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Monday, July 28, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 320: 'Riding off to war'

Friday, June 8, 2012

At the beginning of June in 1862, the first contingent of the Indian or Southern Expedition departed from Fort Scott on its march to the "Indian Territory" or what is now northeastern Oklahoma.

This contingent was the 2nd Brigade that was commanded by Col. Charles Doubleday which consisted of two cavalry regiments, one mounted infantry regiment and one artillery battery. All of these units were mounted on horseback so it was literally "riding off to war." Normally when a regiment or regiments marched off to war during the Civil War they did so by parading or passing in review of their commanding officer and the commanding officer of the post or front from which they were departing.

In Fort Scott this was normally done by "passing in review" on Carroll Plaza with the reviewing stand being one of the porches of the former officer's quarters located on the north side of the plaza. Also part of this review would be the regimental band, or massed bands, which either mounted or dismounted would play the regimental marches if they existed and other patriotic songs or marches.

One of the favorite songs of the soldiers was "The Girl I Left Behind Me" and this was played as Col. Doubleday's brigade rode off to war and it along with other incidents were described as follows in the June 7, 1862, edition of the Fort Scott Bulletin newspaper.

"The Departure"

"Colonel Doubleday left here last Sunday morning for the Indian Country. The "band" rode out playing "The Girl I Left Behind Me." We couldn't learn which girl was referred to.

If the Indians see them coming mounted on their "gay chargers," they'll think old Joshua is after them with his trumpeters.

On Thursday morning the command was at the Spring River, 60 miles south. Doubleday is bound to hunt them out. It is rumored that (Confederate General) Rains is somewhere below with 8,000 men. If this is true we may expect stirring news soon."

"Organization of the 'Indian Expedition'"

Before Colonel Doubleday's Brigade left Fort Scott the following order describing the organization of the Indian Expedition from the departmental headquarters at Fort Leavenworth:

"Leavenworth, May 30, 1862.

Special orders No. 31

Headquarters Department of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth, May 30, 1862

I. Col. Wm. Weer having been assigned to command the 10th Regiment Kansas Volunteers and being the senior officer among the troops composing the Indian Expedition, he will therefore relieve Col. Charles Doubleday, 2nd Ohio Cavalry of Command. On being relieved, Col. Doubleday will turn over to his successor all books and papers and everything that may be of assistance to him in the command.

II. The troops forming the Indian Expedition will be divided into two brigades, commanded respectfully by Col. Wm. Weer, 10th Kansas Volunteers and Col. Charles Doubleday, 2nd Ohio Cav.

First Brigade:

Second Kansas Cavalry, Tenth Kansas Infantry, Ninth Wisconsin Infantry, First Indian Home Guards, First Kansas Battery, Capt. Allen.

Second Brigade:

Second Ohio Cavalry, Sixth Kansas Cavalry, Second Indian home Guards, Second Indiana Battery, Capt. Rabb and such other troops as may hereafter be assigned."

Even though the 2nd Brigade had already left Fort Scott the routine duties of the remaining garrison continued some of which are described as follows:

"Payday"

"Maj. Wilcox arrived yesterday with a quantity of 'greenbacks' which he will distribute among the troops. He is a welcome visitor."

In other words the "the Eagle has Landed" with the arrival of the Paymaster Maj. Wilcox at Fort Scott and the transient and garrison troops were going to be paid.

This did not happen every month as it does in today's military. Very often, soldiers of the blue and gray would not be paid for two to three months.

"General U. S. Army Hospital"

By June of 1862 the army hospital at Fort Scott had been reclassified as a "General" U.S. Army Hospital which was the largest type of hospital in the U.S. Medical Department. The following is a brief description of this hospital:

"The General Hospital is now in the charge of Dr. Nauman, surgeon of the 9th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. That regiment has probably suffered less from sickness and had fewer deaths than any other regiment in the field -- having lost but five, in all. This is in no doubt owing in a great degree to the excellent sanitary regulations maintained and of which the doctor has had the charge. We hope he may be as successful in his care of the hospital."

When the "General Hospital" was created at Fort Scott it included five buildings, three of which are in existence today. They are the former Infantry Barracks that is west of the original post hospital which is now the Fort Scott National Historic Site Visitor Center and the former guard house that is east of the visitor center.

The two missing buildings were immediately adjacent to the restored Post Hospital/Visitor Center. After the fort buildings were sold in 1855, the post hospital became a municipal building that included the town hall, church for various traveling preachers and a school.

After this building became part of the General Hospital, the "civilian" uses were located elsewhere in Fort Scott. It was not until 1863 that a new multiple use building was constructed and it was used as the first courthouse, school and town hall. This was a stone two-story building constructed by Charles Goodlander and was located where the public library is today on the southeast corner of National Avenue and second Street.

The editor of the Fort Scott Bulletin lamented the absence of a school on June 7, 1862 as follows:

"A School House"

"Since the military has occupied our school room as a hospital, we have had no school in Fort Scott. It is time that this matter was attended to. We need a school very much. There are dozens of children running about the streets who should be at school fitting themselves for the duties of life. The Presbyterian Society offers to give the ground from their church lots.

Let us have the question agitated, estimates made, plans proposed, etc. We see no reason why we can't have a building erected at once which can be used, not only for a school, but for a church, town hall and for other similar purposes, until a better one can be afforded."

Now then, Fort Scott continued to grow and become a huge "Union" military complex throughout the remainder of the Civil War and next week's column will focus on the savagery of war in Missouri as the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches