Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Hunt for J.B. Swain

After being sentenced to death, (afterwards commuted to life at hard labor), Joseph B. Swain, the most sadistic of all the Kansas Red Legs, escaped from Fort Leavenworth. The authorities at Fort Leavenworth were convinced that their detectives could not be trusted so they sent for a “real” professional from St. Louis, Missouri.  United States Detective H. W. Huthsing arrived at Fort Leavenworth on April 7th 1865. His report on his pursuit of Swain is a historic gem. Here are a few excerpts.

I seized all letters in the Post-Office directed to Mrs. Swain and from these, and other circumstances I became convinced that Swain had crossed the river at Weston on 31st of March and was at his home [City of Leavenworth] on the 1st and 2nd days of April - and that on the 3rd of April he left for Paola and Mound City where his old camp was stationed and where he intended to stay until he could hear from his wife in relation to a petition for his pardon, to the President which had been gotten up and signed by a large number of citizens, who as a general thing were all in complicity with him, and are willing to do anything to obtain his release – these men together with a great portion of the officers and soldiers now stationed at Leavenworth and along the border, formerly belonged to an association called the Red Legs and of which, Capt. Swain was an active and leading member. I presume you have long been familiar with the history of this association and I will not therefore give any details of their purposes and doings…

I arrived at Mound City on the 17th of April and left my escort at some distance from the town, in camp – I soon made acquaintance with some of the citizens and soldiers, and to my great astonishment, I found that it would not be safe, with the small force at my command, to attempt to arrest Swain, even if we should discover his hiding place – Both soldiers and citizens were determined  to resent his arrest and openly avowed their intention to meet and oppose anybody who came for that purpose…

It is almost impossible to give any adequate idea of the feelings among these people , not only in regard to Swain, but in respect to the execution of law and the maintenance of good general order generally – This vicinity was settled principally by a lot of unprincipled men – outlaws and robbers, murders and thieves – who openly uphold, protect and boast of every man who has robbed or murdered the people of the neighboring Border – is has become a noted home and shelter of criminals and fugitives from justice.

It Is An Abominable Falsehood

Many years ago, I found mention of a man named Edward Cushing. He had been one of the "parties" seen with the notorious Kansas Red Leg, J. B. Swain. It would now appear that Cushing was in fact a Red Leg. Like most, he did not last long after the war. Thrown in jail, he set the place on fire, thinking they would have to let him out and he could make his escape. Unfortunately, for Cushing, he burned with the jail. 

Cushing is one of many, Kansas Red Legs who have never been properly identified.

In the spring of 1863 he published an interesting affidavit in a Leavenworth newspaper directed at Major General James G. Blunt:

ED. Conservative: Please insert the following affidavit and oblige the affiant.

State of Kansas
County of Leavenworth

I, Edward Cushing, being a member of the organization or Loyal League, known as the order of  Red Legs having been informed that Gen. J. G. Blunt claims to have, and exhibits in his possession, an affidavit purporting to be signed by me, stigmatizing said order of Red Legs as banded together for evil purposes and with the purpose of swearing each other out of crimes and misdemeanors, depose and say, that if Gen. Blunt holds such an affidavit it is a forgery; and if the affidavit sets forth such facts it is an abominable falsehood.

Edward Cushing

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tough by name, Tough by Nature

Contrary to popular belief, William S. Tough was not a Kansas Red Leg. From time to time he employed men who had been members of Hoyt’s Red Leg crew, but there is no evidence that Tough was ever a part of Hoyt’s operations. Tough began his criminal career as a jayhawker under Marshal Cleveland, and later became the leader of the buckskin scouts, which according to one individual were sometimes called the Red Legged Scouts. As Chief of Scouts at Fort Smith, Arkansas, Tough undoubtedly surpassed all the Kansas Red Legs in property stolen and illicit profit.

In August 1864 a newspaper reporter wrote the following from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

"Its object was to give some show of respectability to that bandit clan, who since the occupation of this county in September last, have been 'stealing themselves rich in the name of liberty.' The Judson's, T.J. Anderson, Tough, Quartermaster Darbin, and the least respectable of the Red Leg organization, including many faces familiar to the interior of the Leavenworth guard house, now operating under the euphonious appellation of 'scouts' are running the machine with a vengeance.

During the past week hundred after hundred of mules and horses have crossed the river en route to Kansas, &c, many of which, were it not for the terrorism held over the people here, would be kept on the farms where they have been reared...Supported as the thieves are by the authorities, resistance would be madness, and the people submit sadly to a pillage which is making a desert of their State, and driving thousands of loyal people into utterly impoverished exile. A few are growing rich. McDonald in a year will make a million dollars, which will represent five hundred ruined families."

William S. Tough

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Mrs. Em McCloy, the supposed wife of the jayhawker, Marshal Cleveland.

Well, it took a few years, but it now appears that Cleveland’s “supposed” wife went by the name Em McCloy. She swore never to reveal her real name. A reporter who met her in Kansas City, shortly after Cleveland’s death, described her as “only a weak shadow of her former self. Debauchery had racked and wrecked her mind and made haggard the once beautiful form and face, though traces of which still showed in big blue eyes that had never lost their expression of sweetness and innocence.”

In June, 1862 this story appeared in the St. Joseph Morning Herald:

Recorders Court – Another run was yesterday made on the houses of ill repute, by those authorized, who succeeded in bringing before his honor seven more gay and festive females. Among the number appeared Em McCloy alias Mrs. Cleveland, supposed-to be wife of the jayhawker Cleveland. Cleveland evaded for some time retributive justice as has Mrs. Cleveland, but the strategic movements of our officials have at last delivered her to the bar. They will all be fined $10 and cost each.

After a nine year hiatuses, my blog is back! The high-points of nine more years of research will be coming your way soon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"The Hammer Falls" Part I

George H. Hoyt

Major General James G. Blunt

Major General Samuel R. Curtis

     Shortly after the Red Leg raids of late March 1863, the Commander of the Department of Missouri, Major General Samuel R. Curtis, directed Major General Blunt, to take action against the depredators. Blunt had already issued a stern warning in early March. The newspaper Freedom’s Champion, in Atchison, Kansas, printed this short broadside on 7 March, 1863, which proclaimed that, Gen. Blunt has issued an order against secret organizations in the State, which under the guise of patriotism are devoted to plunder.

     Blunt claimed after the war that while he had been away during the winter in Arkansas, matters left in charge of subordinates had been running rather loosely in the district. Among other things, an organization had sprung into existence known as “Red Legs,” and whatever had been the primary object and purpose of those identified with it, its operations had certainly become fraught with danger to the peace and security of society. The organization embraced many of the most desperate charters in the country, while the inducements of easy gain had allured into it many persons who, in ordinary times, would never have consented to be connected with such an enterprise. Officers, soldiers and citizens had become infected until the leaders became so bold as to defy interference with their operations. Letters intercepted, passing from one to another of principle actors in this organization, proved a most deplorable state of affairs, and showed that it extended into Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa. A reign of terror was inaugurated, and no man’s property was safe, nor was his life worth much if he opposed them in their schemes of plunder and robbery. In this condition of things I considered it my duty to interfere for the protection of honest, and peaceable citizens, and to a great extent was successful, notwithstanding I daily received anonymous letters threatening me with assassination if I did not desist arresting and punishing these offenders.

     On 3 April 1863, Curtis wired Blunt, ordering him to, Put only very reliable troops on border counties. Missourians fear the "Red Legs" will have too much license under your command. That band of rascals must be checked...

     On the same day, Curtis, informed Brigadier General Ben Loan, in Jefferson City, Missouri, that, Blunt avows his determination to put down the "Red Legs," and it seems to me necessary that each of the adjacent commanders should have a cordial understanding and cross lines whenever a real necessity exits. 

All operations against rebels, Blunt wrote to Colonel Lynde, commanding the 9th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry on 16 April, must be directed by the legal military authorities. This injunction is to apply especially to an organization known as the "Red Legs," which is an organized band of thieves and violators of law and good order. All such persons found prowling over the country, without a legitimate purpose, must be disarmed; and if they shall be caught in the act of thieving or other lawlessness, or in the possession of stolen property, for which they cannot give a good and sufficient reason, they shall be shot upon the spot. And as there is reason to believe that officers in the military service are implicated, directly or indirectly, in the offenses committed by "Red Legs" and other lawless bands, therefore, upon the evidence that any officer has failed or neglected to carry out the foregoing instructions in reference to such offenders, they will be dishonorably dismissed [from] the service of the United States...

On the same day Blunt wrote to Colonel Lynde, the Western Journal of Commerce reported this item from Leavenworth: JEFF. DAVIS ARRESTED - "Jeff. Davis" and Dick Foster, arrested Monday on order of Gen. Blunt, were yesterday taken to the Fort under strong guard. We do not learn positively the charges against them, nor the cause of their arrest. - Times

On 25 April 1863, the Western Journal of Commerce reported the following from the Lawrence Republican: "Red Legs" Disbanded. The "Red Legs" taking warning from Gen. Blunt's recent severe speeches and orders concerning them are said to have disbanded and mostly left the state. A few only, and those persons who have been with them but little, are left. Captain Hoyt, we understand has gone, or is about [to go] East. He is a young man of talent, very highly connected, and would undoubtedly, in the regular service, rise to distinction. Bloom Swaim [sic], alias "Jeff Davis," is confined in Fort Leavenworth, where he will remain until Gen. Blunt lets him out. The "boys" maintain that they have done nothing, and intend to do nothing but fight rebels. But if that is so, let them go into the regular service. There they can find full play for all their activity and ingenuity, and not be liable to be charged with so many misdeeds as are laid at their feet.

More in Part II

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Friday, December 24, 2010

"Hell and its Fury" Part II

George H. Hoyt, Chief of the Kansas Red Legs

Major General James G. Blunt, Commander of the District of Kansas

Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis, Commander of the Department of Missouri

On 18 April, the Weekly Champion and Press reprinted the following story from the Wyandotte Gazette:

About one hundred negroes, men, women and children, arrived in this city, on Tuesday morning, from down in the [neighborhood] of and below Lexington, Mo. They had two fights with bushwhackers on their way up, and cleaned them out both times.
Just before night, another invoice of about sixty, all of the male persuasion, came in with Capt. Hoyt. Recruiting for the colored regiments goes on briskly here just now.

The Daily Evening Bulletin in San Francisco ran a story from one of the St, Louis newspapers on 9 May 1863, under the headline, Raid upon Secessionist in Lafayette County. The article stated that the Red Legs, along with 200 of Burris' men attacked the Chapel Hills section of Lafayette County. They did so with such fury that they killed 50 men of the inhabitants and burned 30 houses...Governor Gamble has since [?] Gen. Hall to command in that district and he and Gen. Curtis have ordered an investigation of that affair. It was not undertaken upon any responsible military authority, and the consequence has been that Union men have been murdered.

In the next post, "The Hammer Falls"

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