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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No: 332: 'Lying, Dirty Sheet'

Friday, August 31, 2012

During the Civil War the operation of a bias or prejudiced newspaper was a hazardous endeavor. This was especially true if the newspaper was considered to be of the enemy when the opposition forces occupied the town in which the newspaper was located. Its reputation as an enemy publication often preceded it because of its circulation so it became marked for destruction. Such was the case of the "Southern" Border Star that was published in Independence, Mo., in late August of 1862. The following after-action report describes a successful "Union" expedition into Missouri which included the elimination of the "Border Star" in Independence. The report is located on Pages 255 and 256 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Hdqrs., 6th Kansas Vol. Cavalry

Kansas City, Missouri; August 27, 1862.

Captain: I have to acknowledge the receipt of the general's dispatch, under the date of the 24th instant and have the honor to respectfully to report that, finding the enemy under Hays and Quantrill in considerable force hanging along the Blue (River) with evident intention of making a raid on this place, I telegraphed Col. Burris for assistance when he came to my relief, bringing with him Bowman's Battery, three companies of infantry and one of cavalry. After delaying for two days, vainly endeavoring to open communication with you toward the southeast, we moved upon Independence, (Mo.); the artillery and cavalry by water (down the Missouri River), my battalion of cavalry (four squadrons) by land.

On my march to Independence, I burned the dwelling house and out-buildings belonging to one Rice a notorious rebel and infamous scoundrel, living on the Blue. I occupied Independence without resistance. My first act was to place under arrest McCarty, the editor of the Border Star (newspaper), a secession paper published at Independence and a "Lying, Dirty Sheet." Having no means at hand of removing the material, I ordered the type of office to be destroyed. My order was promptly carried out. I trust that the action in this particular (incident) will meet the approval of the department.

Having learned that the enemy was near Harrisonville, we left Independence on the morning of the 22nd to look him up, and if possible, to engage him. At Lee's, 12 miles from Independence, we learned that he had counter-marched and was only three miles distant upon our left. An hour later, we drove in his pickets (guards), making one of them prisoner. From him we learned that the enemy, 1,700 strong, were strongly posted near Cowert's on the Blue two miles distant, he having moved from his camp upon hearing of our approach.

We bivouacked (camped) for the night, and at early dawn, moved upon the enemy, driving in all his pickets before sunrise.

A reconnaissance in force, under Capt. Derry, discovered the enemy in a deep ravine utterly impracticable for artillery, but the reconnaissance had the effect to drive him from the brush and two hours later he was in full retreat. Having first fired the valuable premises of Cowert, with some 30 stacks of wheat, about 800 bushels of threshed grain, 3,000 bushels of corn, we moved forward to a new position. These premises of Cowert's were the headquarters of the rebel gang and their destruction was a severe blow to Hays and Quantrill.

While moving to our new position, as above stated our rear was attacked by the advance of the rebels who, in their line of retreat crossed our line of march at right angles. We immediately advanced our left, taking up a very strong position on a high piece of prairie and opened fire upon the enemy with (artillery) solid shot and shell and he was soon flying in all directions. It was impossible for us to follow him, our horses, having been for 24 hours without water, were scarcely able to move. The enemy fled toward Pleasant Hill. Thirteen of them were killed and some 20 were wounded and quite a number of horses taken from Buel were recaptured.

We then returned to Independence, where we remained until yesterday, engaged in removing the wounded and public stores (supplies) from that place, which business being accomplished, we returned here last evening. The enemy's force numbered, as best we could judge, was about 1,200 men. Well armed and mounted, our own force being about 350.

Col. Burris left for Fort Leavenworth on the (steamboat) majors this morning. My command now consisting of Company B, Sixth Kansas Cavalry & Companies A&L of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, having been in the saddle almost constantly day and night for two weeks, is much worn and the animals are badly jaded. Col. Burris ordered me to return to Camp Moonlight near the (Shawnee) Methodist Mission, in Kansas for the purpose of resting my command. I march there this morning.

Your suggestions contained in the dispatch of the 24th instant will be carefully acted upon.

With great esteem, I am Sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W.C. Ransom,

Major, Commanding.

P.S.-- About 200 (Negro) contrabands followed us out for the Mission."

Now then, even though this Union expedition failed to destroy the Confederate guerrillas commanded by Hays and Quantrill it was still a success for the Blue Bellied Billy Yanks because the guerrillas were dispersed, some of their supplies were destroyed, a sanctuary and supply base were destroyed, and last but not least a Southern partisan newspaper described as a "Lying, Dirty Sheet" was eliminated. And, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches