Red Legs and Order No. 11

One of the most vehement attacks on Order No. 11 was delivered by General Frank P. Blair in St. Louis. Blair was astonished that a commander could lay waste a large section of Missouri by means of devastation, rapine and murder simply because Ewing lacked the courage to follow Quantrill. “It is the subterfuge of an imbecile,” remarked Blair. Blair continued by pointing out that 20,000 citizens were being punished because Ewing lacked the power or ability to seek out the 400 or 500 outlaws and murderers. Ewing had instead found it necessary to punish helpless people and destroy one of the finest sections of Missouri.19
It is significant that the first Governor of Kansas, Charles Robinson, concurred that Order No. 11 cast much cruelty upon the people of Missouri. Robinson, a Kansan, was a strong defender of the conduct of Kansas troops but vigorously attacked the role played by

Burnt District Missouri General Order 11

There were large numbers of Kansas troops in Ewing’s district in 1863. In fact, all the Kansas troops in Ewing’s district with the exception of one company were stationed in the four counties affected by Order No. 11; the great majority of Missouri troops in Ewing’s district were found in the counties not affected by Order No. 11. The order explicitly stated that the depopulation would be vigorously executed by officers commanding in the parts of the district affected by the orders. Thus, the argument that the enforcement was undertaken by Kansas troops is justified. In addition, the Kansas City Daily Journal of Commerce on 5 and 17 September reported other Kansas troops were sent into the district. The 19 Missouri companies in Ewing’s district could have been called upon to enforce the order, or Ewing could have asked for troops from Illinois, Colorado, or Iowa. But Ewing turned instead

Quantrill's Guerrilla's sacking Lawrence KS in response to General Order 11

Were such an edict issued by the Czar of Russia, towards any part of Poland, it would stamp him with infamy before the civilized world. Such, we believe, will be the verdict of history in regard to this order. Lexington Weekly Union (Mo.), 5 September 1863.

AT approximately five o’clock the morning of 21 August 1863, guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill and 450 men attacked the sleeping town of Lawrence, Kansas. After gaining control of the town, the guerrillas began their grisly task of looting, murder, and arson. Quantrill had ordered his men to kill every man big enough to carry a gun, and his orders were obeyed. Within four hours the guerrillas had killed approximately 150 unarmed men and had left 80 widows and 250 orphans. Most of the stores and banks of Lawrence had been robbed; 185 buildings, including one-fourth of the town’s private residences, had been destroyed.

General Thomas Ewing Jr. photograph by Matthew Brady

When you think of names of Civil War generals who had a profound influence before, during and after the Civil War, the name Major General Thomas Ewing Jr. usually does not pop-up. However, his role during the war had a huge impact on how some of the events unfolded. His life after the war was noteworthy.

Born 7 August 1829 in Lancaster, Ohio, Thomas Ewing Jr. was the third son of influential Ohio Senator Thomas Ewing Sr. and brother-in-law to General William Tecumseh Sherman. He studied law in Cincinnati and moved to Leavenworth, Kansas to practice law and became highly involved in the free-soil movement. When Kansas was admitted to the Union, Ewing became the state’s first chief justice.

When the Civil War began, Ewing raised the 11th Kansas Regiment to fight for the Union and was elected Colonel of the regiment and served with the regiment at the

Red Legs and Order No. 11

The name “Red Legs” is often confused with the name “Jayhawkers” that describes the Kansas men who supported the Free-State cause in the border wars along the Missouri-Kansas border prior to the American Civil War.

Red Legs were a paramilitary group that was supported by Union generals such as Thomas Ewing Jr., James Blunt, and Senator James H. Lane. It was financed officially by the Kansas governor, Thomas Carney, and saw its first muster under the command of Charles R. “Doc” Jennison and Captain George H. Hoyt, a Massachusetts lawyer who defended John Brown at his trial after the Harpers Ferry Raid. These men were ardent abolitionists, but were equally as vicious as the bushwhackers in Missouri. Buffalo Bill Cody was a Red Leg and admitted that “We were the biggest thieves on record.”

Historian Albert Castel points out that,

Kansas jayhawkers and Red Legs made devastating raids into Missouri