The Kansas in the Civil War Message Board

Major John Laing's court martial part 4

By the Court

Q When you heard firing at Shawneetown why did you retreat to Monticello
A We heard firing at the right of Shawneetown and it was reported by Capt. Young that Shawneetown was in the possession of the enemy, and that they had a picket force of 1000. He was marching on the Santa Fe road which runs south of west and when we met him we turned to the right. Capt. Young reported our forces falling back and crossing the river

Q Was that ox train of which you had charge on the return march from Arkansas loaded with any other than Government property and if so what was it?
A The companies had their company property and some soldiers had their bedding and some refugees were along and had their property, and there was some Government property.

Q What do you mean by soldiers bedding?
A Their blankets

Q Your understanding then was that


there was no loading on that train except Government property, and that of soldiers and refugees.
A Yes sir. There were a good many men rode in the wagons.

Q What persons did you meet from Olathe to Shawneetown, if any, and what conversation did you have with them
A We met a good many men I did not know, and all reported that they were fighting and that our forces were falling back, but the accused paid no attention to any of them until he met the commissioned officer, Capt Young I think, and then he turned to the left.

The witness then retired

The Court then adjourned until 10 o'clock A.M. Saturday March 4th 1865


Fort Leavenworth Kansas

10 o'clock A.M.

Saturday March 4th 1865

The court met pursuant to adjournment

Present the same members as at the last session. The Judge Advocate; the accused and his counsel were also present.

The proceedings of the last session were read and approved.

On motion the Court then adjourned until 10 o'clock A.M. Monday March 6th 1865.


Fort Leavenworth Kansas

10 o'clock A.M.

Monday March 6th 1865

The court met pursuant to adjournment

Present, the same members as at the last session. The Judge Advocate, the accused and his counsel were also present.

The proceedings of the last session were read and approved.

William Roy

A citizen of Olathe Kansas, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn, in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q Where were you on the 22d day of October 1864 and on what duty were you engaged?
A I was at Olathe, Kansas and was acting as Adjutant of the post.


Q What forces were stationed at Olathe?
A A large portion of the 13th Kansas Militia

Q State the disposition of that force in and around Olathe on that day.
A That whole regiment amounted to about 465 and with the exception of 125 who were with Lieut Col. Johnson at the front were at that post on duty.

Q Where was Lieut Col. Johnson Stationed
A He was with one of the brigades attached to Gen'l Curtis' army.

Q Do you know his station on that day.
A Nothing definite. He informed me he was at Mocabees house during a portion of that battle. I know nothing of the proceedings at the front, except what I got from him.

Q Was this information conveyed to you as Adjutant of the Regiment
A It was conveyed to me in conversation- it was not a written report.

Q Where is Mocabee's house
A In Jackson Co. Mo. between Westport and Little Santa Fe or Oxford.


Q How far is Mocabee's house from Olathe
A About 12 or 15 miles. I don't know the exact distance

Q Can you state officially whether those forces were engaged at Mocabee's house or not.
A I cannot

Q What is the distance from Hickman's Mils to Olathe?
A From 18 to 20 miles

Q State whether or not you had scouts out from Olathe to any other post supposed to be the front.
A Yes sir we were in the habit of sending out a party of scouts everyday; and on the day of the battle of Westport I sent out three different scouts to the front. The(y) reported to me that they went to the front, and said the battle was going on.

Q At what point
A At Rock Creek and Warren

Q How far are these points from Olathe
A From 18 to 20 miles

X (between 72-3)

Q Can you state the condition of affairs at Shawneetown on the morning of the 23d.
A Nothing further than what Capt J.C. Ferguson reported to me on his return

Q Was that report made to you officially
A Yes sir, though it was a verbal report.

Q What was that report?
A To the effect that he received orders from Gen'l Grant to fall back to the other side of the river & hold the position and had failed to do so, and had come by way of Chillicothe to Olathe and reported there for duty.

Q Did you see the accused when he came to Olathe when he came there on the night of the 22d.
A I did

Q Did you have any conversation with him
A There was a general conversation in the room at the hotel. I remained but a few minutes that time, but went over to Headquarters. I saw him again next morning and had some conversation with him then.

Q Did you tell him of the condition of affairs as far as you were advised?


A I think there was some conversation between us but I don't recollect what it was about now.

Q Did the accused ask you about the condition of affairs as far as you were advised.
A I could not state positively how that was. My recollection is we had a conversation about it, but it was of such a nature as not to (stick?) in my mind

Q What did he state in regard to such matters as he knew of himself
A I don't recollect whether I got the most information from him or other officers. I recollect having a short conversation with him, and I recollect having a conversation in regard to the manner in which they came in and why they were there.

Q State the conversation with the accused.
A I remember to have had a conversation with him, but I can't distinguish between that and the conversation with other parties

Q When did you first learn of the retreat of Price
A On Sunday afternoon between 3 and 5 o'clock


Q Are you well acquainted with the country around Shawneetown
A I am sir

Q Is it a prairie or timbered country
A Immediately in the vicinity of Shawneetown on a line drawn east and west, north of that line is heavy timber and south of it prairie There is very little timber on the Kansas side at the point where the battle was fought.


By the accused

Q What report if any, did Capt Ferguson make in regard to the presence of the enemy near Shawneetown?
A He told me he did not think there was much need of being afraid, but that every body else was leaving and he left too

Q What time in the morning did you understand Capt Ferguson left Shawneetown
A I understood from him that he left there about 10 or 11 o'clock and reached Olathe between 2 and 3 o'clock PM.


Q Did not a number of citizens and soldiers arrive at Olathe about that time from Shawneetown
A They commenced on Friday evening and from that time until Monday they were going through in squads.

Q What reason was assigned for the arrival of Major Laing's command on the night of the 22d.
A They had been cut off from the main command, and run around a force of the enemy, and the object in coming there was to get to the main force in front.

Q Was that reason assigned to you in presence of the accused
A I could not say definitely whether he was present at the time or not.

Q State your impression in that regard.
A I rather think that conversation was between Captains Thompson and Curtis and myself. The accused may have been present but I am not positive

The witness then retired


J.B. Thompson

Captain of Co "B" 15th Kansas Cav. Vol. A witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q Were you along with the accused at Hickman's Mills on the 22d of October 1864.
A Yes sir

Q State all you know in regard to the march from that place to Olathe.
A We left camp in the morning about an hour after daylight. We started to join our main command. When we got near Westport we met a great many of the militia saying Price was there in Strong force, and that it would be impossible for us to get there. The accused said he would go and see. We went to a hill and found the militia in disorder and retreating. I stopped some of them and tried to get them to go back but could not. The accused then stopped the column and ordered a countermarch. We then went to Olathe, and got there about 11 or 12 o'clock that night. The next morning we started for our command and went by way of


Monticello to Wyandotte and reached our command about 10 o'clock that day.

Q What was Major Laing's objective going by Olathe?
A I presume it was to join the command without being taken prisoner

Q Did you see any enemy on the march from Hickman's Mills to Olathe?
A At a distance

Q How far.
A I suppose a mile or two

Q In what numbers
A It was a large column. I could only discern a large body of men moving

Q Where did you see them?
A At Hickman's Mills

Q Did you see them after that on the road from Hickman's Mills to Olathe?
A I did not, but I know I was in close proximity to them, as I could hear their guns. It was a timbered country and we could not see them


Q Did you have a conversation with the accused on the retreat in regard to joining the main column.
A Yes sir; he said his main object was to rejoin the main column. At the time there was some difference of opinion as to the best way to rejoin the column, and I was sent to reconnoitre.

Q Were you in advance that day.
A Yes sir

Q What did Major Laing say in regard to that matter.
A He said he had received orders not to engage the enemy if he could avoid it, and he would not do it, but would take the men home if he went as far as Fort Riley to do it

Q Can you recollect the point where he said that
A I think it was on the road to Olathe. Some of us were saying we had better go the other way-- cut through the enemy's left wing. Murphy was in favor of that, and I was not, and the accused decided to take the troops safe where they came from, as that was his order.

Q State what you know in regard to passing around and avoiding Shawneetown and any thing Major


Laing said as to the object of passing around that town

A In the first place the accused thought we would go by Shawneetown, but one of the militia officers said it was a dangerous point to go to as it was more than probable the enemy had taken the place. The accused left it to the officers to say which way we should go. The enemy was between us and our forces and we decided to go by Olathe and not touch Shawneetown at all.

Q How far were you from Shawneetown
A I can't say.

Q Did you hear the conversation with the militia officer
A Yes sir

Q On receiving that information did Major Laing immediately turn
A No sir. There were militia men there who said our forces were being driven by Price, and I know Murphy was in favor of cutting our way through their left wing. I was opposed to it as was the accused, who said if we escaped capture we would probably be fired on by our own troops if we went that way.


Q State the gait at which you traveled from near Shawneetown to Wyandotte.
A We traveled about as heavy as the horses could stand it.

Cross Examination

By the Accused

Q On what day was this talk about going to Shawneetown you have spoken of.
A It was the morning we left Olathe

Q Did you meet Capt Young of the 5th Kans. that day.
A Yes sir

Q What report did he make if any as to the state of affairs at Shawneetown
A I don't recollect his saying anything about Shawneetown

Q Where did you meet him
A About 3 or 4 miles from Olathe

Q After meeting him what change, if any was made in the order of march
A He turned to the left and went to Monticello crossing on account of what he told us I presume.


Q From all the reports you heard that day of the retreat of the Federal troops in what direction were they retreating
A Across the Kansas River

Q After Major Laings command crossed the Kansas river, if the reports of the advance of the enemy had been true, in what direction would his line of march led him
A His intention all the time was to join the main army, and he thought that was the way to go to join them

Q Where, from the reports did you suppose the Federal army was.
A I thought it was across the Kansas river and was being driven back on Leavenworth.

Q Did you meet any militia coming from Shawneetown
A Yes sir

Q Do you recollect anything about their having a flag?
A Yes sir a torn one

Q What was said in that connection about the enemy being near Shawneetown
A Something was said to the effect that the enemy was around there and our troops were catching hell. Something of that kind was said

The witness then retired


William A. Johnson

Second Lieutenant Company "M" 15th Kansas Cavl Volunteers, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn in presence of the accused and examined

By the Judge Advocate

Q What time did your Regiment leave the Arkansas River on its return to Kansas.
A On the 9th day of November 1864

Q Describe the march from the Arkansas River to Newtonia in regard to straggling.
A The first 3 days of the march from the Arkansas River was through a barren and depopulated country, the march was conducted orderly, through that country. On the 12th day of November we came to the vicinity of Cane Hill and then the command commenced straggling.

Q State to what extent that straggling existed.
A Our regiment at times would not have over fifty men in column, the men were to be seen straggling in


every direction

Q How long did that straggling continue and between what points?
A From near Cane Hill until we got to Lamar, near Fort Scott.

Q Describe the manner of that straggling whether it was in squads or singly.
A Some times I would see the men going in squads and some times singly.

Q State whether they were generally with officers, or by themselves.
A Sometimes they were with officers and some time(s) enlisted men went alone.

Q State all you know about property that was seized by soldiers of the 15th Kansas and appropriated to their own use
A I could not state in relation to property appropriated. I don't suppose that I could specify to the property that was taken. I saw a great many articles of property taken and brought in by different soldiers and some by officers


Q Specify the articles
A It consisted of Bed Clothing womens clothing mens clothing, horses, cattle, side saddles, wagons, sheep, jacks and jennets

Q Can you state any instance where money was taken from women
A There was but one instance that fell under my observation, that was at Bentonville, Arkansas.

Q State what it was
A It was a purse of money taken from the pocket of a young Lady, the daughter of a man named Greenwood.

Q Did you see it taken?
A I did sir

Q By whom was it taken?
A By a private soldier

Q Was the accused present?
A He was in the yard at the time.

Q Was any appeal made by the young Lady to Major Laing in regard to the purse


A I don't remember that there was in regard to the purse, there was in relation to articles being taken out of her trunk.

Q What did the accused reply to her?
A I don't remember that he made any reply to her at that time.

Q Did you notice the accused there with any property?
A I did.

Q What was it?
A I saw him come out of the House with a Bed Quilt wrapped around him, it was thrown over his left shoulder and came around under his right arm.

Q Was that bed quilt taken from that House?
A I could not say I was not in the House the first I knew of the accused being there I saw him come out of the House with the quilt wrapped around him.

Q How did he conduct himself?
A He came out and in a few minutes a trunk was brought out and bust open. I saw


him looking through the trunk and in a few moments I saw him with a Silver dish which he was exhibiting.

Q Do you know what he did with that Silver dish?
A I do not. I saw him have it on the march. There was some dispute whether it was Silver or not and several of the officers were examining it

Q Did you see him take any other property out of that trunk.
A I could not say I did. I saw him handling things, there was such a crowd of enlisted men around him I could only see him around the trunk. I don't really know that the dish came out of the trunk, I merely saw him exhibiting it.

Q Do you recollect any statement he made when the trunk was being plundered.
A I do

Q What did he say.
A He said he guessed he didn't know how to go through trunks, perhaps some one else did. He said the Boys were sitting


in the House when he went in looking like fools, when he went in he went for the trunk. Some one else might as well had that as him.

Q How many enlisted men were within hearing at the time he made those remarks.
A Perhaps fifty. The yard was full of enlisted men and the House was full, they were sitting on the fence all around.

Q Can you state the date of that occurrence?
A It was on the 16th day of November last.

Q Did you see any Houses entered at Bentonville on that day?
A I did. There was not a house in town but what was entered by soldiers on that day.

Q To what Regiment did those soldier belong?
A I could not say

Q Those who came under your observation?
A Greenwoods House was the only one I saw. Those men were from the 15th & 16th Kansas Cavalry and some from the 1st Colorado battery.


Q Did you notice any plunder that was brought in to the Regiment at Bentonville.
A I noticed a great many men bringing in Bed clothing done up and tied to their saddles.

Q Did these men belong to the 15th Kansas that you speak of?
A Yes most of them did. some of them might have belonged to the 16th.

Q Were there any other instances that came under your observation in regard to entering Houses and taking property.
A Yes sir

Q State those instances
A The same day we got to Bentonville I think some four or five miles beyond there, we passed a large white House and Barn this House and Barn were fired and a great many articles were taken out of the House such as bedding and feather beds. The House was some distance from the Road and I saw a number of feather beds carried across the branch and put in the wagons and some were put in the ambulances. The Regiment was halted in the Road opposite the House

Q Are you limiting your remarks to the 15th Regt


A No Sir. The 15th was halted opposite the House but there was Soldiers there that belonged to other commands. I know there was some artillery men there by their uniform.

Q Was there any appeal made by the inmates of the House to Major Laing?
A I don't know. The House was off the Road, and I don't think he went over to the House. I saw Col. Jennison and some other officers coming from that House.

Q Can you state any instance where any appeal was made by any inmate of any House? to the accused for the restoration of property?
A Yes sir in two instances I can. On that same day between that House and Bentonville we passed a House situated by the Road side, when we came up to the House soldiers had been there and had carried all the bed clothing and a great many articles of wearing apparel out. There were several soldiers sitting on the Road side with Feather Beds waiting for the teams to come up.


The inmates of the House were an old man and an old woman. They said that they had moved from northern Indiana to that place before the war and all they had was there. The old Lady came up and asked if there was a Captain in the Command. I told her there were several Captains but Major Laing, pointing to him, was in Command of the Regiment. She asked him to have her feather beds restored. She said she had two (2) sons in the Federal Army then at Cassville. The major told her he could not have the men return these things, saying, "if I should order the men to do that they would shoot me. You see I am afraid of them" and can't have those articles restored and rode on, in a few moments the House was set on fire.

Q State the other instance of which you spoke
A I think the other instance occurred the next day perhaps fifteen or sixteen miles this side of Bentonville. The Command was passing a House near the Road. Some of the soldiers were in the yard and some were in the House


and some were shooting chickens. Some were bringing articles out of the House. The old Lady came and asked for protection. She asked that the soldiers be ordered out of the yard and not to take her things. Major Laing's reply was that he would have two men shot for it-- and told her to tell Sergeant Geo. B. McClellan when he came up to shoot two men.

Q How many Houses if any did you see fired by soldiers on the return march?
A I saw quite a number. I don't know that I could enumerate without some time to study.

Q Where was the first
A The first House that I saw fired was beyond Prairie Grove. It was an officer of the 15th that fired it.

Q Where was the next?
A About a half mile from Prairie Grove

Q Proceed with the next?
A It was just beyond Bentonville that was fired by a soldier of the 15th, that was


the House I spoke of on the Road side.

Q Any others?
A I saw a number of Houses fired but did not see who fired them.

Q What troops were nearest?
A Sometimes the 15th and sometimes the 16th would be nearest to where I saw the smoke emerging

Q Did you see a wagon train. I refer to Wagons and Cattle seized in Arkansas and Missouri.
A I did

Q How was that train loaded
A It was loaded with most all kinds of plunder from Houses. Bedding, clothing of one kind and another, side saddles and articles that were gathered up generally.

Q How many Ox wagons were in that train
A I should judge that there were fifteen or twenty. I never counted them.

Q Were there any other class of wagons


A There were some Government teams and some citizen teams that went from Fort Scott. I believe there were some wagons that had Horses, that had been seized.

Q How many were there of that class?
A I don't remember particularly of but one that was taken by Lieut. Wallingford of Company "A" 15th Kansas, who brought it in loaded with salt pork.

Q For the command
A I don't know for what purpose. He brought it in (is) only what he said.

Q Did you see that herd of cattle after your return.
A I only saw it at a distance after we returned to Mound City.

Q How many cattle and sheep were there in the herd
A I could not say after we returned. My judgement was while on the march that we had about two hundred and fifty stock cattle, about fifty yoke of work cattle and about three hundred


sheep and some Jacks and Jennets but only a few of them perhaps seven or eight.

Q Do you know of any Horses being seized
A Yes sir. I know of a good many Horses being led a long by soldiers of the command. Some horses and some mules.

Q Did you see any soldiers of the 15th putting plunder away in the wagons
A I usually saw them putting it in the wagons when they came in and often in the morning when starting out of camp I would see them loading bed clothing.

Q Were you at Hickmans Mills on the 22d of October, 1864.
A Yes sir

Q Do you know the occasion of the march from Hickmans Mills to Olathe.
A I don't know the occasion of it only as I surmised it.

Q What did you see at Hickmans Mills
A We got to Hickmans Mills about twelve


o'clock that day. The command dismounted and were preparing for dinner. A messenger came in informing us that the fight was going on at Byrons Crossing of the Big blue. A short time after a man came riding up in a great Hurry and appeared to be very much agitated. He rode up to where myself, Capt Curtis, Lieut. Philips and Capt Thompson were and asked who was in command. I told him Major Laing was in command of the troops there. He said Genl Curtis wanted him to bring his command up as soon as possible. He said that Genl. Curtis had whipped Price and Price was trying to recross the Blue, and wished all the troops to come up as quick as they could. I then asked him what command he belonged to. He said he was an aid on Genl. Curtises Staff. I asked him in relation to where the fight commenced which direction they were trying to retreat. He said that he had not time to talk to me.. He was in a great hurry to


get back, and Genl Curtis orders were for all the troops to come up. He rode to where Major Laing was, five or six rods distance. A moment after he rode up there the bugle was blown to Horse, that was the last I ever saw of him.

Q Describe the march from Hickmans Mills to Olathe in regard to gait.
A It was very rapid. When we mounted our Horses at Hickmans Mills we went in a Gallop most of the way until we came to the Blue. The militia on the north side of the Blue had been routed and were coming across in disorder. We countermarched there and came out on the Prairie and moved to Little Santa Fe. We marched out of the woods about as fast as we went in.

Q Did you see the enemy at Hickmans Mills
A No sir. We could see the smoke of the artillery over north of the Blue.

Q Where did you see the enemy?


A When on the Bluff near the Blue

Q Did you see the enemy after you reached little Santa Fe
A No sir

Q Can you state whether or not there is a direct Road between West Port and little Santa Fe
A There is

Q What is that Road called
A I can't tell

Q Can you state whether it is an old Road or not?
A Yes sir. It is a road that has been in use for the last six years.

Q State what occurred near Shawneetown in regard to that march.
A We were not near Shawneetown that night that I know of. We were near Shawneetown the next day the twenty third. After we left Olathe- marching in the direction of West Port- when we came within two and a half or three miles of Shawneetown we met a squad of


militia coming up the Road. They reported the enemy near Shawneetown. We then marched off to the River and crossed it at what is known as Chateau's Crossing of the Kaw River.

Q Did you hear Major Laing make any remark in regard to that march at the time or afterwards
A I don't remember whether he did or not

Cross examination

By the accused

Q Did the accused bring out the trunk you spoke of at the House.