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Citizens living in this part of the county were unfortunate in that the road leading from Morristown to Harrisonville cut right through the heart. Union forage teams hit farms over and over searching for horse, mules, wagons, oxen, hay, food, wood, fences and anything they so desired. In this area, the war quickly became personal, a true war on civilians.
The source for the following examples is Tom Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires.
The farm of George Hockensmith lay 6 ½ miles west of Harrisonville on the north side of the Harrisonville/Morristown Road. Five children worked the farm with George and Adaline. Margaret, Thomas, Lewis, David and George Jr. Two older brothers William and Joseph lived nearby. George had earned a good reputation for truth and honesty.
Members of the Kansas 7th Cavalry found the Hockensmith farm just before Christmas 1861 and several times thereafter. Each visit reduced the family’s chance for security and winter survival.
At various times the soldiers took horses, cattle, and corn leaving the family destitute during one of the coldest winters. Two of George Hockensmith’s sons enlisted in the Confederate cause. Neither Joseph nor William survived the war.
Another family that lived in the area was James and Eliza Gunn who lived between Morristown and Harrisonville.
Picture by permission from Caught Between Three Fires by Tom Rafiner. 2010. Artist Brian Hawkins
The soldiers from the 7th Ks Cavalry based at Camp Johnson in Morristown came to the door of James Gunn on Dec. 19, 1861. After taking his two best horses, they arrested him on suspicion of supporting the southern cause. At the time, two of the Gunn’s sons were in fact serving in the Union Army and the Gunn’s were Union people.
But at camp the next day, Daniel R. Anthony ordered Gunn’s execution because his name was on a list of a local home protection association. This left Eliza a widow with six children to survive the cold winter.
The next spring, southern guerrillas appeared at the farm and burned the house to the ground because of Eliza’s sons fighting for the north. This reflecting the nature of the war in Cass County – a true war on civilians.
Isham and Eleanor Majors also lived on the Morristown Road between Harrisonville and Morristown. Although he owned five slaves, he like the Gunns, stood for the Union. A successful businessman, Majors engaged in prairie freighting along the Santa Fe Trail to Mexico. He had a solid reputation along the border, having lived in the area since 1840.
Their 520 acre farm included an extensive orchard, a large aviary, large beef cattle herd, and six milk cows near the house which sat on a hill. His herds of horses, mules, and oxen supported the farm and freighting business.
Troops from the Kansas 7th Cavalry at nearby Camp Johnson in Morristown began to take livestock and forage to support themselves the winter of 1861 – 1862. Christmas Day 1861, they took 16 mules, four days later another 30 mules, 26 horses, 40 beef cattle and 180 tons of hay. Also, a bed, clothing, 150 bushels of apples, and 250 pounds of honey.
December 30, they stole 5,000 bushels of corn. Their home was burned, but after the War the Majors built a substantial brick home which still stands on the site. Majors filed a claim in 1866 for $16,735, the single largest individual claim found to date.
Exceptional sites for in-depth information
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area | www.freedomsfrontier.org
Missouri Kansas Conflict: Civil War on the Western Border | www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org
Missouri / Kansas Border War Network www.moksbwn.org
Civil War in Missouri | www.mocivilwar.org
Kansas State Historical Society | www.kshs.org
Books: Rafiner, Tom. Caught Between Three Fires. 2010, ExLibris http://www.casscountyorderno11.com/about-tom-rafiner.html