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Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017

Battlefield Dispatches No. 294: 'Papinsville burned to ashes!'

Friday, December 9, 2011

On Thursday, Dec. 12, 1864, 1st Sgt. Luther Thrashers's Company, Company C of Lane's Kansas Brigade, received orders late in the afternoon to prepare for a march into Missouri. It seems that on the previous night a Union man who lived in Missouri near the Kansas line was murdered by bushwhackers or "Missouri ruffians," so according to Thrasher's diary, "we are now off to avenge" this murder. The following entries from Thrasher's diary describe this march into Missouri and the revenge of the Kansas Brigade which included the burning of Papinsville, Mo., and the destruction of many "Rebel" farms on the way to and from that town.

"Thursday, 12 Dec. 1861, Mound City, Kan.

Capt. Twiss called in last evening and after chatting until late, reading Byron and enjoying ourselves promiscuously until a late hour when he consented to stay with us over night. Fine night rest. Reveille called me up quite early at 4 o'clock, I should think. All manner of reports are afloat. One is that "Secesh" (Confederate guerrillas or bushwhackers) are marching upon us. Another that they are plundering on the (Missouri/Kansas) line. Of course, we don't believe any of these reports and would not have the weakness to credit for a moment an old camp report. Guns are in prime order this morning. Glad to see the boys take pride in keeping their (fire)arms in good condition. Battalion drill in the evening. Orders issued at 4 p.m. to be prepared to set off on a march in one hour.

"Then there was hurrying to and fro" and tumbling in hot haste the boxes and bedding, etc. Infantry is to go (ride) in mule wagons. Set off at dusk. The moon shone out in her utmost splendor, and not an unpleasant summer breeze fanned our brows as we rolled along and the hazy nary light giving every object a somber here inspired a spirit of hilarity perfectly irresistible, not withstanding the nature of the work one would soon be called upon to do. "Joy ruled the hour," and the voice of song floated out over the boundless prairie as our ebony driver's voice and whip urged us on to "Dixie." There is something rapturous in riding "neath the moon's pale light," and I find it is not confined, as I had just thought to ride near home nor dependent upon juxtaposition to a handsome lady of "liquid eyes and flowing curls" for her on this running expected to hear "the cannons opening roar" and to be brought face to face and steel to steel with a foe we can but pity the same emotions obtain, which we thought could be called out by no other influences than those above enumerated "Hurrah! Hurrah!" We take a flight toward heaven tonight and leave dull earth behind us. In an hour we sweep through Potosa, a little village (one L if you please) in Linn County near the (Kansas/Missouri) line. It was here or near here that a horrible murder was perpetrated last night and which we are now off to avenge. A band of Missouri ruffians came out from Butler, called an old man out from his house and deliberately shot him down without any provocation whatever. Double damnation on their heads. Drove all night, stopping a few minutes on the Osage (River) to gather up the lost tribes of Snyder; this done we pushed on and at daybreak we were within 10 miles of Pappinsvile."

"Dec. 13, 1861,

Papinsville, Mo.

Went on to the town and took breakfast at 10 o'clock. I shot two porkers (pigs), fine fat fellows and another of our boys assisted a corpulent gobbler to cease to be, while a third levied to the tune of one dozen on the nearest poultry yard.

While congratulating ourselves on our success in replenishing our larder and indulging in visions of fat living for the next night, another jayhawker awaited with beaming countenance and more genius and good taste than the rest, precipitated himself into our midst actually groaning beneath his load of honey, aye honey. You may be sure he was duly appreciated and heartily cheered. Viewing our spoils lying in miscellaneous profusion around us, we found ourselves in the condition of a good old Methodist brother, when he said he had much to thank God for.

Having duly replenished the inner man, the order to burn the town was issued. The soldiers were allowed to secure what property they needed from the deserted buildings before the fire was communicated to the buildings. The houses which were inhabited were spared. When the fire burst forth from 20 buildings simultaneously the scene was fearfully grand. Tis a painful necessity to thus sacrifice thousands of dollars worth of property almost instantly, but such is war! Papinsville is situated near the Osage River and contained before the war about 50 inhabitants.

I think it was a dead town before the troubles and now I (know) it is dead. We left the town about 3 p.m., leaving Papinsville a smoldering ruin! Every Rebel's house on our way was consumed (burned) and we marched home by the light of the bonfires of the rebel houses!

Crossed the Osage at 3 o'clock and burnt a mill on the left bank. Pushed on across the low swampy bottoms and camped eight miles up the river on a fine elevation, where we took a huge supper. Botsford, Tip and I cooked until midnight when we turned in, three deep into a wagon and soon launched into dreamland.

'Blessed is the man that invented sleep.' (I neglected to state that Pickering was accidentally shot in the neck and was stung in the eye while bravely leading a charge on a beehive).

After destroying Pappinsville, Thrasher's company and the balance of the battalion from the Kansas Brigade marched north in the direction of Butler, Mo., before returning to Kansas.

Next week's column will include the balance of 1st Sgt. Thrasher's diary that contains a description of his company's return to Kansas and being in "winter quarters" until Sunday Jan. 12, 1862, and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches