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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 285: 'Ferreting Out and Fighting the Enemy'

Friday, October 7, 2011

While stationed in Kansas City in October of 1861 with his "Kansas Brigade," Brig. Gen. James Henry Lane (the "Grim Chieftain") did not hesitate to express his opinion to his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, or anyone who would listen about how the "Union" or "federals" should fight and destroy the Confederate forces.

The following documents clearly indicate Gen. Lane's opinion on how war should be waged and his position on "slaves and slavery" or, as slavery was called in the south, that "peculiar institution" and are located on pages 515, 516 and 522 in Series I, Vol. 3 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:

"Headquarters Kansas Brigade, Kansas City, Oct. 3, 1861.

Maj. Gen. Fremont,

Capt. Williams of my command, who was sent out on the Harrisonville road last night, reports that the enemy, with his whole force, some 2,000 or 3,000 men, are moving south on the road that they came up; that they camped the night before last near Rose Hill.

I have ordered Lt. Col. Blunt, in command at Fort Scott, to concentrate his entire force, leaving a small guard at Fort Scott and Fort Lincoln and move northward through Barnsville, Trading Post and West Point in the direction of Harrisonville, (Mo.), while I will move tomorrow morning, in connection with Gen. Sturgis' command southward, through West Point, (Mo.), forming a junction with Lt. Col. Blunt.

We will do all in our power to annoy the enemy in their flank and rear. Gen. Sturgis will have about 2,000 men. After the junction with Lt. Col. Blunt, I will have about 3,000.

J.H. Lane, Commanding Kansas Brigade."

"Headquarters Kansas Brigade, Kansas City, Oct. 3, 1861.

Gen. S.D. Sturgis:

General: In answer to your note of this day, I have this to say, that I don't care a fig about rank, I have enough of the glittering tinsel to satisfy me. I am here in obedience to an order from Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont to cooperate with you in "ferreting out and fighting the enemy." Kindly and promptly do I desire to obey that order. My brigade is not here for the purpose of interfering in any way with the "institution of slavery." They (my soldiers) shall not become Negro thieves, nor shall they be prostituted into (becoming) Negro catchers. The "institution of slavery" must take care of itself.

I said in the Senate of the United States and my experience since only demonstrates its truth, that in my opinion the "institution (of slavery) would perish with the march of the federal armies.

Again, I say that the mass of the personal property in Missouri, including slave, is at this moment held by the wives and children, assisted by the Federal Army, while the husband and father are actually in arms against the (U.S.) government. In my opinion, our policy in this regard should be changed.

Confiscation of slaves and other property which can be made useful to the (Federal) Army should follow treason as the thunder peal follows the lightning flash. Until this change is made, you offer premiums for the men to remain away in the army of the enemy. I had a man (one of Lane's soldiers) cowardly shot in the woods today within sight of our camp by the very man, I have no doubt, whose property (slaves) you are so anxious to protect.

I am endeavoring to find what transportation I have to spare, if any, and will report to you accordingly. Yours,

J.H. Lane, Commanding Kansas Brigade."

"Headquarters, St. Louis, Mo., Thursday night, 10 o'clock, Oct. 3, 1861.

Col. Thomas A. Scott,

Assistant Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.

Your dispatch has revolutionized the town with joy. We send it to all the hotels and to the public meetings now in session and to Camp Benton. There is great rejoicing. All thank you.

Lane chased Rains into Osceola and was compelled to shell the place to dislodge the rebels. In doing so he burned the town and destroyed large stores (supplies) of the rebels, of which the town was the depot. Killed 50 rebels without losing a man. Lane, not being strong enough to pursue Rains, withdrew to Kansas City and joined Sturgis. Gen. Fremont is moving his column with tremendous energy at Jefferson City to cut off Price at Lexington!

(Note: That was the "Union" plan, but Gen. Fremont did not complete it, and Gen. Price and his Confederate force of the Missouri State Guard marched and were pursued to southwest Missouri.)

A week will give you stirring news. I will keep you posted. Your dispatch came before any other.

Benjamin Rush Plumly",

(Maj. and aide to Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont)

"Headquarters Western Department, Camp Little, near Jefferson City, Mo., Oct. 6, 1861.

Brig. Gens. Lane and Sturgis, Kansas City, Mo.:

As Kansas City is not threatened now, you will, in accordance with the last movements of the rebel forces, move in concert with Gen. Sturgis' command to Warrensburg. From there, united to Clinton with the view of proceeding towards Warsaw, Mo., where you will join my advance guard, 10,000 strong.

J. H. Eaton

Col. and Actg. Assist Adj. Gen. (For Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont)

Now then, Gen. Lane and the Kansas Brigade had their marching orders to join Gen. Fremont's command as it traveled south through Missouri in pursuit of the Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches