Published on February 17, 2013 by Carol
The Osage War might be called Missouri’s forgotten war so far as historians have given it notice. Several explanations may be made. In 1837 the capitol building in Jefferson City burned, and with it, undoubtedly, were destroyed many of the records of the state military of that time. The Osage War was not a sanguinary conflict, and it was more or less overshadowed by the Seminole expedition which was undertaken at the same time the fall of 1837. But the Osage War was none the less significant for it marked the final determined effort of the people of Missouri to rid the state forever of the Red Man, and to make it safe for the thousands upon thousands of white settlers who were pouring into the state at a rate that doubled the population every ten years.
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The Osage War did this, and modern Missouri history might well date from this event. In 1808 there were in Missouri in excess of 20,000 Indians, it is estimated, made up of tribes of Osages, Missouris, Iowas, Sacs, Foxes, Kickapoos, Shawnees, and Delawares. In this year, the United States government effected an important treaty with these tribes, whereby they renounced their claims to land in the state, with the exception of a small strip in the extreme western portion. They agreed to migrate west of a line drawn from Ft. Osage, now Sibley, south to the Arkansas river the line roughly dissecting the western tier of Missouri counties.
The Osages were particularly populous in what are now Bates and Vernon counties, having a large village seven miles northeast of Nevada and another three miles north of Balltown. Despite the treaty a number of them remained in Benton county as late as 1835, and until 1837 there were repeated hunting incursions in the splendid hunting grounds to be found in Benton, Henry, St. Clair and Polk counties.
In 1824 they relinquished in title the narrow strip they held along the Kansas border, but, as was to be seen, the agreement was punctured with frequent forays into the white settlements, attended by plundering, pillaging, thieving of all descriptions, and frequently murder. This harassing situation is set forth in a memorial of the General Assembly of Missouri of 1841, asking the Federal government to reimburse the state for the cost of the Osage War, the state holding that the condition which made the war necessary was one created by the national government.
While the Osage War was directed chiefly toward the tribes bearing that name it was by no means confined to them. In the early part of the nineteenth century there were numerous tribes of Shawnee and Delaware Indians in Perry and Cape Girardeau counties in the southeastern portion of the state. By 1823 they had migrated westward into Christian and Stone counties, and in 1830 they were induced by the
Federal government to move into Kansas. But like the Osages they continued from time to time to return and annoy the white pioneers. Missouri’s Indian problem was made more complex by the policy of the Federal government in the late Twenties and early Thirties in moving all Indian tribes east of the Mississippi to the West. Missouri was the gateway in this movement, and to her already large Indian population, it is estimated 30,000 more were added in this period.
In 1837, Hon. Lilburn W. Boggs was governor. He was a St. Louisan who had accumulated wealth in trading with the Indians, and was conversed in their ways. He had been lieutenant-governor previous to his election, and was regarded as a firm executive, and a man of action likely to settle the Indian problem. Wherefore in September, 1837, when he received word of depredations by the Osages in western Missouri, he decided to call out the militia. The mission was charged to Major General Samuel D. Lucas, commanding the Fourth Division, Missouri Militia. His report of the expedition, from the original on file in the office of the adjutant general in Jefferson City, is as follows:
His Excellency L. W. Boggs,Commander in Chief,Missouri Militia.
The troops rendezvous’d on Grand river fifty miles south of Independence on the 24th of October, 1837. On the evening of the same day, before the men were mustered into service, I received information that a party of Indians had been seen that day on Deer Creek about three miles from our encampment. Upon receiving this information I ordered out a detachment of one hundred men to go in pursuit of them, which I divided into two parties, to one of which I assigned Brig. Gen. M. G. Wilson to command, with orders to scout the north side of said creek and to meet the other party at a bridge on said creek about five miles above where the old Harmony Mission Trace crosses. I took command of the other part of the detachment and crossed said creek at the old trace and scoured the country on the south side up to said bridge. In our search we took one Indian prisoner from whom we ascertained the direction of their main camp. The detachment again got together at the bridge aforesaid, where we took up our line to march for the camp of the main body of Indians, using the prisoner as a guide. We found their camp about 6 or 8 miles west of the bridge on Deer creek, containing about 30 Indians. They evinced considerable signs of hostility when we first approached, each warrior taking a tree with his gun and implements of war about him and one of them cocked his gun and raised it to fire, but upon his seeing some 15 or 20 guns presented in the direction he was, he took it down and the whole party surrendered. We marched them into camp about 10:00 at night on the 29th of October.
The men being mustered into service and the troops organized I took up the line of march for the Marmitaw River,(the Marmitaw River, one of the headwater streams of the Osage River, rising in Kansas and flowing through the present county of Vernon, Missouri. Later called the Marmaton) previous to the main army’s marching on said morning. I sent a detachment of three companies under the command of Brig. Gen. Wm. B. Almond in pursuit of a band of Indians that I was told had been committing depredations on Mound Branch Creek east of the Harmony Road. I kept out from two to three detachments every day and scoured the whole country on each side of the Harmony Mission Road for from 10 to 20 miles. Every detachment that I sent out brought in more or less prisoners and all reported fresh Indian signs in the country and judging from the signs that there was a large body of Indians within our borders. The 29th of October we arrived at Harmony Mission House. On that day I sent Brig. Gen. Wilson to Deepwater country with a detachment of four companies after a party of Indians that it was reported to me were then committing depredations in that section of the country. We found a good deal of excitement amongst the French and half-breed Indians in the vicinity of Harmony, and from observation and information, believe that they sent runners all through the country to inform the Indians of our approach and to advise them to leave the country or to elude our search. The day we left Harmony the smoke from their fire appeared to be receding, which confirmed our belief in the part the French and the halfbreeds had taken.
The second day after leaving the Meridecine, (the Marais de Cygnes River, one of the headwater streams of the Osage River, arising in Kansas and flowing through what is now Bates County, Missouri. General Lucas was inclined to spell these French named streams phonetically) we reached the Marmitaw River where I made my headquarters. I kept detachments out every day whilst we remained and scoured the whole country as far as Drywood Creek, some 30 miles southeast of our encampment on Marmitaw. We captured 101 Indians from Grand River to the Marmitaw River and during our stay there I have no doubt from the best information but what there was at the least calculation 1,000 Indians committing depredations on the settlers within the limits of the state when the troops reached the rendezvous on Grand River, and believe that if a small force of 150 or 200 men had been sent out against them that they would have had to have fought before they could have removed them. I received information from Mr. Papin, trader amongst the Osages (through Dr. Dodge) of their hostile threats and requesting me by all means to order out a large force that the Indians were more impudent in their threats than they ever had been before and that they intended to bring at least from 400 to 500 warriors with them. The Indians having heretofore committed depredations on the southern citizens for 8 or 9 years with impunity they naturally came to the conclusion that the whites were afraid of them and that when they sent their menacing threats through Mr. Papin that it would have the effect to frighten the whites to a quiet gait and they could commit depredations as formerly, but when they heard of and saw our army of 500 Mounted Riflemen marching to the assistance of their injured countrymen they took the alarm and fled from the country as fast as possible.
While at the Marmitaw I received information that there was a large party of Indians in the Spring River country committing depredations on that settlement. I sent a detachment of three companies under the command of Brig. Gen. Almond to scour that section of the country. He captured 200 Indians and put them outside of the state line. We captured in all 301 Indians, which were removed without the limits of the state after some explanations through an interpreter of the laws of the country on the subject of acting as they had been doing and what they might expect provided the men were called out again to remove them. “The Indians expressed great astonishment at the number of white men and said they did not believe before that there could be as many men raised within the State of Missouri. The main body of the army was only out fifteen days, but owing to our strength I was able to keep out and send out detachments all the time and in every direction. I left no part of the country unexamined neither on our advance march to the frontier nor during our stay at the Marmitaw River and did not leave until we were well satisfied on that point. It would have required a force of 200 men at least six weeks or two months to have performed the same service, and in all probability they would have been compelled to have resorted to arms before the object of the expedition could have been accomplished. The citizens of our southwestern frontier have been badly treated. We found as respectable people living on the frontier aforesaid as any in Missouri. Men of exemplary habits and good moral character, and a remarkable fact is they are all, or mostly so, temperance men, who discountenance the use and traffic in Ardent Spirits. Such a class of citizens are worthy of and entitled to protection and the general government is bound to afford it, and not any longer disregard their exposed situation. The Dragoons (U.S. Army) heretofore, they say, have afforded them no protection whatever and that their only dependence is upon the state authorities.
I have the honor to be, with high respect your obd’t svt.,
A few weeks later Governor Boggs received reports of Indian depredations from the extreme southwestern portion of the state. He decided to extend the war to this section. This mission was entrusted to the Seventh Division, Missouri Militia, Major General Joseph Powell, commanding. It operated from Springfield, the seat of Greene county. One operation was entrusted to Col. Charles S. Yancey of the Greene county militia. Accompanied by Lieut. Col. Chesley Cannefax, Captain Henry Fulbright, and a company of a hundred men, Col. Yancey proceeded into the Stone Creek country, where he came on a large band of Indians, squaws and their young. They were ordered to move, but pleaded good behavior if allowed to remain. Col. Yancey returned to Springfield, but the fears of the white settlers in the vicinity of the Indian camp were not allayed, and on their pleas the removal of the Indians was ordered. Winter had advanced, and considerable suffering and hardship was experienced by the Indians, as they were led to the border of Arkansas and told to keep out of Missouri and observe their treaty agreements. That the operations extended to Barry county is indicated by the following original documents on file in the office of the adjutant general in Jefferson City: Order of Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, to Adjutant General B. M. Lisle, Organizing the 83d Regiment of Barry County.
Sir: I have been informed by an express from Barry county that the militia of that county has not as yet been organized. You will therefore issue an order to Major General Powell, commanding the 7th Division, Mo. Militia, to cause a regiment to be organized in said county by dividing the same into proper number of companies and by the election of field and company officers. You will at the same time furnish him with the number of the regiment and direct the returns of the elections to be made immediately. You will likewise direct Gen’l Powell to cause to be raised in the County of Barry a company of mounted volunteers, not exceeding one hundred men, to be armed and equipped according to law for the purpose of ranging on the frontier of that county until superseded by the troops of the United States for the purpose of removing any Indians found hunting or roaming within the limits of the state and for the protection of that portion of our frontier from Indian depredations.The express will return tomorrow by whom you will please forward the foregoing orders. Respectfully, yr obdt serv’t, &.Lilburn W. Boggs Com-in-Chief.
Report of Major I. T. Shanks, brigade inspector, 1st Brigade, 7th Division, Missouri Militia, in mustering in a company of volunteers of Barry County, with endorsements.
I do hereby certify that agreeable to an order of Gen’l N. R. Smith, commander of the First Brigade, Seventh Division, M. M. I traveled to Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Barry County from Springfield, the county seat of Greene County, a distance of fifty miles in the going and fifty miles in the returning, for the purpose of mustering into the service a hundred volunteers and approving their horses by order of the Commander-in-chief, M. M., to Gen’l Joseph Powell, commander of the 7th Division, M. M., and that I served four days in discharging that duty in December, 1837. I further certify that the above is correct upon the honor of an officer.
This militia company was organized evidently on report of Brig. Gen. A. F. Nail, who commanded an expedition that marched through Barry county to its seat at Sarcoxie, now in Jasper county, and thence north and eastward to Bolivar, in Polk county, where the troops were mustered out of service. Gen. Nail’s report and muster rolls furnish the only record of the names of men who served in the Indian campaigns of 1837, the muster rolls of General Lucas presumably being lost in the fire that destroyed the capitol. The following is the report:
By order of Major General Powell, commanding the 7th Division, Missouri Militia, a portion of the Second Brigade of said Division was mustered into the service of the State on the 14th day of November, 1837, when they were discharged in the town of Bolivar in Polk county, by order of Major General Joseph Powell, commanding 7th Division, Missouri Militia.
The following is a list of the names and grades of officers and the names of the privates of the Second Brigade, 7th Division, Missouri Militia, mustered into service of the State of Missouri as aforesaid and continued in the service 18 days as mounted volunteers and discharged as aforesaid.” The general’s staff was listed as follows:
Under General Nall was Col. T. J. Shannon and staff, as follows: Adjutant J. W. Davis, Lieut. Col. J. L. Young, Major Levi A. Williams, Judge Advocate C. Luttrill, Quartermaster Sergeant William Owens, Color Bearer Mart Morgan, Trumpeter William Jones, Quartermaster Hugh Boyd, Sergt. Major William R. Hill, Paymaster Winfry Owens.
The companies were officered as follows: