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Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 321: 'A most savage war'

Friday, June 15, 2012

By its very nature, a guerrilla war is a most savage war. This has been indicative of guerrilla warfare throughout the ages and was particularly true of the guerrilla war in Missouri and eastern Kansas during the Civil War.

Very often it was difficult to determine who the enemy was, be they Bushwhackers from Missouri or Red Legs from Kansas or the just plain civilian outlaws from both states.

The following after-action report is located on pages 124 and 125 in volume 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and illustrates "a most savage war" in north central Missouri in June of 1862.

"Post at Warrensburg, June 18, 1862.

Lieutenant: I have the honor to report that Lt. Sandy Lowe, Company G, 7th Missouri State Militia, with 18 men, yesterday morning came suddenly upon a small squad of Bushwhackers at the house of Mrs. Davenport, nine miles west of this place. They fired upon the militia, wounding one slightly and fled to the brush. The militia fired killing two and securing their horses and arms. A running fight was kept up through the brush for near half a mile, when the lieutenant found himself entirely surrounded by bushwhackers, the number, as near as could be estimated, 80 or 90 -- report says 150 or 200. The militia fought well for near half an hour, cutting their way through the swarming guerrillas. When they reached the prairie, they made a desperate stand and sent a runner to me for assistance.

I started immediately with 55 men and met the lieutenant three miles west of here, coming to camp. He reported that he had left three men wounded in the brush, and had killed eight or nine of the enemy; that the bushwhackers had followed him a short distance from the brush and then went west.

Lt. Lowe was shot through the left hand. I went immediately to the ground where the men had been left and found two of them stripped of their clothing and horribly mutilated, one of them with more than a dozen revolver balls in his body and his head frightfully broken and mangled.

I followed the trail of the guerrillas some distance, but night coming on and a heavy storm with it, I returned to town.

I came by the house of Mrs. Davenport and found the place deserted, a large quantity of provisions cooked and packed in baskets and sacks, etc. and a long table set for dinner for a number of men. I ordered the house burned, which was done.

I found Cpl. Holstein, Company G (who had been left on the ground wounded), three miles west of here. He had crawled six miles through the grass and brush. His wound is not dangerous. The excitement in the county is intense. As many as 50 citizens from town and county came with arms and offered their services to protect the place.

Day before yesterday, a young man named White was shot down while plowing in the field. Two of the worst Bushwhackers I have in jail will be shot today in part to pay for his life.

I have positive information that Upton Hayes came into this county three days ago with 100 men and joined Brinker and Snelling who had 85 or 90 men.

The citizens are moving to town in numbers to save what little household goods they have left. Four houses were plundered and one fired (burned) day before yesterday.

Yesterday, while in the brush near where the fight occurred, Miss Mattie Brinker, sister of the notorious guerrilla Chief John Brinker came to us. A younger brother was with her. Miss Mattie says she left home, three miles southeast of Warrensburg, about 2 p.m. I started about 12 m.

She was much surprised and confused when she discovered who we were. This young lady has been suspected of conveying intelligence to bushwhackers for some time. She and her brother are in confinement.

I am, lieutenant, yours, respectfully, Emory S. Foster, Major Seventh Missouri State Militia, Commanding Post.

To: Lt. D. A. Thatcher,

Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Jefferson City, Missouri."

Now then it is not known what happed to Miss Mattie Brinker. She may have ended up in the Gariot Street prison in St. Louis, but what is known is that "a most savage war" continued in Missouri as the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches