A Quiet Sunday after a Tumultuous Month

July 24, 1864

President Lincoln writes Interior Secretary John Palmer Usher: “I know nothing personally of Mr. Rohrer, but shall be very glad if the Sec. of Interior can oblige the gentlemen who write the within letter.”

Missouri, however, is never peaceful.   A representative of the Conservative Unionist faction there, James Brodhead, writes fellow Missourian, Attorney General Edward Bates, a long letter predicting disaster: It has been a long time since I have made any complaint to the Adminstration at Washington — and it may be utterly useless that I should do so now — the wail of our afflicted people has so often gone up to the authorities, that they will probably attract no notice — but up to this time I have been faithful to the Administration through good & through evil report, and I claim that I have a right to be heard.

I speak the truth when I say that the condition of Missouri is worse to-day than it ever has been — massacres, private assassinations — burnings — plundering, thieving are more frequent now than they ever have been — the newspapers of all kinds show this and yet not the half is told — some are afraid to tell — some do’nt want to tell of outrages that never meet the public eye through the public prints–

When application was made to remove Gen: [John] Schofield from this command, the President admitted that he found no cause to remove him, approved of what he had done — and yet he was removed shortly afterwards — whether from political or personal considerations I know not — but if there were no public reasons growing out of his official conduct, why there should be a change of Administration — it is hard that Missouri, blasted as she has already been by fire and sword should be made the victim of political ambition or political malice– Gen: [William] Rosecrans was sent us — was it because there was no other place for him — for he did not seem to be in favor with the Administration — and the administration could not therefore have thought much of him — but doubtless was of the opinion that he was good enough for Missouri — if not fit for any other position– This seems to have been the reasoning by which the war office at Washington came to the conclusion that the man who was ordered in disgrace from the army of the Cumberland, was a very proper person to take charge of the delicate and complicated affairs of the Department of the Missouri. Now I am not justifying the course of the War Department towards Gen: Rosecrans — but I know and the public knows that he is not in favor at Washington, and that he was sent here either as a punishment to him or to us, or else out of utter indifference to our fate–

I shall not undertake to enumerate our grievances in detail– I point you to the present condition of Missouri — to the burning of towns — the murdering of people — the destruction of property by both guerillas and soldiers — to the fact that Truman is permitted under the garb of federal authority to shoot down and hang unarmed citizens — that he had twenty men placed under his command by military order — the military authorities knowing the character of the man — which was equivolant to a license to kill & destroy at his pleasure– I point you to the system of espionage adopted by which hired informers are sent through the country in the garb of bushwhackers to deceive and betray unsuspecting citizens, many of whom are timid enough be they ever so loyal — to pretend to favor bushwhacking when they believe themselves in the power of bushwhackers — in order to save themselves, their families and their property– I point you to the system by which spies are sent through the cities to induce men to violate the military regulations in regard to trade, and then betray them — and under which numbers of citizens of undoubted loyalty have been arrested and some of them convicted on the perjured testimony of these hired informers.

Following in the track of these events comes the armed bands of Bushwhackers — some doubtless to retaliate — some merely to plunder — and many, and I suppose most of them stragglers or emissaries from Price’s5 army to carry on in their own way the impious warfare which they long since commenced against the Government & the Union– They find the people as Truman found them unarmed — for by military order every man has been disarmed– These marauders shoot, murder, burn & steal — they beset the highways and not the public conveyances and unarmed passengers — a few of them rush into a town — strike terror into the citizens, plunder the stores of money and of goods shoot a few citizens and then disappear unharmed — they levy contributions on the citizens through the country — seize upon Ferry Boats where they please — go where they please — do what they please — soldiers in the country but what do they care for that — they litterally swarm through the country — and the only persons who could have kept them out — who know the country and could follow their tracks have been disarmed by military order.

Next Ford & Jennison are permitted to come from another department into Missouri — burn Platte City and Camden Point — kill some unoffending citizens and declare in their official despatch that others deserve killing — they in their turn plunder and rob — (I have the authority of the Kansas papers for saying so) and having secured their booty in Kansas have returned I am told again to devastate and destroy–

The military commandant confessing his own weakness addresses a proclamation to the people of North Missouri — telling them that they must organize to protect themselves — that if they do not a vengeance and desolation will come upon them which he cannot avoid — and which he intimates ought not to be avoided if it could be– I quote his language, he says,

“I could not save it — and I must tell you as a friend I do not think it would deserve it” — and he says further “you must expect the vengeance due to such moral dereliction “amongst free, and professedly Christian people–” was there ever a more glaring instance of imbecility and wickedness combined?

This proclamation is made after the country is filled with Bushwhackers — the people know that if they undertake to meet and organize without arms in their hands, they are liable to be waylaid and shot either going to or returning from such a meeting — and this has been done as you know– I dont object to this order, I think it a good one — but for the reasons stated it is difficult to carry it out– No arms have as yet been furnished to the citizens so far as I am aware– And yet the people are told that if they do’nt exterminate the bushwhackers, a thing which the military authorities confessedly admit themselves unable to do — that a terrible vengeance will be visited upon them — and the commander in North Mo. Gen: Fisk,7 says in a public speech that there is an armed body of men numbering thousands who will take this thing into their own hands and that he can’t prevent it.

The placing of this man Fisk in command of North Mo. was a most unfortunate blunder — a bundle of dry goods well adapted to measuring tape and making long prayers, but having no military knowledge or experience and utterly unfit for a crisis like this–

The people well understand that the loyal Leaguers are the persons alluded to whose vengeance is to be dreaded — and that they deem none loyal except those who are members of their order — the most natural inference is that many of those who are thus threatened, for it is a threat coming from a high source — will become desperate and seek safety & protection in the best way they can– Suppose two such forces arrayed against each other, the friends and adherents of each permeating every avenue of society and found in almost every neighborhood — the military arm paralized — the civil has long since been so — the military officers in command with trembling lips confessing their own weakness and saying to the public that they cannot stay the arm of vengeance or extinguish the torch of desolation if they would — and would not if they could — think of the results produced by the collision of two such forces — the brain reels & the heart grows sick at the imaginary contemplation of such a spectacle as would ensue — and yet it is becoming and will I fear become true. When the civil law is powerless and the military confessing its weakness predicts a desolation which it intimates ought not to be avoided, how can we expect its interposition to prevent it?

Will it do to say that what Gen: Rosecrans cannot prevent — no one can — and therefore Missouri must be left to the demon of desolation? Has the Administration so much confidence in the man who in its estimation was fit for no other place, that it will with these facts staring it in the face, leave him here to cower before the wolves of anarchy whilst they hound down their pray — or to encourage them in their work of desolation by telling them beforehand, that he knows what they are going to do — that he can’t prevent it and do’nt think he ought to if he could?

I do’nt attribute any bad motive to the Gen: Commanding– I like his order No … , but I fear it is too late — and I think his proclamation betrays a weakness which is inexcusable — his great fault has been in disarming every body — the loyal & peaceful citizens ought to have had arms as under Schofield’s order — and he persists in keeping an incompetent commander in North Mo — the theatre of all these troubles–

I will not go back into the history of the military administration of this Department– Mr McKee of St. Francisville a loyal citizen, an original Union man had $30.000 worth of property wantonly destroyed by soldiers because he did not have a flag on his house — or rather because he voted for the conservative ticket for supreme Judges for this was the true reason — a military investigation is had but nothing done except to give him permission to sue in the civil courts — a writ from the Gov: of Missouri and a requisition from the Gov: of Kentucky in the hands of a loyal sheriff are torn up by an armed mob of soldiers under the eyes of their commanding officer — the criminal rescued and the officer running for his life barely escapes their vengeance — and yet neither officer nor soldiers are punished or proceeded against — two newspaper presses are destroyed by a mob of soldiers & citizens and yet nothing done — these things might all be passed over, but a public confession of imbecility in a crisis like that which is now upon us — demands that something should be done and that speedily if Missouri is to be saved from desolation.

I have not stated any fact which is not notorious, and therefore I do not wish my name made public in connection with this matter, unless it is necessary for the public good. If the President is disposed to turn us over to the horrors of a massacre before which the Sicilian vespers and the eve of St. Bartholomew grow pale — be it so– Missouri has made much history — she can make more — and it may perhaps in after times serve

On August 5, Bates takes the Broadhead letter to President Lincoln: “He read it in silence, and seemed deeply moved. But I foresee that no good will come of it. The Prest. Knows what is right, as well as any man, and would be glad to see it done, but unhappily, lacks the nerve to do it.”

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