Cyrus Leland Jr. (Kansas Historical Society)
A certain amount of confusion has always surrounded the history of the Kansas Red Legs. George H. Hoyt’s crew of “Forty Thieves” almost certainly conducted operations as a fairly structured outfit from the fall of 1862 until the spring of 1863. Even after the disintegration of Hoyt’s organized band, the term Red Legs still remained. For example, Kansas Senator James H. Lane christened the 15th Kansas Cavalry “Jennison’s Red Leg Regiment.” Chief of Scouts William S. Tough and his men were a completely separate and distinct organization from Hoyt’s crew and yet, they were commonly identified as the “buckskin scouts” and occasionally as “Red Legged” scouts. Tough and two of his men, Jack Harvey and Wallace or Walter “Walt” Sinclair, appear on Connelley’s list of Red Legs. Kansas scout Josiah C. Ury recalled they “wore buckskin leggings and were known as the Buckskins, and sometimes as Red Legs.” It would appear that the appellation Red Legs was given to different and quite possibly overlapping elements, all of which adopted the red leggings for the shock value it came to possess. A letter from Cyrus Leland Jr. to G.W. Martin, the Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, written in 1909, offered some clues, but also helped add to the confusion surrounding the Kansas Red Legs:
Topeka, Kansas, June 4th, 1909
Hon. G. W. Martin,
Secretary, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas
My Dear Friend,
I have your letter of recent date. I talked with Wm. E. Connel[l]ey about the "Red Legs." He knows a good deal about them and I think he knows two or three that are living, and if so you could get a list of names. I knew quite a number of them but do not remember many names. I knew Capt. Hoyt, the Captain of the "Red Legs," Walter Sinclair [,] Jack Harvey and Red Clark. There was quite a number of them employed in 1863, by the commander of the District, General Ewing. I know they were there before, at the time of and after the Quantrell [Quantrill] raid, in 1863. We had them during that time and in the autumn of that year. There was all the way from a half dozen to fifteen of [to] twenty at times. They were in the employ of the Government not as "Red Legs" but as scouts. They went by that name on account of their leggings but were on the pay roll as scouts. We had some at Kansas City, but they were also all along the border down as far as the Indian Territory line. There were some at Fort Scott and also some at different stations. I am quite sure that Connelley has the names of several that are living.