About a year and a half ago, I posted an entry on this blog about the whipping of some Union soldiers at Clinton, Mo. that occurred on the Fourth of July of 1861. A combined force of U. S. Army regulars and Kansas volunteers of about 2,000-3,000 men were marching from Kansas to link up with General Nathaniel Lyon, who was on his way to Springfield. At Clinton, some of the volunteers got drunk and started committting minor depredations like stealing chickens from local residents. I reported last time that Major Samuel Sturgis, in command of the combined force, ordered the volunteers flogged with fifty lashes each from a black-snake whip, and the punishment was carried out by some of his regulars, which almost caused a mutiny among the volunteers. There was more to the story than that, however, and I recently ran across a newspaper article that sheds additional light on the circumstances of the flogging. Colonel George Deitzler, commanding the volunteers, came under criticism in the Kansas press for allowing the whipping of the volunteers, and the newspaper article contained a letter from one of Deitzler's captains explaining what had happened in more detail and defending the colonel. Apparently at least a couple of regulars were also among the soldiers that Major Sturgis had arrested and brought before him because of their unruly behavior. Colonel Deitzler was notified of the arrests, and he called a meeting of his captains to decide what should be done. The officers agreed that the men should be given stern punishments in order to instill a sense of discipline in the command, and they agreed to leave the volunteers with Sturgis to allow him to mete out the punishment. However, they did not expect the men to be so severely punished as to be flogged with a teamster's whip. When Col. Deitzler learned of the first whippings, he hastened to Sturgis's headquarters and protested the brutal punishment. Sturgis at first refused to countermand his order or to turn the volunteers over to Deitzler, but at last Deitzler succeeded in getting a few of the volunteers released into his custody and saved them from the harsh punishment.
Speaking of the Civil War, I'm happy to announce that my book on the two battles of Newtonia recently won the Walter Williams Major Work Award, an annual award given by the Missouri Writers' Guild for a "major work" written by one of its members. My Ozarks Gunfights book also took a second place in the Best Book about Missouri category.
Labels: Clinton, Missouri; George W. Deitzler; Samuel D. Sturgis