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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #48

Deadly Winter Ambush

Henry W. Halleck

In his 1863 Annual Report of the Military Activities in the Department of the Missouri, General- In- Chief of the Union Armies, General Henry W. Halleck, accurately described the most common type of “ENEMY” in Missouri that raised havoc against the “Billy Yanks” throughout the entire Civil War as follows:

A large part of the military force in the Department of the Missouri has been employed during the past year in repelling raids & in repressing GUERRILLA BANDS of robbers & murders who have come within our lines or BEEN ORGANIZED IN THE COUNTRY. Most of these bands are NOT AUTHORIZED BELLIGERENTS [Regular Confederate Soldiers] under the laws of war, but [are] simply OUTLAWS from civilized society.” [Note: Here in retrospect, I disagree with the good General Halleck, as I am sure anyone then & today, who is of the “Southern Persuasion” did & does. All of the “Guerrilla Bands” were not UNAUTHORIZED BELLIGERENTS, but many were & these included “Missourians” who were southern sympathizers, scoundrels, bushwhackers & outlaws who did not care who they robbed or killed. Their allegiance was to no “Flag”, but to their own personal gain & profit. Kansas was of course not without sin because it had it’s own redlegs, jayhawkers & outlaws!] “It is exceedingly difficult to ERDADICATE these bands, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the country, sometimes from disloyalty & sometimes FROM FEAR, afford them SUBSISTENCE & CONCEALMENT. They usually hide themselves in the woods & being well [armed &] mounted, move rapidly from one point to another, supplying themselves by the way of provisions & fresh horses. They ROB & MURDER wherever they go.


The following “DEADLY WINTER AMBUSH” was a victory for the Confederate “Foxes”, however the town & citizens of Columbus, Missouri suffered severe repercussions & reprisals from this ambush by the Union “Hounds” from Kansas.

David Hunter

Daniel R. Anthony

Headquarters,
Camp Johnson, Morristown, Mo., Jan. 13, 1862.

[To] Maj. Gen. David Hunter,
Commanding Dept. of Kansas.

Sir: On the 5th instant a party of 12 “UNION” citizens of Johnson County, Missouri, mounted on horses & armed with shot guns came into camp & informed me that a force of 300 rebels, under command of Colonel Elliott were committing depredations upon Union men & asking assistance from me to aid or protect them in moving their families to KANSAS. I ordered Major Herrick with 200 men to proceed to Holden, Johnson County & capture Colonel Elliott & also to put down all REBEL BANDS he met on the way & [to] protect Union men. Major Herrick took 4 days rations; found no enemy in force on the route – indeed the country seemed desolate & deserted by the men.

On the 9th [of January] Captain Merriman was sent with 50 men to Columbus, [Mo.]. The people of Columbus informed him there was NO ENEMY in that vicinity; but on his return about a half a mile south of the town, was FIRED ON FROM AMBUSH by Colonel Elliott, who had secreted his men in the BUSH & 5 of our men were killed. Captain Merriman was forced to RETREAT. He was soon joined by Captain Utt, of Company A, with 50 more men. They scoured the BUSH for miles around, but found no ENEMY, they having deserted their camp, which was found by our men located in a rocky ravine.

The next day, Captain Swoyer of co. B, left camp at Holden & searched the country of the Blackwater as far north as Chapel Hill & learned that Colonel Elliott had reached a point within 10 miles of Lexington. Captain Swoyer returned next day to camp at Holden.

Captain Merriman, on the day of the attack on him, BURNED the TOWN of COLUMBUS, having learned it was a RENDEZVOUS of Colonel Elliott & the people of the town HAVING DECOYED HIM INTO AMBUSH! Maj. Herrick remained at Holden until the 12th & then returned to Camp Johnson. 50 or 60 UNION families availed themselves of the opportunity to move out with him. Maj. Herrick also captured 60 head of horses, mules & cattle & young stock belonging to men who fired upon Maj. Hough & those who were with Col. Elliot & brought them to camp.

Respectfully Yours,
D. R. Anthony
Lieut. Col., Cmdg., 1st Kansas Cavalry.

To be continued with more DEADLY AMBUSHES in Missouri for the balance of the Civil War! 

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