Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28, 1863: Dealing with the aftermath of the Lawrence Massacre

Major General John M. Schofield, U.S. Army.

A week after the Lawrence Massacre, John Schofield--the Union department commander in Missouri--was hard at work sorting out the aftermath, including trying to head off a planned retaliatory raid into Missouri.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
Saint Louis, August 28, 1863.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN,

President of the United States, Washington, D. C.:

Mr. PRESIDENT: In reply to your telegram of the 27th, transmitting copy of one received from two influential citizens of Kansas, I beg leave to state some of the facts connected with the horrible massacre at Lawrence, and also relative to the assaults made upon by a certain class of influential politicians.

Since the capture of Vicksburg a considerable portion of the rebel arm in the Mississippi Valley has disbanded, and large numbers of men have come back to Missouri-many of them, doubtless, in the hope of being permitted to remain at their former homes in peace, while some have come under instructions to carry on a guerrilla warfare, and others, men of the worst character, become marauders on their own account, caring nothing for the Union nor for the rebellion, except as the latter affords them a cloak for their brigandage.

Under instructions from the rebel authorities, as I am informed and believe, considerable bands, called "Border Guards," were organized in the counties of Missouri bordering on Kansas, for the ostensible purpose of protecting those counties from inroads from Kansas, and preventing slaves of rebels from escaping from Missouri Kansas. These bands were unquestionably encouraged, fed, and harbored by a very considerable portion of the people of those border counties. Many of those people were in fact the families of these bushwhackers, who are brigands of the worst type.

Upon the representation of General Ewing and others familiar with the facts, I became satisfied there could be no cure for the evil short of the removal from those counties of all slaves entitled to their freedom, and of the families of all men known to belong to these bands, and others who were known to sympathize with them. Accordingly I directed General Ewing to adopt and carry out the policy he had indicated, warning him, however, of the retaliation which might be attempted, and that he must be fully prepared to prevent it before commencing such severe measures.

Almost immediately after it became known that such policy had been adopted, Quantrill secretly assembled from several of the border counties of Missouri about 300 of his men. They met at a preconcerted place of rendezvous, near the Kansas line, at about sunset, and immediately marched for Lawrence, which place they reached at daylight the next morning. They sacked and burned the town and murdered the citizens in the most barbarous manner.

It is easy to see that any unguarded town in a country where such a number of outlaws can be assembled is liable to a similar fate, if the villains are willing to risk the retribution which must follow. In this case 100 of them have already been slain, and the remainder are hotly pursued in all directions. If there was any fault on the part of General Ewing, it appears to have been in not guarding Lawrence. But of this it was not my purpose to speak. General Ewing and the Governor of Kansas have asked for a court of inquiry, and I have sent to the War Department a request that one may be appointed, and I do not wish to anticipate the result of a full investigation. I believe, beyond doubt, that the terrible disaster at Lawrence was the immediate consequence of the "radical" measures to which I have alluded. Although these measures are far behind what many, at least, of the radical leaders demand they surely cannot attribute the sad result to "conservative policy."

Had these measures been adopted last winter, when the State was easily controlled, because the absence of leaves from the brush rendered it impossible for the bushwhackers to hide from the troops, and there was a large force in the State lying idle, they might have been carried out without injury to the loyal people. The larger part of my troops having been called off for service in Arkansas and down the Mississippi, and the summer being favorable for guerrilla operations, it may have been unwise to adopt such measures at this time. If so, they have no right to complain who have been continually clamoring for such measures, and who couple their denunciations of me with demands for more radical measures still, and hold up by way of contrast, as their model, the general who did not see fit to adopt such measures when they could have been carried out with perfect ease and security. You will, perhaps, remember that while in command of Missouri, in 1862, I adopted and enforced certain very severe and radical measures toward those in open rebellion and their sympathizers. I believed at the time, and still believe, that those measures were wise and necessary at the time they were adopted, and they seemed to meet with the hearty approval of at least the ultra-Union people of Missouri. After I was relieved by General Curtis, these measures were all abandoned. None of them were revised by him during his administration excepting that of banishment of rebel sympathizers, and no other of like radical character adopted by him, except that, perhaps, of granting "free papers" to slaves, and confiscation of property without any form of trial known to any law, either civil or military. The banishment of rebels I have continued, and I have conformed to the laws as nearly as possible in reference to slaves and property subject to confiscation.

I have revised my former severe mode of dealing with guerrillas, robbers, and murderers which General Curtis had abandoned, and have treated with some severity, though of a far milder from, those law-breakers who profess to be Union men. Among the latter were several provost-marshals and members of commissions whom I have been compelled to arrest, and punish for enormous frauds and extortion. They are, of course, loud-mouthed radicals.

I have permitted those who have been in rebellion, and who voluntarily surrender themselves and their arms, to take the oath of allegiance and give bonds for their future good conduct, and release them upon condition that they reside in such portion of the State as I shall direct. For this I am most bitterly assailed by the radicals, who demand that every man who has been in rebellion or in any way aided shall be exterminated or driven from the State. There are thousands of such criminals, and no man can fail to see that such a course would light the flames of a war such as Missouri has never yet seen. Their leaders know it, but it is necessary to their ascendancy, and they scruple at nothing to accomplish that end.

I am officially informed that a large meeting has been held at Leavenworth, in which a resolution was adopted to the effect that the people would assemble at a certain place on the border, on the 8th of September, for the purpose of entering Missouri to search for their stolen property. Efforts have been made by the mayor of Leavenworth to get possession of the ferry at that place for the purpose of crossing armed parties of citizens into Northern Missouri.

I have strong reasons for believing that the authors of the telegram to you are among those who introduced and obtained the adoption of the Leavenworth resolution, and who are endeavoring to organize a force for the purpose of general retaliation upon Missouri. Those who so deplore my "imbecility and incapacity" are the very men who are endeavoring to bring about a collision between the people of Kansas and the troops under General Ewing's command. I have not the "capacity" to see the wisdom or justice of permitting an irresponsible mob to enter Missouri for the purpose of retaliation even for so grievous a wrong as that which Lawrence has suffered.

I have increased the force upon the border as far as possible, and no effort has been or will be spared to punish the invaders of Kansas and to prevent such acts in future. The force there has been all the time far larger than in any other portion of my department except on the advanced line in Arkansas and the Indian Territory.

I deem it proper to remark here that the allusions to my predecessor are in nowise intended as a reflection upon him or his official acts, but merely because those who so bitterly assail me hold him up as their model.

Please accept my apologies, Mr. President, for the length of this letter. I could hardly, in justice to myself or to truth, make it shorter.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Major-General.

No comments: