“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Pleasant Hill in Cass County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

The Civil War in Pleasant Hill

The Civil War in Pleasant Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., August 25, 2015
1. The Civil War in Pleasant Hill Marker

The American Civil War had a profound and long-lasting impact on the Pleasant Hill area. Its location in the border state of Missouri ensured that residents would align themselves on both sides of the conflict. Numerous skirmishes were fought in this vicinity, and much of the original town was put to the torch by one side or the other. In an effort to counter the activities of southern guerrilla forces under the command of William Clarke Quantrill, Order No. 11, issued by Union General Thomas Ewing, virtually depopulated the surrounding countryside.

In 1865, the Civil War came to an end. The coming of the railroads that same year provided an opportunity for enemies to share in the common goal of rebuilding Pleasant Hill. The scars of the conflict took many years to heal, however, and the devastating effects of the Civil War continue to form an important part of the history and heritage of Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

Missouri in the Civil War
As a border state situated between North and South, Missouri suffered greatly in the Civil War. The divided loyalties of Missouri residents were evidenced by the fact that 100,000 men served in the Federal Army, and nearly 50,000 joined the rebel forces. Although never seceding from the Union, Missouri was represented by one of the stars on the Confederate flag. The state

The Civil War in Pleasant Hill Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., August 25, 2015
2. The Civil War in Pleasant Hill Marker
had representatives in both the Union and the Confederate Congress[es]. More battles were fought in this state than any other, except Virginia and Tennessee. In 1861, Missouri led all states with 123 battles and skirmishes. Fighting began along the Missouri-Kansas border long before the firing on Fort Sumter and continued in some areas long after the surrender at Appomattox.

[Map showing] Major Civil War Battlefields of Missouri

Civil War Skirmishes
Military records of the Civil War indicate that at least 15 skirmishes were fought in the Pleasant Hill area, including several that took place west of town along Big Creek. Although regular soldiers of the Confederate Army were occasionally in the area, southern forces were generally guerrilla units. These guerrilla bands were commanded by William Quantrill or one of his subordinates, including Cole Younger. Union troops belonged to cavalry units from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado.

Union Camp Site
During the war, Union troops were encamped at the old Pleasant Hill Fairgrounds.

"Jennison's Day"
November 18, 1861, is known in Missouri Civil War history as "Jennison's Day." Colonel C.B. Jennison of the 1st Kansas Cavalry led Union forces posted in Kansas City on a "Jayhawking" campaign through the Pleasant Hill area. The raid was in retaliation for the burning by Confederate forces of two Union army wagon trains enroute to Jefferson City. One of these trains was destroyed in Pleasant Hill and the other in nearby Holden. Enraged by this action, Jennison dispatched troops to punish the area through intimidation, plunder, and destruction. Much of Pleasant Hill was burned to the ground. Union General Halleck later wrote to General McClellan that "the conduct of the forces under Lane and Jennison has done more for the enemy in this State than could have been accomplished by 20,000 of his own army. It will take 20,000 men to counteract its effect."

The Battle of the Ravines
On July 11, 1862, Confederate Guerrillas under the command of William Clarke Quantrill were encamped west of Pleasant Hill on the Silas Sorency farm. At about 10:00 a.m., they were attacked by a superior force of Union Cavalry commanded by Major James Gower. Quantrill and his men, including Jesse James' brother Frank James, were taken by surprise. The horsemen were forced to abandon their usual tactics and fight a desperate battle on foot in the woods and ravines before making their escape. Federals killed in the battle, and it is believed some of the fallen guerrillas, were buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Henley House
On August 16, 1862, the commanding officer of Union forces in Pleasant Hill, Captain [William A.] Long, was severely wounded at the nearby Battle of Lone Jack. During his posting, Long had become friends with the Joseph Henley family, despite the fact that they were of Southern sympathy. In an act of compassion, Mr. Henley drove a wagon to the battlefield and brought Captain Long back to the Henley home. Long was welcomed by the Henley family, including son Andrew, who was himself recovering from a wound he received fighting on the Confederate side. Due to the presence of Captain Long, the Henley House became in effect the Union headquarters for a time. He eventually succumbed to his wounds and was laid to rest in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.

Cole Younger's Capture of Pleasant Hill
On October 5, 1862, Confederate guerrillas under Cole Younger captured Pleasant Hill after attacking and scattering Union forces posted in the town. Although no townspeople were injured in the raid, several were locked inside the Methodist Church while Younger and his men helped themselves to food and ammunition. When Union forces later returned to retake the town, they discovered that the guerrillas had already made their escape.

Quantrill's Route to Lawrence
In August of 1863, William Clarke Quantrill led his guerrilla force in the infamous and bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The route of his advance on Lawrence passed northwest of Pleasant Hill in the vicinity of what is now the Pleasant Hill Lake area.

Order No. 11 and the "Burnt District"
"All persons... are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days."
Brig. General Thomas Ewing

After Quantrill led a bloody raid on Lawrence, Kansas in August 1863, Union General Thomas Ewing issued his infamous "Order No. 11." The intent of the order was to cut off Confederate guerrillas from their base of support through the forced relocation of rural residents in Cass, Bates, and portions of Jackson and Vernon Counties. All Cass County residents living more than one mile from Federal garrisons in Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville were ordered to vacate their homes within 15 days. Homes and outbuildings were then burned, and supplies were confiscated in what became known as the "Burnt District." More than 20,000 people were impacted. As a military action aimed at civilians, Order No. 11 resembled Sherman's "March to the Sea" in Georgia. Coincidentally, General William T. Sherman was General Ewing's brother-in-law. In the end, Order No. 11 failed to stop guerrilla activity, but it did succeed in depopulating rural Cass County and halting growth and development in the region.

Neighbors Divided and Reunited
Like the rest of Missouri, Pleasant Hill was divided in its loyalties, and the Civil War pitted neighbor against neighbor. Attacks and reprisals resulted in the destruction of much of the original town. After the war ended in 1865, the coming of the railroad led to a rebirth of the community. Union Army veterans, former Confederate soldiers, former slaves, displaced victims of war, and newcomers from many different walks of life worked together to rebuild Pleasant Hill and start again.

Pictured below from left to right are: Confederate soldier C.B. Lotspeich, (in center) who went on to become Pastor of the Christian Church; Union soldier O.L. Beasley, who later became a merchant in Pleasant Hill; and "Aunt Maria" Moore, who first came to the area as a slave, then made her home in Pleasant Hill for over 70 years after gaining her freedom. Widely known and beloved for her kindness, wit, and personality, she was recognized at one time as Pleasant Hill's oldest citizen.

Pleasant Hill Cemetery
In addition to being one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the region and the location of the original town site, the Pleasant Hill Cemetery is also an important site for Civil War history. Two mass graves in the cemetery contain the bodies of at least 30 Union soldiers from the 1st Iowa Cavalry, 7th Missouri Cavalry, and 6th Kansas Cavalry who gave their lives at the "Battle of the Ravines" and the "Encounter at the Pouncy Smith Farm." Close by is the grave of Captain Long, who was in command of Union forces in Pleasant Hill. Confederate battle casualties are also interred on the grounds in unmarked graves. Col. Hiram Bledsoe, Confederate artillery commander, and Caroline Abbott Stanley, who wrote the Civil War novel "Order No. 11" are also buried at the cemetery.

Pleasant Hill Post Office Mural
During the Depression, a federal program was established to depict local history in murals painted in U.S. Post Office buildings. One of America's finest artists, Tom Lea, was selected to paint the mural in Pleasant Hill. It depicts the return of a Confederate soldier and his family to their burned-out farm which was destroyed as a result of "Order No. 11." The mural is entitled "Back Home, April 1865."
Erected 2008 by Pleasant Hill Community Betterment Association.
Location. 38° 47.154′ N, 94° 16.445′ W. Marker is in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, in Cass County. Marker is at the intersection of Paul Street and Broadway / Boardman St / Wyoming St, on the left when traveling west on Paul Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: City Park, Pleasant Hill MO 64080, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Col. Hiram Bledsoe (here, next to this marker); Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot (a few steps from this marker); Memorial Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Pleasant Hill, Missouri (within shouting distance of this marker); 110 South Lake Street (within shouting distance of this marker); 105 First Street (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); 111 First Street (about 300 feet away); 113 Wyoming Street (about 300 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Pleasant Hill.
Also see . . .
1. Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865. (Submitted on September 8, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. Missouri's Civil War. (Submitted on September 8, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
3. 1869 Bird's Eye View of Pleasant Hill MO. (Submitted on September 8, 2015, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. DisastersSettlements & SettlersWar, US Civil

Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 122 times since then and 66 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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