August 4, 2013
I have not written a blog here since the election last November. Just too busy with other things. This one is going to be a work in progress. It likely won't be finished in one session.
Our nation is in the middle of commemorating the Civil War Sesquicentennial, noting 150 years since that war. I am old enough to remember the Centennial in the 1960's. It was much bigger. It seems that now it is not politically correct to remember the southern heritage, or to "glorify" the Confederacy. That puts a damper on things. Almost everyone now assumes that Mr. Lincoln was a great hero who did what had to be done to end slavery and bring freedom to all.
This view, however, ignores a dark side of the Union war effort. We forget that Mr. Lincoln arrested southern sympathizers in the Maryland legislature to avoid them voting to secede; and that he imprisoned an Indiana Congressman who spoke out against the war effort. When the Supreme Court ordered him freed, Lincoln refused to obey their order. Now we see parallels in current history with the government doing things of which we disapprove, in the name of national security and safety. In the words of John Dickinson, a dissenting member of Congress in the movie 1776: "No one approves of these things; but these are dangerous times."
A few weeks ago was the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg, generally assumed to be the point at which the southern cause became lost. There was a lot of attention paid to this, and the postal service issued a commemorative stamp. This month marks the 150th anniversary of another incident which is far less known, and much less understood.
In Missouri, the people were very much divided in their loyalties. The state militia tried to organize to fight for the south, but was quickly broken up and expelled from the State. In response, smaller bodies of southern sympathizers loosely organized into guerilla bands and fought Union troops in a bloody little war of their own. The Union commanders tried to suppress this effort by making war on the southern-leaning population, including women and children. One such effort was General Order Number 10, which authorized the imprisoning of the wives and sisters of men known to be fighting for the south. In August, 1863, there were several such young women in a makeshift prison in an old warehouse in Kansas City. The old and unsafe building collapsed on their heads killing four young women and injuring several others, on August 14, 1863. Among the dead was the 14 year old sister of a local guerilla leader known to friends and foes as "Bloody Bill" Anderson.
Needless to say, Bloody Bill and his friends were mad as hell. Some 8 days later, on August 22, 1863, they struck back. In the words of John McCorkle, another guerilla who also lost a sister and who later wrote a book about it: "We could stand it no more."
On the morning of August 22, Bill and his friends hit the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas. This city was the headquarters of the Jayhawks (and still is, famous for their basketball teams), a band of men who had raided Missouri slaveholders and burned them out of their farms. It was also the home of their former leader, now a US Senator, Jim Lane. They wanted to get him and hang him for his crimes. When the raid hit, they made so much noise that Senator Lane jumped out of his bed and watched his home burn from a nearby cornfield.
Others were not so lucky. Up to 200 men were killed. Some were new army recruits in a local training camp. Most were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Much of the town was destroyed (but no women were harmed).
The guerillas then took off, with local Union Militia trailing them. They dispersed into the countryside and were never caught, except for one fool who got drunk and was left behind. He was killed by an angry mob.
The Union government reacted to this by racheting up the violence another step. You might see a similarity here to the police reaction to the Matthew Stewart incident: more guns and more armor. General Order Number 10 was now followed by General Order Number 11, which essentially depopulated several western Missouri counties, driving out all the people, who were feared to be aiding the enemy. So, it got worse. More people died or lost their homes. All in the name of freedom.
This month, give a little thought to our history. Remember that the government's efforts to suppress "the enemy" are not new. In fact, they are quite mild alongside the efforts of Mr. Lincoln and his minions. So, it is now "politically correct" to see the Union war effort in the prettiest of lights - after all, the "enemy" kept slaves. And if you can make the other guys seem bad enough, just about everything is justified.
RIP, Josephine Anderson and Charity McCorkle, Susan Vandiver and Armenia Gilvey..