Order #11 ordered the removal of residents from four counties

Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham painted ‘Martial Law’ in 1869 in response to Gen. Thomas Ewing’s Order #11”. The painting is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.  (Submitted photo)

Missouri painter George Caleb Bingham painted ‘Martial Law’ in 1869 in response to Gen. Thomas Ewing’s Order #11”. The painting is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum. (Submitted photo)

By Linda Emley

Once again it’s 10 p.m. Wednesday  and I don’t have a story picked out for my 9 a.m. Thursday deadline. I think by now everyone has figured out that I don’t need to look for stories because they always have a way of finding me and that is exactly what happened tonight.

Last year, a southern gentleman walked into the Ray County Museum and we soon because good friends. He told me stories about the Civil War that I had never heard before. I kept asking myself if I had been sleeping during high school history. I started doing some research and found out my friend had some very valid ideas about how the American Civil War was really different than our standard history books claimed.

One of my first history lessons was about “Order #11.” The picture that accompanies this story was painted by George Caleb Bingham, who was a famous Missouri Artist. It was painted after the Civil War in 1869 and is titled “Martial Law.” It’s also known as “Order #11” and is now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.

General Order #11 was issued four days after Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence. It was designed to remove everyone from four Missouri counties. The counties affected were Jackson, Bates, Cass and Vernon. Buildings and barns were burned to the ground and the only things left standing were charred chimneys. This action created a wasteland buffer between the border of Kansas and Missouri. This area would later be referred to as “The Burnt District.”You will find very few antebellum houses in this area today.

The theory was if you wipe out all homes, Quantrill and his men would not have a place to hide out with Southern supporters. They would also lose their contacts for supplies and information about Union troop activities. This same kind of support was found for Quantrill’s men in Ray County, so we were lucky that we were not part of Order #11.

The artist Bingham was in the Union Army, but he was appalled by his fellow Union soldiers and the consequences of Order #11. He wrote to Gen. Thomas Ewing saying, “If you execute this order, I shall make you infamous with pen and brush.” In 1869 Bingham painted his painting and kept his promise to Gen. Ewing. Like many others, Frank James shared his love of this picture and was quoted as saying, “This is a picture that talks.”

Bingham was in Kansas City when Order #11 was issued and described the aftermath as follows: “It is well-known that men were shot down in the very act of obeying the order, and their wagons and effects seized by their murderers. Large trains of wagons, extending over the prairies for miles in length, and moving Kansas-ward, were freighted with every description of household furniture and wearing apparel belonging to the exiled inhabitants. Dense columns of smoke arising in every direction marked the conflagrations of dwellings, many of the evidences of which are yet to be seen in the remains of seared and blackened chimneys, standing as melancholy monuments of a ruthless military despotism which spared neither age, sex, character, nor condition. There was neither aid nor protection afforded to the banished inhabitants by the heartless authority which expelled them from their rightful possessions. They crowded by hundreds upon the banks of the Missouri River, and were indebted to the charity of benevolent steamboat conductors for transportation to places of safety where friendly aid could be extended to them without danger to those who ventured to contribute it.”

This story was on my mind tonight because I just received an email giving me the details about an event that I plan on attending this weekend. On Saturday, March 22, The Bates County Historical Society and Museum is hosting an “Order #11” marker dedication ceremony in Butler. The bronze plaque is going to be installed at the Bates County Courthouse. Peggy Buhn, the museum director, has invited me and Capt. Anderson to attend so I will be loading up my “flat man” and heading south for the day. The program starts at 10 a.m. at the museum and will move to the courthouse at 2 p.m. for the dedication.

The weather forecast is looking good for Saturday, so I would love to see some local history buffs in Butler. Order #11 did affect Ray County and other counties in our area because some of the destruction spilled over into surrounding counties.

We might even find some people relocated to our area after they were removed from their homes.

Gen. Ewing wrote Order #11 in Kansas City at the Pacific House Hotel. This building is still standing and is now used as condos. There is a bronze plague at the location that tells the story of Order #11.

The Following is a Copy of “General Order № 11, 

Headquarters District of the Border, Kansas City, 

August 25, 1863.

“1. All persons living in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, Missouri, and in that part of Vernon included in this district, except those living within one mile of the limits of Independence, Hickman’s Mills, Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville, and except those in that part of Kaw Township, Jackson County, north of Brush Creek and west of Big Blue, are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from the date hereof.

“Those who within that time establish their loyalty to the satisfaction of the commanding officer of the military station near their present place of residence will receive from him a certificate stating the fact of their loyalty, and the names of the witnesses by whom it can be shown. All who receive such certificates will be permitted to remove to any military station in this district, or to any part of the state of Kansas, except the counties of the eastern border of the state. All others shall remove out of the district. Officers commanding companies and detachments serving in the counties named will see that this paragraph is promptly obeyed.

“2. All grain and hay in the field or under shelter, in the district from which inhabitants are required to remove, within reach of military stations after the 9th day of September next, will be taken to such stations and turned over to the proper officers there and report of the amount so turned over made to district headquarters, specifying the names of all loyal owners and amount of such product taken from them. All grain and hay found in such district after the 9th day of September next, not convenient to such stations, will be destroyed.

“3. The provisions of General Order No. 10 from these headquarters will be at once vigorously executed by officers commanding in the parts of the district and at the station not subject to the operations of paragraph 1 of this order, and especially the towns of Independence, Westport and Kansas City.

“4. Paragraph 3, General Order No. 10 is revoked as to all who have borne arms against the Government in the district since the 20th day of August, 1863.

– By order of Brigadier General Ewing and H. Hannahs, Adjt.-Gen’l.”

Have a Civil War-era story for Linda? You can email her at or see her at Ray County Museum during regular business hours.


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