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Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015

Battlefield Dispatches No. 336: 'Destroying favorite haunts'

Friday, September 28, 2012

One of Mr. Webster's definitions of "Haunt" is "To visit often" and this is what the Confederate Guerrillas or Bushwhackers did in Missouri throughout the Civil War when they visited the farms and homes of their families, friends and allies. In doing so, the guerrillas received food, shelter and rest from attacking and killing "Yankees."

Therefore, these farms and homes of the Southern Sympathizers were haunts and became prime targets for destruction and whenever a "Union" expedition in, or into, Missouri accomplished the burning of homes, barns, outbuildings and crops the expedition was deemed as successful.

Some "Union" troops were more successful at this concept of "Total War" than others and one of the most successful was the 10th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

This is not surprising because before the 10th Kansas Vol. Infantry was established many of its soldiers were members of the 3rd Kansas Volunteer Regiment that was part of "Lane's Brigade" which wrecked havoc and destruction on its rampage through western Missouri in the fall of 1861 when homes, farms and towns were burned to the ground.

Now then, in the summer and fall of 1862 an expedition commanded by Lt. Col. John T. Burris of the 10th Kansas participated in a number of expeditions into Missouri pursuing the elusive "Rebel Bushwhackers." Therefore, it was not a coincidence that one of the results of these expeditions was the burning of the homes, houses, barns, crops and anything else that was suspected of supporting or in fact supported the guerrillas. The following after-action report describes one such expedition of combined Union forces into Missouri in September 1862 and is located in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War o0f the Rebellion on Pages 267 and 268.

"Fort Leavenworth, Sept. 24, 1862.

Sir: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to orders from Department Headquarters, I left this Post on the 8th instant with Company C, Lt. Bechtold and Company F, Capt. Conover, of the 8th Kansas Volunteers, Company B, Capt. Wagner, of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry and one section of the post battery, under Capt. Bowman in pursuit of Quantrill's band of guerrillas.

On the following day I was joined near Westport, Mo., by Maj. Ransom, with Company L, Capt. Derry, Third Wisconsin Cavalry and Capt. Harvey's company, 6th Kansas Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Morehead. On the morning of the 10th we came in sight of the enemy on the north branch of the Grand River in Cass County. He immediately fled. We pursued him from day to day through Jackson, Cass, Johnson and LaFayette counties, being sometimes 24 hours in his rear, at other times in sight of him, but without being able to bring able to bring on an engagement or to effect anything further than an occasional firing on their rear by our advance guard and the capture by Maj. Ransom's command of three wagons loaded with arms, dry goods, groceries, etc., previously captured by the enemy at Olathe, Kans., until the 19th instant.

Then after a chase of 15 miles at almost full speed, I overtook him at Smithfield, five miles north of Pleasant Hill with my advance guard being, being part of Lt. Morehead's squadron and a few of the 5th Missouri Cavalry, under Capt. David, less than 50 in all. Here the enemy, 150 strong, halted, dismounted and formed into a line of battle.

I immediately attacked him. After a brisk firing for about 10 minutes, he again broke and fled in confusion, leaving two dead on the field and carrying his wounded with him.

Our loss was one killed and three wounded. Among the latter was Adjutant Sachs, who, with Lt. Hunt and Goss, my volunteer aides, was in the thickest of the fight. Sgt. R.F. Rinker of Capt. Harvey's company, 6th Kansas Volunteers, distinguished himself by his daring and intrepidity, as also private J. C. Lowry, of the same company, who, although severely wounded, refused to leave the field until the enemy was in full retreat.

Continuing the pursuit on the 20th and 21st and finding the guerrilla band scattered, I left Capt. David of the 5th Missouri Cavalry in search of the detached fragments and returned with my command to this post, arriving safely on the evening of the 23rd. Not being furnished with transportation or subsistence, we foraged on the enemy.

We captured during the expedition over 100 stand of arms, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, nearly 100 head of horses, four yoke of oxen, five or eight wagons, a number of tents and other camp equipage, also a considerable quantity of dry goods, groceries, etc., of which the guerrillas had previously robbed from the people of Olathe, Kan.

We burned the houses, outbuildings, grain, hay, etc. of about a dozen marauders whose premises had been favorite haunts for the guerrillas. Upward of 60 loyal colored persons, tired of the rule of rebel masters furnished their own transportation and subsistence and accompanied my command to Kansas.

I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lt. Col., Tenth Kansas Vols., Commanding Expedition."

Now then, on this expedition only two guerrillas were killed, but by burning about 12 guerrilla houses, outbuildings, grain, hay etc., or guerrilla "haunts" and recovering property captured by the enemy this expedition was successful, and of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches