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Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015

Battlefield Dispatches No. 290: 'Going home'

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Civil War, "Going home" were two magic words and music to the ears of any soldier, sailor or marine and, for that matter, to anyone past and present who served in any branch of the armed forces of United States.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and today is the 236th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, so it is most fitting and proper to say thank you to each and every veteran and their families for the sacrifices they have made to make sure that we as a nation enjoy the freedoms of today. Thank you one and all.

On Nov. 9, 1861, the Kansas Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. James Henry Lane -- or as he was more commonly known the "grim chieftain" -- was ordered to return to Kansas and was "going home."

The following are some of the observations of the march to Kansas from Springfield, Mo., that 1st Lt. Henry Miles of the 5th Kansas Vol. Cavalry recorded in his diary and those of Chaplain Hugh D. Fisher from his book entitled "Gun and Gospel" that was published in 1890.

Diary of 1st Lt. Henry M. Moore:

Nov. 9, 1861; near Springfield, Mo.:

Weather same as yesterday. This a.m. mounted guard, 8 a.m., as officer of the day. Soon after we received orders to march on Springfield, en route for Fort Scott, Kan., and we were soon on our way through the town. I halted the column for a few minutes to let the 1st Nebraska pass on their way to Bolivar. They did not join us. Neither does the 27th Ohio as was reported yesterday.

We soon got under way. Gen. Lane started south with a portion of the cavalry, but returned to join us. P.M. Col. Weer was in command until Gen. Lane joined us again. We marched 20 miles today, Awful hot and dusty. Camped at dark in a bushy bad place as forage and water were scarce and in poor country part of the way. The wind commenced blowing in the night and Gen. Lane had written an order sent to me as the "officer of the day" to have all campfires put out for fear of burning up the camp. I made the grand rounds two or three times. A terrible trip owing to the great length of the camps. About midnight a fire broke out in the camp of the 3rd Regt. among a crowd of negroes who are fleeing the country."

(On the journey back to Fort Scott, hundreds of contrabands (escaped slaves) and refugees followed and joined the Kansas Brigade and became a problem for Gen. Lane. To solve this problem, Gen. Lane issued the following order:)

"Chaplain's Fisher, Moore and Fish -- You are hereby ordered and directed to take charge of the contrabands and refuges in camp and proceed with them to Kansas, finding homes and employment for them, dividing the property among them to the best of your judgment.

J. H. Lane, Commanding the Army of the Border."

"Nov. 11, 1861; Lamar, Mo.:

On the 11th instant, the Army of the western border reached Lamar, Mo. at 1 o'clock p.m. Our supply train consisted of 160 wagons, among which were a number containing the goods of refugees, literally packed with young, middle aged and aged refugees and, as Lamar was near the Kansas line at any point we expected to reach soon, it was wisely concluded by Gen. Lane to send off a "black battalion" in charge of the chaplains.

The order was made according to rank. At 4 o'clock p.m. one train consisting of 25 wagons full of people and about 20 mounted men, marched out of Lamar and defiled (headed) toward Fort Scott."

"Nov. 21, 1861, Leavenworth Daily Conservative (newspaper)

Report of Chaplain Hugh D. Fisher

We forced a march (from Lamar, Mo.) Kansas-ward until about 3 o'clock a.m., when we called a halt and formed a camp, in which we cooked and ate slain beef. After we had eaten to the satisfaction of all and just as gray twilight (sunrise) streaked the east, we rolled out.

Nothing of interest occurred until we crossed the Kansas line. Here we drew up our cavalry escort opposite the line of our train and announced that we were in Kansas; that these men, women and children (former slaves) were free, and such cheering you never heard. "Three times three" (cheers) were given for Kansas and Jim Lane, the liberator!"

(During the time of "Bleeding Kansas" from 1854 -- 1860 and in the Civil War from 1861-1865, it is believed that hundreds of escaped slaves found sanctuary and freedom in Kansas. Many of these escaped slaves joined the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry regiments and the Kansas Independent "Colored" Light Artillery Battery and served as Union soldiers for the duration of the Civil War.)

"Nov. 14, 1861:

About 8 a.m. we broke camp and pushed on toward Fort Scott, 15 miles. We passed by the Dry Wood battleground, fought on the 2nd Day of Sept. (1861). I picked up a grape shot and slug. Several cannon balls, spherical case and shells not bursted were picked upon (from) the ground by our boys. We passed the state line into Kansas about noon, four miles to Fort Scott, which we reached about 4 p.m.

I traded my gray filly with Frank Clark today for a pony for Linna, which I will take up to her the first chance I have.

I went to Gen. Lane and got a leave of absence to go to Fort Leavenworth. I shall go tomorrow. Met Capt. Insley, Wilder, Troy and Diefendorf here.

Fort Scott is rather a pretty town. It was formerly an old government post, built like all government posts, square in the center and magazine and officers' quarters and soldiers' quarters and stables around.

It was sold by the government to individuals some years ago at a bargain for the purchasers. Streets have been added on the north side, and it is quite a business place in times of peace.

I should think Col. Judson's command of home guards are stationed here doing noone any good, I judge from what is said by all."

The "Kansas Brigade" was now at home in eastern Kansas, and its regiments were dispersed into "winter quarters" from Fort Scott north to Fort Lincoln, Mound City, Camp Defiance in Linn County, Paola, Wyandotte and Fort Leavenworth.

However, being in "winter quarters" did not mean that contact with the enemy stopped along the Missouri and Kansas border and in western Missouri.

During the winter of 1861 and 1862, various battalions and companies of the Kansas Brigade continued to wage their total war of revenge, retaliation and retribution in western Missouri and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches