Burning of Osceola – Newspaper Accounts

The following is historic news text from when the Missouri town of Osceola found itself in the ruins of Civil War.  For the story of this historic city, see our article Osceola, Missouri – Surviving All Odds


Osceola Burned by General Lane – New York Times, October 1, 1861

General James H. Lane

General James H. Lane

Jefferson City, Saturday, September 28

A gentleman who arrived here this morning from the West, states he saw a gentleman who passed through Osceola on Wednesday last, who says that the central portion of that town had been burned by General Lane. It is stated the reasons for burning were that the rebels had fired on our troops from windows. No National troops were near there when he left.

General Lane’s Success at Osceola – New York Times, October 5, 1861

From the Leavenworth Conservative, September 28th.

From O.A. Bassett, Esq., who arrived yesterday from Fort Scott, we learn that General Lane has been completely successful in his forced march upon Osceola.

After his victor in Papinsville, already recorded, he proceeded immediately to Osceola in St. Clair County, Missouri, a distance of twenty miles.

The rebel force there was dislodged, the town burned to the ground, and the immense supply train of Rains and Price captured.

This train was between two and three miles in length, contained all the supplies and equipage of Rains and Price, and $100,000 in money. This is the most important success gained for the Union cause in Missouri, and goes far to redeem our losses at Lexington. Lane is now on his way back, and they may soon be expected in this vicinity.

McCulloch is still near Fort Scott, and his men swear they are bound for Kansas.

Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat: Headquarters Kansas Brigade – New York Times, October 14, 1861

Additional From Kansas City, October 3, 1861

That your readers may be correctly informed concerning General Lane’s march upon Osceola, I furnish you the facts in this communication. Information was received that the rebels had left a large amount of army stores in Osceola; that General Price had been repulsed from before Lexington, and that in all probability, he would be in full retreat in a few days. The object of the expedition was to cut off the enemy’s retreat, to seize his stores, and to attend to any other business along the route which the cause might demand. It was also reported that the enemy  had assembled in force at Papinsville, and one or two other places along the line of our contemplated march.

The advanced column, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery, left camp in the evening of September 17th, under command of Colonel Montgomery, with the intention of surprising the enemy at Papinsville at daybreak next morning. But, he had vamoosed the ranch, and on our arrival but few families were left, and these were the rankest kind of Unionists.

On we moved, nothing important occurring until we came to the Sac River, five miles west of Osceola. Here, a Mr. Harris, formerly a Quartermaster in the rebel army, was trying to raise a force to prevent our crossing. General Rains had burned the fine bridge at this point early in the season, and this is the only place at which the stream is fordable for many miles.

Colonel James Montgomery

Colonel James Montgomery

Colonel Montgomery was too quick for him and the rebel Harris became our prisoner. We reached Osceola a little after night set in, and through a mistake of the guide, got upon the suburbs of the town before we were aware of it. As our advance under command of Colonel Weir were moving along upon the road a heavy fire was opened upon it from the bushes nearby. The veterans halted and returned the compliment. The enemy fired again by which their position was better understood, our men then gave him a fire from successive platoons. He fired a third line and fled, leaving 14 dead and wounded upon the field, or rather in the bush. Whilst our men were still in position another volley was poured into them from a log house nearby. Captain Moonlight turned upon them his howitzer, which soon routed the rebels, and fired the building. On our side two men were slightly wounded. No other casualties occurred. The missiles of the enemy passed from one to four feet over our heads. The behavior of Colonel Weir and of his command was as cool and brave as could be desired.

Our men slept upon their arms that night and the first object that met their eyes in the morning was the succession flag floating over the courthouse. This, of itself, was enough to condemn that temple of justice to destruction, but in addition, all appearances indicted that the rebels had turned it into a fortification to be used in the defense of treason and traitors. Captain Moonlight’s howitzer dispatched its missile of destruction against it, and soon the building was a heap of ruins. Slowly and carefully our men then advanced upon the town, but the enemy had fled, and the fighting part of the expedition was at an end. An examination was then made of the character of the town. A large quantity of lead, some powder, army clothing and provisions were found. All our wagons were loaded to their utmost capacity, and the order was given to return to camp. Colonel Weir favored sparing the rebel town, but the counsel of Colonels Montgomery and Richey prevailed, and the business portion thereof was committed to the flames. The reasons for its destruction were:

  1. It was traitorous to the core – but one loyalist could be found in it.
  2. It was a place of general rendezvous for the enemy.
  3. He intended to make of it a military post during the Winter.
  4. It was naturally a strong position, and could be easily fortified.
  5. if left standing the enemy would return as soon as our army left.
  6. The Government could not afford to make such expeditions every few weeks.
  7. We hoped to draw the enemy back from the Missouri River upon us, and give the rebels generally the benefits of the terror of our arms.

Loyal citizens along the route rejoiced at the approach of our army. Many of them, for the first time during the last few months, breathed freely. The rebel army and its marauding bands have been a scourge to all that section of Missouri. The people have been bled and plundered till they have but little left. Mothers have seen the clothing stripped from their children before their eyes. Quite a number of families improved the opportunity our army afforded to leave the State. Western Missouri has but few inhabitants left, and thousands of acres of corn will be left in the field un-gathered. Not a field of fail-sown wheat did I notice in our long march. It seems that the rebellion has brought an accumulation of all the curses upon the great State of Missouri. And the end is not yet. We have probably seen but the beginning of sorrows. If the authors of this rebellion could endure but a little of the suffering they have brought upon the people, they would cry out in the language of another – “The pains of hell have got hold of us.”

General Lane’s brigade was constantly in motion and successful in every undertaking. The loss of Lexington and his summons to Kansas City has thwarted all his plans.

We are now in camp awaiting orders from General Fremont to move down upon the army of the rebels in or near Lexington.

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