Rural Missouri - September 2013 - (Page 12)

Scorching the border General Order No. 11 ~ September 1863 Union authorities lay waste to western Missouri by Jim Denny counties had to be off the land within 15 days. Only a handful of the loyal could stay near a military post. All crops were also to be destroyed. The worst of the forced exodus was over by Sept. 9, 1863. It t was inevitable that the spiral of intensifying was a grim 15 days. violence during the Civil War would climax in But the preceding eight years had been grim as total war. Civilian populations who sustained well. Free Staters, Border Ruffians, Jayhawkers and enemy armies also would come to feel the “hard guerrillas had all been “cleaning out” (to use Lane’s hand of war” felt by those armies. term) the Burnt District for years. Hundreds of Gen. Sherman’s scorched earth campaign through houses had already been “burnt” well before Ewing Georgia during his march to the sea in late 1864 and his edict came along. Jayhawkers had stolen showed the complete destruction that total war themselves rich from the bounty of western Missouri could bring to a region. But the first scorched earth farms. Union forage teams with armed policy applied by Union authorities escorts hauled away tons of hay and during the war was not in the South, corn. Miles of fence rails by the tens but in Missouri, a loyal state. Some of thousands went up in the smoke of 10,000 Missouri citizens were “depopuUnion campfires. lated” by their own military leaders. These waves of depredation and Never — before or since — has the destruction only stiffened Southern government taken such harsh measures sentiment in the countryside. Gueragainst its own people in quite the way rillas did their own burning, looting it did in the late summer of 1863 when and murdering of Union folk. Most General Order No. 11 carried the constole horses and livestock. Thousands cept of total war to a new low. on both sides became refugees before General Order No. 11 was the flip Ewing’s final blow. Hundreds of farms side of the Lawrence Massacre, where ceased to exist. The countryside Missouri guerrillas committed their became a dangerous place to eke out worst deeds of murder and mayhem. an existence. Now Kansans clamored to What people remained in repay in kind. Jayhawking Sen. Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member the countryside were Southern Jim Lane raged to overflowing from Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War sympathizers. Well before GenKansas audiences his plan for history to life in Rural Missouri as we eral Order No. 11, the Unionist Missouri: “Burn them over! Kill commemorate the sesquicentennial of minority already was “depopuevery living thing! Make a desthis time in our nation’s history. Order ert and call it peace!” General Jim’s book, “The Civil War’s First Blood,” lated.” Neighbors and guerrillas drove loyal families off their Order No. 11 was something of a online at farms and into crowded garrison milder alternative. towns. In late June, the last few Union families were Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing, District of the Border evacuated from Bates County, which now ceased commander, intended to keep Lane and his most to exist as a governmental entity. While Unionists bloodthirsty followers out of Missouri. The general became exiles in their own “loyal” state, Southern was willing enough, however, to scorch the earth sympathizers continued to live on their farms and of more than 2,000 square miles of what had once to support hundreds of guerrillas. Union military been a fertile region of western Missouri and to forcauthorities had failed to control guerrilla activity. ibly expel nearly every citizen who lived there. Indeed, guerrillas seemed to be growing in number, Just four days after the dust of the Lawrence while an undermanned militia tried to cope with a Massacre settled, the “depopulation” began. Nearly situation that was getting more chaotic. everyone in Jackson, Cass, Bates and parts of Vernon I Finally, after Lawrence, came the last, most desperate measure. If the militia couldn’t whip the guerrillas, they certainly could remove the sympathizing civilians from the land. The guerrillas, who caused so much terror and consternation amongst Unionists, could offer no protection for Southern families. They were turned out by the thousands from destroyed farms and set upon dusty roads with precious few possessions to find somewhere else to exist. Unionist families could either join the crowded garrison posts or leave the immediate area. The evictors were in part Kansas units still chasing down Quantrill’s men. They forcibly evicted anyone who stood in their path. Families often had only minutes to gather possessions. The Kansans left swaths of burned houses, barns and crops in their wake. Any men encountered without loyalty papers were shot as supposed guerrillas. Even those with more time to gather possessions were set adrift in one of the hottest and driest summers of memory. Even a hard-nosed guerrilla fighter had to lament, “it is heartsickening to see what I have seen . . . a desolate country and women and children, some of them almost naked, some on foot and some in old wagons. Oh God, what a sight to see in this once happy and peaceful country.” In Cass County alone, 9,000 people left at one point or another. Perhaps 800 people remained behind in the garrison towns. Possibly half of those who left were part of the General Order No. 11 diaspora. The total number of persons displaced may have been in the range of 10,000, although higher numbers have been suggested. In the months following the depopulation, the Burnt District was picked over by thieves and loose, roaming animals. Wildfires swept across the tinder-dry region. Travelers could ride for miles without encountering a single house. The public at large was aghast at the idea of depopulation as a solution to the guerrilla war. Within months, in the face of public outcry, the worst features of General Order No. 11 were relaxed. By early 1864, a military reshuffle transferred control of the region back to Missouri, and the counties of the Burnt District were opened for resettlement. General Order No. 11 accomplished little besides causing the guerrilla war to shift from the Burnt District to more fertile grounds in northern and eastern Missouri where large Southern populations existed. Here, the deadly neighbors’ war continued with unabated hellishness through 1864. The moderate leaders of Missouri’s hard-pressed militia forces had no better plan to rid Missouri of guerrillas, nor any plans, for that matter, to protect Missouri from the seemingly distant Confederacy. This fact would shortly be demonstrated when Confederate Gen. Joseph Shelby paid a visit to his Missouri home. “Back Home: April 1865,” a mural painted by Tom Lea in 1939, adorns the post office in Pleasant Hill and depicts the utter devastation of the Burnt District.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - September 2013

Rural Missouri - September 2013
Merchant miniatures
Scorching the border
All aboard
Blasts from the past
Out of the Way Eats
Mowing down the competition
Hearth and Home
A place for Pershing
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - September 2013