This area around Dayton and its crossing of the South Grand River was the scene of many troops movements, murder, revenge, and terror. Early in the War, The neighborhood provided 17 enlistments to the Cass County Home Guard (Union) and 11 to the Missouri State Guard’s 3rd Infantry (Confederate.)
Warner Lewis resided on 760 acres about half way between Dayton and Austin, and owned one slave. He married Sarah Griffith, daughter of Robert Griffith. Lewis became a celebrated Confederate officer.
He served on Gen. Rain’s staff of the 8th Division Missouri State Guards. He went south with Gen Sterling Price in the spring of 1862. Price sent him back to Missouri to recruit which ie did successfully.
Lewis accompanied Col. J. V. “Vard” Cockerell on his move north from Arkansas to Lone Jack by August 14, 1862. He participated in the raging close-quarter battle through the town of Lone Jack that hot summer day Aug. 16.
Lewis continued to recruit in the area and by early November had 300 in a new regiment. Near Lamar, Missouri Col. Lewis discussed a joint attack with Quantrill, but decided not to join their ill-fated attack.
Warner Lewis lost his brother, Garland, at the siege of Vicksburg. Garland had fought with Hurt’s regiment at all its major engagements in the War. By Sept. 1863, Lewis was an officer with Jo Shelby’s Cavalry as a captain during its raid from Arkansas to the Missouri River and back.
In 1864 he came with Gen Price for the raid through Missouri. He fought at the Battle of Westport and went to Mexico with Jo Shelby after War.
Lewis never returned to Cass County after the war but settled in Montgomery County.
On June 20, 1861, General James S. Rains lead some 1,100 Confederate troops into the Dayton area as he led them south to join up with Gen. Sterling Price. The Reverands Abner Deane and Andrew Newgent were actively recruiting Union troops in the same area. The rebels had been “burning and destroying everything in the line of their advance” through the county, burning and destroying targeted Union families. Union families began to flee across the border into Kansas under cover of darkness. Addressing Austin’s citizen Gen. Rains bragged “he had the houses of the Union men marked.” A local secessionist, Richard “Dick” DeJarnett, had given Rains the names of local Unionist. Rains threatened to return in three weeks and “slay them as he came” But Rains left the county quickly as he was being pursued by Gen. Sturgis. Under Sturgi’s protection, the Union completed enlistment of four companies of Cass County Home Guard that figured prominently in local War activity until Feb. 1862 when they were disbanded. (Caught Between Three Fires. p. 60.)
January 1, 1862 dawned cold and snowy. Before the day was over, Daniel R. Anthony and his 7th Kansas Cavalry would burn Dayton to the ground and render hundreds of women and children homeless, and some orphans. He introduced the practice of a “scorched earth policy” to civilians in occupied territories.
Operating out of Camp Johnson in Morristown, the 7th Cavalry were on a mission of destruction and mayhem throughout the area. Reports had come in or Confederate recruiting in the Dayton area. Three companies of the 7th plus a 12-pound howitzer were dispatched east.
Arriving at dawn, no military men could be found. But the town was torched and the surrounding countryside scoured for southern sympathizers whose homes were also looted and then burned.
For more in-depth information:
- Roberts, Jackie. The Burning of Dayton, MO. 1 January 1862. Two Trails Publishing 2006.