Little is known about the people who were forced from their homes and property beginning August 25, 1863, when Union General Thomas Ewing issued General Order 11.
Under that edict, residents in Jackson, Bates, Cass and a northern portion of Vernon Counties were commanded to leave. Those who could prove loyalty to the Union were given the option to move to areas around nearby military posts or to Kansas. Others were to be forced out by Union soldiers with permission to shoot those found in the County after September 9th, as military combatants.
The Order came not long after Quantrill’s raid of Lawrence, Kansas, and General Ewing thought those guerillas were being offered shelter and havens in the four counties. He hoped evacuating those counties and destroying the infrastructure would remove that support.
Archaeologist Ann Raab says many of the residents who left disappeared from history from the moment they crossed out of those four counties. Today, little historic documentation remains from the period. Data from the prior census says roughly 7000 people lived in Bates County in 1860, but it is unknown how many had already left by 1863. Surviving court records provide limited information, and a tax book lists those who were paying on property in 1863, but may or may not have been living there.
Raab says generally, those who left were women, children and those too old or medically unable to fight. Most lacked transportation and had to walk, carrying what they could, out of the county across hostile territory.
Many of those who left didn’t return, not wanting to come back to burned down farms and houses, long dead livestock and 2 years of property taxes that had continued to accrue. In the cases of those who did not return, their properties were often never built over. Some sites were used as pasture and remain largely undisturbed under a couple of feet of earth.
All those facts make for a very alluring situation for an archaeologist. Raab says much might be learned by digging at the homesteads of these people for whom so much has been forgotten, and she’s been doing just that.
She has excavated two sites near the western border of Bates County. One of those was a homestead for a family named Greene. Another was a store that provided goods of the day to the area. Its once neatly-placed stone floor has been disrupted by tree roots, but that, fragments of bottles and other artifacts remain. Both sites were burned to the ground under General Order 11, likely after having been looted of whatever the owners did not take with them.
Raab plans to return to that store and is looking for other sites in the four effected counties to conduct surveys and possible digs. She particularly wants to learn how different segments of society were impacted by guerilla warfare.
Since her work began, Raab says she has encountered several people with family connections to Bates county. She says the stories they can provide of ancestors displaced under the Order are invaluable, and she hopes more descendants will contact historians.
Raab says her work in Bates county will resume in 2012. She has offered a presentation on that project for the Friends of the Missouri State Archives. The Archives are a division of the Secretary of State’s Office.