Category Archives: Irregular Operations

Reconsidering the Confederate Partisan Ranger System

January 7, 1864 – Colonel John Singleton Mosby’s Confederate partisan rangers operated in northern Virginia, while calls grew louder among Confederate officers to ban the partisan ranger system.

John S. Mosby | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Throughout the winter, Mosby’s rangers operated around Warrenton, an area nicknamed “Mosby’s Confederacy.” Mosby’s men technically belonged to the 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry in the Army of Northern Virginia, but under the Partisan Ranger Act, they acted independently and lived among the citizenry. Unlike many rangers who disdained military regulations, Mosby’s troopers were respected as effective members of Major General Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry.

Mosby’s activities mainly included raiding Federal wagon trains and scouting. Federal cavalry stationed at Warrenton under Colonel John P. Taylor routinely rode throughout the countryside in search of Mosby’s elusive rangers. In early January, troopers from Colonel Henry Cole’s 1st Maryland Potomac Home Brigade entered Virginia via Harpers Ferry to hunt Mosby down. But when a detachment of 80 men left Rectortown, Mosby’s men pursued and attacked, killing four, wounding 10, and capturing 41.

Another Federal detachment attacked and scattered Mosby’s command, but a portion counterattacked, capturing 25 Federals and 50 horses. A separate detachment from Mosby under Lieutenant “Fighting Tom” Turner launched a surprise attack on Taylor’s Federals at Warrenton, taking another 20 prisoners. Mosby soon turned his attention back to Cole’s battalion.

Mosby led about 100 rangers to Loudon Heights, overlooking Harpers Ferry, where Cole and about 200 Federals were camped on the night of the 9th. Mosby later reported, “The camp was buried in profound sleep, there was not a sentinel awake.” However, the Federals quickly awoke and attacked Mosby’s force. Mosby ordered a charge, but the Federals inflicted numerous casualties. One of Mosby’s rangers later recalled:

“The dead and dying lay around. From the tents came forth moans of pain and shrieks of agony. Some of the combatants stood almost in reach of one another, firing into each other’s face, crying out: ‘Surrender!’ ‘No, I won’t! You surrender!’”

The Confederates ultimately drove the Federals off. Mosby reported, “Confusion and delaying having ensued from the derangement of my plans, consequent on the alarm given to the enemy, rendered it hazardous to continue in my position, as re-enforcements were near the enemy.” With the infantry at Harpers Ferry mobilizing, Mosby ordered a withdrawal.

The rangers sustained just 12 casualties (eight killed, three wounded, and one captured) while inflicting 26 (four killed, 16 wounded, and six taken prisoner). However, the Confederates were not used to either taking casualties or retreating. As such, an officer later wrote, “A sad and sullen silence pervaded our ranks and found expression in every countenance. All that we could have gained would not compensate for the loss we sustained.”

While the “Gray Ghost” and his rangers would live to fight another day, Confederate officials debated how they should be organized. More and more officers in the Confederate armies were complaining about the partisan rangers. The rangers did not have to strictly adhere to army regulations, they could live among the people, and they could enjoy the bounties they captured. Perhaps most importantly, they encouraged soldiers to desert the army in favor of this more adventurous (and less regulatory) branch of service.

General Robert E. Lee, who originally supported the partisan ranger system, urged the War Department to disband these units in 1863 due to their lack of discipline, their harassment of civilians, and their tendency to draw troops from the regular armies. Secretary of War James A. Seddon responded in November 1863 by banning all partisan ranger outfits except those commanded by John H. McNeill in West Virginia and Mosby in northern Virginia.

In December 1863, Brigadier General Thomas L. Rosser, a cavalry brigade commander under Jeb Stuart, reported that 60 of his men deserted while serving in the Shenandoah Valley. Rosser stated that the men had once belonged to a partisan unit that was forced to join the regular cavalry, and they left because they had grown tired of army regulations. Rosser also had problems working with McNeill, who often refused to follow his orders.

This month, Rosser wrote to Lee describing the partisans as “a nuisance and an evil to the service”:

“Without discipline, order, or organization, they roam broadcast over the country, a band of thieves, stealing, pillaging, plundering, and doing every manner of mischief and crime. They are a terror to the citizens and an injury to the cause. They never fight; can’t be made to fight. Their leaders are generally brave, but few of the men are good soldiers, and have engaged in this business for the sake of gain. The effect upon the service is bad, and I think, if possible, it should be corrected.”

Rosser cited three reasons why all partisan units should be disbanded:

  • Instead of roaming the countryside, their “bayonet or saber should be counted on the field of battle when the life or death of our country is the issue.”
  • They caused “great dissatisfaction in the ranks” because they “are allowed so much latitude, so many privileges. They sleep in houses and turn out in the cold only when it is announced by their chief that they are to go upon a plundering expedition.”
  • They encouraged desertion:

“It is almost impossible for one to manage the different companies of my brigade that are from Loudoun, Fauquier, Fairfax, &c., the region occupied by Mosby. They see these men living at their ease and enjoying the comforts of home, allowed to possess all that they capture, and their duties mere pastime pleasures compared with their own arduous ones; and it is a natural consequence in the nature of man that he should become dissatisfied under these circumstances. Patriotism fails in the long and tedious war like this to sustain the ponderous burdens which bear heavily and cruelly upon the heart and soul of man.”

To remedy the “melancholy” spreading among his men, Rosser urged his superiors to place “all men on the same footing.” If partisan activity was needed for the war effort, “then require the commanding officer to keep them in an organized condition, to rendezvous within our lines, and move upon the enemy when opportunity is offered.” While Rosser singled Mosby out as a “gallant officer,” he argued that Mosby’s service had little impact on the war.

Lee consulted with Stuart, who agreed with everything that Rosser wrote. Stuart contended that Mosby’s partisans were “the only efficient band of rangers I know of,” but he often used just “one-fourth of his nominal strength” while his other three-fourths were living comfortably among civilians. Stuart concluded, “Such organizations, as a rule, are detrimental to the best interests of the army at large.”

Based on this, Lee wrote, “I recommend that the law authorizing these partisan corps be abolished. The evils resulting from their organization more than counterbalance the good they accomplish.” A bill was immediately introduced in the Confederate Congress to repeal the Partisan Ranger Act.

——

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 561; Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (Series 1, Volume 33), p. 12-16, 457, 1081-83; Ramage, James A., Gray Ghost: The Life of Col. John Singleton Mosby (University Press of Kentucky, 2009); Wert, Jeffry D., Mosby’s Rangers (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991); Williamson, James Joseph, Mosby’s Rangers: A Record of the Operations of the Forty-Third Battalion (1909)

Advertisements

Poor Ebenezer Scrooge!

And now we take a break from following the Civil War to present an article about a book written by a Civil War-era author. Thanks to A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has become the quintessential Christmas villain. But at the risk of spoiling an all-time classic, I argue that Scrooge is the only true victim in the story!

Alastair Sim from A Christmas Carol (1951)

In Charles Dickens’s classic tale, Scrooge is the one who’s constantly harassed by people and spirits seeking to either change him or extort money from him. But why? Because he’s mean? Because he’s miserly? Because he’s selfish? If they don’t like Scrooge as he is, they are free to avoid him. But instead, the story boils down to a simple premise: spread your wealth around and we’ll stop harassing you. It sounds like they’re more interested in his money than in truly reforming him. In fact, it sounds like blackmail to me!

Scrooge Benefits the Community

As Jacob Marley says, “Mankind should have been my business.” But Marley didn’t realize that it was. Marley and Scrooge would have gone bankrupt if their business wasn’t benefiting mankind in some way. After Marley dies, customers aren’t being forced to patronize Scrooge’s business. And if enough people grew tired of Scrooge’s nasty disposition, they’d stop doing business with him, which would force him to change his ways. The free market can fix things just as easily as blackmail.

The people of the community should thank their lucky stars that there’s a man like Scrooge who is willing to use his wealth to offer loans so they can help their families. Maybe they should aspire to be as wealthy as Scrooge, and then they could go into the loan business and offer lower rates that would undercut Scrooge and force him to lower his. Everyone would benefit from such a competitive market.

Perhaps the story would have been better if Scrooge was a struggling businessman rather than a successful one. That way he could learn that in order to turn his business around, he must stop being so mean and selfish. An improved business would provide better goods and services, which would attract more customers, generate more profit, and enable Scrooge to create more jobs. Wouldn’t that be more sensible than terrorizing an old man with ghosts?

The Sloth of Bob Cratchett

Dickens portrays Bob Cratchett as a pathetic soul who can’t provide for his family on the pittance that Scrooge pays him. But was Scrooge responsible for the Cratchetts having so many children without having the means to support them? If the Cratchetts are struggling to support their family, then why aren’t they busying themselves with finding more ways to generate income?

Cratchett shows no ambition to look for more work. He’d rather earn his meager salary and wait for charity rather than work harder to cover the shortfall. He isn’t even good at waiting for charity, after all, why didn’t he contact the businessmen who were trying to extort charity from Scrooge and explain why they should help him and his sick child?

Moreover, Cratchett isn’t even a good employee. If he was, then he should be able to market himself either to Scrooge’s competitors to see if they’d pay him a better salary or to Scrooge himself to see if he’d be willing to train him to improve his skill set. Cratchett’s lack of ambition and his mediocre performance indicates that he has minimal value in the workforce, which means that he’s probably being paid exactly what he’s worth!

Actually, Scrooge is doing Cratchett a favor by paying him a lower salary. If word got out that Cratchett’s salary was raised, ambitious applicants with better skills than Cratchett would petition Scrooge to hire them. Cratchett wouldn’t be able to compete with those who were better qualified, and he’d end up unemployed. So Scrooge is helping Cratchett simply by keeping him on and paying him the going salary rather than replacing him with someone who could do a better job!

Three Misguided Spirits

The worst villains of Dickens’s story are the spirits that torture Scrooge, who only asks to be left alone! If these spirits have the power to transcend time and space, then they should have the power to help Tiny Tim without involving Scrooge. Why is it Scrooge’s responsibility to care for the poor child when his parents don’t even have enough ambition to do it? How sadistic are these spirits to attack Scrooge while doing nothing for Tiny Tim?

Perhaps the story would have been better had the spirits visited Bob Cratchett instead:

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past could show Cratchett examples of how he became so passive, lazy, and incompetent
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present could show Cratchett the current consequences of his bad behavior
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future could show Cratchett what will happen if he doesn’t man up!

An Economics Lesson for Dickens

The only character in A Christmas Carol who produces anything of value is Scrooge, and Dickens rewards him by making him the villain. According to Dickens, Scrooge has sinned by earning money and then daring to keep it for himself. Instead of celebrating Scrooge as a successful businessman who provides goods and services that help the community, Scrooge is harassed and terrorized into giving even more to the community, including giving lazy Bob Cratchett a raise! Cratchett is portrayed as the innocent victim, even though he could market his skills elsewhere, learn new skills, or find supplemental employment if he truly wanted to provide for his family.

Dickens appeals to sympathies rather than common sense economic principles. Just because Cratchett would rather sit and hope for help than make himself more marketable doesn’t make Scrooge responsible for his misery. And just because Scrooge is wealthy doesn’t mean he earned it by exploiting the poor. Scrooge is certainly mean, selfish, and miserly, but he has the right to retain his private property without being terrorized. A Christmas Carol may be an inspirational tale of a man who finds redemption, but the only true victim of Dickens’s tale is Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Missouri Relocation

August 25, 1863 – Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, commanding the Federal District of the Border between Missouri and Kansas, issued repressive orders that threatened to escalate the bitter partisan war in the region even further.

Brig Gen Thomas Ewing | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Following the sack of Lawrence, William C. Quantrill’s Confederate partisans rode back to sanctuary in Missouri. Brigadier General James H. Lane’s Kansas Jayhawkers briefly pursued them but could not track them down. Lane retaliated by murdering over 100 people in western Missouri suspected of helping Quantrill and destroying the property of any alleged Quantrill sympathizers.

Lane also demanded that Ewing, headquartered at Kansas City, exact harsh revenge on anyone not clearly professing Unionist sympathies. Lane drew up a vindictive military order and, as a U.S. senator with strong political connections, threatened to end Ewing’s career if he did not issue and enforce it.

Under General Orders No. 11, Federal troops were to depopulate the four Missouri counties on the Kansas border south of the Missouri River: Jackson, Cass, and Bates, plus part of Vernon County. All people, regardless of age, race, gender, or loyalty, were required to leave their homes within 15 days. Those who proved themselves loyal to the Union could reside in military camps under protection. Those who could not had to leave without protection. Anyone resisting the order would be executed.

Ewing directed the 15th Kansas Cavalry, led by hated Jayhawker Colonel Charles R. Dennison, to enforce the order. Jennison displaced an estimated 20,000 people, many of whom were harassed and robbed by Jayhawkers as they clogged roads hauling wagons filled with all their worldly possessions. Once the counties were emptied, Federals looted and burned all remaining homes, barns, and crops.

Ewing’s order, at Lane’s insistence, was one of the most brutal ever enforced in U.S. history. Predictably, it did little to stop Confederate partisan activity in the area; if anything, it made the raiders even more determined to resist Federal authority. The order also ruined western Missouri’s economy and caused deep resentment for generations. For years, the desolate region was known as the “Burnt District.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 319; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 705; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 343; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 427; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 401; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 786; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 249-50; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 153-54; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Sack of Lawrence

August 21, 1863 – Colonel William C. Quantrill’s Confederate raiders rampaged through Lawrence, the focal point of “Bleeding Kansas” since before the war.

W.C. Quantrill | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Quantrill’s partisans operated against Federal forces around the Missouri-Kansas border. Quantrill had targeted Lawrence for attack in retaliation for Federal depredations in Missouri, including an 1861 raid on Osceola. A recent building collapse that killed several women suspected of aiding the partisans, as well as punitive measures imposed by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, commanding the Federal District of the Border, also played a role. Moreover, Lawrence was the hated center of the Free State Movement, and it promised to be rich with loot.

Quantrill ordered his 450 men to “kill every man big enough to carry a gun.” The lone exception was Brigadier General James H. Lane, the U.S. senator who led Kansas Jayhawkers in terrorizing Confederate sympathizers throughout western Missouri. Lane was to be captured and brought back to Missouri for hanging. Lane’s men had given the partisans no quarter in the past, and now Quantrill would give none in return.

The partisans rode into town at 5 a.m. Quantrill, waving one of his Colt revolvers, hollered, “Kill! Kill and you will make no mistake! Lawrence must be cleansed, and the only way to cleanse it is to kill! Kill!” An abolitionist minister was the first victim, shot in the head while milking his cow. The raiders kidnapped a woman and forced her to lead them to the homes of men whose names they had written on a “death list.”

Quantrill’s men split up and moved through town in various directions, with one group riding upon the camp of 22 troops from the 14th Kansas. Shouting “Osceola!”, they shot or trampled 17 men to death, while the other five escaped. The partisans rampaged through the streets burning houses and buildings; the thick smoke suffocated the town mayor as he hid in a well.

Quantrill ate breakfast in a hotel as his men robbed the saloons and banks. They killed 183 men and teenage boys, most of whom were unarmed. Some men, such as Lane, escaped the carnage. Lane removed the nameplate from the front of his house and fled into a nearby cornfield in his nightshirt. Quantrill found Lane’s house anyway and had it burned while Lane’s wife watched.

The partisans did not harm any woman physically, but they forced many to watch their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons be killed. One woman watched the raiders kill her husband and then refuse to let her pull his body out of their burning house. The partisans also stole many of the women’s valuables, including their wedding rings. Quantrill later stated that “the ladies of Lawrence were brave and plucky.” A resident recalled:

“The ladies were wonderfully brave and efficient that morning. Some of them, by their shrewdness and suavity, turned raiders from their purpose when they came to their houses. Sometimes they outwitted them, and at other times they boldly confronted and resisted them. In scores of cases they put the fires out as soon as those who kindled them left the house. In some cases they defiantly followed the raiders around, and extinguished the flames as they were kindled.”

The murder and pillage ended around 9 a.m., when word arrived that Federal troops were approaching. The raiders fled back to Missouri. Some 80 widows and 250 fatherless children remained after Quantrill’s men left. About 185 buildings were burned, with property damage assessed at $1.5 million. One partisan was too drunk to leave with the rest; the vengeful survivors shot him, rode his body through town, and then ripped his corpse to pieces.

An observer later said, “The town is a complete ruin. The whole of the business part, and all good private residences are burned down. Everything of value was taken along by the fiends… I cannot describe the horrors.” Another wrote, “The whole business part of the town, except two stores, was in ashes. The bodies of dead men… were laying in all directions.” Kansas Governor Thomas Carney wrote, “No fiend in human shape could have acted with more savage brutality.”

Both Federals and Confederates considered the sack of Lawrence a senseless atrocity that did nothing to advance any cause in the war. Lane opted not to pursue Quantrill. Instead, he led his Jayhawkers into Missouri and went on a murder spree of his own. At the same time, Lane demanded that Ewing impose more punitive consequences on those suspected of aiding Quantrill and other guerrillas.

—–

References

Castel, Albert, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 532; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 318; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 703-05; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 342; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 427; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 606; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 160; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 399-400; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 785-86; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 153; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 245-46; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Border District: Ewing Incites Guerrillas

August 14, 1863 – Brigadier General Thomas Ewing incurred the wrath of Confederate raiders operating along the Missouri-Kansas border by targeting their relatives, including women and children.

Brig Gen Thomas Ewing | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The border conflict between Missouri and Kansas, which had begun before the war, continued raging as the war progressed. Ewing (brother-in-law of William T. Sherman), commanding the Federal District of the Border, had just 2,500 men spread out across Missouri, Kansas, and the Colorado Territory. There were no concentrated enemy forces, but the Federals had to deal with pro-Confederate partisans operating mainly in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

These partisans, mostly based in Missouri, crossed the border, launched quick attacks, and then disappeared among the population. Since the Federals could not track them down, Ewing authorized the arrest of anyone suspected of aiding or abetting them, including their mothers, wives, and daughters. This infuriated the raiders, who had made it a point not to make war on women.

Ewing’s Federals began rounding up these women and sending them to designated prison camps, including abandoned warehouses and other buildings. One such structure was an old three-story brick building in Kansas City, in which the women were held on the second floor. On the 14th, this building collapsed, killing five and injuring many others.

The partisans believed that Ewing had deliberately sabotaged the building. It was in a dilapidated condition, and Ewing had been warned that it might collapse. Among the women killed was the sister of William Anderson, who became known as “Bloody Bill” following his retaliatory rampage. Other women were related to notorious partisan leader Colonel William C. Quantrill.

Col W.C. Quantrill | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Quantrill had gained notoriety during the fight over “Bleeding Kansas” before the war, making money by charging exorbitant fees to return fugitive slaves to their masters, as well as stealing horses and cattle. When the war began, he raised a group of pro-Confederate raiders that included “Bloody Bill,” Cole Younger, and Frank and Jesse James. Quantrill became a captain under the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act, but when the Confederate government denied him a colonelship, he bestowed the title upon himself anyway.

Four days after the Kansas City building collapse, Ewing exacerbated the partisans’ rage further by issuing General Order No. 10. This declared that the arrests would continue, and furthermore, “the wives and children of known guerrillas, and also women who are heads of families and are willfully engaged in aiding guerrillas, will be notified… to remove out of this district and out of the State of Missouri forthwith.”

Quantrill and his raiders received word of the tragedy at Kansas City and Ewing’s punitive response while camped in western Missouri. Quantrill had been planning to raid Lawrence, the abolitionist headquarters of Kansas that had been sacked by pro-slavery forces in 1856. Ever since James H. Lane, a U.S. senator who led Unionist Kansas forces, sacked Osceola, Missouri, in 1861, Quantrill had sought revenge.

The raiders, who had spies in Lawrence, prepared a “death list” of prominent Unionist residents, including Lane. Scouts informed Quantrill that an attack might fail because large bodies of Federal troops often passed through on their way to other posts. But Quantrill argued, “Lawrence is the great hotbed of abolitionism in Kansas, and we can get more revenge and more money there than anywhere else in the state.” And now, after learning of Ewing’s depredations, Quantrill resolved to attack no matter what.

On the 19th, Quantrill and about 300 Missouri partisans began heading toward Kansas. As they reached the border, Quantrill announced, “This is a hazardous ride, and there is a chance we will all be annihilated. Any man who feels he is not equal to the task can quit, and no one will call him a coward.” Some left, but most remained. In fact, they gained new recruits along the way, boosting their total to around 450.

The partisans rode through the night, stopping at farms to get directions to Lawrence in the dark. The raiders killed any civilian who recognized Quantrill, spoke German (German immigrants were largely pro-Republican), or was a known abolitionist. In all, 10 farmers were forced to serve as guides and then murdered by the time Quantrill and his men approached Lawrence before dawn on the 21st.

Quantrill had planned to attack at night, but now dawn was approaching, so the attack would have to take place in broad daylight. Lawrence was a large town of about 2,000 people, and some partisans began having second thoughts about attacking. Quantrill told them, “You can do as you please. I am going to Lawrence.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 703-04; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 340-41; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 399; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 785; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 152; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Newburgh Raid

July 17, 1862 – This evening, Confederate Captain Adam R. Johnson led 35 partisans out of Henderson, Kentucky, to raid the Federal arsenal across the Ohio River at Newburgh, Indiana.

Johnson considered himself the leader of an irregular Confederate force in accordance with the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act. However, his men were civilians, and neither he nor his men wore military uniforms, making them outlaws in Federal eyes. Johnson had been dispatched to Henderson by Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest to deliver a message. He stayed after its delivery and recruited men for his cause.

Johnson planned to break into the Newburgh arsenal, a two-story brick warehouse on the riverfront, and bring the weapons back to Kentucky before Federal troops at nearby Evansville could react. The only troops defending Newburgh were Federal soldiers convalescing at the Exchange Hotel, which had been converted to a hospital. To Johnson’s good luck, the telegraph line between Newburgh and Evansville was not working at the time.

While scout Robert M. Martin led 24 men east of Newburgh to create a diversion, Johnson and two Confederates rowed across the Ohio and seized the arsenal. Eight soldiers manned two cannon trained on the town from the Kentucky side of the river.

“Cannon” overlooking Newburgh | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Newburgh residents immediately realized that their arsenal had been taken. Johnson, expecting Martin’s men to cover his withdrawal, entered the hotel and captured the local Federal commander. Johnson held off the town’s defenders by showing them the two cannon and threatening to “shell this town to the ground.” The Federals did not know that the “cannon” were actually stovepipes set on wagon wheels and axles.

Johnson’s men loaded the arsenal weapons onto waiting skiffs, covered by Martin’s troops and the “cannon.” A Federal gunboat and troop transport unexpectedly blocked the Confederates’ return, prompting Johnson and two men to fire on the convoy to prevent a troop landing, wounding two Federals. Believing they faced a large force, the Federals withdrew, and Johnson’s Confederates returned to Henderson.

Newburgh became the first northern town to be captured by Confederates in the war. Johnson earned the nickname “Stovepipe” for this operation and received a promotion to colonel from General Braxton Bragg. Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, shocked by the seemingly effortless raid, telegraphed Washington to send reinforcements.

Within three days, 1,000 Federal troops had arrived and were conveyed down the Ohio by Commander Alexander M. Pennock’s fleet of steamers and tugs. The Federals crossed the Ohio, occupying Henderson and other border towns in northern Kentucky while recovering some of the stolen weapons.

The Federals did not find Johnson’s raiders, but Pennock received “the gratitude with which the citizens of Indiana and of this locality will regard the prompt cooperation of yourself and your officers in this emergency, which threatened their security.” Johnson’s raid bolstered military recruitment in Indiana and demonstrated the need for more border patrols.

—–

References

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 195-96; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 183-84; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 242; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 395, 524-25; Wikipedia: Newburgh Raid

The Great Locomotive Chase

April 12, 1862 – A daring effort to sabotage Confederate supply lines made sensational headlines in newspapers but had little impact on the war.

Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel’s Federal division had been detached from the Army of the Ohio to operate in central and southeastern Tennessee, as well as northern parts of Alabama and Georgia. While camped at Shelbyville, Tennessee, Mitchel met with Kentuckian James J. Andrews, a contraband trader and top army spy.

Andrews proposed leading men on a secret mission to sneak behind Confederate lines in Georgia and steal a locomotive. They would then burn bridges, destroy railroad tunnels, and sabotage the important Western & Atlantic Railroad line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. Mitchel approved and helped sort out the details.

Andrews recruited one civilian and 22 soldiers from Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill’s Ohio brigade. They formed small teams that traveled separately to Marietta, Georgia, 200 miles south of Shelbyville. The men covered the first 90 miles on foot and, dressed in civilian clothes, used thick southern accents to tell anybody who questioned them that they were headed to join the nearest Confederate army. Two men were seized by Confederate pickets and sent to man the Chattanooga defenses, leaving Andrews with 21 men.

The raid was to start with Mitchel creating a diversion by capturing Huntsville, Alabama, and threatening Chattanooga on April 11. But since it rained that day, Andrews figured that Mitchel would postpone the diversion until the 12th. Andrews figured wrong; Mitchel’s Federals captured Huntsville as planned. They seized the telegraph office, post office, 15 locomotives, all supplies stored in the warehouses, and took several hundred Confederate prisoners. They then awaited Andrews’s arrival on the stolen train.

Andrews and his men spent the night of the 11th in a Marietta hotel owned by a New Yorker and fellow spy. The locomotive General was scheduled to stop at Marietta as part of its normal Atlanta-to-Chattanooga run the next morning. The General was a 25-ton eight-wheel, wood-burning locomotive capable of moving up to 60 miles per hour. It pulled two passenger cars, a mail car, and three boxcars. The raiders planned to seize the General at Big Shanty, the first stop after leaving Marietta.

On the morning of the 12th, Andrews told his men before they went to the Marietta depot, “Now, I will succeed or leave my bones in Dixie.” He and his volunteers bought tickets and boarded the train as passengers in civilian dress. The conductor, William A. Fuller, took their tickets and paid them no mind.

When the General stopped at Big Shanty, the passengers and crew detrained to eat breakfast at the hotel. William Knight, one of Andrews’s raiders and a former railroad engineer, decoupled the passenger and mail cars before climbing into the General. The rest of the men jumped into the three boxcars, and on Andrews’s signal, the locomotive began moving out. The train’s foreman watched it pass out the window and hollered to Fuller, “Someone is running off with your train!” Fuller and other crewmen began chasing on foot, but it was no use.

The General | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The General | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The raiders steamed north, with Andrews directing Knight to keep the train at its normal 16 miles per hour to avoid attracting attention. They made occasional stops to cut telegraph wires along the way. They also stopped long enough to pry up a section of rail and take it with them. The raiders refueled at Cassville as they explained to the station agent that they were on a mission to deliver ammunition to General P.G.T. Beauregard.

Meanwhile, news of Huntsville’s capture the previous day caused a surge in southbound railroad traffic. Consequently, the General had to wait over 90 minutes on a siding while southbound trains passed. Fuller and other crewmen began catching up to the stolen locomotive after hopping onto a handcar, but they were knocked off near Etowah when they hit the missing rail.

At Etowah Station, the pursuers commandeered the locomotive Yonah to resume the chase. But they were also detained by the southbound traffic at Kingston, 14 miles north of Etowah. They abandoned the Yonah and took the William R. Smith to continue on.

By this time, the General had reached Adairsville station, 69 miles from Chattanooga, where Andrews told Knight to “see how fast she can go.” Reaching full speed, the raiders ignored the stops and nearly collided with a southbound train at Calhoun. Andrews believed that the speed burst gave them enough space and time to stop the General and begin their main mission–destroying bridges and tunnels.

At Adairsville, the Confederate pursuers were stopped by another break in the rails. They abandoned the William R. Smith and hurried aboard the Texas. Running it backward, the Confederates began gaining on the stopped raiders. The Texas halted briefly at Calhoun to take on 11 Confederate soldiers for support.

A mile and a half north of Calhoun, Andrews stopped again to wreck more track. As his men worked, the whistle of the approaching Texas could be heard. The raiders stopped working, decoupled two boxcars, and hurried on toward Resaca. When the Confederates came upon the boxcars, they simply coupled them to their backward-running locomotive and continued on.

The General had to stop at Tilton for more wood and water, but the raiders cut the stop short when they heard the Texas coming on. By the time they reached Tunnel Hill, they were nearly out of steam. Andrews directed his men to decouple and set fire to the last boxcar, but heavy rain prevented it from igniting. The raiders jumped back into the General and resumed their flight. They had no time to accomplish their main mission of burning bridges; rainy weather also contributed to their inability to destroy tunnels as planned.

The General finally ran out of fuel about two miles north of Ringgold, near the Tennessee line. It had covered 87 miles. Andrews hollered to his crew, “Jump and scatter! Every man for himself!” As they jumped out, the Texas closed to within 200 yards.

The Federals fled into the woods, but the Confederate troops jumped off the Texas and captured three or four almost immediately. Over the next week, a posse rounded up the rest of the raiders. Andrews and Knight were taken a few days later, less than 12 miles from Federal lines near New England, Georgia. The prisoners were sent to Chattanooga to await trial.

Of the 22 Federal raiders, Andrews and seven others were found guilty of espionage, having engaged in war against the Confederacy while in civilian clothes. They were hanged on June 7. Six of the raiders were paroled, and the other eight escaped captivity and made it back to the Federal lines.

In March 1863, Andrews and his crew were the first men to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor (albeit posthumously) for bravery “above and beyond the call of duty.” William A. Fuller and his fellow Confederate pursuers received a vote of thanks from the Georgia legislature. Although Andrews’s sensational effort accomplished little in deciding the war, it soon became known as the “Great Locomotive Chase.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 160; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 377-78; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 134, 137; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 199; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-10, 11-12; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 111-12