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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #65

Bushwhacker Burnings

Traditionally, in the study of the Civil War, this particular war has been described as the last civilized war & first modern war. For many years books indicated that for the first few years of the war both sides refrained from conducting “Total War” or waging war against civilians that included the destruction of homes, barns, crops and associated civilian property. This may have been true back “East” or east of the Mississippi River for a short time, but here in eastern Kansas & Missouri “Total War” was conducted from the very beginning of the declared war in 1861. Of course the trial by fire on the border started here in 1856 so the citizens in this part of the country had a five year head start & were exposed to the BURNING of civilian homes, barns & towns throughout the entire Civil War.

The following after action report describes the BURNING of 11 homes “inhabited by bushwhacker families” by soldiers of the 9th Ks. Vol. Cavalry Regiment in the Spring of 1863. This of course was & is not surprising, but by doing so the commanding officer recognized that he now was faced with a bunch of homeless civilians for which he offered an interesting solution. The report is located on Pages 318-319 of Series I, Vol. 22, Part I Reports of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

William C. Quantrill

Charles F. Coleman

Paola, [Ks.], May 11, 1863.

Sir: I have the honor to report that, on the 3rd inst., I left camp with small detachments from Companies A, D, E, F & K of this regiment, for a scout in Cass & Bates Counties, I scoured Cass County & found no enemy; then turned into Bates County & when about 10 miles north of Butler received your letter of instructions, dated Fort Leavenworth, ___, 1863; also your letter dated fort Leavenworth, May 5 directing Company D, Captain Charles F. Coleman to move his company from Rockville to Butler, Mo., which was immediately complied with.

Sterling Price

I moved on to the Osage [River], intending to cross Hog Island, but found the river to high & did not cross; then turned east & on the morning of the 8th on Double Branches, found a gang of bushwhackers under Jackman & Marchbanks, Quantrill having left on the night of the 6th inst. for Henry County, Missouri with 40 men. We found Jackman & Marchbanks with about 20 men who fled by ones & twos & escaped except 7, who were reported killed by my soldiers. I found [the] county rapidly filling up by BUSHWHACKERS’ FAMILIES who are returning from the South under the impression that [Confederate Major General Sterling] Price, is coming up & had again taken possession with their stock. This stream , called double Branches, is their rendezvous & has been since the outbreak of this rebellion; but four loyal families live on it & they are doubtful. About fifty or sixty families inhabit that country bordering on that stream. I notified them to leave & go south of the Arkansas River. A great part of them positively refused. [Comment: That shouldn’t of came as any surprise because they were being asked to abandon their homes!] I BURNED ELEVEN HOUSES, inhabited by BUSHWHACKER FAMILIES & DROVE OFF ALL THE STOCK except that belonging to the reported loyal persons. We broke up 4 camps of bushwhackers & pursued them to the eastern side of Bates County. I think for the present no danger need be apprehended from that quarter. I will keep a close watch, for I am satisfied they intend to organize a force somewhere in that country; I think in Henry County.

The stock we took consists of a few yoke of oxen [2 0xen = a yoke], mares & colts, young horses one & two year old cows & calves & young cattle; in all about 350 head; also about 300 sheep. I believe it all to be the property of the bushwhackers & rebel sympathizers. In view of the fact that pasture is scarce at Kansas City & plenty here & the stock [is] the kind our Kansas farmers would like to buy & some of it may be proved away [have been stolen], I respectfully ask for an order that will authorize the sale of it at this place.

Permit me to ask the question, How am I to send the REBEL SYMPATHIZERS & FEMALE REBELS, who are plentiful where I have been for the last ten days [in Cass & Bates Counties], south of the Arkansas River, particularly those who have NO WAY TO GO? I can see no way except to gather them all up & send them in a Government [wagon] train & reimburse the Government by selling their stock.

Company C, Captain John E. Stewart has not yet reported at Olathe. Scouting parties are constantly moving from the different counties. Can I have your consent to go into the counties of Henry & Saline on our next scout [mission], if I find no enemy in the border counties or if they run into those counties?

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. Lynde, Colonel Commanding.


It is not known & it is doubtful that Col. Lynde suggestion of using a “Government Wagon Train” to transport the “REBEL SYMPATHIZERS [civilians] & FEMALE REBELS south of the Arkansas river” was ever implemented, but it did become common practice to sell their confiscated livestock. The BUSHWHACKER BURNINGS & displacement of SOUTHERN SYMPATHIZERS continued unabated in Missouri throughout the entire Civil War.

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
P.O. Box 6202
Shawnee Mission, KS 66206

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