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Monday, May 2, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 343: Thieves, bandits and guerrillas

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Throughout the Civil War, "Union" officers in Kansas and Missouri consistently referred to Confederate guerrillas as "Thieves, Bandits and Bushwhackers. This is evident in the following report which also includes a follow up to and repercussion of a "Union" loss that was featured in Battlefield Dispatches No. 341 entitled "Killing and Wounded." This report is located on Pages 792-793 in Vol. 13 Series I of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Headquarters Central District of Missouri

Jefferson City, Mo.; Nov. 14, 1862.

To Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis,

Commanding, Department of the Missouri, Saint Louis:

General: I have just returned from above, Jackson County. I left in comparatively good condition. La Fayette will require a good deal of severity before it can be restored to its allegiance. I left about 250 of the inhabitants in confinement and ordered others to be arrested. Some 50 men fled the country to avoid arrest, who will probably never return and some 50 others gave their parole to leave the state in 10 days, not to return during the war. The Commandant there has not been in my opinion as efficient as he should have been. Indeed, it is hard to say who is the Commandant there or who ought to be. Gen. Vaughan, of the Enrolled Militia and Col. McFerran of the First Cavalry Missouri State Militia commanding the Post, seem to exercise a concurrent jurisdiction, both pleasant, mild, amiable gentlemen, but deficient in that decision of character and fixedness of purpose that is required to deal successfully with rebels so fierce, defiant, domineering, insulting and overbearing as are the rebels there. I spent more than two weeks in La Fayette. The country is now in a condition that honest men can stay at home without danger of assassination. The thieves, bandits and guerrillas have been driven out of the country. They have all gone south to join Cockrell, who lies not far from Pleasant Gap in Bates County, with a force of from 700 to 800 men. Quantrill and the guerrillas had infested La Fayette and Jackson (counties) and on their way south accidentally fell in with an ox train sent by Col. Catherwood from Harrisonville to Sedalia and captured the train, teamsters and most of the escort. A copy of Colonel Catherwood's report is transmitted herewith.

I also enclose herewith a copy of a letter written by Lt. Col. P. A. Thompson of the Fifth Cavalry, Missouri State militia, to Col. Penick at Independence, relating to the same matter. Col. Thompson's statement I believe to be more nearly correct than the official report. I have ordered Col. Catherwood here under arrest. The disaster I think is attributable to disobedience to orders.

On my way to Saline County, I sent forward from Lexington a small command of about 100 men, under Capt. George Wakerlen, Company E of the Fifth Regiment Cavalry, Missouri State Militia. On the Marshall Road, the next morning before I had come up with the column, I found the farm house and outbuildings on the farm of a man by the name of Webb were in flames. On overtaking Capt. Wakerlen he said the premises had been burned by his order; that bushwhackers had been harbored there and the last of them ran into the brush as his advance guard came up. That upon inquiry he found that Webb had taken his male slaves and the youngest and strongest women South; that he was in the rebel Army; that he had employed an overseer to live at his house and take care of some old Negro women and children; that the bushwhackers made the house a kind of headquarters and that the overseer was joined with them; thereupon he ordered the destruction of the premises.

I cannot approve of the act and yet I am not prepared wholly to condemn it. Saline County is in very bad condition and I must send a more efficient commander there than Col. Wilson of the Enrolled Militia; a clever gentleman and a good man, but entirely too mild. The Enrolled Militia, along the line of the railroad west of here, is worse than useless as a whole. There are some good companies among them, but most of them should be relieved from duty.

If some place were appointed outside of the state (of Missouri) where we could send a few of the disloyal citizens and hold them under guard the effect would be most beneficial.

The rebels in this district have hitherto laughed to scorn the power of the government because they have never have been made to feel its force. They have laughed at the orders issued and derided the forces sent to execute them. I have been endeavoring to convince them of their mistake and think I will do so as soon as I can get some of my officers disposed of and their places filled by more efficient men; but to ship a few prominent men under guard from the state and hold them in close confinement would be worth to this district more than three regiments of soldiers.

It would be a manifestation of power and determination on the part of the government that would strike terror into the souls of these craven rebels, for most of them are cowards.

Very respectfully, General, your obedient servant,

Ben Loan,

Brig. Gen., Commanding."

Now then, it is not known if all of the recommendations by Gen. Loan were ever implemented, but some probably were considering the nature of the "war" in Missouri. Eventually, Col. Catherwood was released from arrest and continued in command of his regiment which is indicated by the numerous after-action reports he submitted throughout the remainder of the war, and of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches