February 28, 1864, Fort
Major General S. R. Curtis to Major General H. W. Halleck
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF KANSAS,
Fort Leavenworth, February 28, 1864.
Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
GENERAL: I have received no answers from you or from the honorable Secretary of War concerning the ambiguity or dilemma involved in the meaning of the words "Fort Smith" as contained in the order, No. 1, of the honorable Secretary creating this Department of Kansas. I wrote you last from Elm Springs, Ark., in which I expressed my views, after personal reconnaissance, of the necessity of fortifying both Fort Smith and Van Buren, this latter place being the safe and proper depot for stations above. Since my arrival here, I am informed that General Steele has advised General Thayer that the War Department has decided that the town of Fort Smith is in the Department of Arkansas, and therefore directs General Thayer to command all the troops in and about the town.
When I was there the stone inclosure, about 200 feet square, did not contain a corporal's guard, and it would be mere mockery to attach such a place to my command while all the troops within 50 miles belong to another department; and if such be the construction, that Fort Smith does not mean the town, and is not made to include the troops and heights which are its legitimate defenses, I desire the words "Fort Smith" may be erased from my department as being entirely void of all military meaning. This construction excludes from my command all the troops that took and hold the country about Fort Smith, as the troops at the date of the order were in and out of the city of Fort Smith mostly for convenience of forage east of the west line of Arkansas.
If such be the construction of my department order I have only the Indian Brigade now at Fort Gibson, a dismounted, decimated, undisciplined, and poorly armed Indian command, to protect the whole country below Fort Scott. I also find your Special Orders, No. 81, removing the Ninth Kansas away from the Missouri border where they had just scattered 100 or 200 bushwhackers, and sending them also to General Steele in Arkansas. The greatest anxiety and apprehension prevails in Kansas, where the towns and people have been subject to atrocious assaults from secret and most unrelenting foes. Taking away the troops best acquainted with the haunts of fiends, who have but recently sacked their towns and murdered 250 unarmed inhabitants and overpowered soldiers, will greatly increase public anxiety and peril the towns in that vicinity.
Small gangs of bushwhackers are assembling in the Sni Hills, where Quantrill's band has repeatedly assembled, and the people cannot feel safe or pursue their avocations without the presence of a considerable force being distributed as the Ninth and other troops are in that vicinity. I cannot, therefore, withhold my surprise and mortification at orders which seem to reduce my force and expose this command to the same sort of outrages that have heretofore disgraced civilized and even savage warfare.
The lives and property destroyed by the raids, sacking, and cruel murders committed at Shawnee, Gardner, Olathe, Humboldt, Osawatomie, Baxter Springs, and Lawrence were of more value than the cost of keeping twenty regiments in the field to guard them. Yet far less, well disposed and properly armed, can prevent further similar outrages, which without such force may well be apprehended. The enemy, it is true, is not found organized and in force north of the Canadian, but such was the state of things when the last disaster burst upon the people at dawn of day and reduced a city to ashes, and the whole country was clad in mourning. It seems to me more, not less, troops should be appropriated to even the defenses of Eastern Kansas and the Indian country. Besides, offensive thrusts against Texas and traitors assembled on the Red River can be made on the good roads and grassy prairies west of the mountain ranges which intercept the movements through Missouri and Arkansas. I ask your fair and favorable allotment of forces to my command, and your sympathies for an unfortunate but devoted people.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
S. R. CURTIS,
visits since 02/04/2004
page revised 05/25/2006