Monday, September 7, 2009

Joseph G. Rosa

Joseph G. Rosa, the author of numerous works on "Wild Bill" Hickok, (see below), is looking for information on John "Jack" Harvey. He would like to know if anyone has done any research on him and his association with the Red Legs and Buckskin Scouts, and if anyone has any information on Jack Harvey's Plains service as a scout and courier during the Hancock War of 1867? "Despite several attempts, the National Archives have been unable to trace him, which is very surprising considering the amount of space devoted to him in the Kansas press. His relationship with Hickok as his scouting "mate" and the claim that he was Hancock's personal scout and the recipient of a pair of pistols from the General, would surely ensure that he would appear on the books of the Post Quartermasters of Forts Riley and Harker?" Joe's e-mail is

Friday, September 4, 2009

Harry Truman, "A Noted Criminal" and Kansas Red Leg

In January 1872, a St. Louis newspaper reported the strange case of Harry Truman:

"Alex. Manning representing himself to be a deputy sheriff of Carroll parish, Louisiana, and another man giving the name of Laddy, arrived here yesterday from Lake Providence, La., having in charge Harry Truman, whom they allege is a burglar and murderer, and was an associate of Quantrell in the Lawrence, Kansas massacre during the war, and for whom they state the Governor of Missouri offered $5,000 reward. They left their prisoner with Chief McDonough during the day, saying they expected the sheriff of an interior county to come and take him. Not having any authenticated papers, Chief McDonough suspected something wrong, and visited the prisoner in the calaboose and found him barbarously ironed. He ordered the removal of his shackles and heard his story, from which he (McDonough) believed the man had been kidnapped and refused to deliver him to his captors until they produced properly authenticated papers. To-day Chester Harding applied for a writ of habeas corpus, and Truman was brought before Judge Ewing and discharged, his captors failing to appear to show cause why he was arrested. The man, whose real name is J.W. Thurman, states that he was drugged in Lake Providence some ten days ago, and when he came to his senses he found himself on board a steamer, loaded down with irons, on the way to Missouri. It appears from the man's own statement and from that of others who knew him, that he was a Union scout and spy during the war, and that he rendered valuable service to the Federal cause. He served under Gen. Harding, who was his counsel to-day; also under Gen. Rosecrans and others in the department. It is further stated by those cognizant of the facts that in 1864, he was tried by a court at St. Joseph, convicted of seven different murders, and sentenced to be hanged, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment in the Alton (Illinois) Penitentiary, from which he was pardoned after nine months' imprisonment. He was one of the original Kansas 'Red Legs,' and is said to have been one of Quantrell's gang. While acting as a Federal spy, he was much in the rebel camps, fought, was wounded in their ranks, was captured by Union soldiers on one occasion, tried as a spy, sentenced to be hanged, but pardoned by the President through the intercession of Gen. Harding, to whom he had always been true, and afterward he was sent to the Missouri penitentiary for passing counterfeit money. After serving two years he was pardoned by the Governor. Since then he has been living in Louisiana and Mississippi, working for Gov. Alcorn in the latter state. Altogether, by his own story and the statement of others, he is, or has been, a most desperate villain, and but for the illegal manner in which he was brought here, would have been held. He attributes his arrest to Quantrell's men living in Louisiana, who, he says, were afraid he would expose them, and took this way of getting rid of him."

For the most part this story is true. Truman was a very bad character and I will have more on him in later blog posts.

"I believe the Red Legs will kill any man in this country for a good horse"

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