The Kansas in the Civil War Message Board

Major John Laing's court martial part 2

By the Judge Advocate

Q State your position in the service?
A I am Major 16th Kansas Vol. Cavalry.

Q Were you engaged in the pursuit of Price
A I was.

Q How far was he pursued?
A To the Arkansas River.

Q On what date did you return?
A We left the River on the 9th of November, 1864.

Q What date did you arrive at Fort Scott?
A On the 23rd of November, 1864.

Q What was your command on the return march?
A Sixteenth Kansas Cavalry Volunteers.

Q Were you in command of your Regiment?
A Yes sir.

Q Can you state the command of the accused on


that march
A Fifteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.

Q Was he in command of the Regiment or only of the Battalion.
A He was in command of the Regiment on the return.

Q State the date as near as you can, on which you reached Bentonville
A It was about 12 o'clock on the 16th of November.

Q Did you stop there
A We were there about an hour or an hour and a half.

Q Do you know anything of a citizen of that town by the name of Greenwood.
A I don't know him personally. I know such a man lived there, A.B. Greenwood but at that time was in Texas; so his family reported to me.

Q Did you see the accused there?
A I did

Q Did you see him in the house of Greenwood
A I did


Q State anything you saw or heard unusual on that day in regard to the accused?
A I will state one thing that particularly struck my attention. Some of his men discovered a trunk. We were in the front room and the trunk was found in the back room under the bed. They reported the fact to him, and asked him if they should break it open or what should be done with it. He with an oath told them to break it open, and asked what in hell they came and reported such facts to him for.

Q State as nearly as you can the language he used on that occasion.
A I cannot state the language because I have not taxed my memory with it. That was the substance of the language he used. He did not directly order them to break it open.

Q Did you see the accused when he came out of that house?
A I think I did

Q Did you see him take any property from that house, if so state what it was
A I saw him come out of the house with some article of bed clothing wrapped around him


I think probably a quilt. I think that was all I saw him have.

Q Did you notice anything unusual, in regard to his conduct at that particular time, when he came out of Greenwoods house with the quilt
A I did not, except, as I remarked to some officers present that his conduct was not dignified or officer like. He came out prancing and jumping like a young boy. I saw nothing else.

Q Did you have occasion to notice the 15th Kansas on the return march?
A I did

Q Describe the march generally, as regards straggling.
A On the return from the Arkansas river up to Drywood, the regiment straggled pretty generally. I frequently saw not to exceed 50 men in the line. The balance were straggling, or were away from their command on both sides of the road, in front and in the rear. Whether they had orders or permission to do so I did not inquire. Both officers and men were out.

Q In what manner did they straggle
A In squads of two or three or half a dozen. There


seemed to be no organization at all.

Q How far did you see them straggling from their places in the column.
A I have seen them from two to four miles in the rear, and frequently in advance of the regiment and I have seen them at different times on either side of the road.

Q During the straggling did you see the accused
A I did not to my recollection. I don't remember to have seen him away from his command on that march.

Q Generally then, when the command was straggling he was with the regiment..
A I don't know that he was. I judged he was as I did not see him straggling. I have no recollection of seeing him away from his command.

Q Describe the march from the Arkansas River in regard to the men entering houses along the road.
A I have frequently seen men of that regiment in houses along the roadside.. At one time, I think on the 18th of November, I was ordered by Col. Jennison to the front and after reporting to him I waited for my regiment to come up at the


house of a man named Duncan, and while I was there four men of the 15th Kansas came in and took one blanket, some butter and all the old man's money- a ten dollar gold piece and four half dollars-- I remonstrated with them, and they said they had orders from Col Jennison to take the butter.

Q Can you specify any other instance
A At Bentonville I saw them in the houses all through town

Q Did you observe their conduct while in the houses
A Yes sir; they were plundering the houses of bedding and valuables in trunks, such as silver spoons and forks &c.

Q Did you notice that command particularly from Cane Hill to Sarcoxie
A Not more particularly than from the Arkansas River to Cane Hill, and from Sarcoxie to Drywood. I saw them all through the march, but not particularly, except in those two instances

Q Can you state how many men were in their places in the column between those points
A Without counting them, I judged at the time


not to exceed 50 men.

Q Describe this march and the conduct of this regiment in regard to burning houses
A Some houses were burned on the road. Some 8 or 10 miles south of Prairie Grove we camped at the house of a man named Leach and there were a number of houses burned about there by order of Col Jennison, as the command was bushwhacked there. At Cane Hill and Dutchtown houses were burned by Col. Benteen's command principally. At Bentonville and the surrounding country some houses were burned; and after we left Bentonville I don't remember whether any houses were burned or not

Q Can you state the character of the people from whom property was taken, and whose houses were burned.
A I judged them to be all rebels; however there were generally no men folks at home. In some instances there were. At Mr. Leaches, he was at home.

Q Who burned that house?
A It was by order of Col. Jennison, but whether it was done by a detachment from both regiments or only from the 15th I don't know.


Did you see any acts of violence committed on the persons on the return march by any of the men or officers of that Regiment
A I did not.

Q Do you know whether or not any efforts were made on the part of the accused to prevent straggling or house burning or pillaging
A I can't state whether any such efforts were made or not. I don't know what orders he issued to his regiment or anything about it.

Q Did you have any conversation with him in regard to it
A I think not except I remarked in conversation with Col Jennison and other officers that straggling destroyed discipline, but not particularly to the accused.

Q Did you see Col Hoyt on the return march.
A I saw him three or four times in an ambulance. Once I saw him out of it at a house where we camped. All the other times he was in the ambulance.

X (between 29-30)

Cross Examination

By the accused

Q Have you any official knowledge that the accused was in command of the 15th Kansas Cavalry on the return march.
A I have no official knowledge of it sir

Q Did you see the accused go into Greenwoods house at Bentonville Arkansas.
A I did not see him go into it I think.

Q Can you state where the accused obtained that blanket or quilt of which you spoke
A I can't state positively only from inference when I saw him in the house I saw no blanket on him but when he came out he had one wrapped around him and I supposed of course he got it in there.

Q Do you know of your own knowledge where he obtained it?
A I do not

Q Did not generally the men of the whole command straggle on the return march.
A No sir they did not generally straggle, there


was straggling by the 16th until after we passed Bentonville but the straggling was not general.

Q To what extent did straggling prevail in other Regiments besides the 15th?
A I will state to a very limited extent

Q How many men were present for duty on the return trip from the Arkansas River in the 15th Regiment
A I don't know sir. I was not in command of the Regiment; the adjutant of the Regiment however, informed me there were about one hundred and seventy five.

Q What was the condition of the Command on the return march in regard to the supply of rations.
A The whole command was very poorly supplied.

Q Were not many of the men in a starving condition.
A No sir they were not on the return.

Q What amount of bread if any was with the command on the return
A At Cane Hill we drew five days rations of bread which I believe was all the bread we had on the return to the best of my recollection now.


I refer more particularly to the sixteenth as I don't know what the 15th had.

Q Do you know of any houses being burned by order of the accused?
A I do not

Q Or in his presence?
A I don't know that he was present sir.

Do you know of your own knowledge, or by report, what that money was taken from Mr. Duncan?
A About that money. I did not see the men take it; consequently I don't know of my own personal knowledge

By the Court

Q Did you see any Houses burned by troops of the 15th while the accused was at the head of it or had control of it.
A I saw one house burned at Bentonville Arkansas while the accused was in command of his Regiment, by some men of the 15th Kansas.

Q Are you sure of that?
A Yes sir.


Q State the names of those men of the fifteenth who you saw burning that house
A I don't know the name of one enlisted man of that Regiment I believe.

Q How did you recognize them as belonging to the 15th.
A The fifteenth was in advance and I saw the men going across to the right or north East of the Road in advance and saw them at the house and saw the house burning. I know they were the 15th for my men were not straggling at that time. I also have it from one of their officers.

Witness the retired


Thomas J. Ferrel

Chaplain 16 Cavalry Kansas Volunteers a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn, in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q State whether you were with the Command of Col. Jennison on its return from the Arkansas River to Kansas.
A I was

Q State generally of what that Command consisted-- of what Regiments.
A Of the 15 and 16 Kansas Volunteers Cavalry and one battery part of the way, and two batteries after we got to Fayetteville

Q State the manner in which the regiment marched on the return march?
A They marched alternately, first one in front and then the other.

Q Did you see the accused at Mr. Greenwoods


house at Bentonville, Arkansas.
A I saw him at Bentonville Arkansas, at a house they called Mr. Greenwoods

Q Did you see him enter the house?
A I saw him in the house.

Q Describe his conduct while there
A I saw him passing through the house and coming out. He came out in the yard with a quilt around him at one time. He had the quilt thrown around his shoulders, there was quite a crowd of men in the House with him, I did not go in to see what was transpiring. I saw a general bussle in the house.

Q Did you see him in the yard?
A Yes sir and a great many things were carried out by the soldiers. Trunks and other articles

Q How was the accused dressed when you saw him in the yard?


A As I said before he had a quilt around him. I don't remember what kind of clothes he had on

Q These men you spoke of what Regiment did they belong to?
A Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry.

Q Were those the men you saw taking the trunks out?
A Yes there were several trunks brought out by those men

Q Was there any application made for the restoration of that property by any one belonging to that house.
A A Lady of the house made a strong appeal for the likeness of her husband, which a Major of the 16 Regiment took away from private soldiers once or twice

Q Did you hear any application made by those people living in the house? to the accused
A I don't know that I ever heard the woman personally appeal to Major Laing.


Q Did you notice the accused particularly, while out in the yard with a bed spread wrapped around him.
A Yes sir I saw him there.

Q What was he doing
A When he came out of the house into the yard there were two women there. He and another man went around to where they were at the East end of the house and there was some demand made of the woman, but there was such a noise I could not hear what it was; one of the women run her hand in her pocket and handed him something, it looked like a (?port monnaie). They came out right past where I stood and stopped. One said to the other "how much did you get?" the other said "we must divide."

Q How long did you remain at that house in the town of Bentonville.
A I think the Command was there between one and two hours but can't tell the exact time


Q Was that house fired?
A Yes sir