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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 293: 'Dress parade, pay day and target practice'

Friday, December 2, 2011

From the middle of November 1861 to the end of February 1862, the Kansas Brigade was in "winter quarters" and was stationed at various locations in eastern Kansas. Company C of the 3rd Kansas Vol. Infantry Regiment was stationed near Osawatomie and finally near Mound City for the balance of the winter.

Being in winter quarters was far different than being on the march or participating in an expedition or major campaign in "enemy country." In fact, most of the time was spent by doing routine military activities such as close order drill, roll calls, inspections, dress parades target practice, guard duty and fatigue or work details such as gathering and chopping firewood, cooking and cleaning and caring for firearms and accoutrements such as leather belts, cartridge boxes, cap boxes and the other necessities of war.

1st Sgt. Luther A. Thrasher of Company C, 3rd Kansas Vol. Infantry Regiment, maintained the following diary from December of 1861 until the end of January 1862 while his company was in "winter quarters" at Osawatomie and Mound City, Kan. The original diary is located in the official 10th Ks. Vol. Inf. Regimental Letter, Endorsement and Order Book in Record Group 94 in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and a transcribed copy is on file in the research collection at Fort Scott National Historic Site.

"Dec. 3, 1861; Osawatomie, Kan.

In the absence of orders, I propose to occupy this space. They would occupy by brief minutes of the daring and exploits of the Kansas Brigade, hoping to thus preserve a connected narration of its peregrinations (travel from place to place) and the incidents of its engagements.

L.A. Thrasher, 1st Sgt. Co. C, 3rd Regt.

Tuesday, 3 December 1861,

The Kansas Brigade has hitherto, been under the command of Gen. J.H. Lane, or he at least has been in nominal command without actual authority. He, however, left for Washington on the 15th of November, leaving the Brigade in Camp at Fort Scott, Col. Montgomery in command.

I learn that Gen. Lane will not assume command, a Gen. Denver (former governor of the Kansas Territory) may fill the position with satisfaction to the command and honor to himself.

Gen. D. has not yet assumed command, and we may indulge in favorable impressions of him until his advent amongst us. We are in camp at Osawatomie and to be mustered for pay tomorrow. Weather is cool with a few inches of snow in the timber.

Capt. Allen is on recruiting service and not with us. 2nd Lt. J.K. Hudson is in command. Dress parade today. A sergeant made some gross blunders preparing for muster tomorrow. Two men (Picking and Sharpnack) having failed to appear on parade and refusing to do extra duty were put under arrest, a circumstance I very much regret. Lt. Hudson and I are puzzling over our muster rolls. Teamster Raleigh took sick today, Alf Southwick drives (in his place). Two men sick.

Wednesday 4, December 1861, Osawatomie, Kan.

I rose at early day err the day God had set out in his cause of light and joy. Roll call was a success this morning. Think the hints of last night will be of use in the future. Called on Col. Montgomery on business. Went to Lt. Hudson, sneaking out pay rolls with a will. Order for dress parade at 1 p.m. Wm. Tuttle called with information that his family was in camp. Dropped papers and made a call. Found Miss Jane of (your) a matron. Went to town for the dress parade. Osawatomie's fair (ladies) turned out in force to witness the grand pageant. Up late, as usual, working on our rolls.

Thursday, 5 December 1861.

Still in camp at Osawatomie. Reveille found us on company parade with arms and accoutrements in prime condition. Flatter ourselves that we are prepared to make quite an impression on the inspector when we are mustered for pay, which must occur in a few days. Speaking of impressions, we no doubt will be favorably impressed with the "yellow boys" (gold coins) that are to flow into our gaunt purses. Such are the rewards of a soldier. Lt. Hudson in anticipation of the prospective plethory of lucre (money) threw away a few dollars on a toy tent stove. I, more philosophic and more practical than he, indulged to the tune of thirty cents for a wash basin and tin cups. "Thank god I am not like other men."

Lt. Hudson went to Col. Montgomery's quarters and returned with the sorrowful intelligence that we would be obliged to make out new muster rolls. More hard work for poor old Ned. Our company seems to be laboring under what may be an intermittent squad drill fever; out in a.m. and p.m. Went through the abnormal drill of "belly firing" (target practice while laying on the ground) in the p.m. No incidents, save one man lost. The immaculate 1st Sgt. went off in a rear discharge and is no more. "Peace be to his ashes."

Friday, Dec. 6, 1861.

Muster day. No squad drill. Preparing all morning to make ready for inspection at 10 a.m. Detailed Fowler to go upon the color guard. Finished minutes of marches and ordered the boys and got in line in due time. Crossed the river in wagons and went into Osawatomie under the tune of the "White Cockade." Maneuvered an hour or so, passed inspection, mustered by Maj. Williams. Returned to quarters at noon and took dinner.

Osawatomie is a finished town, somewhat notorious for being the scene of "border ruffian" exploits during the contest between the free staters and pro-slavers. Here to, is the scene of the John Brown battle; so distinguished in the annals of small warfare. Osawatomie was burnt in 1856; there seems to be nothing of the Phoenix about it. At least no signs of a growth from its ashes is yet manifest. It is built in the angle formed by the junction of the Osage (called the Marais des Cygnes) River and Potawatomie Creek. The name was formed from the first three letters of the first named river (Osa) prefixed or added to the last seven letters of the last named (watomie). Before the war it had a population of about 300. It is now nominally inhabited by darkies (blacks).

P.M.

General camp inspection came around 1 p.m. and inspected tents, bed clothing and highly complimented us for cleanliness and order, which I think we deserve, to say the least.

Lt. Hudson took rolls to Maj. Williams' quarters for his examination and returned after night fall. The inspector made rather flattering report of our drill, which is very gratifying. Hope we may continue to improve in order that our reputation may go onward and upward.

Saturday, Dec. 7, 1861.

Still in camp at Osawatomie. Squad drill in a.m. Battalion drill in p.m. under acting major foreman. Thing rather a failure, but 'tis consoling to think it might have been worse! Two privates on duty. Camp in good condition. One man absent on leave for the night. Weather warm and hazy, indicating rain. Kansas has remarkably fine winters compared with the "Buckeye" state (Ohio).

Wednesday, 11 December 1861 at Mound City, Kan.

Out at daylight and called the roll. Squad drill at 8 a.m. and had a good exercise. Think we will make military heroes yet, if fates are auspicious. Blacked shoes and brought up company records. Morning most glorious. Battalion drill at 3 p.m. Gave the thing fits. Did not commit a single blunder and came off with flying colors. Botsford and I chopped a large tree, and we will rejoice in good fires one day at least. Huntly, Botsford and I carried it home. Lt. Jones called to see us in regard to blending (combining) our companies. Don't think it can be done. Greased boots and guns and advised the boys to do the same. Splendid moonshine tonight. Think we will remain here some time. Pretty good encampment."

According to related reports, Company C, 1st Sgt. Thrashers' company, became one of the best, most disciplined and well trained companies of the 3rd Regiment and the Kansas Brigade itself. This is confirmed when Co. C was selected to be part of a "Union" battalion that was ordered into Missouri on a mission of revenge that will be described in next week's column and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches