The Exodus

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Video: Tom Rafiner talks about the illustration of families leaving Cass County.

Rafiner’s book Caught Between Three Fires documents the stories of hundreds of families forced out by the Exodus.

Martin Rice, of Lone Jack, wrote his memories of the Exodus in a book entitled What I Saw of Order No. 11:

On Tuesday, the 25th of August, General Ewing issued his celebrated order from Kansas City, and rumor, with her thousand tongues, soon spread it over the ill-fated territory.I thought I had witnessed and felt the hardships and privations of civil war and martial law before, but it was reserved for this, the last week in August and the first ones in September, 1863, to teach me and others how much the human body and mind can bear up under and still survive.

Previous to this, if one were brought into a strait, or got into trouble or difficulty, he could appeal to some friend or neighbor for help, and the appeal was seldom made in vain. But now all were in the same strait; the same weight of sorrow and distress was pressing upon all; there was no exception, and none in our part of the district were exempt from the general hardship.

My own reason, as well as the suggestions of friends, convinced me that my life was now in more danger than it had yet been. The country was full of bushwhackers, some of them personal friends of the men who had been killed in the morning; I had been taken with them, my life had been spared because I was a Union man, theirs had been taken because they were not, and retaliation was common on each side. It was plain that I must go as my friends and neighbors did, or not go at all. I felt assured that if I abandoned them and sought a place of shelter and security, by taking some other road, my life would pay the forfeit, nor did I wish to abandon them, so long as I could be of service to those who were now so much in need of help.

I saw much of the incidents and fruits of Order No. 11. Before and behind was seen the long, moving train of sorrowing exiles, wagons and vehicles of every shape and size and of all kinds, drawn by teams of every sort, except good ones, a cloud of dust rising from the road. The further we proceeded, the greater became the moving column of wretched fugitives.

On every road that led eastward from the county of Jackson came the moving mass of humanity, seeking an asylum they knew not where; some driving their flocks and herds along with them, others again as I was with nothing but a make-shift wagon and team—some not even that. Women were seen walking the crowded and dusty road, carrying in a little bundle their all, or at least all that they could carry. Others, again, driving or leading a cow or a skeleton horse, with a bundle or pack fastened upon it, or a pack-horse on which the feebler members of the family rode by turns.

The number, which crossed at Lexington – great as that number was – was but a small part of those who, under the operations of that Order No. 11, were made homeless and scattered as it were to the four winds.

Harrisonville and Pleasant Hill Loyalty Committees
Source: Caught Between Three Fires by Tom Rafiner. 2010.pp. 364-374

According to the rules of Order No. 11, those found loyal could find refuge in the military posts of the District of the Border, i.e. Harrisonville, Pleasant Hill, Independence, Hickman Mills, and Kansas City. But their property left behind in the countryside was confiscated or burned.

Local men headed the committees under military authority. Applicants had to find a minimum of two loyal citizens to attest to their loyalty in order to obtain a certificate. The Harrisonville men heading the committee were John Coughenour, Alexander Cannon and A. S. O’Bannon. Their records and rosters of loyal citizens are lost.

Pleasant Hill’s Loyalty Committee records reveal 169 citizens applied, and 153 certificates were granted. Committee members included Andrew Allen, John W. Ward, Jerry Sloan, Mark A. Shelton, James Russell, Pauncey A. Smith, Barney Dempsey and Luke Williams, R. C. Williamson and Samuel Rucker. From the number granted, it seems apparent the disloyal, real or suspected, did not apply.

Mrs. Susan Hurst received a loyalty certificate on Sept. 3, 1863. She moved to Peasant Hill following the killing of her husband Captain Edgar V. Hurst in the fall of 1861. Capt. Hurst, a southern sympathizer, had organized a Cass County regiment for the Missouri State Guard the summer of 1861. Hurst had fought valiantly during the early stages of the War, and gained notoriety at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The widow of a southern hero husband, Mrs. Hurst’s certified loyalty would have struck some as unique.

Less than a year after receiving her loyalty certificate, Mrs. Hurst married Capt. Charles F. Coleman of the Kansas 9th Cavalry. Captain Coleman gained fame throughout the war. He was reputed to be the best hunter of southern guerrillas and bushwhackers.

Poyntz Family Tragedy (Rafiner, Caught Between Three Fires. pp. 381- 382.)

Early in the War, John a. Poyntz, Jr. enlisted in the Confederate 6th Missouri Infantry and fought with this unit the entire War. His youngest brother Cyrus joined the Missouri State Guard and then 16 MO Infantry. He was killed at the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863.

Kansas troops arrived at the Poyntz farm four miles southwest of Pleasant Hill shortly after the Lawrence raid. Arresting John Poyntz, Sr., they ransacked the home and then burned it, ripping the family Bible before tossing it into the flames. His wife and sister-in-law were left destitute and homeless. With the help of two slaves, they piled their few belongings into an ox cart and set out for Kentucky.

The troops took John and another elderly man, John Caldwell as prisoners, hauling them throughout Cass and Jackson County. Both men had served as elders in the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church of Rev. George Miller. On Sunday, Sept. 13, 1863 the troops shot Caldwell on their way to Kansas City. They threw Poyntz in prison. Rev. Miller hear of this as he was living in Kansas City, having been driven from Pleasant Hill by southern sympathizers. Miller took immediate action to save Poyntz, even though they were on opposite sides of the conflict.

The next morning I called at headquarters and secured a permit to visit Mr. Poyntz at the prison. He was a pitiable object, reduced by exposure and sickness and pale with fear. He was willing to do anything to get out of that prison. He said that men were taken out of the prison at a late hour almost every night and never heard of again. I called on Gen. Ewing and laid the case before him and he said the only thing we can do is to banish him from the state….I got him out of prison. He was so feeble that I had to get a buggy and bring him to my house and nurse him…he was glad to be banished from Missouri.