Today, when one hears or sees the word Jayhawks, it normally refers to the nickname and mascot of the University of Kansas. However, during the Civil War “Jayhawk” & its’ derivatives had very distinct & different meanings. As a noun jayhawk, jayhawks or jayhawkers normally referred to Union soldiers from Kansas. It was also used to identify CIVILIAN OUTLAWS in Kansas & Missouri who robbed & murdered indiscriminately. These Civilian Jayhawkers / Outlaws had no political allegiance and attacked, robbed & killed civilians & soldiers in both Missouri & Kansas. They were often referred to, but were not the infamous “Kansas Redlegs”. The “Kansas Redlegs” were normally, but not always, former “Union Soldiers” who became “outlaws” or were “Kansas” soldiers still serving in the Union Army. To add to this confusion, “jayhawking” or “jayhawked” was also an action verb that referred to the act of robbing or murdering anyone or stealing anything! Therefore Jayhawkers, the perpetrators, when apprehended could be robbed (“Jayhawked”) of their stolen property or killed!
The following after action report describes the pursuit of some “Kansas Jayhawkers” who had committed acts of “Jayhawking” in both Kansas & Missouri and were killed & captured in Kansas by “Union” Soldiers from Missouri!
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
January 28, 1862.
In pursuance of Special Orders #57, I left Fort Leavenworth with my command at 2 o’clock p.m. on the 20th January 1862 & proceeded to Atchison, [Ks.], where I arrived at 8 o’clock p.m. of the same day. I reported immediately upon my arrival to Mayor Fairchild. Mayor Fairchild informed me that the citizens had driven the principle JAYHAWKERS (depredators) out of town, but at the same time requested me to arrest certain parties who were suspected to be in league with these depredators & as having the keeping of stolen horses & cattle. In conformity with his request, I arrested several of such persons as he pointed out to me & charged with the above crime, but who from WANT OF EVIDENCE & with his concurrence were discharged.
On the next morning, January 21, 1862, at 4 o’clock a.m., Lieut. Sprague joined my command with 20 men & reported for duty. At 8 a.m. of the same day, I sent out Lieut. Sprague with 25 men in search of horse-thieves & depredators & stolen property, who succeeded in capturing 5 of the stolen horses & 2 Jayhawkers & returned at 2 p.m. of the same day. I then proceeded with the balance of my command to the farm of Sueter Dixon, a NOTED JAYHAWKER & took from his farm 20 horses & 2 shot-guns, the property of citizens of KANSAS & MISSOURI, to whom I restored their property upon their bringing satisfactory proof of ownership
January 22, Mayor Fairchild delivered to me 8 horses taken from the jayhawkers by the Home Guards of Atchison previous to my arrival, which were all claimed by citizens of Kansas & delivered to them as above.
January 23, made several scouts & searches in the neighborhood of town. I was informed by Messrs. Brown, Dunlap & Sumers that several horses were brought to their farms by parties unknown for safe-keeping, but that they supposed them to be JAYHAWKED horses & would like to have an investigation of the matter. I proceeded to the farms of the above named men, seized the horses & brought them into town, when they were immediately claimed by their property owners & delivered to them.
January 24, I was notified by Mr. Irving, of Missouri, at 3 o’clock a.m. that 15 Jayhawkers had robbed his farm in MISSOURI & taken therefrom 40 horses & mules & 6 Negroes; that they dragged his family, among whom there are several females, out of bed, insulting them in the most revolting manner, robbed them of their jewelry & finally left & proceeded in the direction of Elwood, [Ks.]. I immediately concluded to go in search of this party & Mr. Irving offering himself & a few neighbors as guides, I consented thereto, but dispatched him in advance. I overtook him at Geary City, where I found that his party had caught 2 & killed the Captain (by name Chandler) of jayhawkers & wounded another. The rest had escaped, 11 in number & had gone in the direction of Elwood, [Ks.]. I then told Mr. Irving that I thought best for him & his party to go home, as I had a force sufficient to answer all purposes. Accordingly Mr. Irving & his party went home. I took the 2 prisoners in my charge & gave chase to the remainder. I followed them closely. When I cam within 8 miles of Elwood, I ascertained that the party I was in pursuit of had divided. 5 had gone west of Elwood, in the direction of White Cloud, [Ks.] & 6 had gone to Elwood. Accordingly, I divided my command. I sent Lieut. Sprague in pursuit of the party of 5 en route to White Cloud & proceeded myself in pursuit of the other party en route to Elwood, where I captured them. Two hours later Lieut. Sprague joined me, having been successful in the capture of the party [he was] sent after with all the stolen property in their possession – 5 horses, saddles, bridles, etc. The party I captured had in their possession 12 horses, 3 mules & 4 wagons, all these the property of Mr. Irving.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Capt. 1st Mo.Cav.