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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 306: Military Pony Express

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The following newspaper article was published in the Leavenworth Conservative on Feb. 27, 1862, and was written by a correspondent of that newspaper in Mound City, Kan., on February 21, 1862. The article describes many military happenings in and around Fort Scott and concludes with a description of the new "Military Express" which delivered mail to Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott in 22 hours functioning like to the original "Pony Express."


(Correspondence of the Conservative)

Mound City, Kansas, Feb. 21, 1862.

The 13th Wisconsin encamped here night before last, on their route to Fort Scott, where they arrived before this. They are a fine body of men. Fort Lincoln has been abandoned, or soon will be. The stores of every description have been transported to Fort Scott and the next thing in order will be the withdrawal of the old maids rusticating there, who until quite recently imagined that they held a life interest in that cluster of log buildings on the Osage flats.

(Note: Fort Lincoln was never completely abandoned during the Civil War because it occupied a key defensive point protecting the crossing of the Little Osage River by the 1859 Road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott. The garrison would be reduced and strengthened periodically throughout the war, and in 1865 when the war was over, some of the buildings were dismantled and brought to Fort Scott. Others were sold a public auction.)

The 5th (Kansas) Regiment, Col. Clayton, commanding, is under orders to move to Fort Scott. The major of the regiment -- Summers -- has tendered his resignation, in consequence of his disgust at the thought of a "foreigner" being promoted over his valuable head to the command of one of the best of the Kansas regiments. Col. Clayton, although indifferently received at his first appearance among them, increases in favor with the men daily. The captains of various companies hailed his coming with delight, as they deemed any change would prove advantageous and for the better.

(Note: Whenever there was a change in command during the Civil War, if the previous commander was well liked and respected, there would be a certain amount of trepidation concerning the new commander. However, if the previous commander was disliked by the troops, as it appears Col. Clayton was, then it was hoped and appears that the new commander was a better officer and well received.)

Paymasters Adams and Martin got through with the payments of the 5th and 3rd Regiments quietly and rapidly and in a very business-like manner. Maj. Adams seemed to give them all entire satisfaction, not only because he was the first man to give them their pay on behalf of the government, but from the affable manner in which he transacted the business and his patience with their short-comings and want of experience in the preparation of their payrolls, disarmed them of any feeling engendered by long fasting (of going without pay for many months). Decosta and Atwood are bricks (good folks). They worried the computation of wages and the long columns of figures, as though they had slept with them all their lives.

"Military Express"

"As I foreshadowed in a former letter, the Military Department of Southern Kansas has been compelled by necessity to establish a daily mail from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott. Measures have already been taken to put it into operation. Capt. Insley, quartermaster at Fort Scott, has the matter in hand, and as usual with him, he will put it through. It will, I understand, be under the immediate supervision of Mr. D.C. Piquette, whose frequent trips over the ground peculiarly fit him for the position. As a messenger, Mr. Piquette has made the quickest average trips between the two Forts of any other man since the war began. I give below the stations, distances and timetable.



Fort ScottMiles
Mound City23
Twins Springs22.......45
De Soto22.......89
Fort Leavenworth25.....114



Leaves Fort Scott...................6 o'clock P.M. " Mound City................10 " "

" Twin Springs.................2 " A.M.

" Marysville..................6 " "

" De Soto..................10 " " Arrives Fort Leavenworth .......4 " "South

Leaves Fort Leavenworth......6 o'clock A.M. " De Soto.................11 " "

" Marysville..................3 " P.M.

" Twin Springs...............7 " "

" Mound City.............11 " "

Arrives Fort Scott..................6 " A.M.

Running Time 22 Hours [each way]
My letters will now reach you much earlier than they have done heretofore.Maumee"

Now then, before this "Military Express was established it required 48-72 hours for the military mail, which appears to have included correspondent's newspaper "War Dispatches," to travel from Fort's Scott to Leavenworth. This "Express" reduced the travel time to slightly less than one day or 22 hours and often speed was essential in delivering military orders and correspondence as fast as possible. This "Military Express" would almost become obsolete in a year or so when the "talking wire" or telegraph was completed from Fort Scott by way of Lawrence to Fort Leavenworth. "Almost" because the Confederate Guerrillas/Bushwhackers could and did often disable the "wire" by cutting the wire and or destroying the poles. Then, of course, the trusty horses and riders of the Military Pony Express would carry on. And, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches