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Battlefield Dispatches No. 291: 'Troubles coming'

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Kansas Brigade arrived in home on Nov. 14, 1861, after a march of five days from Springfield, Mo., and it was good to be in Kansas once more. However, trouble was on the horizon for the Kansas Brigade and its commanding officer Brig. Gen. James Henry Lane. It seems that the concept of waging "total war" that had been practiced by and was a way of life with the Kansas Brigade was not popular or accepted by Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck who commanded the "Department of the West" and other officers in the United States War Department in Washington, D.C.

In addition to this questionable type of waging war, the physical size of various military departments required reorganization, so "The Department of the Missouri" and "The Department of Kansas" were created. This idea was not new, and in fact, Gen. Lane suggested that the Department of Kansas be created early in the fall of 1861 and, of course, he would be the departmental commander. This did not happen.

It was a good idea, but having the "grim chieftain" (Gen. Lane) as the commanding officer of the Department of Kansas was considered a bad idea by the U.S. War Department, so it did not happen as a result of Gen. Lane's suggestion. He was still popular with President Lincoln, but his popularity was not enough to be selected as the commanding officer of the newly organized Department of Kansas that was created by the following order that is located on page 567 in Series I, Vol. 8 of The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:
"Headquarters of the ArmyWashington, D.C., Nov. 9, 1861.

General Orders No. 97.

The following departments are formed from the present Departments of the West, Cumberland and Ohio:

The Department of New Mexico, to consist of the Territory of New Mexico, to be commanded by Col. E.B. Canby, United States Army.

The Department of Kansas, to include the State of Kansas, the Indian Territory west of Arkansas and the Territories of Nebraska, Colorado and Dakota to be commanded by Maj. Gen. David Hunter, headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.

The Department of the Missouri to include the State of Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas and that portion of Kentucky west of the Cumberland River, to be commanded by Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck, U.S. Army."

Shortly before he was appointed as the commanding officer of the Department of Kansas, Maj. Gen. Hunter was the last commanding officer of the Department of the West and discovered numerous irregularities in the administration and accounting of public property.

These he described in the following telegram to the U.S. Adj. Gen. in Washington, D.C. The telegram is located on page 569 in Series I, Vol. 8 of the official Records of the War of the Rebellion:

"Warsaw, Mo., Nov. 11, 1861.

(To): L. Thomas, Adj. Gen.:

Great portions of army stores and other public property in this department are in the hands of irresponsible, ignorant and illegally appointed persons, who have given no security, hold no commissions and are accountable to no tribunal. This must be at once corrected and the department placed on a basis of integrity, capacity and responsibility.

I will need to aid me in the work two experienced and reliable ordnance officers, two engineers and two thoroughly competent assistant quartermasters. Unless these are sent without delay, so that I can put them in charge, it will be impossible to guard against serious losses.

D. Hunter, Brig. Gen."

When the newly promoted Maj. Gen. David Hunter arrived at Fort Leavenworth as the commanding officer of the new Department of Kansas, he discovered many irregularities in the military operations as he had in Missouri, especially with the Kansas Brigade. It wasn't until March of 1862 that most of these irregularities were solved, and the Kansas Brigade was dissolved. However, from Nov. 1861 to March of 1862, regiments of the Kansas Brigade were stationed along the Kansas-Missouri border and, on occasion, continued to wage its way of "total war" in Missouri. Gen. Lane had traveled to Washington, D.C., Col. James Montgomery was in command and more "troubles" were "coming" for the Kansas Brigade and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches