Civil war, by its very nature, tends to give rise to atrocity. America's Civil War was, of course, no exception; and the state of Missouri, where a ferocious brand of guerrilla warfare arose, probably witnessed more than its share of barbaric acts. In addition, the state also saw a number of lesser cruelties that, while perhaps not rising to the level of atrocity, were nonetheless notorious deeds. One such incident occurred at Clinton, Missouri, very early in the war.
On July 4, 1861, a combined force of about two or three thousand Kansas volunteers and army regulars marched into Clinton, the Henry County seat, on their way to link up with General Nathaniel Lyon, who was marching toward Springfield from the Missouri River region around Boonville. Although most of the Southern-leaning young men of Henry County had already gone south with General Sterling Price and Governor Claiborne Jackson a few days earlier, Sturgis found Clinton "pretty much given over to rebellion," according to the Leavenworth Weekly Conservative
. It was Independence Day, but the Clintonites had "abolished the great anniversary, Yankee Doodle, the Stars and Stripes, the American Eagle, and all other National institutions."
Some of the volunteers celebrated the Fourth by imbibing a little too freely when a local man "rolled out a large keg of mean whiskey," and a few of the inebriated Kansans started stealing chickens and vegetables from local citizens and committing other minor depredations.
Eight offending soldiers and one teamster were promptly brought before Major Sturgis, who ordered them flogged by some of his regulars. The next day (the same day that Governor Jackson met Colonel Franz Sigel at the Battle of Carthage) they were tied in turn to a cannon and given fifty lashes each on the bare back with a teamster's blacksnake whip.
The severe punishment almost caused a mutiny among the Kansas volunteers, with some of them threating to kill Sturgis, and the Conservative
questioned why loyal U. S. solders were dealt with so sternly for relatively minor indiscretions, while men who were in open rebellion against the United States could escape punishment by merely taking an oath.
Labels: Clinton, Missouri; Samuel D. Sturgis