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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Murdering, robbing and $2 million

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One of the biggest most complex and compound problems facing any commanding officer of Fort Scott during the Civil War was the lack of troops to protect the millions of dollars worth of supplies at Fort Scott, protecting the supply trains going south to Fort Gibson and Fort Smith and to protect the loyal civilians who were being murdered and robbed within 20 miles of Fort Scott.

The following after action report by the commanding officer at Fort Scott addresses his attempt and frustration in the defense of Fort Scott on Nov.11, 1862, and is located on Pages 352-354 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Headquarters Fort Scott, Kan., Nov. 11, 1862.

General: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 6th instant, I received a dispatch from Capt. Breeden, dated Lamar, at 9 p.m. the night before, stating that he had been attacked by about an hour before by 400 men under Quantrill, that they were still fighting and asking for assistance. I immediately sent Capt. Conkey with 80 men and Capt. Coleman with 30 men, they leaving here at 4 o'clock a. m., Thursday morning. At 9 o'clock I learned that Capt. Morton's (supply) train was at Carthage the same night and being fearful that he would run right into the enemy, I dispatched a messenger to Capt. Conkey, stating the facts, and directing him to follow on and if necessary to fight his way through to the train. Capt. Conkey did follow on and got after the enemy and killed (one) of them and learned that the train had passed west in safety. On the night following, the train arrived here, having made a forced march. The next morning about 3 a.m. a messenger reached me stating that Livingston with 100 men was on Dry Wood (12 miles south east of Fort Scott), about two miles above Squire Redfield's, murdering and robbing and that he was working upstream. I immediately ordered Capt. Mefford to take 75 men and make for the crossing at Morris' Mill (on Drywood Creek), but owing to his men being very tired and his scouts worn down he did not get started until about 6 o'clock and in the mean time messengers continued to arrive with information of Livingston's movements, passing up the stream above Morris' Mill and the military crossing at Endicott's, so that be the time Mefford was ready he made direct for Cato and there struck his trail about one hour behind him and pursued him about 25 miles to Cow Creek and overtook him, making a running fight and wounding (one) of Livingston's men and recovering some prisoners. As his stock was badly used up and the enemy well mounted and scattered Capt. Mefford returned to this post and I am glad to say that he did as well as he could considering the condition of his horses. In the mean time I had dispatched a messenger to Capt. Conkey and Coleman, who had encamped at Morris', on the direct road to Carthage, to make for Sherwood and intercept them there. The messenger reached them in good time and they started for Sherwood, but as it grew dark before they reached that place and having no one in camp familiar with the country, they were obliged to encamp until next morning. The command then separated, Capt. Coleman on the south side of Spring River and Capt. Conkey on the north side and worked down toward Sherwood and Capt. Coleman being in the advance came upon the enemy and charged them, killing four or five and taking four prisoners, including the notorious Captain Baker, who was taken by Capt. Coleman himself.

Take it all in all, I think the pursuit a decided success and that the enemy will be more cautious hereafter. If I had any respectable number of well-mounted men I would punish their impudence. On the night of the 10th instant I sent Lieut. Carvert of the 3rd Wisconsin, with 16 men, to Lamar, with dispatches for Capt. Breeden and they reached there at 6 a.m. yesterday, the 11th instant and found that Quantrill had just left, after burning most of the town that had been spared by him before. I am satisfied that Quantrill is waiting for a (supply) train and I shall be compelled to send all my cavalry with it (as an escort), which will weaken the post so much that he may feel like making an attack upon us (at Fort Scott). There is, as I learn from proper (Quartermaster and Commissary) officers, about $2 million worth of Government property at this post and vicinity and it does seem to me as if our force was is hardly sufficient. I learn also that the (supply) trains passing from Springfield have a very strong guard, most of the time a full regiment (1,000 soldiers) and it certainly is not as dangerous as our route (going south down the Military road). If you are inclined to send a large cavalry force it would please me to have Captains Earle and Coleman of the 9th Kansas, with their companies, if it should suit your pleasure. The whole transportation belonging to this post is engaged in carrying commissary stores to the command (in Arkansas), but we are expecting 100 more teams (and wagons) from Leavenworth the coming week.

After this train shall start, the enemy can approach very near and laugh at us, as I shall have no cavalry to send after them and I assure you, general, that there are many more of them at any time since I have been here and the only way that I have been able to keep them from doing more mischief is by having small scouting parties on the move in their country, [that would be in Missouri], all the while and that has told on our horses. In these expeditions my men have been very successful, losing none and having only a few wounded and have killed quite a number of the enemy and frightened them awfully. I have just learned that the citizens of Dry Wood are leaving with their families, after asking for a force which I could not give them and Squire Redfield has also asked for a force in his vicinity, as the inhabitants are very much frightened.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Benjamin S. Henning,

Major, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, Commanding Post."

Major Henning's request for additional "Union" troops was not granted, because no new regiments had been recruited and the majority of the "Union" forces were with General James G. Blunt and the "Army of the Frontier" which was on campaign in northwest Arkansas. However, the Confederate guerrillas did not venture far outside of their country in Missouri as they continued to attack pro-"Union" Missourians and smaller numbers of Kansas troops that conducted scouts or escorted smaller supply trains into the "Land of Misery" (Union Soldiers nickname for Missouri) and the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches