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Monday, June 18, 2012

The dangers of delivering the mail in Civil War Missouri

The Official Records has an interesting report from 150 years ago.

Report of Colonel Daniel Huston, Jr., Seventh Missouri Cavalry.

Lexington, Mo., June 15, 1862.

SIR: I have received a report from Lieutenant-Colonel Buel to the following purport

A mail escort, which left Independence for Harrisonville on the morning of the 11th instant, consisting of 23 men and 2 non-commissioned officers of Captain Cochran's company of Missouri State Militia, was fired into 15 miles from Independence, and 2 men of the escort were killed and 2 wounded. A scout sent out by Colonel Buel failed to find the marauders. Colonel Buel also reports that information, believed to be reliable, had been received that Quantrill, with 60 men, was near Pink Hill. He closes his communication by saying:

I shall not for the present have any more of my men shot carrying the mail between Independence and Harrisonville. I am obliged, by orders from District Headquarters, to keep the route open. I shall compel secessionists in this vicinity to carry that mail for a while. I believe this will be the best course I can pursue. On receipt of your dispatch yesterday I prepared one for Major Linder, at Harrisonville, and sent it by a secessionist, who has returned safely. . .

As I explain in my book American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics, while sending secessionists to deliver the mail reduced attacks, it only encouraged the conscripted secessionists to join the bushwhackers. If they were going to be shot at, they reasoned, they might as well be shot at by the other side! Telegraph was the safest way to communicate, but it was impossible to protect the entire line and bushwhackers were constantly cutting them.

Photo of the Army of the Potomac's General Post Office in Brandy Station, Virginia, 1863, courtesy Wikipedia.


  1. It's a wonder any messages got through!

  2. Hi Sean .. interesting note about life pre electricity and full use of the telegraph .. We forget it was less than 150 years ago ..

    Cheers Hilary


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