BURNING OF OSCEOLA – SEPTEMBER 22, 1861
Information was received that the rebels had left a large amount of army stores in Osceola, that General Price had been repulsed from before Lexington, and that in all probability, he would be in full retreat in a few days. The object of the expedition was to cut off the enemy’s retreat, to seize his stores, and to attend to any other business along the route which the cause might demand. It was also reported that the enemy had assembled in force at Papinville, and one or two other places along the line of our contemplated march.
The advanced column, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery, left camp in the evening of September 17th, under command of Colonel Montgomery, with the intention of surprising the enemy at Papinville at daybreak next morning. But, he had vamoosed the ranch, and on our arrival but few families were left, and these were the rankest kind of Unionists.
On we moved, nothing important occurring until we came to the Sac River, five miles west of Osceola. Here, a Mr. Harris, formerly a Quartermaster in the rebel army, was trying to raise a force to prevent our crossing. General Rains had burned the fine bridge at this point early in the season, and this is the only place at which the stream is fordable for many miles.
Colonel Montgomery was too quick for him and the rebel Harris became our prisoner. We reached Osceola a little after night set in, and through a mistake of the guide, got upon the suburbs of the town before we were aware of it. As our advance under command of Colonel Weir were moving along upon the road a heavy fire was opened upon it from the bushes nearby. The veterans halted and returned the compliment. The enemy fired again by which their position was better understood, our men then gave him a fire from successive platoons. He fired a third line and fled, leaving 14 dead and wounded upon the field, or rather in the bush. Whilst our men were still in position another volley was poured into them from a log house nearby. Captain Moonlight turned upon them his howitzer, which soon routed the rebels, and fired the building. On our side two men were slightly wounded. No other casualties occurred. The missiles of the enemy passed from one to four feet over our heads. The behavior of Colonel Weir and of his command was as cool and brave as could be desired.
Our men slept upon their arms that night and the first object that met their eyes in the morning was the secession flag floating over the courthouse. This, of itself, was enough to condemn that temple of justice to destruction, but in addition, all appearances indicted that the rebels had turned it into a fortification to be used in the defense of treason and traitors. Captain Moonlight’s howitzer dispatched its missile of destruction against it, and soon the building was a heap of ruins. Slowly and carefully our men then advanced upon the town, but the enemy had fled, and the fighting part of the expedition was at an end. An examination was then made of the character of the town. A large quantity of lead, some powder, army clothing and provisions were found. All our wagons were loaded to their utmost capacity, and the order was given to return to camp. Colonel Weir favored sparing the rebel town, but the counsel of Colonels Montgomery and Richey prevailed, and the business portion thereof was committed to the flames.
 “Additional from Kansas City,” New York Times, October 14, 1861.
ADDITIONAL MONUMENT & SITES OF INTERESTS
- Old Commercial Hotel – 610 2nd Street, Osceola – destroyed in 1861 and rebuilt.
Burning of Osceola Monument: Osceola Cemetery, 755 Hwy WW, Osceola, Mo. 64776 (See Additional Monument for other places of interest)
Stamp Location: St. Clair County Library
Chamber of Commerce: osceolamochamber.com
Address: 115 Chestnut, Osceola, Mo. 64776
Phone Number: 417-646-2214
Alternate stamp site: RV Park and Campground, 140 Parkview Dr., Osceola, Mo. 64776, please call ahead.
OFFICIAL AFTER ACTION REPORT OF THE BURNING OF OSCEOLA
The War of the Rebellion: the Official Records, Series 1, Volume 3; page 196. [Link to Page 196]
Sep 24, 1861 Gen. J. H. Lane to Major General Fremont (O.R., Series 1, Volume 3; pages 505-506.) [Summary: Since Lexington has fallen, Lane informs Fremont of his plan to move to Kansas City to form a junction with General Sturgis. Lane will leave 800 men at Fort Scott and 100 at Fort Lincoln. Lane hopes Fremont approves the march on Osceola and its destruction.]
Sep 25, 1861 Confederate Gen. McCulloch to Col. T. C. Hindman (O.R., Series 1, Volume 53; pages 743-744.) [Summary: McCulloch reports that Colonel Hunter’s forces have been destroyed by Generals Lane and Montgomery. It is reported that the Generals are burning Osceola, destroying property of Southern men and taking them prisoner. McCulloch states many of his men are ill, so he needs men immediately, even if they are not fully trained.]
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES ON THE BURNING OF OSCEOLA
Oct 1, 1861 · New York Times “Osceola Burned” [Summary: Brief article mentions the central portion of that town had been burned by Gen. Lane. It is stated the reasons for burning were that the rebels had fired on our troops from windows.]
Oct 11, 1861 · Liberty (MO) Tribune “Speech of Jas. H. Lane” [Summary: Speech given by Lane at Leavenworth on his way to Washington. He defends himself and his Kansas Brigade from criticism. “Our sin is that we have never been whipped.” Brags about the burning of Osceola: “Go to Osceola, one of the strongest natural points in Southern Missouri, where, after eighty miles march through the enemy’s country, we met a greatly superior force, beat it and took and destroyed more than a million dollars’ worth of property. Go to these fields and tell me why the Kansas Brigade is sneered at.”]
Claims he plunders only the rebels and has given away or used confiscated property to meet needs. Claims the Kansas State government has done nothing to protect its people. Calls Gov. Robinson a worse traitor than Price.
Oct 14, 1861 · New York Times “Additional From Kansas City” [Summary: Correspondent gives details on the skirmish and burning at Osceola. Lists seven reasons why the town was burned.]
Nov 8, 1861 · Liberty (MO) Tribune “General Lane’s March” [Summary: This presents a few short anecdotes to describe what Jim Lane is doing lately. Quotes from a speech he made at Pleasant Hill: ““I am here once more and this time I raise the Stars and Stripes. So long as that flag waves here your citizens shall receive protection. But let it be torn down by session hands, and Pleasant Hill comes down as sure as hell.” Lane later burned down Osceola after his men were fired upon.]
Nov 15, 1861 · New York Tribune “From St. Louis” [Summary: The text of Lane’s speech in Springfield, given in response to a visit and serenade from the 24th Indiana Regiment, is published. He mentions the burning of Osceola: “We have destroyed Osceola—a sort of half town and half military post—but all these things combined have not brought the rebels so quickly to their knees as the escaping of a few hundred slaves by following the back track of the army.”]
Dec 7, 1861 · Missouri Army Argus “Strange Situations” [Summary: Editorial wonders how Senators Lane and Johnson will get along in the Senate after Lane has burned Johnson’s home town of Osceola. Believes Johnson to be as good a Union man as Lane. But Johnson would be expelled from the Senate in January 1862 for being disloyal to the government and would join the Confederate army.]