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This area in the far southeast corner of Cass County near the South Grand River was the scene of much personal vengeance. The road to Clinton passed this way, bringing troops. Also, the rock at Settles Ford on the South Grand River attracted troop movements.
The George Lotspeich farm in this area was the site of several incidents. Lotspeich was southern, strong-willed and vocal. He and three brothers, Roten Fleming, Valentine Sevier and William C. left Tennessee and settled in Cass County in 1857. In partnership they owned 920 acres of prime timber, water and soil.
They ran a general store that served as “the communication center for the area and the place where people congregated to discuss the war.” George and wife Martha were improving 65 acres a few miles from the store. They had three children.
October 1861 the brothers had been warned they were all on a list for assassination by the Union home guard. Valentine and Roten urged George to pack up and flee, but George resisted. On Oct. 13, 1861 heard a knock on the door that night. She called her husband George. The voice of the other side of the door was a neighbor and friend. George stepped onto the porch. Three bullets ripped into his body. George died in front of his wife and children that night. Martha took the children and fled to Henry County.
Skirmish on the Lotspeich Farm July 11, 1862
Throughout June and July 1861 Quantrill’s men ran wild in western Missouri. Their number increased each day. The Federal Army was forced to man cavalry stations at twelve-mile intervals in every direction throughout western Missouri in an attempt to control the situation. This drew significant manpower away from the main fighting force. Such was the South’s intended use of the guerillas. For every fielded guerilla, at least ten Union soldiers were required.
On July 8, 1862, Major James O. Gower, commanding a detachment of the First Iowa Cavalry at Clinton in Henry County, learned that Quantrill with some 200 men was in camp on the Lotspeich Farm on Sugar Creek near Wadesburg on the eastern edge of Cass County. Col. Upton Hayes had recently moved into Jackson County to recruit a regiment for the Confederate Army. Quantrill drew as many troops as he could away from Hay’s area, by gathering 200 guerillas on the farm of the late George Atherton Lotspeich in southeast Cass County. William C. Lotspeich rode with Quantrill’s guerillas after his brother George was murdered by Unionists on Oct. 13, 1861.
William undoubtedly knew that the confluence of two streams surrounded by high lookout points made the dense brush of the creek on G. A.’s unoccupied farm an excellent place for Quantrill’s guerilla band to bivouac.
From Clinton, Major Gower sent a patrol of 90 men from Companies A, G, and H, First Iowa Cavalry, to surprise the guerillas with a dawn attack.
At sunrise on July 9, Company A, under Lt. Bishop, led a charge of the advance party of the patrol without waiting for the main body. The guerillas beat him off easily and then repulsed a charge of the main force led by Lt. Reynolds resulting in one dead and three Union wounded. Quantrill also lost one killed and several wounded. Realizing that they were involved with a superior enemy that was beginning to encircle them, the Iowans broke off the action and limped back to Clinton.
Major Gower was infuriated He rushed dispatch riders to Harrisonville and Warrensburg ordering all available troops to join him the next day at the Lotspeich farm near the guerilla camp. Four cavalry units with 265 men met there at 5 o’clock the morning of July 10th only to find Quantrill had slipped away. Word came that Martin Kehoe and his First Missouri Cavalry were pursuing Quantrill east of Rose Hill along the Big Creek bottom.
By 7 p.m. that evening Gower’s units met up with Kehoe on the Hornsby farm at the edge of Cass County. An interesting aside is that it was Hornsby who shot Old Drum, the dog immortalized by Sen. George Vest as “Man’s Best Friend,” a few years later. The next day, July 11, 1862, Kehoe and his men again engaged the guerillas about five miles west of Pleasant Hill in the Battle of the Ravines.
Quantrill was successful in drawing troops and attention to his men, yet avoiding head-on confrontations. By July 22, 1862, Quantrill’s guerillas were the largest and most powerful partisan force in Missouri. This led Brig. General John Schofield to issue General Orders No. 19 stating that all able-bodied men in Missouri would be impressed into Missouri militia units “for the purpose of exterminating the guerillas that infest our state” he wrote.
This forced many young Missourians to choose side. Many would choose to fight with Quantrill rather than unite with “Yankees” to exterminate their own people. However, large numbers joined the Federals, freeing up Union troops from the North to be used in the larger theaters of the South and East.
Sandy Lowe lived in the area. A 33 year old married farmer, Lowe was a natural, ferocious leader. Under Lowe’s command Company D of the Cass County Home Guards applied an iron fist to the southeast corner of Cass County. His command mustered out on Feb. 28, 1862. but Lowe continued to fight and in 1864 was a Colonel of the Kansas State Militia 21st regiment, Lawrence, Douglas County at the battles of the Big Blue and Westport.
A neighbor, Neil Quick, recalled “Time after time – I presume as many as 60 times, parties of men passed my house coming generally from Dayton to kill Sandy Lowe.” (Rafiner p. 93) Lowe’s wife was harassed by secessionts only a week after giving birth. This so enraged Lower, that he loaded the family in a wagon and took them to Paola, Kansas. Lowe returned to Cass County “sworn to kill some 30” southern guerrillas whose names he had written in a book. He developed a reputation of never keeping a prisoner over 24 hours and never giving one his liberty. (Rafiner, p. 165)
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 Roberts, Jackie. The Burning of Dayton, MO. 1 January 1862. Two Trails Publishing 2006