Rural Missouri - February 2012 - (Page 14)
Missouri’s Guerrilla war ~ February 1862
Quantrill’s Raiders provoke new violence and chaos
A plague of enmity
by Jim Denny firstname.lastname@example.org
“secesh” population was a nut the Federals never cracked. In the coming years, they would try many approaches: loyalty oaths, bonds, banishment, imprisonment and mass expulsion. Most of what n the middle of February 1862, Maj. Gen. Sterthey did only made the situation worse. Both sides ling Price and his hybrid force of Confederate/ fed a swelling mutual hatred that went back to the State Guard Missourians pulled out of SpringBorder Wars. Increasing harshness only added fuel to ﬁeld, Mo., and headed to Arkansas with a large a mad desire to avenge wrongs with violence. This Federal army hot on their heels. Price had hoped by plague of enmity spread across countless neighborthen to be leading 50,000 men forward to win Mishoods like the grim reaper. souri instead of retreating with scarcely more than The country became a dangerous place for civil7,000 soldiers. But Price’s dream of a “grand armée” ians to live, no matter which side they were on. The was not to be. “Do I hear your shouts?” he called out next group of horseman who rode to would-be recruits, “Is that your wardown the lane could be the judge, cry which echoes through the land? jury and executioner to any family Are you coming?” they encountered. Life, death, looting The popular response to Price’s and arson could rest on the whim of a plea was “no.” A large proportion of band of dangerous young men, mostly Missouri’s young Southern-born men teenagers, or on the wrath of enraged would stay behind on their home militiamen who knew exactly which of ground, pistols cocked. Inevitably, their neighbors were “disloyal.” a large number of these young men As the internal war unfolded, retalibecame guerrillas. By early 1862, ation piled upon retaliation until no bands of guerrillas were forming in one could say who started the downevery quarter. A deadly internal warward spiral or who could ﬁnally end fare unlike that of any other state was it before the entire population was about to engulf Missouri. driven away and the whole countryOnce the guerrilla war erupted, it side burned completely bare. It proved impossible to quell. Fedwas lucky for Union authorities eral armies and Missouri militia Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member in Missouri that Lee ﬁnally surunits did manage to turn back from Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War rendered to Grant and ended the the many Confederate raiders history to life in Rural Missouri as we Civil War. Otherwise, Missouri’s who periodically crossed the commemorate the sesquicentennial of guerrilla war might have gone border. To this extent, Missouri this time in our nation’s history. Order remained under Union dominaJim’s book, “The Civil War’s First Blood,” on and on, serving no strategic purpose that could ever win the tion throughout the war. online at www.ruralmissouri.coop. larger war or even alter its course But ﬁghting guerrillas was in any minor way. In some ways, the hellish war of another matter. Unionist state militia forces were Missourians against Missourians did go on and on, too undermanned, undertrained and undersupplied at least for another decade or more, until Reconto ever gain control of the large areas inhabited by struction ﬁnally ended and a “dirty little coward” Southern folk who believed that guerrillas were their killed Jesse James, the last guerrilla of Missouri Civil protectors. They would never win the trust or coopWar folklore. eration of a substantial portion of the local populaOn Feb. 3, 1862, folklore’s most enduring guertion who provided the shelter, sustenance and intellirilla hero, William Clarke Quantrill, was mentioned gence that enabled guerrilla bands to operate behind for the ﬁrst time in an ofﬁcial Army report. Capt. enemy lines and stay a step ahead of Union patrols. W. S. Oliver wrote from Independence, “I have just How to neutralize this guerrilla-nurturing
returned from an expedition which I was compelled to undertake in search of the notorious Quantrill and his gang of robbers in the vicinity of Blue Springs.” This “notorious” leader was but one of many capable guerrilla chieftains operating throughout Missouri, but Quantrill is the one who lives on in our Civil War lore. The volatile and chaotic conditions along the Missouri-Kansas border brought out Quantrill’s unique talents in a way that civilian pursuits never had. His name and deeds are wrapped in controversy, but Quantrill had an undeniable genius for guerrilla warfare. Capt. Oliver’s report revealed that Quantrill had already mastered guerrilla tactics: “I have seen this infamous scoundrel rob mails, steal the coaches and horses, and commit other similar outrages upon society even within sight of this city. Mounted on the best horses of the country, he has deﬁed pursuit . . . roving over a circuit of 30 miles.” This statement succinctly revealed what “Union control” really amounted to. Oliver controlled little more than his garrison in Independence. Even here, he was not entirely safe. On Feb. 22, 1862, Quantrill and his gang even galloped down the streets of Independence and then rode swiftly away untouched. Oliver was hardly in a condition to do much about it. His men had not yet received boots and shoes despite repeated requests. What Oliver lacked in supplies he easily made up with conﬁscated “secesh forage and wood.” Many men, including ofﬁcers, were sick from hard winter marches. He could mount only one company of infantry; the rest had to go on foot against elusive enemy horsemen. Still, he claimed that one patrol into the countryside netted six dead guerrillas, supposedly belonging to Quantrill’s band. He may have killed six men, but they probably weren’t Quantrill’s. Given the kind of patchwork garrison system Oliver operated under, minority Unionist civilian populations in much of rural Missouri stood little chance staying in localities ﬁlled with enemies who might live the next farm over. By February 1862, thousands of Unionist refugees had been driven off their homesteads by their “secesh” neighbors or guerrilla bands. Growing numbers of displaced people ﬂed to major garrison towns or to St. Louis. Back in Independence, Capt. Oliver prophetically lamented: “Quantrill will not leave this section unless he is chastised and driven from it. I hear of him tonight 15 miles from here, with new recruits, committing outrages on Union men, a large body of whom have come in tonight, driven out by him. Families of Union men are coming into the city tonight asking of me escorts to bring in their goods and chattels, which I duly furnished.” Quantrill was not leaving any time soon.
Bands of roving guerrillas could be the judge, jury and executioner to any family they encountered. Artwork courtesy of Andy Thomas, Carthage, Mo., www.andythomas.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2012
Rural Missouri - February 2012
Table of Contents
A plague of enmity
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
If the shoe fits
Rural Missouri - February 2012