.

I am aware that new levies (volunteer troops) are not so easily handled as veterans, but the everlasting admonition for economy will in time have its effects.

I propose to send Lt. Hollister back to you in a day or two, after instructing him in the details of his duties, and I would suggest that he be placed upon ordnance duty (responsible for the weapons and ammunition) at your headquarters to superintend the distribution of supplies pertaining to that important branch of public service.

(Lane's Brigade had the well deserved reputation of being wasteful and non-military.)

I hope that you will adopt early and active measures to crush out this marauding which is being enacted in Capt. Jennison's name, as also yours, by a band of men representing themselves as belonging to your command. Capt. Wilder will be able to give details of their conduct at Leavenworth City and doubtless their atrocities in other localities have already been represented (reported) to you.

Please have a formal examination into the plundering of private and public buildings which has recently taken place, as I am informed, at Fort Scott.

(Note: When Lane ordered the evacuation of Fort Scott shortly before the Battle of the Mules on Sept. 2, 1861, soldiers from the 3rd Regt. of Kansas volunteers, commanded by Col. James Montgomery, plundered a number of stores and homes of Fort Scott citizens.)

It will be necessary for representation to higher authority and for adjustment of the accounts of disbursing officers.

A few days since I recommended the employment of spies to scour the country 100 miles west of (Fort) Scott, to give information of any movement of the enemy toward the Santa Fe road. I hope that you have initiated the work.

If you desire to have commissions from the governor of Kansas for the field officers of the 3rd, 4th and 5th regiments of your command and will give me the names, rank and date, I will have them sent to you.

W.E. Prince, Capt., 1st Infantry, Commanding."

("Marching orders into Missouri.")

"Headquarters Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Sept. 9, 1861.

Gen. J.H. Lane, Commanding Kansas Brigade, Fort Lincoln, Kan.:

General: I enclose you a telegram this moment received. I would recommend that you concentrate forces sufficient to form a strong column of attach and march at once upon the enemy's rear. Of course, find out definitely where Col. Peabody is.

W.E. Prince, Capt., 1st Inft., Cmdg.

("Lane's Game Plan")

"Headquarters Kansas Brigade, Fort Lane, Barnesville, Sept. 10, 1861.

Capt. W.E. Prince, Commanding Fort Leavenworth:

Sir: I am thus far on my march eastward. (Fort Lane was a temporary camp near Barnesville that was located on the original military road approximately 10 miles east of Fort Lincoln in northeastern Bourbon County.)

I propose to march east as far as Papinsville, (Mo.), if possible, clearing out the valley of the Osage (of the enemy). I will from there turn north, clearing out the valley of the Marais-des-Cygnes, Butler, Harrisonville, Osceola and Clinton and proceed in that direction until I hear from the column under Peabody.

If attacked by an overwhelming superior force, I will, of course, fall back on Kansas. I am moving with a column of about 1,200 infantry, 800 cavalry and (two) pieces of artillery. I will leave at Fort Scott about 200 cavalry, at Fort Lincoln about 300 infantry and cavalry and at Barnesville, Fort Lane, about 200 infantry and cavalry, which I think sufficient to protect these points. I will camp in the neighborhood of Ball's Mill (Balltown, Mo.) tonight and in the neighborhood of Papinsville tomorrow.

J.H. Lane, Commanding Kansas Brigade."

The dye was cast and clearing out was done. Lane's Brigade went on a rampage of destruction, killing and murder through Vernon, Bates and Cass counties, Mo. Homes, barns and the towns of Osceola and Dayton were burned to the ground with only brick and stone chimneys remaining. These chimneys were called "Lane's Sentinel's," which became a calling card of the Kansas "Jayhawkers and Red Legs" throughout the remainder of the Civil War and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches