May 9, 1864, Fort
Major General S. R. Curtis to Brigadier General T. J. McKean
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF KANSAS,
Fort Leavenworth, May 9, 1864.
Brig. Gen. T. J. MCKEAN, Comdg. District of South Kansas:
DEAR GENERAL: Letters from you concerning a leave of absence, and one concerning your quartermaster, both expressing some doubts and dissatisfaction concerning your command, are duly received. I cannot just now (when Quantrill is on the border recruiting for a raid into your lines and the people are much excited) see any way of granting you such leave of absence. The very fact that you have matters organized to your liking makes it important that you hold the reins steadily till the storm is over, which just now shakes the whole nation. There is no telling what a day or hour may bring forth. The great battles on the Potomac, the assignment of General Canby to the whole country west of the Mississippi, and the disasters on Red River and in Arkansas unsettle all of us. We may expect changes everywhere, and had better be at our posts ready for duty.
As to movements on foot to move you, I have heard of none, but we need not be surprised at such things any day, as everybody in Kansas thinks the military is to be moved on petitions to suit every neighborhood excitement. You may be sure of my giving you full opportunity to explain before I shall heed such proposals. As to quartermasters, I take it that we must use the appointed staff instead of acting officers, unless some substantial objection exists to the staff officer. I suppose, too, there may be some propriety in giving preference to firm supporters of the Government rather than such as act otherwise, and I would not say or do more than this myself, or ask you to do so. The mere fact of an officer being assigned and persons objecting to him should not prevent a change if occasion seems to call for it. Captain Moore, a regular assistant quartermaster, is off duty, I believe, and my chief quartermaster was directed to give him a proper assignment. He cannot be placed subordinate to an acting assistant quartermaster with much propriety.
I am sorry Major Plumb, with so much of your force, is absent so long; he might have turned back when he met Indians enough to escort the train below Grand River. You will have to advise the officers in that region that we cannot spare forces for supply trains for other commands. They must send escorts from Fort Gibson. I have an application for an escort to Fort Larned and Santa Fé, and did hope to send the Fort Kearny company; now it seems needed at Topeka. If any of your companies are unarmed, try to get them armed in some way. We have Springfield rifles, and cavalry must use them, if they have no other, till cavalry arms can be drawn.
I suppose you have scouts or patrols out daily. The guerrillas will be pressed in Missouri, and they may come into this State, between the Kansas River and your place, with a view of robbing the Santa Fé mail. Have your troops instructed to follow and harass, and, at the same time, to give notice to other commands immediately. The want of such exertions last year enabled Quantrill to move through this State with impunity and lie around Lawrence for hours. I am trying to get the militia in a condition to aid us. Police escorts and defensive duties will require more labor than we can perform with our slender numbers.
But do not expect much quiet nor indifference on the part of the people; they had better be wide awake and watching, for they can be of great use, if they are on the alert, in case of invasion. I should be very sorry to hear of rebels marching through your district as they have through Brown's. Indeed, I am not certain that our pickets east of Fort Scott did exactly right, in not following the rascals that must have passed through Brown's district within a few miles of them. The news is glorious from Grant's army, and I hope it may continue so, but I tremble for fear of other news; we have so often had afterclaps of such a sad character from that quarter. We must act our humble parts patiently and earnestly and hope on and ever.
Truly, your friend and comrade,
S. R. CURTIS,
visits since 02/04/2004
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