The Kansas in the Civil War Message Board

Major John Laing's court martial part 3

Q Who fired it?
A I could not say. I could not give the names. The troops in the yard around there fired it.

Q Can you state whether they belonged to the 15 or 16 Kansas or to one of the Batteries of the Brigade.
A I think that the very same troops that were in the house fired it.

Q They belonged to what?
A To the 15 Kansas Cavalry Volunteers.

Q What time was that firing done?
A It was fired a short time, probably half an hour, before we were ordered to march.

Q Describe the march of the 15 Kansas from the Arkansas River to Ft. Scott, in regard to straggling
A When they were in the rear of us they


would be passing us all day, when the Country was open so that I could see. I could see them to the right and left of the Road, and when they were in front as I stayed with my Regiment I couldn't tell how they traveled only I saw them to Right and left of the Road, they would turn out and the rear would overtake them before they got in the Road again

Q Can you state any acts of violence on persons or property that came under your own personal observation besides those that you have just mentioned.
A I don't know of any on the part of the accused individually.

Q I mean the men of the 15th Kansas.
A I saw as we traveled, the houses they fired. I saw several on the right and left. We could see the smoke of the burning buildings and then as we traveled along the Road I saw where several were burned.

Q Describe the march in regard to the men of the 15th Kansas entering houses along the Road.
A I have seen some of that Regiment going into houses along the Road, but as I said before I remained with my Regiment in the Road and


of course those who went off of the Road I could not see and could not tell what they did.

Q State their conduct, in that regard at Bentonville besides the instance you have mentioned.
A When I came in town I could see men of that Regiment in the houses and running all over town, some had quilts some had feather beds. I could see them coming and going in every direction, from the houses all through the village.

Q Can you specify any instance in which Major Kettner of the 16th Kansas ordered soldiers of the 15 to restore property? that had been taken by them
A I can. It was this side of Bentonville, our Regiment was in the rear. We came up to a house and they were coming out I think with a bed and a quilt. A Lady was standing in the yard crying and a little girl was standing with her arms up praying for them not to kill her, saying she was a good little girl. I rode up and the lady said it was the last bed and quilt she had. The bed was thrown into an ox wagon and the quilt was tied to the saddle of a soldier of the 15th Kansas


the Lady spoke to me and I spoke to Major Kettner. He came forward and demanded the quilt of the soldier. He said he got it about four miles back on the road and refused to stop. The Major told him it would be worse for him and he came back. The Major told the Lady to look at it and she told him it was one she quilted when a little girl and the Major made the soldier give it up. We also succeeded in getting the bed out of the wagon for the woman.

Q State if you saw any other instance of soldiers of the 15th having or carrying such property on horses.
A On Spring River I think I counted in one day six quilts under one of their saddles.

Q Can you specify any other instance during the march.
A I saw them frequently coming into the lines on the march from Webers Falls to Ft. Scott with quilts. Hardly a day passed that I did not see some of them in that way.

Q Did you see any of the men of the 15th Kansas fire any houses?
A Yes sir


Q Where
A Beyond Cane Hill was the first I saw

Q Specify all that you can.
A When we came on our return from Webbers Falls to where we could get forage, we halted about noon and stayed until next morning. That night about dusk a Lieutenant said to me as he went out of camp that we would see very soon where he was going. He went with a file of men and I thought I could see six (6) houses burning in sight of my Camp. The next morning our Regiment was in advance, the 15th Kansas followed and the artillery brought up the rear. When ordered to march I heard a noise in the building which Col. Jennison had made his head quarters. I looked around and the boys were in there and with the butts of their guns were knocking out the windows, to give the fire air, and the house was in flames in a few moments.

Q This Lieutenant and those men you spoke of to what Regiment did the belong?
A The Lieutenant belonged to the 15th Kansas

Q His name
A Lieut. Wood


Q Those other men you spoke of that was knocking the windows out with the butts of their guns what Regiment did they belong to?
A 15th Kansas

Q Can you specify any instance where soldiers of the 15th Kansas seized wearing apparel
A I don't believe I ever saw them when they took wearing apparel

Q Can you state whether or not they seized any cattle or not and drove them away?
A There was a very nice herd of cattle driven along on the return trip.

Q Who drove them?
A If I understood correctly they were driven by a detail from the brigade by order of the Commander of the brigade I suppose. I know some of our men were detailed to drive them

Q Did you hear any application on the part of any people from whom property was taken for the restoration of property?
A I don't think I ever did.


Cross Examination

By the accused

Q What was the name of the officer that was at Greenwoods with the accused?
A I did not know the officer; they said he was a Lieutenant that is all I know.

Q Of what Command?
A I was informed there that he belonged to the 15th Kansas.

Q Was the accused present when the soldiers took the bed and blanket you spoke of? and which Major Kettner ordered them to return
A I did not see the accused there.

Q Was he in command of his Regiment at that time?
A I could not tell you who was in Command of his Regiment at that time.

Q Who was in Command of the 15th Kansas on the return march from the Arkansas River?
A I never saw any order stating who was in command. There was three Field


Officers there and I did not know which was in Command.

Q What field officers were present besides the accused?
A Lieut Col. Hoyt and Col. Jennison

Q Did you see any other men straggling besides the men of the 15th Regiment
A Yes sir. I saw other men go out of the ranks besides them

Q Where were these men you saw with property on their horses that you spoke of?
A It was as we were marching on Spring River in Missouri.

Q How did you recognize those men as belonging to the 15th?
A From the fact that I had been with the Brigade so long that I knew a great many of them personally.

By the Court

Q Was the plunder and pillage of private property of soldiers of the 15 general on the march to and from the Arkansas River.
A It seemed so to me


Q Do you know what became of the herd of stock which you testify was driven along with the brigade.
A When we arrived at Drywood and Camped before we arrived at Fort Scott the next morning when ordered to march the boys who were detailed to drive the stock were relieved and ordered to their Regiments and the stock was left behind; that was the last I saw of them.

Q Do you know whether they were left in the hands of Government Employees or not?
A I do not

The witness then retired


Charles O. Smith

Capt. Co "G" 15 Kansas Vol. Cav. a witness on the part of the prosecution, was duly sworn in the presence of the accused and examined.

By the Judge Advocate

Q Who was in command of your Regiment on the return march from the Arkansas River in November last
A Part of the way Lieut. Col. Hoyt and part by Major Laing

Q Who was in command at Cane Hill?
A I think Major Laing was.

Q State whether or not you saw any men hung on the return march near Cane Hill?
A I saw three men hanging just the other side of Cane Hill. One was hung about two to three miles this side of the camp beyond Cane Hill. The other two were about two miles this side of where the first was hung.

Q By whose order were these men hung?
A I could not say.

Q Who hung them?
A Capt. Curtis, 15th Kansas.


Q Who was present at the hanging?
A I don't remember; there were only two or three with Capt. Curtis.

Q Was the accused present?
A He was at the head of the column near by.

Q Did you see any houses fired by the men of your Command?
A I did not see any fire applied to any house. I was not in any house and did not see any fire applied.

Q Can you specify any instance of pillaging by men of the 15th Kansas.
A None that I saw myself. I was with my command constantly and could not see any.

Cross Examination

By the accused

Q How do you know the accused was in command at Cane Hill
A I know by his giving the command to move on and by his being the ranking officer present.

Q How long had he been the ranking officer at that time.


A I think he took command that morning to the best of my recollections. I think Col Hoyt was sick and got in an ambulance.

Q Give the distance these men were hung from the head of the column where the accused was.
A They were hung just opposite the head of the coumn about three rods to the right of it. The first one was hung there, and the other two were hung about two miles from there on the left of the road a little in advance of the head of the column- about ten or fifteen rods.

Q Who were these men that were hung?
A Two of them I understood gave themselves up the night before and one was captured by the pickets.

Q Were they Rebels or citizens or what?
A They claimed to be citizens but were supposed to be Bushwhackers.

Q By whom were they supposed to be Bushwhackers
A It was generally supposed so by all the Officers I heard speak of them.

By the Court

Q Do you know whether there was a drove of stock driven


with the column on its return.
A There was.

Q What became of it?
A I don't know.

Q Where did you last see it?
A About four miles South East of Fort Scott this side of Drywood.

Q Did they come in possession of the Government in any way to your knowledge.
A I can't say of my own knowledge.

Q What was the common rumor as to the destination of that Stock.
A They were sold at Mound City at public sale.

Q For the benefit of the Government?
A Yes Sir.

The witness retired


Oren A. Curtis

Captain of Co. "F" 15th Kans. Vol. Cav. a witness on the part of the prosecution, was duly sworn in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q On what duty were you engaged on the 22d of October, 1864.
A I was in command of company "F" 15th Kansas Cavalry on that day.

Q At what place.
A I could not tell for my life sir

Q Were you at Byrons Ford?
A I was there in October but what day I don't know

Q Were you present with a detachment sent from Byrons Ford to Hickmans Mills.
A I was

Q Who was in command of that detachment?
A Major Laing

Q What other companies were along?
A Companies "B" "G" and "M"


Q At what time did you arrive at Hickmans Mills.
A I should judge it was between ten and eleven o'clock

Q How long did you remain there?
A I think it was in the neighborhood of one hour and a half or two hours.

Q Did you see the enemy there?
A No sir we did not they had been there the morning before and took some men and some arms. There was a man came there who pretended to be one of General Curtis's aid-de-camps. I thought then he was a Rebel and think so still. If he was a Rebel I saw one, if not I did not.

Q By whose order did that detachment leave Hickmans Mills.
A By order of Major Laing. That man said General Curtis ordered that detachment join the Union forces; that Price was running and he wanted us to come and assist in catching him. He told me this before he saw the accused.

Q Were you present when he conversed with


the accused
A I was not

Q How long after he conversed with the accused did the detachment move?
A Immediately

Q Upon what point did they march?
A On the West Port Road I think they called it as far as the timber on the big blue.

Q What was the direction of the march after that
A From the big blue near the crossing we turned and marched back, I think a quarter of a mile, I think on the same road we went in on. We then turned to the right, and marched to little Santa Fee, we got there and then started and marched in a Northerly direction from three to five miles then we marched some distance west. We had a guide who pretended to know the Road, I don't know whether he did or not. We then turned and marched in a southern direction until after we crossed the little Santa Fee, and Olathe Road we then turned to the right and marched west until we came to Olathe, there we camped about twelve o'clock at night I think, and


stayed until the next morning.

Q Was any halt made on the march you first described from Hickmans Mills to Olathe.
A Yes sir there was

Q For what purpose
A There was a halt made at Little Santa Fee or Oxford, which ever you may please to call it.

Q On this line of march that you have described did you see any Federal forces?
A That was in the night and we met some Kansas militia in the timber before we turned around, and part of the second and a part of the 21st Kansas militia in a regular stampede flying from the enemy. They ran right into our column and came near knocking some of my men off from their horses with their long guns. That was all the Union forces we met between Hickman MIlls and Olathe, except the picket Guard out at Olathe, that I recollect.

Q Were there any forces pursuing this militia?
A I don't know whether they pursued or not after we came up. It was in the timber and I could not see. I could hear the report of their guns and the word of command given.


Q What orders were given at that time by the accused?
A As near as I recollect it was to countermarch by the right flank.

Q How long did you march before a halt was made, and at what rate.
A I should judge we marched two or three hundred yards after we turned to go back in a trot and then we marched in a walk from that time on

Q How far is it from Hickman's Mills to Olathe
A It is called 15 miles

Q How long did you remain at Olathe
A We got there about 11 or 12 o'clock in the night and left the next morning between daylight and sunrise

Q What orders were then issued by the accused
A I don't know that any orders were issued by him. He started on at the head of the column, and we followed. I think I heard him say he was going to Westport when he started

Q How far is Shawneetown from Olathe
A I do not know.


Q Did you receive any information near Shawneetown in regard to the presence of the enemy at that town
A We did

Q What was done by that command on the receipt of that information
A We turned and marched to the left, to a little place called Monticello, from there to the river, across the river, and after we got across the river we received information that the enemy was pursuing our men. That our forces were crossing the river, and the enemy was pursuing. The accused ordered a double quick movement, and we went as fast as the horses could go from there till we got to Wyandotte.

Q What time in the day was it you received information in regard to the rebels being in Shawneetown
A In the morning, about 9 o'clock I think

Q State the nature of the country, whether it was a prairie or wooded country.
A Prairie, as a general thing

Q How far could you see in the direction of Shawneetown on the Prairie


A I suppose we could see as far as to where Shawneetown was, but we could not see the town. We could see the smoke of the cannon. I suppose that was from 3 to 8 miles

Q What distance were the horses run
A The man where we fed called it 12 miles to Wyandotte; and I think it was all of that. But over some rough places we had to walk.

Q Did you see any enemy during that time
A No sir

Q Did you ever have any conversation with the accused in regard to that retreat.
A He and I had a conversation at Drywood on our return from the raid, in which that subject was mentioned

Q What did he say in regard to it
A I could not tell you his words but he said he thought he had done the best that could be done, taking everything into consideration. That is the substance of it. There was a heavy force there, and it would have been madness to have went in with his battalion against them

Q At what time and place did the accused rejoin


the main command?
A I don't know. I was not with him

Q Were you present on the return march from the Arkansas river to Kansas?
A I was sir

Q Do you know of any instance of men being hung by officers or men of the 15th Kansas Cavalry on that return march.

The accused objected to the question because he is not charged with hanging men or giving orders to do so or having any thing to do with hanging any men.

The court was cleared for deliberation, and upon re-opening it was announced that the objection was sustained

Q Can you state any instance of violence upon any person on the return march on the part of men or officers of the 15th Kansas Cavalry.

The accused objected to the question, because it is not averred that any personal violence was done by the accused


The Judge Advocate replied that the specification does not undertake to set out all the instances of violence.

The Court was cleared for deliberation, and upon re-opening it was announced that the objection was sustained

Q Who was in command of the 15th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Cavalry on the return march from the Arkansas River
A Major Laing

Q Describe that march in regard to any straggling that occurred under your personal observation
A Well there was a party sent out every day after forage and a party sent out for subsistence, and as I understood the orders none of the men were allowed to straggle. But there was some straggling done by the men sent out after forage and subsistence

Q Did you see any houses entered by men of the 15th Kansas
A Yes sir

Q Specify such instances as occur to you now.
A I saw houses entered by both regiments


Q I am speaking of the 15th, not of the other.
A I saw men go into houses as we marched along the road. I had charge of an ox train, and did not leave it and don't know what they did there

Q How far were these instances of which you speak from the moving column.
A Sometimes it would be right along side of the road, 25, 50 or 100 yards off on both sides of the road.

Q Did you see any house fired by any men of the 15th Kansas
A I did not see a house set on fire by any man on the entire trip, I believe. I saw houses burning but I did not see them fired.

Q Did you see any men of the 15th Kansas seize any stock
A Yes sir I did

Q Where was that
A Wherever it was to be found with disloyal persons

Q What was done with it
A As I understand it, it was turned over to the Quartermaster. I saw the herd at


Mound City in charge of the Quartermaster. Some of it was eaten.

Q State all you know in regard to any wearing apparel that was taken by men of the 15th Kansas on that march.
A I did not see any wearing apparel taken that I know of.

Q Did you see any bed quilts or beds taken
A I did not see any taken. At one time there was a lady came out to the road and reported to me that some men had taken her bed clothing, and Capt McLain ordered them given up. She came up to where he was and it was given up to her. I saw it given up.


Cross examination

By the accused

Q Was Lieut. Col. Hoyt with the Regiment on the return march?
A He was with the Regiment but was on sick report. He was with it most of the way he left it the day before we got to Fort Scott I think.

Q Was he on sick report all of the time on the march?
A I would not be positive whether he was on the sick report or not on the first day, but it is my impression he was.

Q Do you know of your own knowledge that he was on the sick report at all?
A All I know is he said he was sick

Q Is that all you know about him being on the sick report?
A He was excused from duty and rode in the ambulance as I understood it

Q Was not Lieut. Col. Hoyt in command of the Regiment all the return march part of


the time
A I don't think he was-- if he was I don't recollect it.

Q What time in the day did you leave Hickmans Mills at the time you spoke of?
A I should judge it was in the after part of the day.

Q What distance had you traveled when you met the militia retreating?
A I would say it was between two and three miles.

Q Describe the location where you met them, their condition and their number?
A We were marching on the West Port Road and came to the timber on the Big Blue. We traveled in the timber a piece and heard the report of small arms and heard commands. The militia gave away and came back in what I call a regular stampede. I don't know how far they had passed the head of the column before we were ordered to countermarch. I think they got about opposite me

Q Describe whether it was in the Prairie or in the


A It was in the timber

Q About what were their number
A I would say from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty there might have been more

Q What was your understanding at the time as to the location and number of the enemy
A That there were eight thousand of them that they had surround the militia and captured their guns and a a good many prisoners. I did not see them but judged from the firing, they were at the banks of the big blue, at the crossing of Hickmans Mills and Westport Roads.

Q How far from where you then were.
A From the reports of the guns should not think it was over two hundred yards

Q In your opinion as an officer could the accused of moved his command up to the enemy at that time in order, through the militia.
A I don't think he could


Q From that time what was the general line of march of the battalion Commanded by the accused.
A I could not answer that in any other way than I did in my direct examination.

Q In what state were you at that time?
A I think in Missouri sir

Q Did you march then towards Kansas
A We did sir

Q From who did you understand or receive the report of the presence of the enemy at Shawnee town?
A I think it was from Captain Young, of the fifth Kansas.

Q Where was he stationed at that time or just previous to that time?
A I think he was stationed immediately previous to that at Aubrey.

Q Is not Shawneetown located in the edge of the timber in a hollow
A I think it is


Q Can the town be seen any distance from it by approaching it from the west?
A I should not think it could be seen over a mile and a half perhaps not so far.

Q Was there any fighting going on in the neighborhood at that time?
A We heard cannon at the right of Shawnee town

Q Specify the direction
A We were marching north of East towards Shawneetown, and the firing was at the right of Shawneetown

Q You state that after crossing the River near Monticello, it was reported to you that the Federal troops were retreating.
A It was

Q Which way was it they were reported to be retreating
A Across the Kansas River

Q At what point was it reported to you that the federal forces were crossing the River


A At Wyandotte

Q The general retreat of the troops at that time as reported was in what direction.
A I should judge west of North

Q At the reception of that report in what direction did the accused take his command or would not his line of march if the report had been true have brought him in contact with the enemy
A It would