Civil War Glossary
The following is a glossary of terms that one might encounter during the observation of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
- In the Kansas City area, bushwhacker meant any violent Southern guerrilla and/or bandit. Federal officials applied the term as well to men commissioned as partisan rangers and roving Confederate recruiters. A verb as well as a noun, bushwhacking was not exclusive to the Kansas/Missouri region. In other sectors of the war, one finds references to Union bushwhacking.
- The 7th Kansas Cavalry under Col. Charles “Doc” Jennison and Lt. Col. Daniel Anthony were the “official” jayhawkers. In late 1861 and early 1862, they burned towns in Missouri and plundered widely, causing federal district commanders to complain that more rebels were being created than killed by the regiment. As a result, it was sent across the Mississippi River away from the border area. Another verb/noun: Jayhawking was an activity that today would get you in prison. Not exclusive to Kansans, as some Missouri Union men joined Kansas units, and Southerners living within 50 miles of the border often blamed any federal atrocity, even if committed by a state militia, on “jayhawkers.” Again, not exclusive to the area: In Louisiana, men with Union sympathies were referred to as jayhawkers.
- Red legs:
- A somewhat different species than jayhawkers, although with some interchangeable characters and activities. Neither Jennison nor acolyte Capt. George Hoyt wished to leave their border activities behind, so they resigned from the 7th. Hoyt enlisted a band of hard men who are described variously and not exclusively as a deadly paramilitary force, provost-marshal detectives and horse thieves extraordinaire. They got their names from their distinctive leggings, red-dyed sheepskin or yarn. Jennison, who went into livestock and freighting, is believed to have been the conduit of stolen Missouri goods to Colorado.
- Missouri State Guard:
- In the early weeks of the war, when Missouri was trying for armed neutrality, this force was assembled to protect against invasion. It and its commanders were decidedly pro-Southern, although not part of the Confederate army until after Missouri seceded in October 1861. In the August Battle of Wilson’s Creek, for example, Gen. Sterling Price’s State Guard teamed with Gen. Ben McCulloch’s Confederate regiments to defeat the Federals. Not to be confused with the Home Guard, an ineffective local militia raised among Union supporters in several towns.
- Missouri militias:
- No other state had what was organized here — first the Missouri State Militia, then also the Enrolled Missouri Militia. The tough Missouri State Militia cavalry regiments were raised to fight guerrillas. Equipped and paid for by Washington, they were designed strictly for action in this state. The Enrolled Missouri Militia was a much larger organization; in effect, every able-bodied man in Missouri was supposed to sign up. This order, however, meant a lot of Southerners who didn’t want to fight for the Union or against kin slipped away into the bush or down into Arkansas to enlist in the Confederate army. The fighting quality of Enrolled Missouri Militias, who had no uniforms, varied greatly from county to county. Later in the war, some Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militias were created from the better fighters among Enrolled Missouri Militias.
- Stars and Bars:
- Not, as many believe, the bumper-sticker favorite, the rebel battle flag with its star-loaded St. Andrew’s cross. Originally the Virginia battle flag, that “Southern Cross” banner was adopted widely as the war progressed. The Stars and Bars had three broad stripes, two red and one white, with a circle of stars in the top-left blue-box corner, much like the U.S. flag — which was a problem on the smoky battlefield. Many Missouri Confederates actually fought under a blue banner showing a large white cross.