The Devils Rejects AKA Redlegs.

By mid-1862, Lane’s Brigade had exited Missouri, Lane had adjourned to the Senate, Anthony and Hoyt had been removed from Missouri and deposited unceremoniously in Mississippi with the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, and Jennison had been jettisoned from the U.S. Army--temporarily.

Now, a new marauding unit of some 30 to 100 men formed and began operations in western Missouri.Who was its leader? Not surprisingly, Charles Rainsford Jennison, Missouri’s old menace. The unit’s field commander, by summer’s end, would be George H. Hoyt, one of Jennison’s former Seventh Kansas Cavalry officers and John Brown’s old attorney. The new unit was called the "Red Legs" or 'Red Legged Scouts." Below and to the right is an image of George H. Hoyt                                                                                                                                                      

A writer, in 1863, described Hoyt at a public meeting in Paola, Kansas “dressed in a suit of black velvet, red sheepskin leggin[g]s reaching to the knees, a red silk handkerchief carelessly thrown around his neck, and a military hat with a flowing black plume. At his waist was an embossed morocco belt carrying a pair of ivory-mounted revolvers. (1 ).

Unionist George Caleb Bingham’s painting, Marshal Law Orders No. 11, shows a Red Leg intimidating an elderly man after killing his unarmed son. The killer is dressed in typical 'Red Leg' attire, his right hand on his revolver.Homes are being burned and plundered in the background.

While some historians are vague about the origin of the Red Legs, Kansas historian, William Elsey Connelley said that they were organized by Generals Thomas Ewing Jr. and James G. Blunt “for desperate service along the border.” Once they were formed, however, they became “fatherless children.” No one, neither Blunt, who commanded the District of Kansas, nor Ewing, who commanded the District of the Border, wished to own them officially.

The Red Legs “received usually the salary of a commissioned officer whose uniform they were authorized to wear.” Historian Stephen Starr said, “The Red Legs were not the kind of military body that keeps records and makes reports,” and added, they “stole, robbed, burned, and killed indiscriminately, and not in Missouri alone.”

A Red Leg, “Sore-eyed” Dan, once complained when Jennison shot and killed an elderly man: “By G--d that is the first time I ever saw a dog killed that had no teeth.”

Writing from Leavenworth, Kansas, C. M. Chase, a Union journalist for the "True Republican and Sentinel"  of Sycamore, Illinois, defined the Red Legs and the various forms of Jayhawkers who operated in Missouri and Kansas:Jayhawkers, Red Legs, and "Bushwhackers" are everyday terms in Kansas and Western Missouri.A Jayhawker is a Unionist who professes to rob, burn out and murder only rebels in arms against the government. A Red Leg is a Jayhawker originally distinguished by the uniform of red leggings.A Red Leg, however, is regarded as more purely an indiscriminate thief and murderer than the Jayhawker or Bushwhacker. A Bushwhacker is a rebel Jayhawker, or a rebel who bands with others for the purpose of preying upon the lives and property of Union citizens. They are all lawless and indiscriminate in their iniquities.Their occupation, unless crushed out speedily, will end in a system of highway robbery exceeding anything which has existed in any country. It excites the mind, destroys the moral sensibilities, creates a thirst of wild life and adventure which will, on the restoration of peace, find gratification in nothing but highway robbery." (2)

Demonstrating how difficult it is to penetrate the misinformation surrounding many of the events and circumstances of the Border War, General Blunt proclaimed the following to one of his commanders:"All operations against rebels must be directed by the legal military authorities.This injunction is to apply especially to an organization known as the 'Red Legs', which is an organized band of thieves and violators of law and good order. All such persons found prowling over the country, without a legitimate purpose, must be disarmed; and if they shall be caught in the act of thieving or other lawlessness, or in the possession of stolen property, for which they cannot give a good and sufficient reason, they shall be shot upon the spot.And as there is reason to believe that officers in the military service are implicated directly or indirectly, in the offenses committed by “Red Legs” and other lawless bands, therefore, upon the evidence that any officer has failed or neglected to carry out the foregoing instructions in reference to such offenders, they will be dishonorably dismissed the service of the United States." (3)                                                                                                             

In the above message, General Blunt disavowed any affiliation with the Red Legs. He even referred to them at another time as the “Forty Thieves.” We know, nonetheless, that one of the leaders of the Red Legs was the infamous “Captain Tough” (W. S. Tough)--Blunt’s own chief of scouts!!! Josiah C. Ury, who was a “captain of scouts from 1862 until the close of the war,” served under Blunt, where he wore “red and tan-colored buckskin leggings” as part of a squad of fifteen to twenty men called the “Red Legs.”

The image  to the right is of John Wilcox a member of the 7th Kansas wearing civilan clothing, his "red-legs" he has a pistol barrel sticking out from behind his saddle bags.  This may be the only mounted image of a Red Leg.      

When Dan Anthony became mayor of Leavenworth, the Red Legs used the town as a place to dispose of stolen property. They also had a headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas, where regular public auctions were held selling the stolen horses and property of Missourians.

The people of Lawrence, according to historian Albert Castel, were “either unable to drive these bandits out or were indifferent to their presence.” Likely, most of the people of Lawrence were not only indifferent to their presence, they sanctioned and approved of it.

The Red Legs used the Johnson House hotel in Lawrence as their hangout, and buildings made of straw sprawled along a ravine near Massachusetts Avenue, where they kept stolen Missouri goods, before auctioning it off, and housed runaway slaves.

Writer Lucien Carr, called Lawrence a “mere fence-house for stolen property” once owned by Missourians. (4).

George W. Martin, secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, writing in 1910, dispelled any doubt as to those who controlled the Red Legs: "During the war on the border there was a legitimate organization of Union scouts called the “Red Legs.” . . .There were never less than 50 of them, nor more than 100. The organization was formed in December, 1862 or January 1863 . . . They were employed by the generals in command, and were carried on the pay rolls at seven dollars each per day." Cyrus Leland, Jr., who was an officer on Gen. Thomas Ewing’s staff says that Ewing always had several of them in his employ . . . "Thomas J. Anderson, of Topeka, who was a member of General Blunt’s staff, tells me that Blunt also had many of them on the pay roll . . . so the red leggings seem to have been a badge of desperate service in the Union Army, furnished from headquarters.

Martin wrote, “the Red Leg was a terror in Missouri. All their witnesses say that the Red Leg was a way above the average man in ability. They were recognized by the government as fully as any captain, colonel or general.” Albert Greene, a soldier in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry, said that: The exigencies of the border warfare demanded the organization of a company of picked men, capable of independent action, . . . who would act on an instant on their own initiative, without waiting for orders from superior authority and the cumbersome machinery of military etiquette . . . (5)

Jennison after 1862 operated a shipping business, Losee and Jennison, in Leavenworth, where he used many of the horses and property stolen by the Red Legs and other thieves from Kansas in his business. One of the reasons General Ewing placed Leavenworth under martial law while Anthony was mayor appears to have been because of his concern with illegal operations emanating from the town.

Ewing wrote to Anthony on July 20, 1863, warning him that he had declared martial law in Leavenworth County and adding:“I will not abate or surrender my military jurisdiction, which extends to both arrest and punishments, in favor of a civil jurisdiction extending only to arrests, nor allow any town in my district to become a city of refuge within whose precincts the pirates of the border may escape the swift process of martial law.”

Historian Stephen Starr said “It was generally believed that he [Anthony] was hand-in-glove with the Red Legs and brigands of all descriptions who infested the eastern counties of Kansas as much as they did northwestern Missouri. (6)

Among the members of the Red Legs, besides Jennison and Hoyt, were such notables as William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody, James Butler (“Wild Bill”) Hickok,” Theodore Bartles, William Sloan Tough (known as “Captain Tough” or “Tufts”), Jack Harvey, Walt Sinclair, “Red” Clark and “Jeff Davis” (actually Captain Joseph Bloomington Swain, of New York).

Some of the Red Legs had bizarre names like, “Sore-eyed Dan,” Sam “Pickles” Wright, “Pony” Searl, Charles “One-eyed” Blunt, “Yellow Tom” Cullinan, and “Beauregard” Jack Bridges. The headquarters of the Red Legs was Six Mile House on the road from Kansas City to Leavenworth. They also had a headquarters in Fort Scott.Another of their headquarters was Lawrence, Kansas, where they often nested, rested, and stored their loot. They were well and widely known by those they stayed among in these small towns.

When Quantrill’s guerrillas fled Lawrence in August 1863 after sacking and burning the town, their pursuers captured some of the young guerrillas and turned them over to Hoyt, the field chief of the Red Legs, who promptly, personally, executed them.Obviously, the Kansas authorities knew the Red Legs only too well. (7)

Buffalo Bill Cody admitted that as one of the Red Legs he raided Missouri farms and settlements, adding:“Few of us ever returned empty-handed . . . We were the biggest gang of thieves on record.”“Willie” (as his sister referred to him), after he joined the “Red Legged Scouts,” told his sister upon returning from his duties that he had been “out with his Scouting Co.” on a “Scouting Tour.”

Three years after the Civil War--noting how interwoven the crooked and unlawful were with the sanctioned and legal in Kansas--George Hoyt, the putative field leader of the Red Legs became the Attorney General of Kansas! Jennison became an elected state representative! Anthony continued to be elected mayor of Leavenworth! (8 ).                          

Leverett W. Spring, a New England English professor and historian, said this of the 'Red Legs':Early in the struggle an organization appeared known as 'Red Legs' . . . It was a loose-jointed organization, with members shifting between twenty-five and fifty, dedicated originally to the vocation of horse-stealing, but flexible enough to include rascalities of every description. At intervals the gang would dash into Missouri, seize horse and cattle--not omitting other worse outrages on occasion--then repair with their booty to Lawrence, where it was defiantly sold at auction." 'Red Legs' were accustomed to brag in Lawrence, says one who was familiar with their movements, “that nobody dared to interfere with them." They did not hesitate to shoot inquisitive and troublesome people. At Lawrence the livery stables were full of their stolen horses.One day I saw three or four Red-legs attack a Missourian who was in town searching for lost property. They gathered about him with drawn revolvers and drove him off very unceremoniously. I once saw Hoyt, the leader, without a word of explanation or warning, open fire upon a stranger quietly riding down Massachusetts Street. He was a Missourian whom Hoyt had recently robbed. The gang contained men of the most desperate and hardened character, and a full recital of their deeds would sound like the biography of devils."

(1). “The Quantrill Raid,” [i] Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1913-1914, [/i] vol. 13 (Topeka, KS: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1915), 447. (2)  Wiliam Elsey Connelley, "Quantrill and the Border Wars" (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, Publishers, 1910), 411-13; Starr, Jennison’s Jayhawkers, 214."War of the Rebellion, " ser. 1, vol. 23, 223.  (4).  George W. Martin, “Memorial Monuments and Tablets in Kansas,” "Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1909-1910", ed., George W. Martin, vol. 11 (Topeka, KS: State Printing Office, 1910), 279; Castel, A Frontier State at War, 137; Lucien Carr, Missouri: A Bone of Contention (Boston and New York, 1888), 334. (5) Martin, “Memorial Monuments and Tablets in Kansas,” 279-81. (6)  Connelley, [i] Quantrill and the Border Wars [/i], 411-12; [i] War of the Rebellion, [/i] ser. 1, vol. 23, 390. Starr, Jennison’s Jayhawkers, 253. (7) Connelley, [i] Quantrill and the Border War, [/i] 412-15. Other Red Legs for the public record were James Flood, Jerry Malcom, ____Hawkins, Jack Hays, John Blachley, Harry Lee, Newt Morrison, ____Gladhart, John Salathiel, Joseph Guilliford, Al Saviers, and ____ Alsup. (8)  John Burke, [i] Buffalo Bill: The Noblest Whiteskin [/i](New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1972), 42. “Julia Cody Goodman’s Memoirs of Buffalo Bill,” ed., Don Russell, The Kansas Historical Quarterly (Winter 1962): 488-89, 491; Jennison’s Jayhawkers, 216, 384-85.

Donald L.Gilmore ©2012 Quantrillsguerrillas.com "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or image." Our last image is of  the famous painting "Marsahl-Law Order #11."                                                                                                                                        

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