In April 1863, the following letter to the editor appeared in the Kansas City, Missouri, Western Journal of Commerce:
"There are several articles going the rounds, in all the newspapers, concerning Major Ransom and the Red Legs having cleaned Jackson County of bushwhackers, which are greatly exaggerated, and in some particulars wholly incorrect.
One statement, from the Leavenworth Conservative, says that forty rebels were killed; of which number Capt. Hoyt's Red Legs killed thirty-two. The Red Legs only numbered, according to the Conservative, thirty men, and yet they killed thirty-two rebels. It is not very reasonable for the credulous people of this age to believe that thirty men killed thirty-two, and not lose a single man?
The same paper states that 'over twenty rebel houses were burned.' I know of a certainty that one Union man's house was burned, he having been a refugee from home over fifteen months. I know[,] moreover[,] that the Red Legs did steal indiscriminately from rebels and Union men. I am inclined to think that when ever any man did not protest that he was unconditional Union, they shot him, and reported his property captured from the enemy. Some of these Red Legs, who it is alleged, never steal from a Union man, stole two horses from soldiers of the 5th Cavalry at Kansas City, and when the soldiers followed them to Leavenworth to recover their property, the thieves tried to bully them out of it, by saying that 'men had been killed for doing what they were then attempting.' Penick's outlaw, not fully appreciating the friendliness of the remark, drew his revolver, and was bout to let daylight into the beknighted mind of the Knight of the Red Legs, [Hoyt?] when he hastily retreated to a place of security.
The rebels killed were, so far as I have ascertained, persons who were not in arms, but citizens who sympathized with the south. I believe the Red Legs will kill any man in this country for a good horse; and they have glorified themselves considerably over finishing some unarmed sympathizers. They certainly deserved killing, but I would rather be excused from acting the part of executioner in such a case.
Everybody knows that the Red Legs will steal, and it is equally certain that they will lie. But this last one of their having killed thirty-two is a huge story, almost to large for any one to believe.
The Fifth Regiment has hunted the Bushwhackers with a zeal that has rarely, if ever, been equaled. They have adopted all expedients - scouted day and scouted night; lay in the brush and watched, tracked the bushwhackers to their camps, and even found men to betray them - but they never could take thirty men and do such immense execution as the Red Legs report they have done. And I believe that there are as good, brave and loyal men in the Fifth Cavalry as ever used a gun.
The fact is, they have carried on an immense stealing operation, and have endeavored to conceal it by a huge story that would hush the indignation of Union men. We will hear no more, however, of the Red Legs co-operating with the United States soldiers, as [Major] Gen. [James G.] Blunt has taken the matter in hand."
[Signed] Fifth Cavalry