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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 304: 'Payday' and 'a whipping'

Friday, February 17, 2012

During the Civil War, normally when the armies of the Blue and the Gray were in "winter quarters," major campaigns did not occur. There were, however, scouts and patrols which often resulted in small skirmishes or engagements; but for the most part, the enemy was the winter weather and enduring the monotony of camp life, drill, work or fatigue details and guard duty.

It was during "winter quarters" that newspaper correspondents frequently traveled from camp to camp gathering information for their papers, and often there was a five to 10 day or more lapse before their article was published in their newspaper. This time lapse would be greatly reduced if the reporter had access to the telegraph, but many did not.

The following edited articles are from the Feb. 27, 1862, edition of the Leavenworth Weekly Conservative and are located on page 1 in column's four and five. The first article is from the 5th Kansas Vol. Cavalry Regiment and the second is from the 3rd Kansas Vol. Infantry.
"From the Fifth Regiment (correspondence of the conservative) Camp Denver, Feb. 17, 1862.

(Note: Camp Denver was named after Brig. J.W. Denver and was located approximately one to two miles east of Barnesville in northeastern Bourbon County, Kan., near the Missouri state line.)

We are just now experiencing very close winter weather, and Camp Denver is by no means a pleasant place for tender individuals to reside. We have enjoyed the exquisite pleasure of a visit from Maj. Adams (the departmental paymaster), who was accompanied by the affable and gallant Capts. De Costa and Atwood of your city (Leavenworth).

The Major, with the aid of the aforementioned gentlemen, disbursed (our pay) in an incredibly short space of time, and what has already made the hearts of many families glad; and we hope has relieved the financial embarrassment of many interested individuals.
If irregularities mark any act or acts of the regiment, they are to be accounted for from the well-known fact that we were thrust into the field with scarcely time enough granted to procure arms, much less anything else at Fort Leavenworth after a forced march of over 100 miles, in an incredible short space of time. Our infantry were almost disabled from duty by blistered and bleeding feet,and our horses saddle-galled (sores on their backs, so as to be almost unfit, many of them, for service.
We were called to repel from the borders of our youthful state a vandal foe whose footsteps would have bred destruction in our midst, and their presence polluted the virgin soil dedicated by blood to the holy cause of freedom."
(Note: This condemnation is of Confederate Gen. Sterling Price and his army that was advancing north through Missouri to Lexington after the Battle of Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861, and the perceived invasion of Kansas that did not occur, and the following is an exaggerated version of the Battle of the Mules or Dry Wood that occurred on Sept. 2, 1861.)

"It was a memorable day when the gallant and heroic Johnson, surrounded by the flower of the Kansas Brigade, accompanied by the cautious Montgomery and his brave band with part of Col. Weer's regiment (numbering, all told, 447) met on Dry Wood, the armed hosts of a slavery oligarchy, in defiant and armed rebellion, number 13,000 men (realistically, the Confederate force at Dry Wood was probably about 1,300 men, not 13,000, but then again an enemy force of 13,000 sounds better in a "Northern newspaper!), and engaged and routed well neigh drove entirely from the field, the minions of the C.S.A.

(Note: Now then, this correspondent is wrong again because the Kansas troops were driven from the field, and it was a Confederate victory, not a Union triumph!) But for that stroke of daring and skill, Kansas, from her southern line to the goodly city of your sanctum (Leavenworth), would have been ere this one charred waste; else I mistake the tempers of our foes and the signs of the times. After passing through many trying vicissitudes, we have received our pay and entered with much pleasure upon a new era.

We are about to remove our camp to Dry Wood, (912 miles) southeast of Fort Scott, where we expect to be put under a regular system of drill, and perhaps we will enjoy greater facilities for moral improvement.

We will be obliged to you, Mr. Editor, if you will send us a few copies of the daily (Leavenworth Conservative Newspaper) by the "Wilder Express," (stagecoach service from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott owned by A.C. Wilder who would build in 1863 and own the "Wilder House Hotel" on the southwest corner of Main and Wall Street in Fort Scott)" from Montgomery's regiment.

(Correspondence of the conservative)

(Note: Camp Defiance was located in eastern Linn County, Kan., not far from the Missouri state line.)Camp Defiance, Feb. 16, 1862.

You will see by the following order that shoulder straps have taken a fall and that our regiment is not itself anymore.

(Note: In February and March of 1862, there was a major reorganization of all the Kansas Regiments and many of the officers who were indicated as such by wearing "shoulder straps" were demoted and replaced, many for political reasons, not because of poor performance.)

These Lambs-Tall Promotions (of new officers) create no little excitement and much indignation among "sojers" (the soldiers) and particularly among the officers who have been (demoted or) crowded off the end of the log (as the Indian said by the white man).

Col. Montgomery (former commanding officer of the regiment) is signing orders this morning as the Lt. Col. while Lt. Col. Blunt protests and says he is going to contest Col. M. for the position of Lt. Col.

Our camp has been particularly lively for several days past as the paymaster and mustering officer have been here to see us. I think they will get through paying here today sometime.There was much excitement in camp last week caused by the whipping at the cannon of Eli Bradley of Mound City for selling whiskey to the soldiers. This was done by order of Col. Montgomery.
Yours in Haste, Sojer."

Now then, it is not known if Eli Bradley was a merchant or tavern keeper in Mound City or a "sutler," a civilian licensed to sell things to soldiers, but it really didn't matter, because it was illegal for anyone to sell whiskey to soldiers.

Therefore, because he did so and was caught, he was punished by being tied to a cannon and whipped, receiving an unknown number of lashes across his bare back and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches