|Thomas Ewing Jr.|
(Library of Congress)
By Nicole Etcheson
The New York Times, August 23, 2013
"Thomas Ewing Jr. was a conscientious man. Though never as flamboyant as his foster brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ewing was ambitious for political fame and fortune, as befitted the son of one of Ohio's leading Whig politicians. His father had served both in the United States Senate and in the cabinets of Presidents William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor. Thomas Ewing Jr., or Tom, was his father's personal secretary when the elder Ewing ran Taylor's Department of the Interior. Tom Ewing graduated from Brown University and became a lawyer. He migrated to Kansas Territory and settled in Leavenworth, where he practiced law, speculated in land and railroads, and engaged in free-state politics. Kenneth J. Heineman, a biographer of the Ewing family, believes Tom wanted to re-create in Kansas his father's rise to wealth and power a generation earlier on the Ohio frontier. But drought and political instability in Kansas rendered Ewing's land speculations unprofitable, leaving him in debt and reliant on income from his law practice when the secession crisis came. ... Tom became colonel of the 11th Kansas Infantry, which stayed in the Midwest. Early on, Tom had not seen the Missourians as a threat to Kansas, and doubted that they would disturb 'the Kansas Hornets nest.' Considering the Missourians 'devils, but also cowards,' he was actually more worried about the destabilizing incursions of Kansas Jayhawkers into Missouri. ... Along the border, Kansans and Missourians had persisted in the animosities of the pre-war period. Kansas Jayhawkers, under leaders like the fiery James H. Lane, who had received one of the Kansas senate seats, had been sent away from the border because of their depredations against Missourians. Yet increasingly, the problem was that of bushwhackers, pro-Confederate guerrillas, who attacked Union troops and targets inside Missouri, and occasionally raided across the border into Kansas.
Ewing received command of the District of the Border because the Lincoln administration saw him as a moderate Unionist, who was neither so radical as to offend Missourians nor so conservative as to put off the Kansans. Ewing and the 11th Kansas, which he had commanded, were seen as disciplined, in sharp contrast to the marauding Seventh Kansas -- the infamous Jayhawkers. Publicly at least, Ewing downplayed the bushwhacker threat to Kansas. In the summer of 1863, he told a meeting in Olathe, Kan.: 'There is little at present to fear on this side of the border from guerilla bands.' Nonetheless, Ewing established posts inside Kansas at Aubry, Olathe, Mound City and Paola. Indeed, Ewing soon proved less equanimous than his superiors had hoped. Before Ewing took command, Union officers in Kansas and Missouri had accepted the necessity of retaliating against civilians, including women. By early 1862 Gen. Henry Halleck, commanding in St. Louis, had ordered that women and children, as well as men not in arms, were to be regarded 'as non-combatants' unless they provided aid to the enemy, in which case they became 'belligerents, and will be treated as such.' That order gave the local commanders wide latitude -- and they took advantage of it. Ewing claimed that family members, especially women, were 'actively and heartily engaged in feeding, clothing and sustaining' the bushwhackers and, at his direction, a number of women were arrested and jailed in a Kansas City building. Missouri guerrillas claimed that the subsequent collapse of that building, which claimed the lives of five women related to the bushwhackers, provoked William Clarke Quantrill's band to attack Lawrence, Kan., in August 1863. The brutal deaths of 150 men and boys in the raid shocked the border. Quantrill's guerrillas shot civilians in cold blood, often in front of their wives and children, then set fire to homes and businesses. Corpses were burned beyond recognition, and some bodies were never recovered. [...]"
[n.b. Thanks to Jim Fussell for bringing this case to my attention.]