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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 331: 'I had them shot!'

Friday, August 24, 2012

By the summer of 1862, the Guerrilla War in "Missouri" had reached epic destructive proportions where "No quarter was asked none was given!" It was a cruel, brutal barbaric war in which there was no neutrality with civilian homes and farms being destroyed. If as a civilian you were of the "Southern Persuasion" and were suspected of aiding the guerrillas the Yankees from Kansas and Misourri would burn everything you owned to the ground. If you were of the "Northern Persuasion" and many Missourians were, the Guerrillas or Bushwhackers would kill you and put everything you owned to the torch. The following after-action report indicates exactly how a "Missouri" Union officer believed the war should be waged and how and when he ordered his men to do so. The report is located on Pages 233 and 234 in Series I, Volume 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Hdqrs, 5th Cavalry Missouri State Militia,

Liberty, Mo. Aug. 15, 1862.

Major: Having obtained information of a camp of 75 to 100 men at or near the house of Mrs. Elliot, near Linn Creek, on the edge of Platte County, about three miles south of Barry, I marched at 11 p.m. on the 13th, with about 50 men from Companies C and E of my regiment; one piece of artillery from Capt. Johnson's battery and about 150 men of the Andrew County Militia, under Colonel Heron and Lt. Col. Hobson and arrived in the neighborhood of the camp about daylight.

I had arrested a man about two miles this side of Barry and took him along as guide to the expedition. I proceeded, with all the vigilance and caution it was possible to exercise, to attempt to surround the camp; but the country being extremely rough and broken and densely wooded with underbrush, I failed in doing so. I dislodged them from their camp and completely scattered them. I was compelled to dismount my men to move them at all and having deployed them as skirmishers scoured the country around the camp as far as it was practicable to do so.

I do not know whether I killed any men in the fight or not, although my men insist that they killed at least two or three. My loss was two killed and seven wounded.

Finding farther pursuit unavailing, I called my men in and proceeded to deal with the inmates of Mrs. Elliot's house. Previous to attacking their camp I found three men at the house, who denied having any knowledge of any camp or gathering of armed men within three miles of that place. After the skirmish was over, I sent two of these men out in charge of a squad of men and "had them shot!" Then I ordered my men to take from the house all the bedding and clothing for the benefit of my wounded men and of the Enrolled Militia and to burn it (the house) together with the stables. I then sent out men and burned the houses of Thomas Hamilton and Arch Elliot, who were in the camp. The time occupied in the whole affair was about two hours.

I brought off three or four horses and four Negroes, between the ages of 12 and 20, belonging to Mrs. Elliot, who are now in camp. I have not yet determined whether I shall give them emancipation papers and send them to Kansas or not. They have been employed by the family in the service of the (guerrilla) camp.

The names of the men I ordered shot are James H. Rollins, formerly from Parkville, who has given bond and "Zack Elliot, the son of Mrs. Elliot." The notorious Jim Hopkins, of Sharp's Grove, Holt County, is undoubtedly in the gang and was probably in the fight. He has been staying around Mrs. Elliot's for some time. J.S. Craig, son of the man I arrested for a guide is also in the gang. I shall get further information in a short time and probably have not done with the neighborhood. It is my intention, whenever I find a camp of Bushwhackers, to take summary vengeance on those whom I have satisfactory reasons to believe have knowledge of the existence of such a camp and do not report it.

My men behaved well. Not a man but what was eager to take the brush in search of the enemy, who was believed to be concealed in close proximity to us. It is next to impossible to fight these guerillas on their own ground in the brush where they have every advantage over us. We must make it unhealthy for the neighborhoods where they harbor to allow them to remain among them without giving information to us.

I understand that it is necessary for notice to be issued from headquarters at St. Joseph to the county board to act in any case coming under their jurisdiction. I wish to have notices issued, if necessary, in the cases of Capt. Harrel's house and Henry Foley's barn, burned by Bushwhackers in this count; and also in the case of the men killed and wounded at Mrs. Elliot's. It will be observed that Mrs. Elliot's is close to the county line.

I am pushing the fortifications on College Hill as fast as possible and am working about 150 prisoners with what tools I can get and shall send out for more prisoners in a short time.

As soon as I get over the excessive pressure of business, I will send the muster rolls of the companies mustered in here. I have received no monthly returns from Companies D and G and do not know where they are. In consequence it is impossible to make the regimental returns. Can you send me a memorandum of the strength of those companies from the Post Return, which I presume you have?


W.R. Penick,

Colonel, 5th Regiment Cavalry Missouri State Militia."

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches