January 27, 1863,
Brigadier-General Loan to Major General Samuel R. Curtis
HEADQUARTERS CENTRAL DISTRICT OF MISSOURI,
Jefferson City, Mo., January 27, 1863.
Maj. Gen. SAMUEL R. CURTIS:
GENERAL: The letter addressed to Hon. Thomas Price, of date 4th instant, and indorsed by the President to you, under date of the 16th instant, and by you referred to me for a statement of facts, is just received.
In assuming command of this district, in September last, I found many disloyalists, with passes from the provost-marshal, and sometimes from other military officials in Saint Louis, engaged in trade, generally purchasing stock for the Government, as they said. These men were found in all parts of the district. I have reason to believe that they visited the camps of Quantrill and of other guerrilla chieftains to purchase the stock their bands had stolen from loyal citizens. These traders hung around the posts where Federal soldiers were stationed, and purchased stock from them which should have been either returned to the owners thereof or been reported to the proper officers as contraband. In a word, I found the country being ruined by the contraband trade carried on by disloyalists. They were connected with wealthy parties in Saint Louis, and they could command any reasonable amount of money that they might require. Their agents and emissaries furnished our enemies unequaled facilities for a thorough system of espionage. They penetrated in safety districts where it was worth as much as his life for a Union man to show himself.
Under the orders of Governor Gamble, calling out all the loyal militia of the State, the trade and commerce of the country naturally fell into the hands of the disloyal. They had brought civil war on the country, had enrolled themselves as disloyal, and were enjoying the monopoly of the trade of the country under the protection of the laws which were defended by the loyal citizens. All competition from loyal traders was thus avoided. Under these circumstances, I attempted to prevent the contraband trade with our enemies, the guerrillas, and all commerce carried on by disloyal persons, by prohibiting the transportation or removal of stock, goods, wares, and merchandise from one part of my district to another without a permit therefor, obtained from the provost-marshal-general of the department, a district provost-marshal-general, or from the nearest local provost-marshal. This was effected by a circular order, issued by my provost-marshal-general, acting under my directions a copy of which is inclosed. Finding that this order was ineffectual to suppress the contraband trade carried on by rebels, and that by certain means it was perverted so as to discriminate against Union men and in favor of rebels, it became necessary to adopt other means to furnish protection to those who have the right to demand it under our flag, and to resist the influence of the disloyal. As a last resort, I believed it to be my duty to issue Orders, No. 6, and by it test the virtue of my own headquarters. Under this order an effectual check has been put upon the contraband trade, and Quantrill's friends have to rely on their confederates in Kansas for an outlet for their stolen stock. To show that some of it has heretofore gone in that direction, I inclose herewith a slip from a newspaper sent me some time since. That this order has proved a severe blow upon the disloyal was very apparent from the beginning, and that they should use the most extraordinary exertions to have it revoked is very natural, and whilst I admit its provisions are very stringent, yet more stringent measures have been advised, as you will see by reference to Colonel Woolfolk's letter, sent you some ten days since. (The colonel, you will remember, is the commander of the post at Sedalia.) As a guard against the shipment of stolen stock, he suggests that every trader, before shipment, should be required to produce a bill of sale for each animal that it is proposed to ship, and that the lot be advertised ten days in advance, giving notice that the advertiser would on a certain day ship a lot of stock, describing it, and that it should remain open for inspection during that time, so that those whose stock had been stolen might recover it before it was shipped from the country. Nor are they near so stringent as they are represented to be by the complainant in his letter to General Price. The order does not interfere with the purchase of salt, a bolt of cotton, a piece of calico, or of wood or coal for fuel. It does, however, require the trader who wishes to carry his cattle, horses, and mules to Saint Louis to show his hand, that it may be known that he is an honest man, who has come by such property honestly, and that he is not one of Quantrill's friends, in charge of the proceeds of the last raid made by the band. And of this General Price's correspondent complains most bitterly, and well he may, for his occupation is gone, as well as Quantrill's market in this direction for his stock, unless this order can be revoked.
I regret that the name of the writer of this letter to General Price is not given, as I make no doubt that his notorious disloyalty would obviate the necessity for any reply to his letter. His statements in regard to the condition of this district, as you well know, are unblushingly false. The occasion which justifies martial law has not passed away. The people are not generally quiet; those who sympathize with the rebellion will not yield obedience to the Government, for the sake of peace or otherwise. It is not true that the civil officers performed their functions fully or without molestation, and it is utterly false to say that the machinery of civil government can now be operated as in times of profound peace. On the contrary, there has been at no time since the commencement of the present civil war when it required more vigilance or a stronger band to protect Union citizens in parts of this district than it does at this present hour. You know that the whole western country is filled with guerrillas, who are carrying on a most bloody and cruel warfare. You know of those men of the Fifth Regiment, who were most cruelly assassinated by the guerrillas in Jackson County, and their bodies most horribly mutilated, even to stamping with boot-heels the flesh from their faces, cutting off their ears, pouring powder into their ears and exploding it. In several counties in the district no courts of record of any kind have held a session for several terms past, say, for more than eighteen months. The records have been stolen, perhaps destroyed, and the civil officers driven from the country. Recently, I had arrested a Captain Walley, who had murdered one Harry Younger, in Jackson County, for his money. The evidence of his guilt was so clear and conclusive that he confessed it. Preferring that he should be regularly tried and punished, I directed a court to be held in Independence for that purpose. The witnesses, soldiers in the Fifth Regiment Missouri State Militia, who were stationed at Harrisonville, in Cass County, were sent to attend court. When on their way, they were bushwhacked by a band under Bird Younger, a son of the murdered man, and the court was not held. No court has or can be held in Jackson, Johnson, Cass, Bates, Henry, or Vernon Counties. Last fall, when I was at Lexington, with at least 1,200 soldiers, 200 or 300 of whom were enrolled militia of the county, and with scouts out daily, I had a guard of 50 men, as a sheriff's posse, attacked and driven back by a force of some 200 rebels. It was impossible for the sheriff to serve a writ without a guard stronger than 50 men. Weekly the stage is stopped, and the passengers frequently robbed in this country, where all is quiet. You are well advised that the most thorough, constant, and energetic means are resorted to to suppress these outrages, but a majority of the inhabitants are intensely disloyal, and bitterly opposed to the Government; they harbor, protect, and preserve these outlaws. Our forces are, to all intents and purposes, in an enemy's country, protecting these enemies in all their rights, and [we are] so to conduct ourselves that we can hereafter live in harmony and concord with them. As we claim to be honest people, and loyal to the flag of our country, would it not be as well for the administration to change this policy and require them (the rebels) to so conduct themselves that they can hereafter live in harmony and concord with us? It is untrue that the "business welfare" of any loyal citizen is made to depend upon the whim, caprice, or prejudice of any one, but it is true that the agents and brokers of thieves and robbers find a check at the provost-marshal's office that is injurious to their nefarious trade, but I do not believe the Government is seriously injured thereby. It is not true that any restrictions have ever been placed by military authority in this district on "wood-sawyers or a dealer in newspapers." The statement is untrue where it is stated that "it is not pretended that such measures (Orders, No. 6) are justified by any military exigency." It is untrue that I ever resorted to a public meeting of the loyal citizens of Sedalia or elsewhere or to any other means to have my orders sustained by an indorsement from the people. I have always let my orders stand on their merits, or I would let them fall, but it is a lamentable truth that our loyal citizens have had to resort to such means as public meetings, petitions, and memorials to induce the authorities to extend to them the protection from the outrages of rebels that their allegiance entitled them to demand, and it is still more lamentable that it has frequently happened that more attention has been paid to the falsehoods of rebels than to the remonstrances of loyal citizens. It is untrue that the effect of the restriction will injure the people or destroy the legitimate trade of the district. It was designed to check the contraband and dishonest trade carried on by disloyalists. In that to a great extent it has succeeded. When you called my attention to the complaints that were made at your headquarters in relation to this order, I forwarded you a lot of remonstrances against the revocation of the order that had been received from various parts of this district Among the rest, I think you will find the proceedings of the meeting held at Sedalia, referred to in the letter to General Price. These papers had been sent in from time to time, and those forwarded you were of the last received. They were laid aside, without any intention of forwarding them to you, but, on the receipt of your letter of inquiry, it was thought they might serve to show you the opinion of the people in relation to the order. They were sent to prevent a repeal of the order, which the Union people did not want done, and because the rebels declared they would have it repealed, as it destroyed their business. To sum up the whole matter in one word, no city, town, village, post-office, or cross-roads in this district can be found where a majority of the Union inhabitants will consent to a revocation of the order. I believe it is an absolute necessity to continue in force the substance of this order as a peace measure. Our loyal people are proverbial for their patient endurance of wrong and injury, in obedience to law and the orders of their officers. They will submit to an almost unlimited amount of wrong and neglect, but there is a limit beyond which even they might be aroused into action, and surely it is enough to make the blood boil in the veins of any honest man to have to perform military duty as an enrolled militia man, without pay or the prospect of any, with his crops ungathered, his stock scattered, his wife and children without the common necessaries of life, that the laws may be guarded and upheld by his privations and sufferings, while those who have induced this war and have voluntarily enrolled themselves disloyal, are allowed to monopolize the trade of the country--such as Government contractors, who furnish the stock and other supplies required by the Government, and those who control the banks, the trade and commerce--and out of the profits indulge themselves and their families in every luxury that wealth can purchase; but when these insolent traitors go a step further and require this same Government that they scorn and despise to compel these soldiers to protect them in the trade carried on by them with guerrillas, robbers, and thieves, the demand becomes intolerable, and the Government that requires such soldiers perform such duties is advancing upon a dangerous experiment, as well as inflicting a most intolerable outrage upon its most loyal subjects and devoted supporters.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Missouri State Militia.
P. S.--Since writing the above, a copy of the Lexington Union has been sent to me by some friend, and as it contains some articles that seem to have a bearing on thesubject of the foregoing letter, I inclose it herewith.
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