Saturday, May 19, 2012

R.M. Peck Part 4


Wagon Boss
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune
11 Aug, 1904

The town we passed through on this route showed plainly already the devastating effects of the war; streets deserted: business houses all closed up, without an exception; many of the dwellings abandoned, with windows and doors broken out; not a white man, or even a good sized boy, to be seen; if any are remaining among the few families of women and children, they prudently go into hiding on the approach of armed me; now and then a few negroes are found remaining to look after their master’s families, while the men are off in the rebel army.

Some of these devoted old servants seem to think it their duty to stay and look after their master’s interests, now that he is gone, and refuse to avail themselves of the opportunity to assert their freedom; but the great majority of them are prompt to light out to Kansas and freedom as soon as they find the way open. many of the rebels, however, have taken their slaves, and as they can move, further south to keep them out of the reach of the “D____d Yankees.”

The farms also show the ravages of war: fences thrown down or destroyed- mostly burned for firewood by passing bodies of troops of one army or the other; fields and orchards grown up in weeds; livestock nearly gone, especially mules and horses; little or no crops have been raised during the past season, and less will be produced the next. The country being overrun first by rebels and then Federals, what one doesn’t take or destroy the other does; between the two armies this border country seems destined to become a desert waste.

After I left the Indian Brigade at Flat Rock Creek last Fall, taking George Anderson’s train back to Fort Scott, General Wier, being unable to drive the rebels out of Fort Gibson, had moved eastward into Missouri and Arkansas, to find forage and subsistence for his command, and joining General Blunt’s army had seen and participated in some lively fighting at Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Shirley’s Ford, and a few lesser fights; and after driving the rebel army of General Hindman south to Fort Smith, the Indian Brigade, with some white troops, had been left at Elm Springs, Arkansas, to winter.

Early in the Spring (1863)- just a few weeks before our present trip- this command (the Indian Brigade) had moved toward Fort Gibson again, from Maysville, Arkansas, which place the rebels, under Cooper and Stand Watie, evacuated as our men advanced, falling back across the Arkansas River, where they established a camp called Fort Davis.

It was in the fight near the site of old Fort Wayne, near Maysville, Arkansas, October 22, 1862, that Captain Henry Hopkin’s company of the 2d Kansas Cavalry had made a gallant charge on a rebel battery, and captured the guns, but the enemy had got away with the caissons. The outfit we were now taking to Fort Gibson was intended to complete the battery for Hopkins.

In the vicinity of the Fort Wayne fight, as we passed along the road, we saw plenty of signs of the battle of six months previous; such as dead horses and mules, broken down wagons, pieces of tents and tent poles, camp kettles, broken muskets and old bayonets, belts and cartridge boxes, etc. And such rubbish was strung along the road for several miles  beyond the battle ground, showing that the enemy had left there in a hurry and somewhat demoralized.

Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, 18 miles east of Fort Gibson, was a small village, containing, for an Indian town, some very respectable brick houses; and although now deserted, except for a few families of women and children, it looked as though its prosperous times of peace it might have contained a population of 200 people. Two miles west of the town, on the road to Fort Gibson, we passed a large brick building which, before the war, was their Male Seminary. Three miles south of the Male Seminary is another little hamlet called Park Hill, near which is the Female Seminary, a building similar to the other. The wealthy people finish up the education of their young men and young ladies by sending them to some of our Eastern institutions of learning.

The Cherokees are well advanced in civilization, and many of them are well educated- even refined. They have a written language; a printing office in Tahlequah, and before the war published a paper in Cherokee and English. Some of the mixed bloods show so little of the Indian that I was surprised to find blue-eyes, flaxen-haired, light-complexioned people here called Cherokee Indians.

They do not seem to flock together and dwell in towns as much as one would naturally expect from their aboriginal habit of living in villages, but are scattered out through the Nation, engaged in farming and stock raising- principally the latter. Many of the mixed-bloods were wealthy, before the war began, owning large numbers of slaves, horses, cattle and other stock, and living in comfortable and commodious houses, nicely furnished, and with many modern conveniences.

In some of their houses I saw pianos, fine mirrors, fine furniture, paintings, fine carpets, and many other nice things that one would not expect to find among Indians; and in their barns I saw some fine carriages and harness, but the most of their good horses and mules had disappeared. The country was yet full of other stock, however, on our advent, such as cattle, hogs, sheep, and poultry.

I was surprised at the scarcity of towns in so extensive a settled country; for, besides Tahlequah and Park Hill, Fort Gibson is the only other town I remember to have found in the Cherokee Nation- and I have since been over most of it. Fort Gibson seems to the trade center. Outside of these places there were few country stores scattered through the settlements.

At Fort Gibson we found the Indian Brigade getting itself pretty comfortably established on the site of the camp recently vacated by the rebels. The principle buildings are taken for Commissary and Quartermaster’s stores, hospitals, officer’s quarters, and other public purposes. The place is built in the style of a military post, which it was until abandoned by Uncle Sam a few years before the war. It is located on the south or left bank of Grand River, two miles from its mouth at the Arkansas. On the opposite bank of the Arkansas River the rebel pickets are stationed.

Next day after our arrival we turned over our battery outfit to Captain Hopkins’ company, the train unloaded its cargo, and with its escort started back by the same route to Fort Scott; Jeff Anthony and crew of battery drivers going with it, except myself. I got my time from Jeff for my services on the trip, and moved my blankets and “Saratoga” to the camp of the 2d Indian train, where I took a six-mule team to drive temporarily.

Here in the 2d Indian train I again met my old acquaintance, Pat Hagan, the gambler, whom I and some comrades had brought away from Fort Union, New Mexico, in the Winter of 1859-60, to save him from being hanged by a Mexican mob, and whom we had again met at Lost Springs, Kansas, in November 1861, operating with a gang of “Jayhawkers;” all of which I have mentioned in my narrative entitled “Rough Riding on the Plains.” Pat was now driving an ambulance connected with the train of the 2d Indian regiment, and incidentally playing a little poker when he found an opportunity to “skin” some man.

As the regimental train already had a competent and satisfactory Wagon Boss and Assistant, Bill Richmond and Hugh Poland, I opposed Colonel “Shorty’s” offer to “fire” one of them in order to give me the place, and told him I would prefer to wait for an opening elsewhere. In the train of the 1st Indian regiment, camped close by us, I found a number of my old teamsters still with the outfit that I had transferred to the Indian Brigade at Humboldt, Kansas. Abe Merrill, my former lead “skinner,” is now Wagon Boss of that train.

I kept my eyes and ears open inquiring for a prospective opening for a Wagon Master, and after some time heard that Captain Chester Thomas, the Brigade Quartermaster, was in need of one. I asked Colonel “Shorty” to go up to Captain Thomas’ office and introduce me, which he cheerfully did, recommending me in the highest terms as “a first-class and thoroughly competent Wagon Master.”

I told Captain Thomas (who, by the way, was an old man, a Kansas politician, and quite an eccentric character) that I had heard that he needed a Wagon Master, and I was looking for a job of that kind.

The old captain took his quid of tobacco out of his mouth and stood reflecting rolling it between his thumb and finger (a habit he had) as he answered:

“I have a Wagon Master- or at least a man drawing the salary- but he ain’t worth a D--n, and never will be, in that capacity. . He’s a son-in-law of mine; a good-enough fellow- that is, a good farmer or something of that sort- but he’s out of his element in this teaming business, and has just fairly run my train into the ground. Yes, on the whole, I guess I may safely say I need a Wagon Master, and need one bad.” And looking me over, he added: “You couldn’t have brought a better endorser. Although ‘Shorty’ has only been with us a short time, he is fast proving himself a first-class officer- one of them old Regulars, you know, that knows everything about military service- and what ‘Shorty’ says goes. I think it would suit me, but maybe the job won’t suit you. It’s a hard-looking outfit new. Maybe, after you see it you won’t want to have anything to do with it. Come, go up to the corral with men, and I’ll show you the lay-out, and then if you think you can reconstruct the rawhide outfit you can have the job.”

“But, Captain,” I interposed, “I don’t want to rob your son-in-law of his position>”

“O, he be blanked,” exclaimed the old man, “He’s no earthly account there. The longer he stays with it the worse the outfit gets, and he’s got to get out when I can find a man who can run the train. He’s just letting the teamsters run the whole shebang and him too. I’ll find him some sort of soft job about my office. He’ll be glad to give up the train. It’s a devil of an outfit; and them teamsters- they’re pizen. Have you got a good six-shooter?”

I told him I had.

“Have you got the nerve to shoot some of them infernal rascals if they undertake to run you over?”

I told him that I had been used to commanding such fellows, and thought if he would give me good backing I could manage them.

“You’ll bet I’ll stand by you,” replied the old man, “and give you all the help you want if you’ll only just fetch ‘en to time, and make ‘em do their duty- show ‘em that you’re going to be Boss. But you’ll have trouble with ‘em. They’re a hard lot, Injins, niggers and no-account white men. You see, we can’t discharge a man very often here, because we can’t find one to take his place. You’ll just have to keep ‘em and punish ‘em like they do soldiers, when they don’t do what you tell ‘em. I’ll give you the whole force of the provost guard, if it’s necessary, to enforce your orders. Lindley (that’s my son-in-law) is afraid of ‘em, and he just let’s ‘em run the shebang.”

When I reached the camp it make me feel almost sick of my bargain to see what a ragged, rawhide outfit it really was. The wagons were scattered about in the utmost disorder, as if each skinner had located his wagon to suit himself, which was really the case- some of them facing one way, some another, no semblance of any alignment or parking. Some had bows and sheets, some had none; harness scattered here and thereon the ground; most of it had been thrown down  just where it had been stripped off the mules as they stood in team at stopping, without the traces being unhooked from the single trees; mules- a hard-looking lot of half-starved things- tied here and there, some to the wagons, some to trees, and some staked out on bare ground. The wagons nearly all needed repairing, harness ditto, and half the mules barefooted. Out of the 25 teams I don’t think there were six in serviceable condition.

The teamsters- a motley-looking lot- instead of showing some deference to their Quartermaster as we passed among them, paid no more respect to Captain Thomas, as he expressed it, “than if he was a common Justice of the Peace.”

When he asked one of them, as we approached a group who were playing cards, “Where’s Mr. Lindley?” He was answered with an indifferent “Don’t know,” as they went on with their game.

After looking the outfit over, the old man asked me, “Well, what do you think of the lay-out?”

“Well, Captain,” I answered in rather a discouraging tone, “it’s the hardest-looking outfit I ever struck; but if you will give me the necessary assistance I will tackle the job and try to rebuild mules, wagons, and harness.”

“You can rely on all the help within my command,” he replied, “and if you will straighten out  that bunch of rawhide mules and scraps of wagons and harness, and get ‘em into some semblance of a train I’ll say you’re the best Wagon Master I ever saw.”

“Have you a blacksmith and wagon shop and a harness shop, and material for repairs?”
“Yes.”

“And will you give me an order on these shops for what work I want done?”

“I’ll place the shops and workmen at your command.”

“All right.” Then I added, “I don’t think, from the looks of things, that your Assistant Wagon Master can be a competent man. Will you provide him some other jib, and allow me to select my Assistant?”

“Certainly, pick you’re man and bring him on.”

“Well, Captain, if you will notify Mr. Lindley of the change, and have him to give notice to the teamsters that I am to be their future Boss I’ll take charge in the morning, if that suits you.”

“It’s a whack!” exclaimed the old Captain, apparently glad to unload the outfit onto my shoulders.

Just them Mr. Lindley approached, and Captain Thomas introduced me, and explained the arrangements we had made. Mr. Lindley seemed as glad as the old man to find someone to take the ugly job off his hands.

I found him a much better man than the Captain’s disparaging remarks had led me to believe; but he seemed to have no conception of the management of a mule train, nor any desire to acquire the necessary knowledge or experience. It was entirely out of his line.

At my suggestion he called his “skinners” together and informed him that I had been employed to run the train, which information they received in a sullen sort of way, as though they already saw from my looks or manner that they would not probably have their own way so much in future as they had been used to.

“Mr. Lindley,” I remarked in hearing all, “I have made arrangements with the Captain here to bring my own Assistant Wagon Master with me. I will be sorry to throw your Assistant out of a job, but the Captain has promised to provide him with other employment, so that he will not suffer by the change. I will be here in the morning after breakfast to take charge.”

As we walked back to the Quartermaster’s office Lindley remarked:

“I don’t want to discourage you, Mr. Peck, but I think I ought to warn you that you have assumed the command of a tough lot of men. Several of those fellows have the name of being desperate men and man-killers. You may be used to such fellows, and know how to manage them, but for my part I must confess there are several men in that outfit that I have been afraid to offend. There’s old Isaac Marshall, and his big son, Louie, and Steve Forman and John Smith- each of whom are said to have killed a man or two, and I don’t want to be the next victim of either of them.”

“There’s just where you made you’re mistake, Mr. Lindley,” I suggested. “You allowed those fellows to find out that you would rather not have any trouble with them, and they were going to keep you in that way of thinking.”

“That is,” interjected Captain Thomas, with more bluntness than I had used, “they soon found out that Lindley was afraid of them, and by bluster they have scared him into letting them have their own way in everything.”

“It is in my line of business to control such fellows,” I concluded, without openly endorsing the Captain’s plain way of putting it. “We frequently find such men among mule-skinners, and although I’m not much of a killer I’m a pretty good bluffer, and in such affairs I find that a stiff bluff is all that is necessary. I am going to make them believe at the start that I am going to be master, and I’ll never let them lose sight of that idea. I’ll keep them at a distance and in their places, allowing no familiarities, for you know ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ the world over. I’ll show them that I am thoroughly posted in my duties and theirs, and require them to perform their work well and promptly. I carry a good pistol and know how to use it when necessary, but it is more for ornament than use- just to be fashionable, you know- just to put me on equal footing with other men who carry them. When I’m among people who don’t carry arms I don’t want a gun; but when I’m among men who go armed I find it’s a good plan to be in the fashion. And among these rough fellows the fact of a man’s having a good revolver hung to him will often save him from being imposed upon.”

“your head’s level!” exclaimed the Captain. “You’ve got that subject down fine. I believe you’ll know how to handle those fellows, but if you find it necessary to make an example of some fellow, and kill him, don’t hesitate to do it. You shall have no trouble about it. Or if you want to put one in the guard-house occasionally, or administer military punishment of any kind, I’ll arrange to have the guard instructed and ready to take care of them for you.”

“All right, Captain, but I don’t anticipate any serious trouble.” And then we parted.

On going back to take charge of the train in the morning, Lindley was there to render me any assistance, or give any information in his power. I had brought one of my old teamsters, Simpson, as my Assistant. I found that the skinners were all messing together instead of being divided into convenient small messes, and they had also appropriated the Wagon Boss’s tent, as Lindley had allowed them to do- he having been messing and staying with Captain Thomas.

I told the men what many of them already knew, that the tent was for the Boss, and the teamster’s place was with his wagon, and directed them to gather up their stuff and go to their places. I also informed them that as soon as ration day came around again I should divide them up into proper messes of five to six men, in regulation style, and also would organize my own mess.

I had given them my orders to pick up their harness off the ground where they had dropped it and hang it onto their hindwheels- wheel harness first, swing’ next- and leaders’ on top- and to put their collars and bridles under the wagons. While some of them were complying with this order, one big mulatto fellow, Louie Marshall, stepped up and began to inform me that:

“Lindley allows us to...”

I shut him up instantly with “

“That’ll do, sir! When you speak of your Wagon Master put ‘Mister’ before his name. I don’t care to know what Mr. Lindley did or didn’t do. I’m running this outfit, now, and I think I understand my business. I don’t want any of your advice or suggestions. You do just what I tell you to do, and do it promptly, and you’ll have no trouble.” And I give him a look that must have convinced him that he had better obey my orders without trying to argue the question, for after looking at me for a moment he mumbled out some apology for speaking and moved off with alacrity and hung up his harness as directed. And this was one of Lindley’s desperadoes.

Thereafter, whenever opportunities occurred, I took particular pains to give my orders to these bullies- these dangerous men of whom Lindley had warned me to beware- in a very decisive manner, and also to require their prompt obedience. I gave them to understand that they would be allowed no special privileges, as heretofore, nor shown any favors above the other men- that all must obey orders alike, and do their duty promptly. I knew that if these worst ones were brought to proper discipline I would have no trouble with the others, and therefore devoted my special attention to them. They soon seemed to arrive at the conclusion that I was going to be master there, and would put up with no foolishness; and although for a while they were a little sullen, they gave me more prompt obedience than I had expected.

As may be imagined I was kept very busy for some time reconstructing that rawhide outfit. But I kept the teamsters and workmen at the shops busy. The foremen of the blacksmith, wagon and harness shops were a little sulky at first about doing all the work I was taking them, for they, too, had been doing about as they pleased previously. But when they found that Captain Thomas was backing me, and were told that if they didn’t do my work promptly he would get other men who would, they came to nicely.

As the young spring grass was now getting good growth I had the mules that were not needed for work kept out on herd everyday from daylight till dark, instead of having them tied up to the wagons most of the time, as had been the rule, and the poor beasts soon began to show a great improvement in flesh on their bones and new coats of hair.

Most of the skinners seemed to soon take up the new order of things, and evinced considerable interest in the reconstruction of the train, which I was carrying out. But still some of them seemed desirous of trying me now and  then in some new way. Among other things they appeared to want to find out whether I could use the fine ivory-handled navy that I carried on my belt, and if it was just for ornamental purposes I carried it. In those days I kept myself in good practice, and could shoot pretty well at short distances of from 20 to 30 steps.

I had bought a turkey from a woman who came around selling poultry, and kept it  staked out near my tent, tied by the leg, feeding it up for a future dinner. One day a skinner came rushing into the tent to tell me that my turkey had got loose. Going out I found the bird walking off through the weeds, and from the looks and actions of the teamsters who had gathered around I felt sure that some of them had turned it loose for devilment. I knew the turkey would be difficult to catch, and concluded that I would just shoot it as the surest way. When some of the boys offered to run it down for me I suspected that it was a ruse to run it off, and so told them to keep quiet and I would stop the fowl.

Taking out my pistol I walked quickly up to good shooting distance, and as I could only see its head and neck bobbing through the weeds as it walked I thought it would be too difficult to hit the head, and there fore made a careful estimate of about where the body was and fired, aiming to hit the larger part.

The turkey dropped, and I supposed that I had hit where I aimed to, in the body. I told one of the negro boys to pick it up and take it to the cook, and returning my pistol walked back to my tent. When the bird was picked up I heard a shout from the fellow whom I had sent for it, and on asking what was the matter, he answered:

“Why, Boss, you done shot its head clean off!”

“Of course,” I answered, as though it was just what I had intended. “Where did you suppose I was going to hit it?”

They expressed great astonishment and admiration of my marksmanship, as they passed the turkey around for inspection, and appeared to jump at the conclusion that in their new Boss they had found a crack pistol shot and that this was but an ordinary exhibition of his skill. I wisely concluded to rest on the fame and that this chance shot had given me as an expert, and to give no further exhibition of my dexterity.

I heard one of the skinners remark in earnest admonition to his comrades as he joined the crowd who had been looking on from a distance:

“Fellers, don’t you fool with him, don’t you fool with him! He’s a bad one! Jest took out his pistol, cool as you please, an stuck it out without hardly lookin’ at the turkey, an’ turned loose an’ shot its head off clean as if you’d cut it off with a knife. Bet you he kin put them bullets jest where he wants to every time. I tell you, don’t you pester him.”

This seemed to satisfy them as to my ability to handle a pistol, and as I prudently avoided giving any further test of my reputation rested on that accident. I often, however, in practicing in those days could put five out of six balls inside the size of a playing card at 20 steps (and this was about the only use I made of cards). But in this instance the hitting of the turkey’s head had been purely accidental.

In those days I was also an expert “rough rider,” and if anyone could bring me a wild horse or mule that was difficult to ride I would accept it as a favor, and take great delight in saddling and riding it. It seems strange to me now that I, or anyone having common sense, could be so foolish as to risk neck- or limb-breaking for fun, and I would not be guilty of such folly now for big money. But in the days of my youth and foolishness I used to believe and declare that there never was a horse or mule that I couldn’t ride.

I found this riding-mule that Lindley had turned over to me was a very inferior beast, and so began looking through the teams to select another. The mules were all so worn and starved out and poor, that it was a hard matter to find one with life enough to suit me. The Quartermaster had been receiving a few contraband or captured mules, but these also were rather scrawny. As usual somebody else had got away with the good ones and only the scrubs were turned in to Uncle Sam.

There was one fine-looking mule, however, among the contrabands that had been turned over to Captain Thomas, and on expressing my surprise that such an animal had not been gobbled up before it reached the Quartermaster’s hands, I was told that the probable reason was the mule was found to be such a vicious devil that no one could handle him. He had been christened “Jim Lane” after our Kansas senator, as Captain Thomas explained, “because he’s so tricky.”

I decided to try “Jim Lane” for a riding mule, and ordering one of the teamsters to lead him down to my tent and tie him to the wheel of my mess wagon, so that I could saddle him up and ride him, I was amused at the surprised and consternation manifested among the skinners at the idea of my riding “Jim Lane,” There were a number of good riders among them, but none, it seemed, had cared to tackle this “wicked devil,” as they called him. I knew that my riding that mule would convince them that I possessed still another enviable accomplishment, in the eyes of the average skinner- another confirmation of my abilities as a Wagon Boss.

Some of the teamsters tried to dissuade from the undertaking, declaring that I would certainly get hurt and maybe killed. Whether they thought so, or were only trying to scare me out of the notion, it only made me more determined to show them that I could ride that mule.

I had an excellent saddle- a Mexican tree- and had tested its adaptability and strengths in many a tussle with wild mules and bronchos. After “bucking” Jim Lane to the side of the wagon, a process familiar to mule whackers, and making ready to saddle him, old Isaac Marshall, an old darky with a bad record- one of the so-called bad men of the train- came up to add his discouragement to those already volunteered by the groups of skinners who stood around.

“What, boys!” he exclaimed in apparent astonishments, directing his remarks to the bystanders. “He shorley ain’t a-gwin’ ter try ter ride that fightin’ devil! Did you tell him what a bad mule he is?”

“Yes, we done tol’ him,” one fellow answered, “but don’t make a bit o’ differ’nce. He won’t lis’en to us.”

After a pause, as I seemed to pay no attention to these remarks, old Isaac ventured to advise me:

“Say, Boss, is you got any family? ‘Cause if you is, you’d better leave word with Mr. Simpson, or somebody, where to write to ‘em to let ‘em know what ‘come of you.”

Without making any reply to such “joshing” I went on saddling the mule, and with Simpson’s assistance soon had him bridled and cinched up in good shape.

In riding a wild animal I always used a good, strong crupper to my saddle. This is especially useful on a mule, as they are so low in front that without a crupper to hold the saddle back to its place they will often “buck” it onto their withers and thus easily throw the rider over their heads.

After getting him saddled I released the “Honorable Jim” from the wagon wheel and let him play around at the end of the lariat until he seemed satisfied that he couldn’t buck the saddle off, and then drew him up to me gently, got two men  to hold him by the bit, one on each side; coiled up the lariat and tied it to the horn of the saddle, unbuckled my belt and handed my pistol to Simpson, mounted and gave the word, “Turn him loose!”

And such a circus as I had then in the next few minutes? That mule tried all the tactics he was master of- bucking, kicking, trying to reach my legs with his teeth, kicking at my feet, and finally crowding me up to a wagon and trying to rake me off.

At this stage of the game I put the spurs to him and let him out down the road to Tahlequah, and kept him going pretty lively for several miles. When he seemed somewhat subdued and willing to behave like I thought a Senator’s namesake should I turned him around and rode back to camp.  He was just tired enough to be very docile just them, but not yet entirely subdued, and I had a similar circus with him everyday for sometime before I could say he was “broke.”

During the time that I had been with the 2d Indian train before I had got the job of running Captain Thomas’ train I had amused myself by riding some wild contraband mules, to gentle them a little for Richmond, the Wagon Master of that outfit.

Shortly after Colonel “Shorty” had occasion to send out a mounted scouting party of his Indians, and having no horses to mount them on, he ordered Richmond to bring some mules that would do for his soldiers to ride. Richmond brought up, among the lot, some of the contrabands that I had ridden, and as they seemed rather skittish “Shorty” asked,

“Wagon Master, have these mules ever been ridden?”

“Yes, sir,” said Richmond, “Peck used to ride ‘em.”

“”O, thunder! That won’t do!” exclaimed “Shorty.” “Don’t bring me mules that nobody but Peck has ever ridden. I know that Peck! He’d ride the devil if he could get a rope on him! Bring me mules that anyone can ride!”

“Wagon Boss and Mule Mechanic”


Over the course of the next year we (Kip Lindberg and Matt M. Matthews) will be publishing, in installments, the writings of Robert Morris Peck. R.M. Peck was born in Kentucky in 1840, enlisted the Army in 1856, and served with the 1st U.S. Cavalry in the Kansas Territory. Unlike many in the pre-war Army, Peck was native-born, and literate, and recorded his experiences in patrolling the wild expanses of prairie, his skirmishes with Cheyenne Indians, and the views of the turbulence and violence of the "Bleeding Kansas" era in his journals. Later in life he expanded his journal record into a series of articles on his service in the pre-war cavalry, which today is being edited for publication by noted Kansas historian Dr. Leo Oliva.

In May 1861, with the nation divided by Civil War, Peck's five year enlistment expired. Rather than re-enlisted, Peck took work as a wagon-master, in charge of moving Army quartermaster and commissary supplies from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott, Kansas, and down to Fort Gibson, in the Indian Territory. For the next four years, as the fighting ebbed and flowed across the Trans-Mississippi, Peck recorded his observations of the war and its impact on the civilians affected, or Army triumphs and failures, of heroes, cowards, and criminals, of tales of patriotism and corruption, and all while telling what is a forgotten story today: the massive effort required to supply armies with the food, munitions, and supplies necessary to fight a war, over a vast area lacking navigable rivers, rail lines, or roadways.

Peck later expanded his recollections into a series of articles for the National Tribune, a weekly newspaper for members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the national organization for Union Army veterans of the Civil War. His 26 installments covered aspects of the war in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory seldom covered before or since, and presented in incredible detail. His story is true to the man; he writes what he saw, and what he thought, and is unapologetic overall. Although himself a Union veteran, writing for a Union veterans organization, he has both praise and contempt for the leading figures of the Union war effort in the Trans-Mississippi, and for the Confederate leadership as well. Although only one man's story, Peck's recollections are a wonderful read, and offer today's researcher insight previously unobtainable.

Friday, May 18, 2012

R.M. Peck Part 3


Killing a Mayfield
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 04 August, 1904
pg. 8, cols. 1-4


To return to my story. After staying at home awhile I went to Fort Scott and struck Hugh Kirkendall for a job. I took a job driving a post team for him, until something better would open up; and as the transportation business remained very dull I continued driving a post team through the winter of 1862-63.

As I forgot to state it previously I will mention here that a Wagon Boss’s pay was $65 a month, an Assistant Wagon Boss’s $45, and a teamster’s $25, rations included.

At this time Fort Scott was garrisoned by the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry, which regiment, in addition to the garrison and provost-guard duties, also did escorting of forage trains along the Missouri border, and trains that were engaged in hauling supplies to Forts Gibson and Smith in the Indian Nation. Major B.S. Henning was in command of the regiment and post of Fort Scott.

During the early part of the war the rebels, who had not yet got well acquainted with the Northern soldiers, used to boastfully declare that the Union army was made up of “cowardly Abolitionist Yankees and lop-eared Dutch,” and that “one Southern man could whip six of them,” and all such stuff. By the close of the war the same fire-eating Southerners had very materially changed their opinions of the fighting qualities of the Northern soldiers, and had whipped into them a wholesome respect for the “D----d Yankees and lop-eared Dutch.”

During the winter of 1862-63 there was brought into Fort Scott as a prisoner, by some of the soldiers of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry a rebel bushwhacker, who had been captured by them while out on a foraging trip over in Missouri. He called himself “Captain” Price, and his gang had consisted of about a dozen of those murderous miscreants in the production of which Missouri seemed to excel.

I think this Price was one of the most venomous rebels that I met during the war. While a prisoner he could not refrain from abusing and insulting every Union man- officer, soldier, or citizen- with whom he came into contact. And this he had been allowed to do with impunity so long- because he was a helpless prisoner- that he seemed to think that the “D----d nigger-loving Yankees”- as he delighted to call his enemies- were too cowardly to resent his insults. Finally he got so abusive to his guards that the officers of the guard found it necessary to gag him and swing him up by his thumbs. Or give him a ducking, occasionally, to cool him down.

He tauntingly boasted of the number of “D----d cowardly Yankees” he had killed, and that any good Southern man was a match for six of the “D----d Yankee Abolitionists,” and how he had delighted to charge in among a lot of “infernal Lincoln hirelings” and shoot them down like dogs, while they fell on their knees and begged for mercy, and so forth, and so on, ad nauseum. All his talk was upon this style. He seemed to imagine himself a hero, while everyone else appeared to think he was either a fool or a lunatic.

He was a young man of about 25, and shortly after he was brought in a prisoner, his wife, a giddy, romantic young woman- a fairly good mate for such a brainless braggart- came to Fort Scott in order to be near him. She was not a prisoner or put under any restraint of her freedom, but her movements were closely watched lest she should be sending information to the enemy.

It would have been strange, indeed, if the constant stream of vituperation pouring from the fellow upon his guards, and all others who in any way sympathized with the Northern cause, had not provoked a feeling of retaliation.

One evening, after dusk, as I was passing the guardhouse, I noticed that in addition to the regular sentry, “No. 1,” who was walking his post as usual in front of the guard station, two extra guards were crouching in the dark shadows at either rear corner of the prison, and the officer of the guard also stood conveniently near one of them, with his revolver in his hand. All except “No. 1” were still and motionless as statues- evidently waiting and intently listening and watching for something to happen. It was easy to conjecture what that something was. Some prisoner was expected to make a break and these men were ready to drop him.

Without seeming to notice what was going on I walked on past, into the shadows of the next building- the hospital- and there concealed myself to await results. I was disappointed, however. After a time, as the expected did not seem to occur, the officer and two extra guards withdrew, and re-entered the guardhouse.

I learned subsequently that the guards had discovered that “Captain” Price had dug a hole through the wall of the prison room, and they had set a watch for him, and tried to arrange things encouraging and favorable, hoping that he would make an attempt to escape. But he “smelt a rat,” and failed to come out of the hole he had dug.

Next day, while at the blacksmith shop getting some mules shod, an officer and file of guards brought Price to the shop and had fetters riveted on his ankles, with a short piece of chain between. All the time that this was being done he was putting in the time in his usual way, abusing the “D----d Yankees.” I could see from the looks of the lieutenant and his guards that they would be delighted to get a pretext to kill him, but did not find any justifiable opportunity yet.

The soldiers of the garrison had all become familiar with this blowhard bushwhacker, and I think they had all mentally passed sentence of death upon him, and were anxiously waiting for some reasonable excuse to put it into execution. The commanding officer had ordered the fetters put on him, but the officer of the guard told me that the would have preferred to let him remain footloose, so that he would be encouraged to make a break for freedom, as then the guard would be justified in killing him.

While the blacksmith was riveting the jewelry on him he was getting off his stereotyped boast of the “D----d Abolitionists” he had killed; telling how he and his gang would ride around through the neighborhood where they ranged, hunting down Union men; how they would ride up to the houses of such men as they suspected of sympathizing with the Union cause- always after dark, call them to their door and shoot them down; and what sweet music it was to his ears, he declared, to hear the screams of the women and children on such occasions.

I did not blame the soldiers for wanting to kill him. I felt as though I would like to do that job myself. It was a safe prophecy that his time in this world was limited, and that the soldiers would soon find some way to “fix” him.

It was probable that he greatly exaggerated the number of Union men he had killed, and the number of women and children he had made widows and orphans; and if he and his gang had killed any it was probably done in the usual cowardly bushwhacker style- first persuading their victims to surrender their arms under promise that they “should be respected as prisoners of war,” and then brutally murdering them as soon as they were disarmed and helpless.

Shortly after this it was reported that Price had taken the smallpox and he was accordingly relieved of his fetters, and removed to the “pest-house”- a tent located about a half-mile southwest of town, where he was placed among other smallpox cases, the tent being guarded. But it proved to be no smallpox at all, and even with the fine opportunity given him by placing him between two cases of the disease he failed to take it.

He seemed to conclude, however, that this was a good opportunity to get away and go back to resume his former cheerful occupation, and accordingly one night, when he thought the “sign was right,” he cut a slit in the back of the tent, crawled out and started. He didn’t get far. The sentry who happened to be on post had the enviable satisfaction of sending him where all bushwhackers go. And “Captain” Price never more gloated over the death of a helpless, unarmed Union man begging for mercy, or listened with delight to that “sweet music” he was so fond of- the screams of the women and children whom he had rendered widows and orphans.

One day a company of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry, on returning from a foraging trip down in Missouri, came into Fort Scott accompanied by Bill Tuft, General Blunt’s Chief of Scouts, who was riding a fine blooded, flea-bitten gray mare that had formerly been owned and ridden by Brice Mayfield, a notorious rebel bushwhacker, who had been killed on this trip in a desperate, rough-and-tumble fight by a German soldier of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry. Tuft had bought the mare for a trifle from the soldier, who did not realized her value; and with that immaculate gall for which he was famous, Tuft took great pride in riding her about the streets of Fort Scott, giving out- and even having an item published in the Fort Scott Monitor that he had acquired the fine mare by killing Brice Mayfield.

The facts concerning the killing of Mayfield, which I heard from one of the soldiers, as near as I can remember them, are about as follows:

The company of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry, while on a foraging expedition, had camped near Neosho, Missouri, and a German trooper, accompanied by a comrade, started out to do a little scouting of their own account. They had ridden up to a farmhouse, hitched their horses to the fence, and gone inside to try to buy some butter. The women of the house, being rebels, had detained and delayed the soldiers by pretending to send a little girl after the desired butter to a neighbor’s house nearby, where they knew that Mayfield and another rebel were in hiding; but in reality the errand of the girl was to inform the bushwhackers of the presence at the other house of the two soldiers.

While our two troopers were sitting in the house waiting for the girl to return, and the women by pleasant conversation were trying to make their visit agreeable, the German chanced to step to the window in front of the house and was astonished to see two more horses hitched to the fence, near his and his comrade’s, and at the same moment he saw two men in butternut clothes (a sure sign of a rebel) approaching the door.

Instantly comprehending the situation the German soldier, who was a powerful big fellow, informed his comrade, and drawing their revolvers they both sprang to the door, opened it quickly and fired, at the same instant receiving the fire of the rebels. At the first shots the German’s comrade fell dead, and Mayfield’s companion was also killed.

As Mayfield made a rush to come in the German quickly stepped behind the door, both firing at the same time, the soldier hitting the rebel, but not wounding him seriously, while Mayfield’s ball struck the door and glanced off. The bushwhacker was also a strong, active man, and as he sprang into the house they grappled, each trying to wrench the other’s pistol from him, and in the struggle they fell to the floor, where, after several moments of desperate strife, the Dutchman succeeded in disengaging his pistol, placed the muzzle to the rebel’s head and fired, killing him.

The women and children had fled out of the back door at the first shot, and on disengaging himself from the dead rebel and rising, the plucky Dutchman found he was the sole surviving tenant of the house.

Fearing that the women had gone to bring other rebels to take him in he hastily examined his late comrade, and finding him dead, and then making sure that the two rebels were safely “converted,” he stripped each of his belt and pistol, hung them on their respective saddles, and rode off to camp, leading the three riderless horses.

A detachment of soldiers was immediately sent out from our men’s camp to bring in and bury the body of the brave German’s comrade, and while they were at the house- the women and children being still absent- a spark of fire somehow got started in some combustible material and the house and outbuildings, with their contents, were soon a heap of ashes.

Tuft was in the soldier’s camp when the German returned with his captured stock, and being a good judge of a horse he saw that the flea-bitten gray mare was an extraordinarily fine animal, and succeeded in buying her from the soldier before the man had found out her good points.

And that is how Bill Tuft killed Brice Mayfield and captured his fine thoroughbred.

I afterwards passed by the ruins of the house where Mayfield was killed, which was near the bank of Shoal Creek, a little way north of the town of Neosho, Missouri.

Post teams were comprised of the finest and largest mules that could be selected from all among the vast numbers of such animals passing through the hands of the Post Quartermaster, and were therefore always splendid teams.

A man who aspired to the position of a post teamster must be an ex-Wagon Master, or known to be a first-class teamster, to entitle his application for the job to the consideration of the Post Wagon Boss. Our crew of post teamsters during this winter at Fort Scott was largely composed of ex-Wagon Masters in waiting for trains. As a natural consequence, post-teamsters hold themselves as ranking several notches above the common “mule skinners” of the road.

Post mules are always well and regularly fed, well groomed and well stabled, and consequently look sleek and fat.  Their harness is made especially for them, as the contract harness used in the ordinary trains is neither large enough or strong enough. A post teamster would never think of driving his teams faster than a slow walk, and considers it beneath his dignity to load or unload his wagon- he simply drives the team and takes care of it. For the loading and unloading a detail of soldiers, or prisoners out of the guardhouse, under guard, is furnished.

Early in the spring of 1863 my old friend, Captain “Shorty,” came to Fort Scott, en route to Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, and was surprised to find me driving a team. After I had informed him that I had been driving a post team at Fort Scott all winter, waiting on the prospect of getting a train of which there didn’t yet seem to be much hope, he said:

“Well, Peck, if this here is the best these folks can do for you here, you go and settle up with the Quartermaster, quit him, and come go ‘long down to Gibson with me. Of course, I don’t know how they are fixed there for Wagon Masters, but I’ll help you to get a place somehow. I think we can surely find something for you down there better than driving a team. I have just been appointed  Lieutenant Colonel to Gibson  of the 2d Indian Regiment, and am ordered to Gibson to take command of it, Colonel Richie being on detached service in Kansas. There will be a large brigade train going down under command of Brigade Wagon Master George Magee. You see him and arrange to drive a team down there, or to work your way through in some capacity, and we’ll see what we can do for you after we get there.”

Taking Colonel “Shorty’s” advice I immediately notified Billy Armstrong, our Post Wagon Boss, to get another man in my place, got my “time” from him, went to the officer and drew my pay, sent the money to my wife in Leavenworth, and hunted up George Magee, the Brigade Wagon Master. He sent me to Wagon Master Jeff Anthony, who wanted some teamsters to take a lot of light battery teams and caissons to Fort Gibson with the big train, which battery outfit was being sent there to complete the fitting our of a field battery, the guns and limbers of which had been captured from the rebels by Captain Henry Hopkins’ company of the 2d Kansas Cavalry, which company was now to be turned into a light battery.

Taking my role of blankets and “Saratoga” (a mule skinner’s trunk  is generally a gunnysack locked up with a hame string), I joined Jeff Anthony’s camp to play artilleryman for a short time. We had six caissons and one “battery wagon,” carrying  forage, tools, etc. Each caisson and the tool wagon is drawn by six horses. To each span of horses there is a driver who rides his near horse, designated as wheel, swing and lead drivers. I was assigned as a lead driver.

A battery team is hitched together very differently from a six-mule team. instead of using “fifth chain” and “spreaders,” the traces of the swing horses are hooked into the harness of the wheelers, and the traces of the leaders to harness of the swings. All the wheels of batteries (fore and hind) are the same size and interchangeable, and each caisson  carries an extra wheel, on a fixed spindle, elevated a little in rear of the hinder box and wheels, to be used to replace any wheel that gets broken in action.

We had two six-mule teams; one for the mess wagon, to carry our tents, blankets, rations, mess kits, etc., and one empty wagon and team for foraging. We started out of Fort Scott in a wet, muddy time, and had heavy roads nearly all the way. Magee’s brigade train consisted of five trains of 25 teams each, besides our battery outfit; and in addition to these we were accompanied by a large number of two and four-horse teams hauling goods for sutlers. When this long train was strung out on a muddy road it took up several miles. We were escorted by several companies of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry and about 500 Indians (some mounted, some afoot) from Fort Gibson. Besides our advance and rear-guard of a company each, the rest of the escort is marched along on the flanks (always giving up the road to the teams), and strung out so as best to guard the trains from attacks.

Each team, besides its load of Commissary or Quartermaster’s stores, carries its grain for the trip- sacked corn and oats, from which we draw our rations of grain each day, or as needed, for the battery horses; but for “roughness” (hay, corn-fodder, or straw) we have to depend on foraging along the line of travel, and for that reason Magee chose to travel down the old “line road,” as it was called, running near the boundary line that separates the State (Missouri) and Nation, passing through the towns of Lamar, Carthage, Neosho, and Pineville, Missouri, and Maysville, Arkansas, we turned westward through the Nation, by way of Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, to Fort Gibson. This route is no longer and also more dangerous on account of the country being timbered and infested by bushwhackers, but as there is generally considerable forage to be picked up along it, the trains often take it in preference to the old “military road- the one I traveled to Flat Rock and back last summer.

Foraging along the route is done in this way: At starting from camp each morning an empty wagon or two from each train, escorted by a squad of soldiers is sent out to pick up a load of hay, fodder, straw or other “roughness,” or a load of grain either, if they chance to find it, among the farms on either flank, within two or three miles of the road, as we travel along.

The owners of the stuff found are not asked whether they wish to sell, or what price they ask for it. When anything is found the commander of the foraging party has it loaded into the wagon without ceremony. he then writes out a receipt and hands it to the owner, giving the amount (guessed at) of stuff he has taken,. The owner can present this receipt at the Quartermaster’s office in Fort Scott, and if he can prove, by responsible loyal citizens, that he is, and has been, a loyal citizen of the United States, he gets pay at a fair (generally liberal) price. If he can’t establish his loyalty he gets nothing.

As soon as the forage wagons succeed in getting loads they make for the train, which is traveling slowly along the road, unload into the other wagons, and strike out for more. These foragers do an excellent service also as scouts and flankers. If there are any rebels , or signs of them, in their range they will find it out, though the getting of this information frequently costs the lives of a few soldiers or teamsters; still, the risk is seldom seriously considered- it’s in their line. The foragers are frequently attacked by bushwhackers, but if they succeed in killing as many of the rebels as they lose of their men, and still get away with the forage, they consider themselves that much ahead of the game.

Sometimes when such attacks are made at or near a house, a detail from the train’s escort goes back and utterly destroys the place, burning buildings and everything, on the justification that the people of such house are harboring bushwhackers. In this way families are often bereft of home and everything they have in a very short time, but they are usually the families or friends and aiders of our worst enemies, the bushwhackers, and although to one who is unaccustomed to the hardships of war this would seem barbarous cruelty inflicted on possibly innocent parties the usages of war justifies it.

This kind of retaliation on the guerrillas has a tendency to keep them from taking advantage of the farm buildings to ambush our men.

A soldier of one of our foraging parties was badly wounded in a skirmish with bushwhackers near a farm house. He was left at the house while the party came back to the train to get medical aid for him and an ambulance to haul him to our camp. When they went back after him they found that he had again been shot and stabbed in a most cowardly and inhuman manner by some of the bushwhackers, who had returned to the house while he was lying there wounded and helpless; and they had then thrown him out in a hog lot for the hogs to devour.

He was not yet dead, however, when the relief party reached him, and fortunately the hogs had not yet found him, and he lived long enough to tell his comrades how the women of the house had continually reviled and cursed him after his party had left, and how they had sent for the guerrillas and urged them to finish him and throw his body to the hogs.

Those she-rebels were the most venomous kind. It was with difficulty that the officer in charge of the relief party restrained his men from doing these women bodily harm: for many of them wanted to tie the she-devils to a tree and give them a severe horse-whipping. When prevailed on to forego this satisfaction they compromised by striking a match to the house, and sticking it “where it would do the most good,” as one of them said, and in a few minutes the house, outbuildings, and contents were in flames. The soldiers refused to let the women and children remove a thing from the house; they had to stand and see all they had consumed. Can anyone say they did not deserve all this punishment, and more, too?

The cowardly bushwhackers had skipped out on the reappearance of our men, and did not again dare show themselves, for fear our soldiers would vent their fury on them.

R.M. Peck Part 2


Indians And Jayhawkers
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 28 July 1904
pg. 8, cols 1-5

Humboldt (on the Neosho River) was at the time a small village of about 200 inhabitants, but, next to Fort Scott, was the most important place on the southern border of Kansas.
Several months previous to my visit it had been raided by old Tom Livingston and his gang of rebel bushwhackers from Missouri, who had plundered the stores and post office, and burnt several houses, the ruins of which were still in evidence.

While lying at Humboldt several days I found considerable entertainment in watching the process of making soldiers out of Indians.

Indians As Soldiers

When the war broke out the various tribes of the Indian Nation were much divided in political sentiments, most of the slave owning class among them joining the rebels.
Those who refused to take up arms against the Government had been driven out of their country by the rebels, and had taken refuge in the southern Kansas.

As these Indians became charges upon Uncle Sam, he having now to feed, clothe and shelter them, he had concluded to try to utilize the men as soldiers, and had just made up three regiments of them, officering them mostly with white men, some of whom were deserving soldiers selected from the Kansas regiments then in service; but others were men who had no qualifications whatever for the positions, except a political pull.
Many of our volunteer regiments during the war were cursed by just such incompetent officers.  This was a source of incalculable injury to our army throughout the struggle, and the prime cause of most of our great and small disasters.

An expedition was now being formed at Fort Scott to convey the Indian Brigade back to the Nation, drive the rebels out, if possible, and give the loyal Indians a permanent footing in their own country again, and an organization that would enable them to hold it.

The Choctaws and Chickasaws had all gone over to the rebels, but the Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles were probably about equally divided as to numbers, the most intelligent and wealthy, however, the slave owners, who were principally whites and half and quarter breeds- espousing the rebel cause, while the full bloods and some few of the mixed bloods had remained faithful to the Union.
   
The Osage, whose lands lay a little south of Humboldt, had also become split, part going south.
   
They were hardly yet beginning to adopt the ways of the white man, most of them showing little more civilization than the “blanket” Indians of the plains.  In fact, the majority of the Osages were at this time “blanket” Indians themselves.
   
One company of these was enlisted in the Indian Brigade at Humboldt, but it was found so difficult to reduce them to anything like military discipline that they were shortly afterwards disbanded and allowed to return to their country, of which the Osage Mission (Catholic), on the Neosho River, about 40 miles south of Humboldt, was considered the headquarters.
   
It was interesting to notice the use made by the full bloods of the (to them) munificent gifts of Uncle Sam, when clothing and equipments were issued to them.  Probably few of them had ever before possessed more clothing than they carried on their persons at one time, and as soon as they received their outfits they would put all on, one article after another, even to the soldiers overcoats; then buckling on their belts with cartridge box and bayonet, wrapping their heavy double U.S. blankets around over all, with a new musket in hand, would strut about camp apparently very proud of being a United States soldier.  It seemed to be a matter of duty with them.
   
They appeared to think that all this stuff was for constant and immediate use, and didn’t know how else to take care of so much worldly wealth.  And this in hot, July weather.
   
The Osages could not be induced to wear the soldier trousers.  Some of them cut off the legs and used them as leggings, but the body and seat of the trousers they threw away.
   
When rations were issued to these “noble red men” for 10 days at a time, as is the rule among white soldiers, they would turn loose to cooking and eating, like gluttons, and keep it up day and night, till the whole amount was consumed- 10 days’ rations generally lasting them about three days- and then go without, or steal or starve the rest of the time.
   
The full blood Indians are always jealous of and antagonistic to the whites and half-breeds of their tribe, and the Cherokees (and possibly some others) have a secret organization among the full bloods, the sign by which the different members recognize each other being the wearing of a common pin in a certain position on the front of the shirt or coat.

On this account the full bloods are generally spoken of as “pin Injuns.”

The Indians all seemed highly elated at the prospect of returning to their own country.  Those of them who have brought their families out of the Nation are to leave these in Kansas, in Uncle Sam’s care, till the warriors re-conquer their own country and get permanently re-established there.  They vow vengeance against those of their own tribes who have driven them from their homes, and taken possession of their property; and as their hatred of each other becomes very intense when arrayed on opposite sides, it is presumed that there will be few prisoners taken on either side when Union Indian meets Rebel Indian in war.

An Abolition Fanatic

When they started on the “warpath” from Humboldt south into the Nation, Col. John Ritchie, of the 2d Indian Regiment, was in command of the brigade, I think.

This man, John Ritchie, of Topeka, Kans., was a fanatic, a monomaniac on the subject of slavery, who through political influence was appointed Colonel of the 2d Indian Regiment, a position he was totally unqualified for.  His chief recommendation seemed to be a violent hatred of every one who favored slavery.  Shortly after this time at the battle of Shirley’s Ford, it was said that he tolerated and encouraged the killing and scalping of rebel Indians, and atrocious treatment of their families, in his march through the country.

Our Government never allowed any such cruelties, and when Ritchie began to show to what extremes his violent hatred of slavery was leading, he was placed under arrest, and sent back to Kansas, where, instead of being cashiered as he deserved, his “political pull” succeeded in getting him some nominal position whereby he continued to hold a commission and draw his pay as Colonel till the close of the war.  He was never allowed a command in the field again.

While he was under arrest I saw him mount an empty packing box in front of his tent one day down in the Nation, and go to haranguing a lot of soldiers and others who had gathered near; and he soon worked himself up to such a pitch of fury in his violent ravings about slavery that he fairly frothed at the mouth like a maniac.

As the Indians moved out “on the war path” from Humboldt in an irregular, straggling column, they inaugurated the undertaking by a series of yells that I supposed were intended as a ceremonious declaration of war against those who had driven them out of their homes.

One at the head of the column would utter a prolonged, shrill note, and as soon as he ceased the whole body of warriors would give forth in chorus a short, sharp bark like a dog.  This was repeated several times.  Then the marching column would take to gobbling like turkeys.  And this war whooping and gobbling they kept up till they passed several miles on the road.

The gobbling is their note of challenge to their enemies, the turkey gobbler being their emblem of defiance.

They go from Humboldt to Baxter Springs, in the Cherokee Neutral Land, where they will join the main invading command from Fort Scott.

“Jay-Hawking”

Taking transportation with George Underhill’s train, I went to Fort Scott to look for another job.  On applying to Hugh Kirkendall, Master of Transportation there, I found there was no opening for a Wagon Master, and accepted the position of Assistant to Underhill, which Hugh offered me.  We immediately loaded up with commissaries, and under an escort of a company of cavalry, started down in the Nation to overtake the invading command.

Here, being in the country at present held by the enemy, all wagon trains are guarded and escorted by soldiers.

From Fort Scott to Baxter Springs, 60 miles, the country is entirely unsettled.  This strip at that time was called the Cherokee Neutral Land, and now constitutes the counties of Crawford and Cherokee, in Kansas.

At Baxter Springs, where there was but one house, we caught up with the rear of the invading column, and traveled with it down to Cabin Creek where we found the main command under Brevet Brigadier-General Weir, formerly Colonel of the 10th Kansas.

A day or two before our arrival Weir had surprised a body of rebels, commanded by the rebel General Cooper, at a place called Locust Grove, and whipped them, capturing their camp and some prisoners.

Chief John Ross, of the Cherokees, and his family joined us at Cabin Creek.  He had been playing “fast and loose” with the rebels until our arrival gave him an opportunity to get out of their clutches, of which he promptly availed himself.

John Ross took no active part in the war, but immediately went east with his family to Philadelphia, where he remained till the war ended.  He is reputed to be wealthy.

We moved by easy marches- feeling our way- from Cabin Creek to Flat Rock Creek, within 12 miles of Fort Gibson, where the rebels were said to be in considerable force, under Generals Cooper and Stand Watie.  The latter is a full-blooded Cherokee and in command of all rebel Indians.  He is described as quite an intelligent and well-educated man, and the ugliest featured man in the Nation.

From Baxter Springs, as we move toward Gibson, the settlements (farms- no towns) become more numerous, but still the country is sparsely settled, the improvements being confined to the choicest localities along the water courses.  This is truly a fine country, fairly diversified in prairie and timber, and well watered by numerous fine streams, nearly all of which are bordered by timber.

Whenever we find houses they seem to have been either recently abandoned or are occupied only by women and children or Negroes.  A man or boy big enough to bear arms cannot remain at home here, where the country is overrun first by rebels and then Federals; and even the women and children are moving as fast as they can get opportunities, to places of greater security; abandoning live stock, poultry, furniture, crops and everything; some going North, some South, in which ever direction they have friends, or their political sympathies lead them.  Some families are still remaining and holding on to their homes and property, loath to abandon and lose what they cannot take away with them; but they have a rough time of it, being subjected to abuse and robbery by roving parties from either army.

Most of the well-to-do families of the Nation own slaves, and the Negroes are not slow to take advantage of the situation to secure their freedom.  Those whose masters have gone into the rebel army usually help themselves to the best of their owner’s horses or mules and ride away to Kansas or to the Union camps to seek freedom and employment; some being given work as teamsters and laborers in the Quartermaster’s Department; some securing employment as officers’ servants.  Many of the women and girls eagerly accept service as cooks, or to do any kind of work for teamsters, soldiers or any one who can afford to feed them, asking no other compensation.

Our camps soon became so crowded with these suddenly- freed slaves that the Commanding General found it necessary to ship train loads of them to Kansas, and usually the empty mule trains returning to Fort Scott are loaded with Negroes and their plunder.

All horses, mules or other property captured from the rebels, or taken from the families of rebels, are supposed to be confiscated for the use of the Government, and the livestock is turned into a drove called the “contraband herd.”

The country is full of nice fat cattle, and of these the army appropriates what it needs for beef.

Contraband Mule Business

An officer called “Provost Marshal,” in command of a detail of soldiers called “provost-guards,” takes charge of all contraband property until it is turned over to the Quartermaster’s Department for Government use.  This “provost-guard” goes around through the camps and seizes all contraband stock it can find in the possession of officers, soldiers or citizens, confiscating it for the use of Uncle Sam.  But with all the vigilance of the Provost Marshal and his guards, a great deal of such property is smuggled through to Kansas privately.

Each train, or other outfit, leaving the command to return to Kansas is supposed to be searched by the provost guards and all stock not bearing a U.S. brand is seized by them unless the person claiming it has procured a pass from the Provost Marshal.

As it soon became evident that all the best of the contraband stock that was seized by the provost guard was being appropriated by the Provost Marshal and certain other officers and their friends, it soon got to be fashionable to “beat” the “provo” in all possible ways.

Good mules were the best property, because they were more easily smuggled through, and found ready sale in Kansas, where Government contractors were eagerly buying up for the army use all mules that were up to the stipulated size, age, condition, etc.

Most of the Wagon Masters soon acquired, by private trade or “jay-hawking,” several head of extra mules.  We commonly beat the provost guards by working the captured mule in a team, and tying a U.S. mule behind the wagon.

In this way we did considerable speculating “on the side.”  As this “beating” the Government was fashionable with all classes, officers, soldiers and citizens, it was considered fairly legitimate- if one didn’t get caught; and if detected, we only lost the stock, which probably had not cost us anything.

These horses and mules were often bought for a song from the Negroes, who had stolen them from their masters-the buyer taking the risk of dodging the Provost Marshal.

One day, while camped at Flat Rock Creek, I saw “Red” Clark, Brigade Wagon Master for the command, steal a fine mule from an old darky in the following smooth style:

A squad of “contrabands,” as escaped slaves were commonly called, had just arrived in camp- each mounted on one of his master’s best mules or horses- and “Red” had steered them to the Adjutant’s tent, as they claimed to have some important information to impart concerning the rebel forces at Fort Gibson.

They had dismounted and were standing in front of the Adjutant’s office, holding their riding animals by the bridle reins.

“Red’s” covetous eye had spotted a superb mule in the hands of an old darky.  A number of soldiers and teamsters had gathered around and while the negroes were earnestly talking and answering the questions of Gen. Weir and the Adjutant, Clark walked up to the aforesaid fine mule, whose bridle rein was in the hand of the old negro, tied a rope around its neck, slipped the bridle gently off and handed it to a “pal,” and led the mule away.  The old negro was so earnestly engaged in detailing to the commanding officer the supposed important information that he never looked around; and to assure him that his mule was still where he supposed it to be, at the other end of the rein he was holding, “Red’s” pal would occasionally shake the bridle in imitation of the motions of the mule’s head.

When the interview was ended, the old fellow turned around to get his mule, and was rendered almost speechless to find, instead of his fine mule, an innocent looking white man standing there holding his bridle and asking him, “What’s come of your hoss, old man?”

It was only a question as to who should rob the old darky of his mule, for we all knew that, although it would be seized and confiscated by the Provost Marshal, ostensibly “for the use of the Government,” the said Marshal or some of his friends would be smuggling it into Kansas.

The contraband stock that was generally turned over to the Quartermaster for Uncle Sam’s use was the scrubs that no one wanted.

“Express Riding”

After remaining at Flat Rock a few days, I was ordered by “Red” Clark to take charge of George Anderson’s train- Anderson having been put under arrest by General Weir for some reason- and take it back to Fort Scott; Anderson accompanying me as a passenger.

I accordingly moved my baggage and “jay-hawked” stock- of which I had several head-over to Anderson’s train and was put in command of the outfit by Clark.

My Assistant Wagon Master here (Anderson’s assistant) was Dudley Haskell, later a prominent politician and member of Congress from Kansas.

Counting up what I had, and several head held by teamsters of the train, I found 13 horses and mules, for which Captain Schuarte promptly procured a pass.  On rolling out for Fort Scott I found the provost-guard waiting for me on the road near the picket post, ready to overhaul my train and confiscate all contraband stock, but the pass squared everything, and I went on unmolested.

The road to Fort Scott was watched by prowling bands of rebel bushwhackers, who were ever ready to pounce upon small or defenseless parties, but were not in sufficient force generally to attack well-escorted outfits.  At Chotean Creek, where we camped on the first night from Flat Rock, as we found evidence of the recent presence of a party of bushwhackers, I corralled the train out in open ground some distance from the timber and water, to guard against a surprise or stampede, but the night passed off quietly.

As we were approaching the rebel Gen. Stand Watie’s old place, near Horse Creek, one morning, I with a couple of soldiers of the escort, was riding some distance in advance of the train, when we noticed several horses hitched to the fence in front of the house, and just then several men came rushing out, hurriedly jumped onto the horses, and rode off as fast as they could scamper into the timber in the rear of the house.  From their movements and appearances I was satisfied that we had surprised and frightened off a party of rebel bushwhackers, and galloping up we found that five men, evidently rebels, had camped in the abandoned house during the night, and had been busy cooking their breakfast on the stove when they were frightened away by our approach.

They had all but one, fortunately for them, saddled up before we appeared and had their horses tied to the fence, ready for traveling.  The one who had failed to saddle his horse was forced to abandon his saddle and horse-blanket and ride away barebacked.  As there was a lot of poultry and other stock left by the owners when they abandoned the house, and a nice lot of vegetables growing in the garden, the rebels had found it a very comfortable stopping place, and had been preparing to treat themselves to a breakfast of milk, eggs, potatoes, onions, and a nice panful of fried chicken, which we found baking in the stove.  We had already eaten our breakfast, but found room to stow away most of that which we had frightened the rebels away from.

By this time Capt. Schuarte, with the escort and train, had arrived in front of the house and halted, and the soldiers and mule skinners turned loose on the poultry around the place and soon had caught or killed all the chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys to be found; and as we could not well take the cows along, we turned them and their calves out on the range.  We “confiscated” everything in the way of supplies to be found about the place, even to the vegetables in the garden, destroying what we could not take along, to prevent such subsistence from being made use of by the rebels- and incidentally “to fill a long-felt want,” as we had been living on Uncle Sam’s hardtack, pork and beans principally of late, and the poultry and vegetables were a welcome addition to our commissary department.

If the settlements along the road had not been so few and scattering we could have kept ourselves pretty well supplied with such extras by means of this “confiscation” scheme, and at the same time put such supplies out of the way of roving guerrillas; for most of the families who had living along the route had hurriedly evacuated their homes, leaving all kinds of stock, poultry and other property that they could not take, to be carried off by whomsoever desired it.

As we were passing down the road to Flat Rock I had noticed that this Stand Watie house was occupied, and a guard had been placed over it by our commanding officer, to prevent our men from robbing or molesting the family.  But as the folks had since abandoned the place, and were presumed to have gone to the rebels, we felt justified in helping ourselves to what they had left, especially as the bushwhackers seemed to be now making it a rendezvous.

On arriving at Fort Scott, George Anderson, the arrested Wagon Master whose train I was temporarily running, was released from arrest and restored to duty.  After turning over the outfit to him and disposing of my contraband stock, all expect one good riding mule, I concluded to go on to Leavenworth to visit my family.

As before stated, mails were very irregular and uncertain along the border during the war, and important Government papers were usually sent from one military post or camp to another by means of mounted messengers or “express riders,” as they were called.

On drawing my pay at the Quartermaster’s office and mentioning my intention to go to Leavenworth, Capt. Insley, the Quartermaster at Fort Scott, offered me the job of carrying some dispatches to the post, which I accepted.  Express riders were allowed from $3 to $5 a day and rations, and were generally expected to make as quick time as possible; but in this instance there was no hurrying required, and as I was riding my own mule, I took it leisurely.  I was accompanied by one of my late teamsters, Dan Eckenberger, who was also going home, riding a “jay-hawked” mule.

As the rebels were always on the lookout along the border for these Government dispatch bearers, and anxious to capture or kill them, to secure the papers they carried, this express riding was usually a rather dangerous business.  But we met with no interruption on this trip, and got through safely.

The boundary line between Missouri and Arkansas, on one side and Kansas and the Indian Nation on the other, was at this time (1862) about the dividing line between the rebels and Federal or Union forces.  And although there were no large bodies of the enemy along the border there were numerous small bands of bushwhackers, such as Quantrill’s, Si Gordon’s and Tom Livingston’s, infesting that country and making raids over the line whenever opportunities offered.  When they got back to Missouri or Arkansas they were among sympathizing friends and comparatively safe.

Bushwhacking, as practiced by those lawless gangs along the border, was a cowardly, barbarous style of warfare, in which gangs of armed and mounted ruffians ranged through the country, acknowledging no law and no military regulations expect the orders of their chiefs, attacking small or unprotected parties of our men whenever they could be caught at a disadvantage; hunting down and killing all Union men, or those suspected of entertaining friendly sentiments towards the Federal cause; after driving their families out and burning their houses; persuading armed men to surrender to them by promising to respect them as prisoners of war, and then mercilessly shooting them down- often with the prisoners’ own arms- as soon as they were disarmed and helpless.  Their motto was “Rob, kill and burn, and take no prisoners.”

I know whereof I speak in this matter, for I saw such deeds done, and had some unpleasant experience as a prisoner in the hands of rebel bushwhackers myself, as I shall relate further on.

To the everlasting shame of the Confederate Government this inhuman warfare was not only tolerated but encouraged, and assisted by leaders of the rebellion, from Jeff Davis down; while to the credit of Uncle Sam be it said our Government not only discouraged bushwhacking, as practiced by the rebels, but put it down with a strong hand whenever and wherever such a barbarous style of warfare was attempted on our side.

The most notable attempt that I remember at carrying on bushwhacking on the Union side (or jay-hawking; as it was more commonly called in Kansas) was that of a man who was known in Kansas as Captain Cleveland, and who had the reputation of being an ex-convict, a gambler, counterfeiter, horse-thief, robber, murderer and all other kinds of a criminal.

At the beginning of the war he had been, for a short time, a captain in the 7th Kansas Cavalry, or “Jennison’s Jay-hawkers,” as the regiment was often called; but the restraints of military discipline were irksome to Cleveland, and he soon resigned, and taking advantage of the upset and turbulent condition of affairs along the border between Kansas and Missouri, without asking any authority from the Government, gathered around him a band of lawless men of his own stripe and attempted to carry on a bushwhacking business on the Union side, by making raids along the Missouri line, in imitation of the style of Quantrill, who was then gaining considerable notoriety as a rebel guerrilla chief.

Another item of interest in this “Story of the 7th Kansas is this:

“One of the members of Co. H (Cleveland’s old company) has since become famous- W. F. Cody, ‘Buffalo Bill.’  He entered as a veteran recruit and was mustered out with the regiment.”

As Cleveland’s principal object was plunder, regardless of parties, he soon took to robbing both Union and rebel folks indiscriminately.

One of his exploits was to ride into Leavenworth City one day at the head of his gang, make a forced exchange of some inferior horses of his men’s for the best riding animals to be found in the city, go to the saddle shops and fit his men out with new saddles and bridles, give the people he despoiled his old horses and saddles and an order on Uncle Sam for the balance of their pay- which order, of course, was worthless- and then coolly right away.

As soon as Cleveland’s depredations came to the notice of the Department Commander, although he was ostensibly serving the Union cause against the rebels, an order was issued to turn the Union soldiers out to hunt him down, capture or kill him, and destroy his gang.

In the spring of 1862 Cleveland and his gang were operating along the border east of Paola and Osawatomie.  His reputed wife had taken up her residence in the latter place, so as to be in easy communication with him.  A party of the 6th Kansas Cavalry were camped in the timber near the town, but he managed to elude them for a while.  Finally, by watching this women’s room, the soldiers corralled him one night.

On being summoned to surrender, Cleveland drew his revolvers to shoot his way out, but his pistols missed fire- he had got the charges wet in swimming his horse across the river to reach the town- and he was compelled to yield.

While the soldiers were taking him out to their camp he made a break for liberty, and was shot and killed, and was buried near the camp.

This occurred in May 1862 and it was in the following August that Dan Eckenberger and I, en route from Fort Scott to Fort Leavenworth, stopped at the only hotel in Osawatomie to get dinner and have our mules fed.

On entering the men’s sitting room, to wait till the meal was ready, my comrade took a seat, but I, noticing a new tombstone in a further corner of the room, walked over to look at it, and, for the benefit of my companion, read aloud the inscription on it”
“Sacred to the memory of
Captain Marshall L. Cleveland,
Who died May 11th, 1862
Aged____
“Earth counts one mortal less-
Heaven one angel more.”

I write this from memory, and cannot recall the age given, but think the name, date and quotation on the tombstone were just as I have given them.

The absurdity of such a sentiment on the tomb of such a notorious criminal as Cleveland was known to have been, struck me so forcibly that, without thinking where I was, or who might be in hearing, I blurted out impulsively:
“H--l’s full of such angels!”

I was sorry I had used such ungentlemanly language as soon as I had uttered it, for as I glanced through an open door into what seemed to be the ladies parlor, which I had not before noticed, I saw a black-eyed women “looking daggers” at me, and I feared I had hurt her feelings, whoever she was.

The landlord, hurriedly approaching, as if fearful or another such explosion from me requested:

“Mister, please don’t use such language in the hearing of the lady in the next room.  She is Capt. Cleveland’s widow.”

I told him if that was the case I was sorry I had said it, and to express my regrets to the lady for having used such an offensive expression in her presence, and to say to her that had I known she was related to the deceased I should not have said anything to wound her feelings.

“But, landlord,” I added confidentially, “ I can’t take it back, for, between you and me, I believe every word of it.”

But as I could say nothing good of Cleveland, I promised “to be good”- till I left the house, at least.

The landlord informed me that “Mrs. Cleveland” had recently brought the tombstone from Leavenworth to have it placed at the jay-hawker’s grave.  If it still stands there bearing that “misfit” epitaph, it has probably, ere now, provoked many similar rough expressions of opinion from those who knew his reputation in life.

It is scarcely necessary to add that Cleveland’s gang of jay-hawkers fell to pieces after his death; but strange to say, some of his men afterwards became respectable citizens of Kansas, with two of whom I became personally acquainted.  One was, some years ago, a Justice of the Peace in Leavenworth, and the other was United States Marshal of Kansas.

I afterwards learned that the women who had passed herself as “Capt. Cleveland’s widow” was never his wife, but had formerly been employed in “Ben Wheeler’s Ten Cent Show”- a disreputable “varieties” dive in Leavenworth- as a comedy actress and “beer slinger.”  She was there known has the wife of “Tommy” Pell, the comedian, whom she had deserted to follow the jay-hawker.

The town of Osawatomie, Kansas, where this Cleveland incident occurred, has attained historical fame as having been founded by and the early residence in Kansas of “Old John Brown of Osawatomie renown;” but an article that I recently (1903) read in Volume 7, “Kansas Historical Collections,” written by William Hutchinson, journalist, and one of the pioneers of that State, who is undoubtedly good authority, again shakes my faith in the accuracy of accepted history; and I fear that another one of our fondly-cherished historical facts is doomed to be proven a myth.

The article referred to entitled “Sketches of Kansas Pioneer Experience,” says:
“Osawatomie Brown was Orville C. Brown from Brooklyn, N.Y., who located and named the town by coining the word out of the names of the two rivers, Osage and Pottawatomie, that unite just below the town site.

“John Brown never lived in Osawatomie, nor very near there.  When he lived on Pottawatomie Creek, near his sons, his nearest post office was at Lane.  To those who knew the real “Osawatomie Brown” (Orville C. Brown) as a prominent citizen during our territorial period, it does not appear just to give that appellation to another.  All the same, give due praise to John Brown and his brave men who fought in the Osawatomie battle. O.C. Brown was living in New York when I last heard tell of him a year ago.”

All the same:

“John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave,
            But his soul is marching on!”

I also find in the Kansas Historical Collections the “Story of the 7th Kans.,” by Adjutant General S.M. Fox (who served with the 7th Kansas Cavalry during its entire enlistment, and was mustered out as Regimental Adjutant), a brief account of the career of Cleveland as a captain in the 7th, which I quote:

“Co. H was organized by Capt. Marshall Cleveland, of jay-hawker fame, and was mustered in at Fort Leavenworth, Sept. 27, 1861.

The original company was largely made up of members of Cleveland’s old band of jay-hawkers, which had operated along the Missouri border.  Captain Cleveland was one of the handsomest men I ever saw; tall and rather slender, hair dark, beard dark and neatly trimmed.  He was very neat in his dress, and his carriage was easy and graceful.  As a horseman he was superb.  A stranger never would get the impression from his appearance that he was the desperate character that he was.  His real name was Charles Metz.  He was a native of New York State, and had been a stage driver in Ohio, and had served a term in the Missouri penitentiary.  After his graduation from this institution, he had for a time called himself ‘Moore,’ but later settled down onto the name of ‘Cleveland.’  He did not remain with the regiment long- he could not endure the restraint- and one evening, at Fort Leavenworth, the culmination came.  The regiment marched out for dress parade, Lieutenant-Colonel D. R. Anthony was receiving the salute, and, as the regiment was formed, took occasion to censure Captain Cleveland for appearing in a pair of light-drab trousers tucked in his boot-tops.

Cleveland immediately left his station in front of the company and advanced directly towards the Colonel; all expected bloodshed, but it all culminated in a few characteristic and pointed remarks on the part of the two officers immediately involved, and Cleveland passed on.  He mounted his horse and rode away to Leavenworth City, immediately sent in his resignation, and we saw him no more.

He soon gathered a band of kindred spirits about him, and began his old trade of jay-hawking.  He was quite impartial in his dealings with rebels and Union men at the last, and if there was any question he took the benefit of the doubt.

He made his headquarters at Atchison, and eluded, for a time, all attempts to capture him; once or twice he captured the posse sent out after him, and after taking their horses and arms, sent them home on foot, as may be supposed, somewhat crestfallen.

He finally ran up against the inevitable while trying to escape across the Marias des Cygnes, when pursued by Lieutenant Walker, with a squad of Co. E, 6th Kansas Cavalry; he was shot and killed by a sergeant.  He sleeps peacefully in the cemetery at St. Joseph, Mo.  The headstone which marks his grave bears this gentle epitaph:

“One hero less on earth,
One angel more in heaven.”

From the foregoing extract from Adjutant General Fox’s “Story of the 7th Kansas.” It appears that Cleveland’s body must have been removed from Osawatomie, Kans., to St. Joseph, Mo. subsequently to the time of the tombstone incident at Osawatomie, in 1862 that I have related.