HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF SOUTH KANSAS,
Paola, Kans., December 8, 1864.
Brig. Gen. J. M. Thayer, Comdg. District of the Frontier, Department of Arkansas.
General—I have learned unofficially that the command under Col. C. R. Jennison, 15th Kansas Volunteers, on their return from the Arkansas River, after the abandonment of the pursuit of Price, committed many acts of vandalism on their march through Washington and Benton Counties, Ark. This outrageous conduct of Colonel Jennison and a portion of his command (for if what I have heard is true it can be characterized in no other terms) was wholly unauthorized by superior officers and is very much deprecated. I inclose you official copy of instructions to him when he left me at the Arkansas River. He was sent in that direction to meet supply train that was following in my rear, and it was expected that he would proceed to Fort Scott with as little delay as possible without interrupting any one in the country through which he passed except armed parties of the enemy. I am causing an investigation into the conduct of Colonel Jennison in Northwestern Arkansas, with a view of meting out just punishment to the guilty parties, and to further the object I desire that you shall take measures to ascertain all the facts you can in relation to the affair mentioned (Colonel Jennison’s conduct in Washington and Benton Counties on his return march) and forward to me with as little delay as possible. The testimony should be in the form of affidavits and the loyalty of the witnesses certified to.
JAS. G. BLUNT,
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF SOUTH KANSAS,
Paola, Kans., December 11, 1864.
Col. C. R. Jennison, 15th Kansas Cavalry.
SIR—I am just in receipt of your telegram of this date, in which you take exceptions to General Orders, No. 32, from these headquarters, and submit your refusal to obey it by declining the command of the First Sub-District.
* * *
Since you have seen proper to draw a comparison between yourself and other commanders of the same grade, I will take this occasion to call your attention to the fact that I have found the discipline of your regiment (the 15th Kansas) not as good as I would desire it to be, and in that respect does not compare favorably with other Kansas regiments, not but the material composing it was as good as in other regiments, but that many of them have been too susceptible to bad teaching and have been too ready to carry out the policy of their superiors. After hearing your speech to your command at Hickman Mills, Mo., on the 15th of October, I was not much surprised at the disorderly conduct of some of your command. If they were to carry out the peculiar ideas promulgated by yourself on the occasion referred to, but little could be expected of them in the matter of discipline. During the recent campaign many acts (said to have been done by your orders) came under my observation which, if they could have been justified at all, could only have been done by direction of the superior officer in command; but even these things might have been overlooked as unintentional errors, or forgotten in the midst of stirring events that followed, had not your conduct, while intrusted to act independently in the absence of superior authority, been of such a character as will forever cast a cloud upon the reputation your regiment had achieved upon the battlefield. It was unfortunate for me, as well as for the reputation of our troops, that I erred in judgment in placing you in command of the forces that were directed to return from the Arkansas River after the pursuit of Price had been abandoned. It was expected of you, as your orders directed, that you would move through Washington and Benton Counties, Ark., for the purpose of meeting the supply train, and then proceed through Southwest Missouri directly to Fort Scott with as little delay as possible. You were out of the department to which you belonged, and you were not expected to interfere with any one, unless it was an armed enemy you might chance to meet. The police regulations in Arkansas, whether good or bad, neither you nor your superiors were responsible for, but your superiors are responsible for your conduct while passing through another military department. If I am to believe one-half that has been reported to me by officers who were present, the most outrageous acts of vandalism were perpetrated while on your return march that have occurred anywhere during the war; and I am told that these acts were done by your direction, and, further, that you represented to your victims that they were done by my order. I am glad to know that a large proportion of the officers under your command at the time referred to protested against the outrageous acts that were committed, but they cannot but feel the disrepute and disgrace your conduct has brought upon the First Division of the Army of the Border. This matter is now being investigated in the Department of Arkansas, and also in this department, with a view of applying the proper remedy, and I shall be exceedingly glad for the honor of our Kansas soldiers if the reports that have reached me shall prove to have been exaggerated.
Respectfully, your obedient servant.
JAS. G. BLUNT,
PAOLA, KANS., December 11, 1864.
Col. C. R. Jennison, 15th Kansas Cav., Comdg. Sub-Dist. No. 1, Mound City:
You will turn over the command of the First Sub-District to Lieut. Col. G. H. Hoyt, 15th Kansas Cavalry, and report immediately in person at these headquarters under arrest.
By order of Major-General Blunt,
GEO. S. HAMPTON,