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Battlefield Dispatches No. 316: Disabled horses, missing bridge, yellow curs and loyal Indians

Friday, May 11, 2012

In the spring of 1862, the town of Fort Scott was developing into a large "Union" military complex. With this endeavor, as with the creation of any large military logistics or supply center, there were a number of "growing pains." These "growing pains" were described by a correspondent for and published in the May 15, 1862, edition of the Leavenworth Conservative newspaper and are as follows:

"From Fort Scott
Fort Scott, May 5, 1862

"All is quiet on the Potomac." The roads leading into Fort Scott are in remarkably good condition considering the unsettled state of the weather. Slight rains and showers are frequent. The grass is springing up rapidly and the surface of the country presents a beautiful green coat. Animals, public and private, are now herded (grazing on pasture) from absolute necessity, owing to the scarcity of hay and the impossibility of procuring anymore here. The description of forage is entirely exhausted in this part of the state for 20 miles around. The horses and mules have begun to show signs of improving their appearance since being turned out to pasture.

Yesterday some companies of the (second) Ohio Cavalry, being about to start on an expedition south, disposed of some 30 head of disabled horses by turning them over to the Post Quartermasters Department.

Sometimes it is a question of "serious consideration" whether it is not a losing thing for the government to own horses of the volunteer cavalry regiments. They are subjected to such bad usage. They are galloped to the river to water and galloped back again to their encampment. They are galloped through the streets and over the hills and valleys of the country this way and that until all the flesh is galloped off the ribs of the animals and they present a sorry aspect indeed. The officers themselves are responsible for this universal treatment the dumb creatures receive at the hands of the soldiers.

The bridge over the Marmaton at this place (built) by the Wisconsin Regiments has vamoosed the ranch somewhat suddenly. During a late heavy rain, the waters rose to a dangerous height and swept down enormous quantities of driftwood, carrying every impediment along its route with it. The bridge, when finished, was reported to be seven feet above the ordinary high water mark, but in the recent freshet (flood), it was just seven feet below the aforesaid mark. Little boys and big soldiers now sit for hours on the banks, where once stood the bridge, angling for fish.

The 10th Kansas (Volunteer Infantry) Regiment has arrived in the vicinity of this place, being now encamped on Mine Creek, four miles out. (Note: Reporter probably meant "Wolverine Creek" which is approximately 4 miles northeast of Fort Scott, because "Mine Creek is 21 miles north in Linn County.)

Col. Cloud has already introduced considerable reformation and discipline into the regiment and is fast becoming a favorite with all ranks. (Note: Col. Cloud replaced Col. James Montgomery as the commanding officer of the 10th during the reorganization of all of the Kansas regiments in March of 1862. Eventually, Col. Montgomery went to Washington, D.C., and was appointed as the colonel and commanding officer of the 34th South Carolina "Colored" Volunteer Infantry Regiment.)

Capt. Wilder, commissary of this department, has resigned his commission in the service and leaves in a day or two for Leavenworth. Capt. M.H. Insley, assistant quartermaster, performs the duties of the commissary temporarily.

Maj. Ransom, Lt. Gorge R. Clark, Quartermaster and Lt. Charles Haynes of the 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry regiment have received leaves of absence for a limited time in order to visit their too long neglected and anxious families at Fort Scott.

Dr. Sheldon, late surgeon of the 5th Kansas, died here at the house of a private family two nights ago. The Rev. Paddock of Leavenworth, a relative of the deceased, was present with him in his last hours. His remains were removed to his late home in Burlingame, Kan.

The members of the 9th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment are favorably impressed with Kansas, its climate and natural resources. Over 40 of them have entered lands (filed homestead claims), with a view of making a permanent residence here after the war.

One of the great drawbacks to the harmony of the dark, stilly night and that sort of thing in this place (Fort Scott) is the multitude of dogs, especially yellow dogs, allowed to roam at large. Every "bullet headed sesesh" (enemy prisoner) brought into the fort has five "yellow dogs." Nobody kills a dog, because when dead he becomes a still greater nuisance than living. His scalp is worth nothing here, so it don't pay to hunt them down. They are almost as bad here as the hogs are in Leavenworth. If Lobenstein would only offer a slight premium for dog hides of all grades, quite a brisk trade would immediately spring up between Leavenworth and Fort Scott. In this event, the howling from necessity would be an exclusive monopoly of the Kansas City Journal.

Mr. Schmidt, local of the Western Volunteer (newspaper) believes Charles Robinson, late governor of Kansas, will be appointed as the Minister of Russia."

"Latest from the loyal Indians

LeRoy, Coffey County, Kan., April 29, 1862.

By the arrival of Col. Coffin, superintendent of the southern Indians, and Lt. Col. Wattles, lieutenant colonel of the First Regiment (Indian Home Guards), we have the latest intelligence from the Indians at LeRoy.

The Indians are highly pleased with their (fire) arms and are delighted at the prospect of a speedy return to their own country (in the northeastern part of the Indian Territory, present Oklahoma, from which they fled and were driven in the winter on 1861/1862). On Monday when Col. Coffin left, there was a council between these tribes and the Osages. There are from 300--500 Osages willing to take up arms and go with the expedition into the Indian Territory. Fall Leaf (Fremont's old guide) is raising a company of Delawares, and part of them have already arrived at LeRoy.

Cols. Furnas and Wattles and Maj. Ellithorpe have labored with untiring energy in organizing the first regiment, and the Indians have promptly seconded all their efforts.

Cols. Ritchie, Corwin and Maj. Wright will leave for LeRoy immediately and put the second regiment on a fighting basis. (Note: Eventually the first regiment of Indian Home Guards was mustered into the "Union" Army at LeRoy and consisted of Creek, Delaware, Seneca and some Cherokee Indians. The second regiment of I.H.G's was mustered in a few miles south of Humboldt, Kan., and it was comprised mostly of mostly of Osage Indians.)

Gen. Blunt is extending every possible facility for the early departure of this expedition (into the Indian Territory) and will send with it a sufficient force of cavalry and artillery."

Now then, eventually the disabled horses received better care and, if no longer fit for government service, theywere usually sold at public auctions. A new bridge was constructed across the Marmaton River, the yellow dog problem was not solved (so they continued to howl at the moon) and the first and second regiments of I.H.G. served on active duty until the end of the Civil War; and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches