[SeMissourian.com] Light Rain Fog/Mist ~ 67°F  
High: 76°F ~ Low: 63°F
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

'War is Butchery'

Sunday, October 15, 2006

On Oct. 15, 1864, while Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis was concerned with defending "Kansas" against an invasion by the Confederate Campaign in Missouri he responded to a letter from a civilian U.S. Attorney in Denver, Colorado. During the Civil War, the Colorado Territory was part of the Department of Kansas that was commanded by General Curtis. The U.S. Attorney, one S. E. Browne, wanted to prosecute a Union Colonel by the name of Chivington for the death of 5 prisoners who had been executed before they were tried and convicted in a Court of Law! U.S. Attorney Brown was irate because of what he thought was a blatant violation of both military and civilian Justice. By the tone of Browne's letter to General Curtis, it is apparent that he had never served in the army let alone combat and did not have a clue as to the brutal barbaric butchery that is the reality of war, any War! The following letters from Browne and Curtis have been slightly abbreviated, but the intent of each is perfectly clear.

"[Private] U.S. Attorney's Office Denver, Colorado, Oct. 3, 1864 Major General Curtis, Leavenworth, Kansas: Sir: About the 1st of August last, 10 persons calling themselves "Confederate Soldiers' entered what is called South Park in this Territory, robbed the U.S. mail and several of our citizens and committed various depredations. As soon as Mr. Hunt, our U.S. Marshall, learned the facts, he with an escort of soldiers and a large number of citizens pursued the band and succeeded after killing 1 and wounding others, in capturing five of the parties. These persons he brought to Denver and lodged in the U.S. Prison. Immediately after, Colonel Chivington, commanding the district called on Mr. Hunt and informed him that he had the power to "try" these men by military commission and could "hang or shoot" them by military authority for their offense against the law. In my absence, Mr. Hunt, believing the statements of the colonel, handed the parties over to him.

About the 1st of September, the colonel, saying that he was ordered by you, sent those five persons under an escort of 100 men of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, to Fort Lyon for trial. The 2nd day out the whole five were "butchered" and their bones with shackles on their legs, were left unburied and yet remain there unless devoured by the beasts of prey that don't wear shoulder straps (Army Officers). Our people had no sympathy with these thieves as they have with other thieves, but they feel that our common manhood has been outraged and demand that this foul murder shall not be sloughed over in quiet (hushed up). When the news was first brought to Chivington of the death of these persons and of the manner of their death, he sneeringly remarked to the bystanders: "I told the guard when they left that if they did not kill those fellows, I would play thunder with them." There is no doubt in the minds of our people that a most foul murder has been committed and that, too, by the express order of old Chivington.

I can prove all the facts contained in this letter. I propose to prove them in the proper place, but deem it my duty as the representative of the government to inform you of the facts and in behalf of our people to demand that these outrages may be investigated.

Very Respectfully, S. E. Browne, U.S. Attorney

I doubt that "charges"" were ever brought against Col. Chivington for this incident because of General Curtis's response which is as follows:

"Field Headquarters Department of Kansas Camp near Wyandotte, Oct. 15, 1864.

S.E. Browne, Esq., Denver City, Colo.: Dear Sir: Your concerning the disposition of certain brigands calling themselves Confederate soldiers is received. I have not the least sympathy for such fiends; we are disposing of them very summarily everywhere. When men in our rear betray the parole implied by their shelter under the roofs of our people left at our homes they deserve hanging or any other sort of butchery, as you denominate the taking of their lives. War is butchery on a grand scale and there is none of its horrors more justifiable than those which destroy the sneaks and cowards that steadily seek to carry on war in the rear of our armed forces and disguised as citizens. brigands have no rights and Napoleon had them shot down by regiments, even when they were caught in garbs of some military show (uniforms).

Col. Chivington may or may not have been privy to the matter you name. It may have been better to have tried them by a commission, but according to your own showing (description) they deserved their fate the laws of war would even justify that disposition of men who outraged (violated) all the laws of war. I hope the terrible reward of such crime will caution villains against their repetition. I deplore the pretense of trail; that was the worst of the matter, but it is past and I suppose the horrors of war in this instance has transpired much as it has to thousands in the brush in Missouri. Our troops everywhere now consider it right to kill bushwhackers, even after they surrender; their recent barbarous butcheries in North Missouri and the tortured bodies of their victims and the scalps and ears worn on the bushwhackers' bridles, will envince a disregard of all rules of war and even savage barbarity. I think therefore, the sympathy of your people better be devoted to better objects of human sympathy and your professional skill, which is very naturally sensitive when the righteous rule of civil courts are outraged, must yield to the harsh, summary, cruel dictates of the pending trial of war. I express to you my thanks for your communication, but in the sequel, terrible and swift justice transpires toward our worst foes….

I have the honor to be sir, your very obedient servant, S. R. Curtis Major General."

In 1864, on the fringes of Price's Confederate army as it moved through northern Missouri and Kansas, guerrillas and bushwhackers conducted raids on "Union" towns and farms. The following report describes a raid by the type of bushwhackers and fiends that General Curtis describes in his response to U.S. Attorney Browne:

"Warrenton, Mo. Oct. 15, 1864.

Col. J. V. Du Bois, Chief of Staff: From reliable information I learn that Bill Anderson, with eighty men, took possession of Danville this morning, burned several houses and plundered the town; shot Dr. Moore and several others. 35 of the gang went to Florence, burned the depot and took everything the citizens had; then went to High Hill. They started back to within 5 miles of Danville and fed their horses within two miles of Florence. A cavalry force of 100 men sent here by rail could drive these rebels out of the country.

F. Morsey, Colonel

So, "war is butchery"continued unabated in the Land of Misery and Jayhawkers!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches