Fort Leavenworth Kansas
10 o clock A.M.
Friday March 3d 1865
The Court met pursuant to adjournment
Maj Gen'l Geo. Sykes U.S.V.
Brig Gen'l Thos. A. Davis U.S.V.
Col. W.R. Davis 16th Kans. Vol. Cav.
Maj W.O. Gould 14th Kans. vol. Cav.
Capt E.P. Elmer 2d Colorado Vet Vol Cav.
Capt. S.P. Thompson 16th Kan's Vol Cav.
The court then proceeded to the trial of Major John M. Laing, 15th Kansas Vol. Cav. who was called before the court and having heard the orders appointing the court read, was asked if he had any objections to any member named in said orders. To which he replied he had not.
The court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the President of the Court, all in presence of the accused.
The accused applied to the court to be permitted to introduce R.J. Lewis Esq. as his counsel, which application was granted and he appeared as counsel for the accused.
The accused, Major John M. Laing 15th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Cavalry was then duly arraigned on the following charges and specifications, which were read aloud in his presence; viz:
Charges ad specifications against Jno. M. Laing 15 Regiment of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers
Charge I Cowardice
Specification I In this that the said John M. Laing Major 15th Kansas Cavalry Volunteers then being with his Regiment in front of the enemy having been detailed by his Commanding Office Col. Charles R. Jennison 15th Kansas Cavalry Volunteers with Companies "B" "C" "F" and "H" of his Regiment to watch the movements of the enemy, on his left flank did while the enemy were attempting to interpose a force between his and the main command of the Federal forces Shamefully retreat to Olathe Kansas a distance of nearly twenty miles from where the forces were engaged and with no enemy in pursuit of his command this near Hickmans Mills in the state of Missouri on the 22d day of October 1864.
Specification 2d In this that Major J.M. Laing 15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry having retreated with his command to Olathe as before recited and
remaining there until the morning of the 23d of October, 1864, did then move with the command towards Kansas City Missouri, but on learning when near Shawnee Town that a party of Rebels occupied that place did without waiting to ascertain the truth of the report or the force of the enemy order a retreat to the north bank of the Kansas River and did continue to retreat shamefully; and rapidly, all day until he reached Kansas City Missouri all this in the field and in front of the enemy on the 23d day of October 1864.
Charge II Neglect of duty to the prejudice and good order and Military discipline
Specification In this that the said Major John M. Laing fifteenth Regiment of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers, being on the march from the Arkansas River in the state of Arkansas, to Fort Scott, in the the state of Kansas and being in Command of his Regiment did permit the officers and enlisted men of his Command to straggle from the Column at will and to commit various acts of violence upon the persons and property of unoffending unarmed Citizens and defenseless women and children; such as taking money from women by force
and arms pillaging houses and burning them driving away the stock and seizing wearing apparel appropriating the same to private use and benefit, this without distinction of party or condition and without any effort on the part of him the said Major John M. Laing to prevent such excesses upon the part of the officers and men of his Command, this at Cane Hill, Prairie Grove and Bentonville in the state of Arkansas and at Newtonia, Granby, Sarcoxie, and Carthage in the state of Missouri and in the entire country through which the said fifteenth Regiment Kansas Volunteers marched from Cane Hill, in the state of Arkansas to Carthage in the state of Missouri during the month of November 1864.
Conduct unbecoming an Officer and a gentleman
Specification I In this that he the said John M. Laing Major fifteenth Regiment Kansas Cavalry Volunteers being then on the march from Cane Hill in the state of Arkansas to Ft. Scott in the state of Kansas, and in Command of his Regiment did enter the private house of one Greenwood in company with other
officers and enlisted men of his command and did take from said house a bed spread or coverlet which he Major J.M. Laing did wind about his person dancing and acting in the most unbecoming manner, and further that he the said Major John M. Laing did assist a private soldier of his command in breaking open a trunk taken from the house of said Greenwood and did take from said trunk one silver dish and a lady's gold watch appropriating the same to his own private use, and benefit at the same time boasting of his skill in knowing how to get the start of the boys. This at Bentonville in the state of Arkansas on or about the Sixteenth day of November 1864.
Specification II In this that the said John M. Laing Major fifteenth Regiment of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers being applied to as commanding officer of said Regiment for the restoration of certain beds bedding and other house hold property which the soldiers of his Command had taken from a private house did reply to the old Lady making such application "I cannot control my men. If I should order them to do that they would shoot me, you see I am afraid of them."
This near Bentonville in the state of Arkansas on or about the Eighteenth day of November 1864
Specification III In this that he the said John M. Laing Major of the fifteenth Regiment of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers and being in Command of said Regiment application having been made to him the said Major John M. Laing for the restoration of certain house hold property taken from a private house by the soldiers of his Command did answer the Lady making such application in terms of derision saying "tell Sergeant George B. McClellan when he comes up to have some of these men shot" and passed on without any endeavor whatever to restore the property in question. This near Bentonville in the state of Arkansas, on or about the eighteenth day of November 1864.
2nd Lieut "M" Co
15th Kansas Cav. Vols.
To which charges and specifications the accused pleaded as follows:
To the first specification under Charge I Not Guilty
To the 2d specification under Charge I Not Guilty
To Charge I Not Guilty
To the specification under Charge II Not Guilty
To Charge II Not Guilty
To the 1st specification under charge III Not Guilty
To the 2d specification under charge III Not Guilty
To the 3d specification under charge III Not Guilty
to Charge III Not Guilty
Charles R. Jennison
Colonel of the 15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, a witness on the part of the prosecution, was duly sworn, in presence of the accused and examined
By the Judge Advocate
Q State your position in the service?
A I am Colonel of the 15th Kansas Vol. Cav.
Q On what duty were you engaged in the months of October and November last?
A I was commanding the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Army of the Border.
Q Was your regiment part of that Brigade?
A It was
Q Where was your regiment stationed on the 22d of October, 1864?
A On the Blue.
Q On what duty was the accused engaged?
A He was commanding one battalion of the 15th Regiment
Q Who was in command of the Regiment on that day.
A Lieut Col Geo H Hoyt.
Q State if any orders were issued to the accused on the 22d day of October, 1864 in regard to proceeding to Hickman's Mills, and if so state what those orders were, particularly
A I received an order from Maj Gen Blunt on the morning of the 22d to move with any force to Byron's ford, and hold the ford to prevent Price's force crossing, and also to send a sufficient scouting or reconnoitering force to Hickman's Mills. I directed the accused
to move with 3 or 4 squadrons; I think four- of the 15th Regiment to the vicinity of Hickman's Mills and ascertain if Price's force was moving south in that direction, as reported; with instructions not to allow his force to be cut off, and to fall back if compelled to, in the direction of Kansas. I think that was about the instructions.
Q State what you know in regard to the execution of that order by the accused.
A I know nothing about it
Q What time did he leave Byron's ford, where the order was given
A I should say between 10 and 12 o'clock
Q When did he next rejoin your command?
A On the march from Westport to Fort Scott.
Q Can you state at what point and on what date
A I think it was on the 23d or 24th. The exact point I don't remember. I think it was just before we arrived at West Point, or near there.
Q What was his command after he joined your Brigade?
A I believe Lieut Col Hoyt did not organize the
Regiment into battalions. I think he was the only field officer present, but Col Hoyt.
Q How far was Price pursued.
A To the Arkansas River
Q What was the accused's command on the return march to Kansas. That is to say, was he in command of a battalion or of the regiment
A Officially he was in command of a battalion
Q Who was in command of the Regiment?
A Lieut Col Hoyt.
Q Did Col Hoyt march with the regiment?
A The greater part of the time. He rode in an ambulance along with the command as did many of the officers at that time
Q Can you state the date upon which you reached Fort Scott Kansas, on your return march
A I think it was about the 23d or 24th of November. I wish to explain one answer. Col Hoyt was placed in command of the Regiment by orders from me. He came to me one morning and
stated that he felt unwell and would place Major Laing in command of the regiment. I supposed it was temporary and made no order relieving Col Hoyt or placing Maj Laing in command of the regiment. The day previous to our arriving at Fort Scott Col Hoyt asked permission to proceed in advance with the surgeon to Fort Scott, which permission I granted.
By the accused
Q How far is West Point from Byron's ford?
A I should take it to be 35 or 40 miles. It may be farther. I think that is about the distance
Q Did you have any official notice that the accused was in command of the regiment on the return march.
A I had not, except the statement I made.
The witness then retired
Major, 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in the presence of the accused and examined