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Lane's Brigade and the Inception of the Indian

 Native American Nations | Participant in the Civil War                    

 

The Indian Expedition had its beginnings, fatefully or otherwise, in "Lane's Kansas Brigade." On January 29, 1861, President Buchanan signed the bill for the admission of Kansas into the Union and the matter about which there had been so much of bitter controversy was at last professedly settled; but, alas, for the peace of the border, the radicals, the extremists, the fanatics, call them what one may, who had been responsible for the controversy and for its bitterness, were still unsettled. James Lane was chief among them. His was a turbulent spirit and it permitted its owner no cessation from strife. With President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, April 15, 1861, Lane's martial activities began. Within three days, he had gathered together a company of warriors,83 the nucleus, psychologically speaking, of what was to be his notorious, jayhawking, marauding brigade. His enthusiasm was infectious. It communicated itself to reflective men like Carl Schurz84 and was probably the secret of Lane's mysterious influence with the temperate, humane, just, and so very much more magnanimous Lincoln, who, in the first days of the war, as in the later and the last, had his hours of discouragement and deep depression. For dejection of any sort, the wild excitement and boundless confidence of a zealot like Lane must have been somewhat of an antidote, also a stimulant.

The first Kansas state legislature convened March 26, 1861, and set itself at once to work to put the new machinery of government into operation. After much political wire-pulling that involved the promise of spoils to come,85 James H. Lane and Samuel C. Pomeroy86 were declared to be elected United States senators, the term of office of each to begin with the first session of the thirty-seventh congress. That session was the extra one, called for July, 1861. Immediately, a difficulty arose due to the fact that, subsequent to his election to the senatorship and in addition thereto, Lane had accepted a colonelcy tendered by Oliver P. Morton87 of Indiana, his own native state.88 Lane's friends very plausibly contended that a military commission from one state could not invalidate the title to represent another state in the Federal senate. The actual fight over the contested seat came in the next session and, quite regardless of consequences likely to prejudice his case, Lane went on recruiting for his brigade. Indeed, he commended himself to Fremont, who, in his capacity as major-general of volunteers and in charge of the Western Military District, assigned him to duty in Kansas, thus greatly complicating an already delicate situation and immeasurably heaping up difficulties, embarrassments, and disasters for the frontier.


Map Showing the Main Theatre of Border Warfare and the Location of Tribes Within the Indian Country

The same indifference towards the West that characterized the governing authorities in the South was exhibited by eastern men in the North and, correspondingly, the West, Federal and Confederate, was unduly sensitive to the indifference, perhaps, also, a trifle unnecessarily alarmed by symptoms of its own danger. Nevertheless, its danger was real. Each state gave in its adherence to the Confederacy separately and, therefore, every single state in the slavery belt had a problem to solve. The fight for Missouri was fought on the border and nowhere else. The great evil of squatter sovereignty days was now epidemic in its most malignant form. Those days had bred intense hatred between Missourian and Kansan and had developed a disregard of the value of human life and a ruthlessness and brutality in fighting, concomitant with it, that the East, in its most primitive times, had never been called upon to experience. Granted that the spirit of the crusader had inspired many a free-soiler to venture into the trans-Missouri region after the Kansas-Nebraska bill had become law and that real exaltation of soul had transformed some very mercenary and altogether mundane characters unexpectedly into martyrs; granted, also, that the pro-slavery man honestly felt that his cause was just and that his sacred rights of property, under the constitution, were being violated, his preserves encroached upon, it yet remains true that great crimes were committed in the name of great causes and that villains stalked where only saints should have trod. The irregular warfare of the border, from fifty-four on, while it may, to military history as a whole, be as unimportant as the quarrels of kites and crows, was yet a big part of the life of the frontiersman and frightful in its possibilities. Sherman's march to the sea or through the Carolinas, disgraceful to modern civilization as each undeniably was, lacked the sickening phase, guerrilla atrocities, that made the Civil War in the West, to those at least who were in line to experience it at close range, an awful nightmare. Union and Confederate soldiers might well fraternize in eastern camps because there they so rarely had any cause for personal hostility towards each other, but not in western. The fight on the border was constant and to the death.

The leaders in the West or many of them, on both sides, were men of ungovernable tempers, of violent and unrestrained passions, sometimes of distressingly base proclivities, although, in the matter of both vices and virtues, there was considerable difference of degree among them. Lane and Shelby and Montgomery and Quantrill were hardly types, rather should it be said they were extreme cases. They seem never to have taken chances on each other's inactivity. Their motto invariably was, to be prepared for the worst, and their practice, retaliation.

It was scarcely to be supposed that a man like Lane, who had never known moderation in the course of the long struggle for Kansas or been over scrupulous about anything would, in the event of his adopted state's being exposed anew to her old enemy, the Missourian, be able to pose contentedly as a legislator or stay quietly in Washington, his role of guardian of the White House being finished.89 The anticipated danger to Kansas visibly threatened in the summer of 1861 and the critical moment saw Lane again in the West, energetic beyond precedent. He took up his position at Fort Scott, it being his conviction that, from that point and from the line of the Little Osage, the entire eastern section of the state, inclusive of Fort Leavenworth, could best be protected.90

Fort Scott was the ranking town among the few Federal strongholds in the middle Southwest. It was within convenient, if not easy, distance of Crawford Seminary which, situated to the southward in the Quapaw Nation, was the headquarters of the Neosho Agency; but no more perturbed place could be imagined than was that same Neosho Agency at the opening of the Civil War. Bad white men, always in evidence at moments of crisis, were known to be interfering with the Osages, exciting them by their own marauding to deviltry and mischief of the worst description.91 As a tribe, the Osages were not very dependable at the best of times and now that they saw confusion all around them their most natural inclination was to pay back old scores and to make an alliance where such alliance could be most profitable to themselves. The "remnants" of tribes, Seneca, Shawnees, and Quapaw, associated with them in the agency, Neosho, that is, although not of evil disposition, were similarly agitated and with good reason. Rumors of dissensions among the Cherokees, not so very far away, were naturally having a disquieting effect upon the neighboring but less highly organized tribes as was also the unrest in Missouri, in the southwestern counties of which, however, Union sentiment thus far dominated.92 Its continuance would undoubtedly turn upon military success or failure and that, men like Lyon and Lane knew only too well.

As the days passed, the Cherokee troubles gained in intensity, so much so that the agent, John Crawford, even then a secessionist sympathizers, reported that internecine strife might at any hour be provoked.93 So confused was everything that in July the people of southeastern Kansas were generally apprehensive of an attack from the direction of either Indian Territory or Arkansas.94 Kansas troops had been called to Missouri; but, at the same time, Lyon was complaining that men from the West, where they were greatly needed, were being called by Scott to Virginia.95 On August 6 two emergency calls went forth, one from Fremont for a brigade from California that could be stationed at El Paso and moved as occasion might require, either upon San Antonio or into the Indian Territory,96 the other from Congressmen John S. Phelps and Francis P. Blair junior, who addressed Lincoln upon the subject of enlisting Missouri troops for an invasion of Arkansas in order to ward off any contemplated attack upon southwestern Missouri and to keep the Indians west of Arkansas in subjection.97 On August 10 came the disastrous Federal defeat at Wilson's Creek. It was immediately subsequent to that event and in anticipation of a Kansas invasion by Price and McCulloch that Lane resolved to take position at Fort Scott.98


83: John Hay records in his Diary, "The White House is turned into barracks. Jim Lane marshaled his Kansas warriors to-day at Willard's and placed them at the disposal of Major Hunter, who turned them to-night into the East Room. It is a splendid company—worthy such an armory. Besides the Western Jayhawkers it comprises some of the best material in the East. Senator Pomeroy and old Anthony Bleecker stood shoulder to shoulder in the ranks. Jim Lane walked proudly up and down the ranks with a new sword that the Major had given him. The Major has made me his aid, and I labored under some uncertainty, as to whether I should speak to privates or not."—THAYER, Life and Letters of John Hay, vol. i, 92.
84: It would seem to have communicated itself to Carl Schurz, although Schurz, in his Reminiscences, makes no definite admission of the fact. Hay says, "Going into Nicolay's room this morning, C. Schurz, and J. Lane were sitting. Jim was at the window, filling his soul with gall by steady telescopic contemplation of a Secession flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexandria. 'Let me tell you,' said he to the elegant Teuton, 'we have got to whip these scoundrels like hell, C. Schurz. They did a good thing stoning our men at Baltimore and shooting away the flag at Sumter. It has set the great North a-howling for blood, and they'll have it.'

"'I heard,' said Schurz, 'you preached a sermon to your men yesterday.'

"'No, sir! this is not time for preaching. When I went to Mexico there were four preachers in my regiment. In less than a week I issued orders for them all to stop preaching and go to playing cards. In a month or so, they were the biggest devils and best fighters I had.'

"An hour afterwards, C. Schurz told me he was going home to arm his clansmen for the wars. He has obtained three months' leave of absence from his diplomatic duties, and permission to raise a cavalry regiment. He will make a wonderful land pirate; bold, quick, brilliant, and reckless. He will be hard to control and difficult to direct. Still, we shall see. He is a wonderful man."—THAYER, Life and Letters of John Hay, vol. i, 102-103.
85: In Connelley's James Henry Lane, the "Grim Chieftain" of Kansas, the following is quoted as coming from Lane himself:

"Of the fifty-six men in the Legislature who voted for Jim Lane, five-and-forty now wear shoulder-straps. Doesn't Jim Lane look out for his friends?"
86: John Brown's rating of Pomeroy, as given by Stearns in his Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns, 133-134, would show him to have been a considerably less pugnacious individual than was Lane.
87: Morton, war governor of Indiana, who had taken tremendous interest in the struggle for Kansas and in the events leading up to the organization of the Republican party, was one of the most energetic of men in raising troops for the defense of the Union, especially in the earliest stages of the war. See Foulke's Life of Oliver P. Morton, vol. i.
88: Some doubt on this point exists. John Speer, Lane's intimate friend and, in a sense, his biographer, says Lane claimed Lawrenceburg, Indiana, as his birthplace. By some people he is thought to have been born in Kentucky.
89: As Villard tells us [Memoirs, vol. i, 169], Lane was in command of the "Frontier Guards," one of the two special patrols that protected the White House in the early days of the war. There were those, however, who resented his presence there. For example, note the diary entry of Hay, "Going to my room, I met the Captain. He was a little boozy and very eloquent. He dilated on the troubles of the time and bewailed the existence of a garrison in the White House 'to give éclat to Jim Lane.'"—Thayer, op. cit., vol. i, 94. The White House guard was in reality under General Hunter [Report of the Military Services of General David Hunter, 8].
90: Official Records, vol. iii, 453, 455.
91: A letter from Superintendent W.G. Coffin of date, July, 30, 1861 [Indian Office Special Files, no. 201, Schools, C. 1275 of 1861] bears evidence of this as bear also the following letters, the one, private in character, from Augustus Wattles, the other, without specific date, from William Brooks:

Private

Moneka, Kansas, May 20, 1861.
Mr. Dole

Dear Sir, A messenger has this moment left me, who came up from the Osages yesterday—a distance of about forty miles. The gentleman lives on the line joining the Osage Indians, and has, since my acquaintance with him about three years.

A short time ago, perhaps three weeks, a number of lawless white men went into the Nation and stole a number of ponies. The Indians made chase, had a fight and killed several, reported from three to five, and retook their ponies.

A company of men is now getting up here and in other counties, to go and fight the Indians. I am appealed to by the Indians to act as their friend.

They represent that they are loyal to the U.S. Government and will fight for their Great Father, at Washington, but must be protected from bad white men at home. The Government must not think them enemies when they only fight thieves and robbers.

Rob't B. Mitchell, who was recently appointed Maj. General of this State by Gov. Robinson, has resigned, and is now raising volunteers to fight the Indians. He has always been a Democrat in sympathy with the pro-slavery party, and his enlisting men now to take them away from the Missouri frontier, when we are daily threatened with an attack from that State, and union men are fleeing to us for protection from there, is certainly a very questionable policy. It could operate no worse against us, if it were gotten up by a traitor to draw our men off on purpose to give the Missourians a chance when we are unprepared.

I presume you have it in your power to prevent any attack on the Indians in Kansas till such time as they can be treated with. And such order to the Commander of the Western Division of the U.S. Army would stop further proceedings.

I shall start to-morrow for Council Grove and meet the Kansas Indians before General Mitchell's force can get there. As the point of attack is secret, I fear it may be the Osages, for the purpose of creating a necessity for a treaty with himself by which he can secure a large quantity of land for himself and followers. He is acquainted with all the old Democratic schemes of swindling Indians.

The necessity for prompt action on the part of the Indian Department increases every day. The element of discord in the community here now, was once, the pro-slavery party. I see their intention to breed disturbances with the Indians is malicious and selfish. They are active and unscrupulous, and must be met promptly and decisively.

I hope you will excuse this, as it appears necessary for me to step a little out of my orders to notify you of current events. I am very respectfully

Your Ob't Ser'vt Augustus Wattles, Special Agent

[Indian Office Special Files, no. 201.]

Grand Falls, Newton Co., Mo.
Com. Indian Affairs
Washington, D.C.

Hon. Sir: Permit me to inform you, by this means, of the efforts that have been and are now being made in Southern Kansas to arouse both the "Osage" and "Cherokee" to rebel, and bear arms against the U.S. Government—At a public meeting near the South E. corner of the "Osage Nation" called by the settlements for the devising of some means by which to protect themselves from "unlawful characters," Mr. John Mathis, who resides in the Osage Nation and has an Osage family, also Mr. "Robert Foster" who lives in the Cherokee Nation and has a Cherokee family endeavored by public speeches and otherwise to induce "Osage", "Cherokee", as well as Americans who live on the "Neutral Lands" to bear arms against the U.S. Government—aledging that there was no U.S. Government. There was 25 men who joined them and they proceeded to organize a "Secession Company" electing as Capt R.D. Foster and 1st Lieutenant James Patton—This meeting was held June 4th 1861—at "McGhees Residence"—The peace of this section of country requires the removal of these men from the Indian country, or some measures that will restrain them from exciting the Indians in Southern Kansas.

Yours Respectfully WM BROOKS.

You will understand why you are addressed by a private individual on this subject instead of the Agent, since A.J. Dorn, the present Indian Agent, is an avowed "Secessionist" and consequently would favor, rather than suppress the move. WM BROOKS.

92: Branch to Mix, June 22, 1861, enclosing letter from Agent Elder, June 15, 1861 [Indian Office Files, Neosho, B 547 of 1861].
93: Ibid., Cherokee, C 1200 of 1861
94: Official Records, vol. iii, 405.
95: Ibid., 397, 408.
96: Ibid., 428.
97: Official Records, vol. iii, 430.
98: Ibid., 446.


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The American Indian as Participant in the Civil War, 1919

Participant in the Civil War

 

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