Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Sixth Kansas Cavalry
An excerpt from The Soldiers of Kansas: The Sixth Kansas Cavalry and its Commander -- an address by Charles Estabrook Cory reprinted from Collections Kansas Historical Society, Volume XI, 1909-1910. Downloaded from the Internet Archive. Many Appanoose County, Iowa, men served in Company B of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry.
-----------------------------------------The Sixth Kansas cavalry was a somewhat peculiar organization; not entirely unique for a Western regiment, but different from most regiments of the United States army. For instance, a good proportion of the men rode their own horses. A part of the time half of them wore citizen's clothing. They had no other, and could get no other. They were not only most remarkable fighters, but they were also the finest foragers that ever went to war since the days of vandals. That is saying a good deal, because the Western armies in the Civil War on both sides scarcely needed a commissary train, and the words "conscience" and "property rights" were blotted out of their dictionary. In the graphic words of a soldier who talked to me the other day, not about the Sixth Kansas cavalry, however, "we had no commissary, and we took no prisoners."
The situation in which the Sixth Kansas was thrown was largely influential in making up the character of its service, and the character of its men as soldiers. The border of Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory and Arkansas, from Kansas City to Fort Gibson, say 300 to 350 miles, was a seething, hissing caldron. Noble L. Prentis called this region "Battle Corners." He was tasteful in the selection of the word.
What was supposed to be the flower of the army, on both sides, was in the East. They did more bloody fighting, but here was the real punishment. The Sixth was a cavalry regiment. Its companies could move. They could go to a place. Two or three would be sent in one direction, a couple of companies in another direction, and possibly another portion in still another direction, to quite local disturbances. They were doing continuous field police duty.
Its soldiers were what my friend Joe Ausman calls "roughnecks." My guess is that not half a dozen men in the regiment would at that time have known what a nightshirt was for if they had seen one. But they could live like princes on the lee side of a haystack on a winter night, or they could ride all night, over all sorts of roads, or no roads at all, and go into a skirmish in the morning like a bridegroom goes to his wedding. The hard frontier life had made them men of iron. They were not much to look at. They did not wear collars and cuffs and polished shoes at inspection, but they did business.
Then, their physical endurance! Nearly every one of the Sixth had ridden in prairie schooners and had tramped from Indiana or Illinois, or other Middle West states, and were accustomed to sleeping on the ground with nothing over them but a horse blanket and the sky, possibly the blanket omitted. They were ready for anything. They could hit the eye of a squirrel in the top of a tree. They had been trained on occasion to get their meat from the woods along the streams. They were hardy, and could stand any sort of punishment on a forced march. They could sleep in the saddle. That was the kind of people that made up the Sixth. The Sixth Kansas cavalry was up to the best of them. The people down Fort Scott way are proud to claim the Sixth as the Fort Scott regiment. It was really organized there, but the different parts came from a wide territory. The colonel, lieutenant colonel, major and surgeon were all Fort Scott people, but the companies came from places wide apart, some from as far west as Junction City.