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Friday, July 25, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 305: 'Heaps of ashes'

Friday, February 24, 2012

The title of this column suggests that something has been burned to the ground, and it is correct. However, one would be mistaken in thinking that the destruction occurred in Missouri. It did not; it occurred in Kansas in September and October of 1861 when Confederate "guerrillas" or "bushwackers," if one is of the Northern "persuasion," attacked and sacked Humboldt, Kan.

The following article describes Humboldt as it appeared in February of 1862 and a camp of "Loyal Indians that was located south of Humboldt near what is now St. Paul, Kan., on the Neosho River. It was written by a correspondent for the "Leavenworth Conservative" newspaper and was published in the Feb. 27, 1862, edition of that newspaper on page 2, column 4 and page 1, column 7."

From Gen. Jennison's command (Correspondence of the conservative)Headquarters First Brigade Department of Kansas,Humboldt, Feb. 22, 1862

The Department (district) of the Neosho is fairly in working order. The First Cavalry (in reality, this was the 7th Ks. Vol. Cavalry or Jennison's Jayhawkers) arrived here about 10 days since and are in camp just in the edge of town and on the banks of the classic Neosho River.

Humboldt boasts of a dozen houses and numerous "heaps of ashes," which mark the places where dwellings once stood before the town was sacked by Arkansas and Missouri ruffians.

On a slight rise has been thrown up a square fortification which boasts itself among the people as a fort and gives quarters to a motley company of Col. Clark's battalion. A rusty old buzz saw, which looks and and sounds like an exaggerated gong, is hung on a high post at a corner of the defense and does the double duty of arousing the country in case of invasion and ringing its new fledged garrison of "regulars" to their indifferent rations.

Gen. Jennison arrived here on Sunday last. Since his arrival, all has been life and bustle about his quarters. The battalion of Col. Clark, consisting of six companies, is at present in very ineffective condition, without clothes, poorly armed and half mounted. Under the prompt direction of Jennison, they are rapidly assuming the character of soldiers and will doubtless be a real aid to the expedition.

The "friendly Indians" of which you hear so much are camped about 30 miles south of us. They number about 8,000 and additions are made to their number of nearly 100 each day. Their subsistence imposes a heavy tax on the department, and measures should be taken to muster them (have the warriors join the Union Army) immediately into service and render them useful in our approaching campaign.

Gen. Jennison goes to their camp in a few days, when a "grand council" will be held. Its results I will communicate. The First (7th) Cavalry are assiduously engaged in perfecting their discipline and drill and will compare favorably in every regard with any regiments from other states, which may join the expedition. Who is to command the expedition, Hunter or Lane?
Yours, X"

Now then, the 7th Ks. Vol. Cavalry, or Jennison's Jayhawkers, was transferred from near the Missouri border because of the type of total warfare, in reality the mayhem and murder, it conducted in Missouri. Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Department of Missouri in St. Louis, ordered the 7th's transfer to Humboldt to simply get it away from conducting raids of revenge, retribution and retaliation in Missouri. Eventually, Humboldt was not far enough away from Missouri, because Gen. Halleck requested that Jennison's Jayhawkers were to be transferred to the state of Mississippi, which was done.

The "expedition" mentioned in this article was the proposed "Union" expedition into the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) that eventually occurred early in the summer of 1862. However, since Gens. James Henry Lane and David Hunter could not get along, neither was placed in command of the expedition.

The War Department, with the approval of President Lincoln, transferred Gen. Hunter to a command of troops on the islands on the coast of South Carolina and Gen. Lane never commanded a regiment or brigade again. He was appointed as the recruiting commissioner for the state of Kansas by Gov. Robinson, which lasted for about a year. Then he resigned his commission and continued to serve as one of the two U.S. Senators from Kansas for the remainder of the Civil War.

During the winter of 1861 and 1862, thousands of American Indians who were loyal to the United States were driven or forced from their homes in what was then the Indian Territory and is now northeastern Oklahoma. They were from the Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, Quapaw, Seneca and Shawnee tribes and had to defend their families from the attacking Confederate Indians and guerrillas.

Their forced exodus was another Trail of Tears, and many died as they walked into southern Kansas and traveled north in the Verdegris and Neosho River Valleys as refugees. They established many camps from St. Paul to Humboldt, to Le Roy and just south of Emporia.

The following article was originally published in the "Emporia News" newspaper and was republished in the "Leavenworth Conservative" newspaper on page 1 col. 7 on Feb. 27, 1862.

"Visit to the Indians

A few days ago we paid a visit to the camp of the refugee Indians who had arrived here from Chelsea. They are located some five miles below the town of Cottonwood. We found them, about 200 in number, suffering considerably from the cold.

An old lady who spoke English informed us they had a pretty good supply of provisions. Several of them were breakfasting, the principle article of food consisting of hominy, which was boiled in a large pot, being first prepared by cutting a square hole in a log and pounding it with a club. Half a dozen of them ate out of the same pot and used but one spoon. Very few of them can talk English and those who do are not inclined to be at all communicative.

Their clothing was thin, ragged and dirty from a long and weary march. Some of them had buffalo robes strung over poles and others had dilapidated quilts fixed up to protect them from the cold. By the kindness of our citizens, they had been furnished with many articles, such as old quilts, coats, pants, vests, boots, shoes, etc., which added greatly to their comfort and seemed to please them "muchly."

Some of these Indians tell sad stories. Many of them are the remnants of families broken up by the guns of the blood-thirsty Texas Rangers and by the murderous deeds of their own secession brethren. Emporia News."

Eventually the Union Army and Bureau of Indian Affairs would provide these refugees with some additional relief; but it was never enough, and many died after being exposed to a severe Kansas winter.

In the spring of 1862, many of these warriors formed the nucleus of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Indian home guards in the Union army; and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches