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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 310: High water, foot sore and bad whiskey

Friday, March 30, 2012

During the Civil War, by the end of March 1862, the town of Fort Scott was becoming a large Union military complex. The town had become a transient destination for many Union regiments and the articles and supplies that were shipped from Fort Leavenworth down the various roads to Fort Smith, Ark., and to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). As the town developed and expanded, there were a few growing pains that included many desirable and some undesirable happenings that were described in the Fort Scott newspaper and the newspapers that were published in eastern Kansas. Unfortunately, many of the Civil War newspapers from Fort Scott do not exist today, but fortunately many of the articles about Fort Scott were reprinted in other newspapers. The following article about Fort Scott was published in March 27, 1862 edition of the "Leavenworth Weekly Conservative" and is located on Page 2 in Column 3. "FROM FORT SCOTT
(Correspondence of the Conservative)
This place being the temporary Headquarters of the Department of Kansas, assumes considerable importance on official documents. It has been recently rather difficult of access from the high water in the streams owing to the heavy rains. The Marmaton River is close on the outskirts of the town and has been running full for several days, making it dangerous to cross. Rabb's (Artillery) Battery was detained 10 days on the opposite bank awaiting its fall for a chance to cross over. Express riders and U.S. mails have an uncomfortable time trying to make time.
The Kansas 1st, Wisconsin 9th, 12th and 13th and the 2nd Ohio are still encamped here.The 5th and 6th Kansas regiments have pulled up stakes and struck out for Carthage, Mo., under the command of Col. Clayton. They started this morning from their late encampment on the dry wood.
There seems to be some doubt about the Colonelcy and majorship of the 5th Regiment, several gentlemen claim to have commissions in their pockets to fill those vacancies. Capt. Williams and his company, late of the 3rd, have gone on down and joined the 5th Regiment, to which they have been attached by the late orders from headquarters. Capt. Seaman and company, of this same regiment -- the 3rd --are now on their way. They will be here tomorrow and will likewise help to swell the ranks of the 6th Regiment. These are both good companies and will prove quite an acquisition to the regiment.Most of the regiments have arrived after a forced march from above (north of Fort Scott) and were considerable foot sore after reaching their journey's end. The Kansas 1st looked somewhat weather beaten as they marched through the streets of the town (Fort Scott) to their camping grounds.

Capts Stockton, Ketner and Tennison, Maj. Halderman and Lt. McCarthy drop into the "Wilder House" (new hotel on the southwest corner of Wall and Main streets) they all seem in good spirits and feel good; laugh as much as ever and crack old jokes, with the evident intention of astonishing the non-combatants, just as if they did not read the papers. Lt. McCarthy has been acting as provost Marshal and his official career was cut short and brought to an abrupt termination by another regiment assuming police duties of the post.

Almost the last act he did was to put into confinement two men for the perpetration of offenses against "law and order" which will undoubtedly go hard with them. A Corporal of Rabb's Battery, under the influence of bad whiskey, made a savage attack on the Sergeant of the company with a drawn saber in his hand. The officer retreated to the tent of Lt. Rabb, who interfered and in his efforts to maintain discipline, was struck at and fired upon by the excited and crazy corporal. The latter being a large powerful fellow, it was a dangerous and difficult matter to master him. The lieutenant paring -- the corporal -- would sacrifice the life of some of his men, ordered the guard to fire on him and several shots were fired without serious damage to anybody.

The mutineer then attempted to escape and sprang upon the back of the nearest horse for that purpose, when he was suddenly brought to the ground by a blow on the back of the head from a club in the hands of the lieutenant. If a court-martial does not sentence Mr. Corporal to be shot for his crime, it will be the next thing to it -- a narrow escape.
The other case spoken of is that a colored individual, named Andrew Jackson Trotten. He sold some liquor to soldiers, who retreated from the house were the liquor was made, without forking over the spondulicks (paying for the liquor). This so enraged the African that he snatched up double barrel shotgun and blazed away at the soldier men. He will also be the subject for the merciful consideration of a court martial.Under the careful supervision of Brigade Surgeons Martin and Quidor, the hospitals at this Post have much improved in appearance and facilities. Cleanliness and neatness in and around these institutions is now the order of the day and the patients are well cared for.
To put things in presentable order, brooms and elbow grease have not been spared. Medical stores are not as abundant as they should be and unfortunately are a long time coming from above (Fort Leavenworth), even if started on the way when asked for.
The mechanics here, the blacksmiths, harness-makers and wagon-makers are all industriously engaged hammering away on government work, aided by numbers of extra duty men from the different regiments, repairing the wagons and harness and shoeing animals progresses rapidly, preparatory for any emergency that may arise.The boys all say, they don't care how soon the order is given to move southward.Maumee"

Now then, in any war of the 19th century there was always, high water, forced marches, foot sore soldiers, horses or mules and bad whiskey, and of course, the war went on.

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches