The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Depredation in western Missouri

St. Louis, March 25, 1862.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington.

Sir—Your letter of the 19th instant in relation to military outrages in Jackson County, Missouri, is just received. I have had two regiments stationed or moving in Jackson County for some time past in order to put a stop to these depredations. This is as much as I can do, for many other counties in this State are equally urgent in their calls for protection, and to gratify them all would require an army of 50,000 men to be distributed through Missouri in addition to the militia.

That many and in some cases horrible outrages have been committed in this State I do not doubt. They have been committed by three classes of persons.

1st. The enemy's guerrilla bands. Since the expulsion of Price they are rapidly diminishing. Nevertheless it will require some severe examples to be made in order to suppress them.

2d. The Kansas jayhawkers, or robbers, who were organized under the auspices of Senator Lane. They wear the uniform of and it is believed receive pay from the United States. Their principal occupation for the last six months seems to have been the stealing of negroes, the robbing of houses, and the burning of barns, grain, and forage. The evidence of their crimes is unquestionable. They have not heretofore been under my orders. I will now keep them out of Missouri or have them shot.

3d. Our own volunteer troops. It cannot be denied that some of our volunteer regiments have behaved very badly, plundering to an enormous extent. I have done everything in my power to prevent this and to punish the guilty. Many of the regimental officers are very bad men and participate in this plunder. In such cases it is impossible to reach them by courts-martial. Where regiments are moving in the field courts cannot be assembled, and when courts are ordered the witnesses cannot be procured, or, if private soldiers, are frequently overawed by their colonels or other officers. This matter was fully represented to Assistant Secretary Scott when here, and he advised the mustering out of service of officers who were satisfactorily shown to be guilty of this species of plunder and marauding. Under the general authority given to me to muster out of service I have, in a few cases, resorted to this remedy, and it is producing a good effect. By this means the officers escape the punishment and disgrace which they deserve, but the army is purged of them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,