Jayhawkers Actions in Louisiana
Operations against Unacceptable Combatants

     The various motivations that sent the generation of the middle eighteen hundreds to war against each other proved difficult for military operations to oversee in waging war against permissible combatants and those benefiting from its existence by prosecuting unlawful destruction and murder. Both sides wished to prosecute such criminal activities simply for the sake of public safety to those caught up in the hellish environment of opposing governments.

     In the first couple months of 1864 the Confederate Army as well as their civil authority had their hands full in the state of Louisiana as Kansas Jayhawkers had been reported collecting in droves across the western border in several portions of Texas.

     Captain Henry L. Garland reported to the District of Western Louisiana that the numbers involved were believed to be several hundred. The citizens had understood the simple virtue of their resentment towards the southern people and would not chance any acts of defense against them for fear of their own lives. It was his recommendation to both the district commander, as well as the Confederate Governor Henry W. Allen, that attention be given to this matter of utmost importance immediately.

     This band of marauders struck the Parish of Saint Landry in mid February having claimed their mission in the procurement of arms; yet orders had not been produced by any known military authority in the area and the leaders of those who had operated as such remained anonymous to the citizens who personally witnessed their residences raided and pillaged.

     The parish Justice of the Peace John MacDonald notarized several statements of the citizenry attesting to the illegal fashion the war was administered by this group of misfits and outlaws. Terence Jeansanne had been out procuring beeves by order of Captain T. Lytt Lyon for the army in the parish of Vermillion when he was surrounded by a squad of armed men, who under the pretense of being organized for property protection and illegal impressments ordered him to turn the beeves loose, robbed him of a bowie knife and stolen the revolvers from the men that accompanied him. Saddles, blankets and draft animals had all been taken from them. It was said their mission was to starve out the Confederate forces and bring the war to a speedy close.

     The raiding party identified as Jayhawkers struck small towns and hamlets all over the surrounding area of Opelousas, Louisiana representing themselves as Confederate soldiers, looting and robbing houses, and among whom happened to be free men of color forcibly entered and threatened the families. Mr. Joseph Young, happened to be molested twice on the 13th of February 1864; for after he left to pay a visit to a neighbor, another band of marauders, fully armed had taken from him another horse, saddle and bridle. Convinced no Confederate soldiers would treat their citizenry in such fashion, it was believed the band to be Jayhawkers.

     The District Commander, Major General Richard Taylor was notified of the Jayhawkers robbery throughout the parish, taking all the good horses and arms they could find. Although their presence in the area was fairly known, this had been the first instance where they had gone out publicly and robbed in daylight. It seemed more discontented whites, free negroes and even slaves were flocking to their ranks.

     The days after the raid, the major general commanding instructed Major General John George Walker to direct a company of mounted men against the Jayhawker band east of Red River. They were to capture or force them up the swamp in the direction of Catahoula Lake. In order to restore the peace, these mounted men carried orders to punish the marauders with the utmost severity and any found with arms in their hands with intent to resist were to be shot dead. Major R. E. Wyche and Captain G. W. Smith, commanding troops of the Louisiana State Troop cavalry were to move on opposite ends of the swamp in the direction of General Walker's force. The commands involved in this special operation were instructed to communicate directly with the district commander's headquarters until these criminals had been suppressed.

     While the pincer movement was underway, General Walker was authorized to commit his infantry and the detached portion of the cavalry had employed trail dogs to sniff them all out of their hiding places.

     The operation had taken a couple of weeks for the mounted forces in the District of Western Louisiana to bottle up the Jayhawkers at a place called Tussan's Cove where a bloody stand-off ensued. No less than nine had been captured and many more of them were killed while trying to resist. With a show of force and fire power meeting fire power, the tenuous problem of strong arming these outlaws helped restore peace in the area. With the citizenry once again protected, the Confederate soldiers under Major General Richard Taylor could tend once more to their federal counterparts in the Union Army, who made no pretense about their position in the conflict, and restored war's destruction to those employed by their respective governments to wage it.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2006

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net