Battlefield Dispatches No. 297: 'Smuggling gunpowder, rascality and robbing'

Friday, December 30, 2011

During the Civil War, by December of 1861, things were getting organized in Missouri and eastern Kansas from the "Union" perspective.

The disorganized discontent of the summer and fall of 1861 was in the past and even though Confederate Gen. Price and his army were now in southwestern Missouri, they were still on the mind and a major concern of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck who commanded the "Union" Department of the Missouri from his headquarters in St. Louis.

However, Halleck's main concerns were the actions of the Southern sympathizing "civilians" and guerrillas whom he called "insurgents."

The following letter describes this concern and has a surprising political response from President Abraham Lincoln concerning "Kansas" Brig. Gen. James H. Lane, otherwise known as the "Grim Chieftain."

This letter is located on pages 449 and 450 in Series I, Vol. 8 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Headquarters, Department of the Missouri, Saint Louis, Dec. 19, 1861.

Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, General-in-Chief of the Army, Washington City;

General, the expeditions of Generals Prentiss and McKean through the counties north of the Missouri River have been entirely successful. Every insurgent organization there has now been broken up, and I think it will be safe in a short time to withdraw a portion of the troops from that district.

(Note: Now then, that was wishful thinking for a moment on Halleck's part, because the "Guerrilla War" continued with a vengeance north of the Missouri River.)

At Glasgow our troops yesterday captured about two tons (approximately 4,000 lbs.) of gunpowder, which it is said was purchased in Chicago and brought in on the Saint Joseph and Hannibal Railroad among dry goods and in "demijohns" (large earthenware jugs or bottles) marked "brandy."

It was carried through in small quantities by "rebel" country merchants and farmers and collected at Glasgow, to be thence forwarded to Gen. Price. Col. Marshall's expedition to Arrow Rock and Waverly prevented its crossing the (Missouri) River, and it consequently fell into the hands of our troops on the north side.

(Note: Now then, that must have been quite an elaborate smuggling scheme or system.)

Gen. Pope's party intercepted a portion of the insurgents who had crossed at Lexington. He attacked their camps of 2,200 near Shawnee Mound, between Warrensburg and Clinton, and completely scattered them, capturing their tents, wagons, horses and baggage and taking 150 prisoners.

If Gen. Prentiss had kept me advised of his movements, as I had directed, I would have taken the whole party. Our forces at Sedalia were for several days ready to move at a moment's warning and only waiting to hear where Prentiss was.

On the whole, however, the result is satisfactory. We have within the last two weeks taken about 500 prisoners, one piece of artillery, a number of (fire)arms, wagons, horses and a considerable amount of ammunition and clothing and what is of most importance, we have pretty effectually crushed out the insurrection along the Missouri River (now, that was really wishful thinking), upon which Price placed his main reliance for recruits and clothing.

His army is pretty well supplied with provisions and arms but is greatly in want of clothing and shoes. He has a large park of artillery and, from all I can learn, will make a good fight.

He and many of his men are virtually "outlaws," and it is said are determined to win a victory or die. Another retreat would effectually ruin his cause in this state. I had hoped to draw him north to the Missouri River, so that I could effectually cut off his retreat, but his main force has not yet crossed the Osage and the columns he advanced on Clinton and Warsaw have been withdrawn.

(Note: Gen. Price was no dummy. The columns he advanced on Clinton and Warsaw were a rear guard as he moved his army toward Springfield and southwest Missouri.)

In that position I cannot cut him off by moving from Rolla as our troops would be compelled to cross the Osage Mountains over narrow and difficult roads which would make our movements necessarily slow, affording him plenty of time to fall back.

The conduct of the columns sent through the river counties forms a striking contrast to that of previous expeditions. Citizens from these counties assure me that they have all acted with perfect propriety, committing no depredations and producing a most favorable impression. This certainly indicates a vast improvement in discipline

(Of course, the southern civilians and guerrillas were going to behave when the "Union Yankees" were passing through in force, but after they left the "insurgents" started to wage war once more.)

By a few severe punishments for marauding and pillaging, I hope to put an end to these depredations.

(This was a false hope on Halleck's part, because the depredations and guerrilla war by the "insurgents" in Missouri continued long after he was transferred to the War Department in Washington, D.C.)

The conduct of the forces under Lane and Jennison has done more for the enemy in this state than could have been accomplished by 20,000 of his own army. I receive almost daily complaints of the outrages committed by these men in the name of the United States, and the evidence is so conclusive as to leave no doubt of their correctness.

It is rumored that Lane has been made a brigadier general. I cannot conceive of a more injudcious appointment! It will take 20,000 men to counteract its effect in this state and, moreover, is offering a premium for rascality and robbing generally.

My efforts to introduce a system of order and economy and to ferret out frauds will very naturally create opposition and I shall not be surprised to find myself an object of very bitter abuse in the newspapers and on the floor of congress. This, however, will not trouble me, so long as I am sustained by my superiors and feel that I am pursuing the right course of conduct.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H.W. Halleck, Major General. (Endorsement of President Lincoln)

Dec. 27, 1861.

An excellent letter, though I am sorry Gen. Halleck is so unfavorably impressed with Gen. Lane. A.L."

Now then, eventually, as a result of outrages committed by and complaints against Lane and Jennison's troops, the following actions were taken.

Col. Jennison resigned from the service of the United States, and his regiment, the 7th Ks. Vol. Cavalry or "Jennison's Jayhawkers," was transferred to Mississippi.

Also, in March of 1862 Lane's "Kansas Brigade" was dissolved. Gen. Lane resigned his commission, which some believe he never legally had, never to lead troops as an officer again, and he went to Washington, D.C., having been elected as one of the first two United States senators from Kansas and, of course, the war went on!