Jim Lane's Red Legs

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Borderruffian

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Red Legs.—During the early part of the Civil war western Missouri was infested with bands of guerrillas, and it was no uncommon occurrence for some of these lawless gangs to cross the border and commit depredations in Kansas. To guard against these incursions, and otherwise to aid the Union cause, a company of border scouts was formed sometime in the year 1862. As it was an independent organization, never regularly mustered into the United States service, no official record of it has been preserved. The men composing the company became known as "Red Legs," from the fact that they wore leggings of red or tan-colored leather. Wilder, in his Annals of Kansas (p. 956), says it was a secret Union military society, that it was organized in June, 1862, and numbered 163 men, with George H. Hoyt as commander. John M. Dean, who was a member of the company, says it was organized in Oct., 1862. Connelley, in his Quantrill and the Border Wars, says it was organized by Gens. Ewing and Blunt for desperate service along the border, and George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas Historical Society, in Volume XI of the Kansas Historical Collections (p. 279), says the Red Legs were organized in Dec., 1862, or Jan., 1863, and that there were never less than 50 nor more than 100 of them.

The qualifications for membership in the company were unquestioned loyalty to the Union cause, undaunted courage and the skillful use of the rifle or revolver. Their headquarters were at the "Six-mile House," so called because it was six miles from Wyandotte on the Leavenworth road. This house was erected in the winter of 1860-61 by Joseph A. Bartels, whose son, Theodore, one of the best pistol shots on the border, was a member of the Red Legs. The company was commanded by Capt. George H. Hoyt, the lawyer who defended John Brown at Charleston, Va. Other members were Jack Harvey, a brother of Fred Harvey, of Santa Fe eating house fame; William Hickok, who later became known as "Wild Bill"; Joseph B. Swain, nicknamed "Jeff Davis," afterward captain of Company K. Fifteenth Kansas; "Red" Clark, of Emporia, whom Gen. Ewing said was the best spy he ever had; John M. Dean, who has already been mentioned as one of the organizers; and W. S. Tough, for many years proprietor of the horse market at the Kansas City stock yards. Still others, of less note, were Harry Lee, Newt Morrison, Jack Hays, James Flood, Jerry Malcolm, and Charles Blunt, often called "One-eyed Blunt."


http://skyways.lib.ks.us/genweb/archives/1912/r/red_legs.html

The climax of Lane's march occurred at Osceola on Septem*ber 23. After exchanging a few shots with some Confederates on the outskirts, his men entered the town and proceeded to ransack it. They robbed the bank, pillaged stores and private houses, and looted the courthouse. Captain Thomas Moonlight bombarded this last building with a cannon, and others set fire to the town, almost totally destroying it. Many of the Kansans got so drunk that when it came time to leave they were unable to march and had to ride in wagons and carriages.[13] They carried off with them a tremendous load of plunder, including as Lane's personal share a piano and a quantity of silk dresses.[14] The "Sack of Osceola" henceforth was a prime cause of bitter hatred of Lane and Kansans by the people of West Missouri.

http://www.civilwarstlouis.com/History2/casteljayhawking.htm

Expired Image Removed

Sen. James Lane in a militant pose, perhaps from spring of 1861 when he and other armed Kansans barracked in the White House until a.regular troops arrived to protect the U.S. capital. He restored sagging political fortures at the Battle of Westport and was sent back to the Senate in early 65, but shot himself in 1866.

Kansas%20redlegs.jpg
 

Bill Hoyt

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Kansas
Red Legs.— As it was an independent organization, never regularly mustered into the United States service, no official record of it has been preserved. The men composing the company became known as "Red Legs," from the fact that they wore leggings of red or tan-colored leather. Wilder, in his Annals of Kansas (p. 956), says it was a secret Union military society, that it was organized in June, 1862, and numbered 163 men, with George H. Hoyt as commander. John M. Dean, who was a member of the company, says it was organized in Oct., 1862.
Few organizations are as difficult to get good information on as are the Red Legs. Part of this is because in many ways it was, as Wilder claimed, a "secret society." Part of this was because it was a smaller group of men than is generally credited, so there were fewer to tell tales. But a large part of it is the nature of its name: there were, in fact, two kinds of Red Legs.

There were redlegs before there were Red Legs, so to speak. In Sept of 1861, before the Seventh Kansas was officially mustered into Union service, Charles R. Jennison and a couple hundred future "Jayhawkers" raided Independence, Mo., ostensibly to protect Unionists who were being harassed by local secessionists, but actually, in typical Jennison style, to make a profit. They gathered all the nearby men into the town square, then went about looting the local shops. In one of them, a shoe store owned by a man named William P. Duke, they came across about 100 red sheepskins, designated for boot tops. Covering their own boots with these, they assumed a distinct look and founded a feared name: thenceforth, marauders from Kansas were known as redlegs. And there were plenty of Kansas marauders and multiple gangs of redlegs, leading to further generalization of the name.

Fast forward a year, to late 1862, and George H. Hoyt has resigned from the army, kind of. He was an established guerrilla hunter who could not hack regular army life, as proven by the fact that he had just spent 2 months in sick bay in Tennessee and Mississippi. There was at the time a lot of hue and cry for special Union troops to guard the border, but there was no money or political pull for a dedicated regiment, so a compromise was made. Hoyt and others like him - men who knew the border but could not hack the army for various reasons (mostly disciplinary, I suspect) - organized under the auspices of the Leavenworth provost marshal to provide spying, scout, and message services for the various regiments stationed along the border. They scouted, they spied (including at least one female spy, Elizabeth Stiles) and they led Union troops on some incredibly punishing raids into Missouri, especially following the March 1863 Sam Gaty massacre. Everywhere Kansas troops came a-calling, there seemed to be Red Legs leading the charge.

Hoyt noted in a piece that appeared in his home town after the war that he "organized an independent body of men to protect the state against the savage Quantrell(sic)." Since that body was the Red Legs, and the name already had a meaning, it's probable that Hoyt chose the name not because they wore red leggings, but because he was sending a message to Missourians that hell was coming to breakfast. Hoyt wore red leggings when he gave rabble-rousing speeches, and it is notable that when Gen. Thomas Ewing cleared out the border area under Order Number 11, even regular enlisted men wore red leggings. The encyclopedia has its cause and effect backward.

The Red Legs were organized, as I mentioned, under the provost marshal in Leavenworth, but when Ewing took over supervision of the border area from Gen. James G. Blunt in spring 1863, he hired Hoyt as his chief detective, and a lot of the Red Legs got detective papers and really cool legal powers - they could search anything, demand anything, and kill anyone who refused to comply. Doubtless they ground their heels into the faces of many a Missourian.

Obviously, Hoyt's strategy of protection failed: Quantrill burned Hoyt and Ewing both when he burned Lawrence. That was the end of the Red Legs as an organization. Many of the Red Legs joined Hoyt and Jennison's new Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry, some joined other scout companies (the Jessie Scouts and William Tough's Buckskin Scouts were still around). A few, I suspect, went back to "regular" redleg activities: robbing Missourians at the point of a gun. It is notable that even after the war, there were a few horse thieves caught and hanged as "redlegs." They weren't the 'official' Red Legs, but they were redlegs nonetheless.
 
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leftyhunter

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I thing it is hard to argue that Union paramilitaries such has the Redlegs and Union regiments such has the 7th Kansas Cav made more problems then they solved. In order to fight insurgents it takes well disciplined soldiers who respect basic human rights and have the courage and physical stamina to hunt down insurgents. There were Union regiments such has the 2nd Colo and 1st Ark who fit the bill and arguably some Kansas units that were raised later but the Redlegs made a bad situation much worse.
Leftyhunter
 

Bill Hoyt

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I thing it is hard to argue that Union paramilitaries such has the Redlegs and Union regiments such has the 7th Kansas Cav made more problems then they solved.
Yes, it's arguable. But before one can argue, one needs to define terms like "more problems for whom?" It's too often assumed that the Missouri guerrillas were a "Missouri vs. Kansas" item, but they were against Missouri Unionists perhaps even more often.

It's important to point that out because the largest guerrilla incursions into Kansas (Shawneetown, Council Grove, Olathe, Baxter Springs, and of course Lawrence) happened between summer of 1862 and fall of 1863. And that period is notable for the fact that Jennison was not on the border stirring Missouri up. Jennison's Seventh (the Jayhawkers) were in Missouri from late 1861 until Feb 1862, after which they were still near the border (in Humboldt) or marching between Leavenworth and Lawrence awaiting orders. In May 1862, they were sent to Tennessee, without Jennison. Quantrill's most effective cross border work occurred over the next 15 months. However, after Lawrence in August of 1863, Jennison was again a colonel, and by the time he and Hoyt finished recruiting the Fifteenth, Baxter Springs, the last major guerrilla incursion into Kansas, was in the rear view mirror. So it's very easy yo see how Kansans looked at Jennison as something of a border savior. "Keep them in Missouri," the Kansans all said. And it looked like he did*.

However, if you were a Missouri Unionist living in the central or western half of the state, keeping the guerrillas out of Kansas simply meant that they were going to be in your back yard, robbing steamboats (e.g. the Sam Gaty massacre) or killing soldiers in Westport, Kansas City, and eventually Centralia. Not only that, but you had the Red Legs leading (Kansas) Union troops on punitive expeditions that were not always careful about discerning between Union and confederate-leaning civilians.

So while for Missourians, the Red Legs and Seventh (and later the Fifteenth) may have looked to have made things worse - and certainly *did* make things worse from a national political perspective - it's easy to see why a lot of Kansans at the time would have disagreed with that conclusion.

* whether in fact he did is another issue. The upcoming Price Raid meant that the guerrillas had more work to do in central Missouri than eastern Kansas. So while they stayed out of Kansas in 1864, it's arguable whether Jennison and Hoyt's Fifteenth had any hand in that. I tend to doubt it.
 

leftyhunter

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Hi Bill,
Good point about Jennesion securing the Kansas border however there is a quote in the OR's ( I just can't find it but its there) where Gen. Halleck denounced Jennession and Lane for creating more insurgents then they killed. In fact has you know at one time Union forces were ordered to shoot Kansas Union troops if they crossed the border.
I know the 7th was sent to Miss where the Missisipians had the same love for them has did the good people of Mo. T.J. Stiles pointed out how Kansas troops killed their father a pro-Unionist slave owner which drove the boys to join Quantrill in revenge.

Its not that Kansas troops weren't good fighters its just that under bad leadership they created more problems then they solved.

Leavenworth was just a huge avoidable tragedy since Quantrills men were spotted crossing into Kansas but no warnings were given to towns to the west of the border. i look forward to buying your book on my next book buying spree.
Leftyhunter
 
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