WHAT I SAW OF ORDER NUMBER ELEVEN
General Thomas Ewing's famous Order No. 11 is one amongst the memorable
events of the War of the Rebellion in 1861; especially is it memorable on the
western borders of Missouri. That order, which commanded and required all
the citizens of three border counties, and a part of the fourth, to vacate their
homes and remove into garrisoned towns, or from the military district, will
ever be remembered by those citizens who were affected by its provisions. It is
often spoken of and referred to, and has been much condemned by some and
strenuously defended by others; and while I shall not attempt to do one or the
other, I will, as plainly, concisely, and impartially as I can, describe what I saw,
witnessed, and felt of its incidents, consequences, and results, without
pretending to say or to know whether the consequences would have been better
or worse if that order had never been made and enforced.
For several weeks during the summer of 1863, rumors were prevalent and
common in the country that such an order was in contemplation. Scouting
parties of Union soldiers declared that, unless the bushwhackers ceased from
their system of guerrilla warfare, and the citizens ceased from harboring,
aiding, and protecting them, an order would be made to depopulate the country
infested by them. The threats, however, of the soldiers on either side were not
regarded by the citizens as evidence that the things threatened would be
Experience has proved that, though threats of violence were often carried out,
they were more often mere idle words of bravado.
That which gave more color to the rumor, and more alarmed that citizens than
the threats of the common soldier, was the fact that the Union men who had
taken refuge in Kansas City and Independence notified their friends in the
country to hold themselves in readiness to obey the order when it came; that
unless a change for the better was made inregard to guerrilla warfare, such an
order would most surely be issued.
The Sni Hills in Jackson County had the name of being the principal
rendezvous of those guerrillas, and threats of vengeance were more frequently
made against that part of the country than any other.
In Van Buren Township, embracing a part of those Sni Hills, a meeting was
called and held on the 15th of August, 1863, to take into consideration those
rumors and consult as to what was the best to be done.
A committee was appointed, resolutions were drawn up, adopted, and signed by
nearly all present, reciting those rumors of depopulation, and representing the
great hardship and ruin it would bring upon all classes, the loyal and disloyal
alike, and that in all probability the end sought would not be accomplished by
it; closing with the assurance that those whose names were signed to the paper
had not willingly aided, encouraged, or harbored bushwhackers in the past, and
that they would not in the future; but that each one, so far as he could in safety,
would discountenance such a system of warfare and aid in suppressing it.
It was voted by the meeting that those resolutions should be sent by a special
messenger to General Ewing’s office; but he was not present, having gone to
Leavenworth. Our resolutions were shown to his secretary, or chief of staff
(Major Plumb, I think), and were read and criticised by him and others resent;
amongst whom were two or three refugees from the county who claimed to
know who of the subscribers were loyal and who were not, contending that a
majority were of disloyal tendencies and could not be depended upon. I
remained in the office an hour or more, urging what I could in support of our
resolutions and against the plicy of the proposed order, the major promising to
lay the paper before the general on his return. I then left the office, feeling that
the mission had been a failure. From all I could see and learn in Kansas City,
from friends and others, I made up my mind to prepare as well as I could for
the worst and to leave home, if leave I must. I accordingly bought material to
make a wagon-bed, as the only wagon I had was without one. We left for home
on the afternoon of the 19th, where we arrived next evening. I was told that
about 300 bushwhackers had eaten supper the evening before on the farm of
Benjamin Potter, an old gentleman living three-quarters of a mile from my
house. My family said some of them came there and ordered half a bushel of
bread, and that other neighbors were served with the same order. It afterwards
turned out that these were Quantrell and his men on their way to Lawrence.
Next day I carried material to the shops to have a wagon-box made, and
commenced to make other arrangements to be better prepared to leave home, if
I had it to do. In a few days the news of the tragedy at Lawrence arrived in the
neighborhood, and was flashed over al the country; and on Sunday morning
about forty of the retreating guerrillas passed my house, and scarcely a day
passed that week but guerillas, or Federal soldiers in pursuit of them, were
seen in the neighborhood.
On Tuesday, the 25th of August, General Ewing issued his celebrated order
from Kansas City, and rumor, with her thousand tongues, soon spread it over
the ill-fated territory.
It was not, however, until Sunday, the 30th, that I saw in the Missouri
Republican the document known as Order No. 11, reading as follows:
“1st. All persons living in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, Missouri, and in
that part of Vernon included in this district, except those living within one mile
of the limits of Independence, Hickman’s Mill, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville,
and except those living north of Brush Creek and west of the Big Blue, are
hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen
days from the date thereof. Those who, within that time, establish their
loyalty to the satisfaction of the commandingofficer of the military station
nearest their present places of residence, will receive from him certificates
stating the fact of their loyalty, and the name of the witnesses by whom it can
be shown. All who receive such certificates will be permitted to remove to any
military station in the district, or to any part of the State of Kansas, except the
counties on the eastern border of the State. Al others shall move out of this
district. Officers commanding companies and detachments serving in the
counties named wills see that this paragraph is promptly obeyed.
2nd. All grain and hay in the fields or under shelter, in the district from
which the inhabitants are required to remove, in reach of military stations,
after the 9th day of September next, will be taken to such stations and turned
over to the proper officers there, and report of the amount so turned over
made to the district headquarters, specifying the names of all loyal owners,
and the amount of such produce taken from them. All grain and hay found in
such district after the 9th of September next, not convenient to such stations
will be destroyed.
3rd. The provisions of General Order No. 10, from these headquarters, will be
vigorously executed by officers commanding in parts of the district and at the
stations not subject to the operations of paragraph 1st of this order, and
especially in the towns of Independence, Westport, and Kansas City.
4th. Paragraph No. 3, General Order No. 10, is revoked as to all who have
borne arms against the Government in this district since the 20th of August,
By order of Brigadier-General Ewing.
H. Hannah, Adjutant.”
I thought I had witnessed and felt the hardships and privations of civil war and
martial law before, but it was reserved for this, the last week in August and the
first ones in September, 1863, to teach me and others how much the human
body and mind can bear up under and still survive. The 30th of August, instead
of being a Sabbath of rest, was to all a busy day of care and labor, preparing to
obey the stern mandate, and abandon the homes procured by many years of toil
and labor, followed too, by other days of care, toil, and anxiety.
Previous to this, if one were brought into a strait, or got into trouble or
difficulty, he could appeal to some friend or neighbor for help, and the appeal
was seldom made in vain. But now all were in the same strait; the same weight
of sorrow and distress was pressing upon all; there was no exception, and none
in our part of the district were exempt from the general hardship. Though none
were well prpared to obey the order, some were much better prepared than
others. But whether well or ill prepared, there was no help for it; all must go.
On Monday, the last of August, a number of citizens, myself amongst the
number, repaired to Pleasant Hill, in order to prove loyalty and get certificates
or permits to remove to the military posts, or other parts of the district outside
the doomed or proscribe territory.