Jayhawkers in '61--One victim's account

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Patrick H

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Mrs. Margaret J. Hays was a resident of western Missouri. Her husband first joined the MO State Guard and later the Confederate cause. He ultimately became a recruiting officer, raising troops in Western Missouri and later working with Quantrill to attack Independence. But, before that happened, before he had joined regular Confederate service, and even before Quantrill had formed a guerrilla band, Mrs. Hays was twice visited by Kansas Jayhawkers. In a series of letters, she vividly describes how her entire farm was burned out by Jennison's men in November of 1861.

I invite everyone who wonders about the Missouri war to read through the attached link carefully. It isn't pretty.

Don't assume this was retribution for Lawrence. Lawrence would be two years in the future from these events. Don't suppose this was a reaction to Quantrill. He wasn't on anyone's radar until after Christmas of 1861.

Yes, you will read the spelling and phrasing of a woman who didn't spell very well and who was a slave owner. Yes, she was also considered somewhat prosperous for her time (was that a crime?). Yes, her husband had joined the Southern cause. But before he came to notoriety, she was burned out by Charles Jennison--perhaps the most infamous of a string of Jayhawkers who vied for infamy.

I invite you to start with letter #34, dated November 12, 1861. Then scroll to the top and pick up some other letters. Then navigate to the general site with footnotes for each letter, read five years of letters and their historic context. This is the real deal, as described by a victim.

Oh....yes.... Mrs. Hays's husband was Upton Hays, who became a regular Confederate recruiting officer, with the rank of Colonel, and who lost his life at Newtonia, Missouri.

Here is the link to the letters of 1861: http://www.wattshaysletters.com/letters/2-letters-61-65/letters29-35.html
 

Buckeye Bill

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Wow!

I like what she states in her letter, "Our Country."

Places a ton of perspective on this era of United States history.

Bill
 
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Buckeye Bill

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The Western Theater of the American Civil War needs to receive the notoriety it deserves. Don't get me wrong, I love studying the Eastern Theater and walking the battlefields. But there is something special about the Western Theater.

Bill
 

Patrick H

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In letter # 35 of December 4, she describes the Jayhawkers burning her house. What a fine, contemptible lot of Jennison's "heroes"...
 
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Patrick H

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Jennison is so despicable to me that I almost feel an urge to brush my teeth and rinse out my mouth when I say his name...or even THINK of it.
 

Bee

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In letter # 35 of December 4, she describes the Jayhawkers burning her house. What a fine, contemptible lot of Jennison's "heroes"...
Just finished letter #35. This is absolutely gripping. It is really easy to forget which side is whom, and just feel like you are sitting in on the whole nightmare. What a treasure trove of first person accounting.

Thanks for sharing this collection!

Edit: Thanks for cluing us in, @Booner !
 
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Patrick H

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Just finished letter #35. This is absolutely gripping. It is really easy to forget which side is whom, and just feel like you are sitting in on the whole nightmare. What a treasure trove of first person accounting.

Thanks for sharing this collection!
You are always welcome, Bee, but the real credit for this collection goes to our friend Booner. He found it and sent me the link several nights ago, and I have been poring over it ever since. Booner is quite a resource!
 
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Patrick H

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While reading through other parts of the site, I came across a list of Col. and Mrs. Hays's relatives who died in the war. They had Confederate, Union and civilian relatives who died. I guess that made them pretty typical for a border state family. Also, they had one relative whom we all know (and this floored me): Her cousin Abraham Lincoln.
 

Cavalry Charger

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Mrs. Margaret J. Hays was a resident of western Missouri. Her husband first joined the MO State Guard and later the Confederate cause. He ultimately became a recruiting officer, raising troops in Western Missouri and later working with Quantrill to attack Independence. But, before that happened, before he had joined regular Confederate service, and even before Quantrill had formed a guerrilla band, Mrs. Hays was twice visited by Kansas Jayhawkers. In a series of letters, she vividly describes how her entire farm was burned out by Jennison's men in November of 1861.

I invite everyone who wonders about the Missouri war to read through the attached link carefully. It isn't pretty.

Don't assume this was retribution for Lawrence. Lawrence would be two years in the future from these events. Don't suppose this was a reaction to Quantrill. He wasn't on anyone's radar until after Christmas of 1861.

Yes, you will read the spelling and phrasing of a woman who didn't spell very well and who was a slave owner. Yes, she was also considered somewhat prosperous for her time (was that a crime?). Yes, her husband had joined the Southern cause. But before he came to notoriety, she was burned out by Charles Jennison--perhaps the most infamous of a string of Jayhawkers who vied for infamy.

I invite you to start with letter #34, dated November 12, 1861. Then scroll to the top and pick up some other letters. Then navigate to the general site with footnotes for each letter, read five years of letters and their historic context. This is the real deal, as described by a victim.

Oh....yes.... Mrs. Hays's husband was Upton Hays, who became a regular Confederate recruiting officer, with the rank of Colonel, and who lost his life at Newtonia, Missouri.

Here is the link to the letters of 1861: http://www.wattshaysletters.com/letters/2-letters-61-65/letters29-35.html
It sounds like in the first letter (29) that Margaret had a child born with Spina Bifida. Here is some information on that I thought anyone reading the letters might find interesting:
Spina bifida is a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. (See Wikipedia for more information)
There was no effective treatment for it in the day, and death usually resulted fairly quickly. It is truly hard for us to imagine in this day and age what families then often had to contend with, and that goes without adding the Civil War to the mix. You can only admire their ability to keep going in spite of the hardships. I honestly don't know how they did it.
 

Cavalry Charger

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@Patrick H , we know Margaret was expecting a child at the end of this series of letters, and that her husband was killed. Do you know what happened to her after the war? Did she survive? It really is heartrending to read these events in 'real time'.
 
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Patrick H

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@Patrick H , we know Margaret was expecting a child at the end of this series of letters, and that her husband was killed. Do you know what happened to her after the war? Did she survive? It really is heartrending to read these events in 'real time'.
She survived the war and eventually moved to California with her family. Other relatives had moved there previously. She married William Overstreet, had another child, and lived into the 1920s.

http://www.wattshaysletters.com/letters/4-letters-72-1900/hist-letters-72-1900.html

From any of the groups of letter on this site, you can navigate via the sidebar menu to extensive footnotes about each period of letters. This link is from the footnotes section. There are many evenings of fascinating reading gathered together on the site.
 
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Story

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Harrah for our little band of Soldiers. Yesterday I did not get to send my letter to the office. The word came to me this morning that my Husband company has been victorious again. This was another band of Jayhawkers sent out to hunt camp and to kill ever **** Secessionest they could find (so they said as they went through). Our men got in the Brush and when they coame up near enough they fired killing thirty on the ground, wounding a great many more. One of our men was killed and one wounded today. Our little band will increase to a thousand men. Their is men on the march from Clay
(137) to join them. Men is coming into them all the time. This fight took place about eight miles from hear(138) between the hart grove and little Blue Branch.

Art imitates life.
 
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Lusty Murfax

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These Missourians mentioned in Miss Margaret's letters were likely only one or two generations removed from their southern home States. Unable to defeat Missouri's southern men in battle, the jayhawkers resorted to systematically pillaging their property and terrorizing their helpless women folk. The incidents of stealing and burning out civilians were not at all rare in Western Missouri. The shame of it was the Federal Gov't. determined early on that these illegal acts served their overall purpose of subjugating the Missouri civilian population in order to take the State out of the war. Therefore, Union authorities turned a blind eye to the terrorism brought by kansas thugs.
 
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Lusty Murfax

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Bleeding kansas was a phrase dreamed up by eastern newspapers to describe the violence on the western Missouri border. It included the internal turmoil in eastern kansas brought about by the political migration of New England abolitionists, who came looking for a fight.
 

zachry50

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Well whatever you feel the reason it was named what it was named it still happend. 1861 is still not far removed from "Bleeding Kansas". So therefore there are still a lot of tension between the 2 states. Right or wrong there is still tension. Which was my point, and not argue about it.
 
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