Next month, local history organizations, including the Jackson County Historical Society, will be commemorating devastating Civil War events that took place here 150 years ago. Specifically, in August 1863, martial law was enforced by the Federal military under an edict called, “Order No. 11.” All local, elected, civil government and administration was summarily discharged, nullified and otherwise superceded. Ancestors living here along the western Missouri State line were under complete military control.
What caused this drastic measure? Some say it was the burning of Lawrence, Kansas, by Quantrill and his men… and that may have been the ultimate “straw.” But, the flames between Missourians and Kansans had been flaring since around 1854 when the issue of “slave state” vs. “free state” came to the forefront of the national debate. Missourians and Kansans crossed the border and wreaked havoc on their so-called neighbors and destroyed and/or stole property. The situation intensified and the behaviors and actions escalated over nearly a decade, and it would take a 500-page book to tell you half the gory details.
In short, it was an awful time to live in the United States, and in our area especially . . . though you rarely read about what happened here in U.S. history textbooks.
It’s hard to paint a picture so you might grasp the intensity and calamity of those uncivil times in local (and national) history. Picture having lived in your Independence or Blue Springs home for the last nine or 10 years while all around you, people have been verbally and physically fighting one another over petty differences to some major, fundamental beliefs and long-held traditions being challenged. Average citizens forgetting “United We Stand,” begin turning to bullying and vigilante justice. It happened here.
Imagine the horror of hearing that your next door neighbor answered his doorbell last night and was shot in cold blood. It happened here. You also discover the next morning that vandals also spray painted a derogatory term across your garage door. Local law enforcement have no leads to solve these crimes, nor any of the countless other similar-and more intense-incidents taking place simultaneously across the city and county. Random shootings. Arson fires. Abductions. Homeland terrorism. It all happened here.
After a while, wouldn’t it seem like chaos? Your local elected officials, powerless to random, guerrilla-like tactics threatening the daily lives of every citizen. Increasing threats of chemical and nuclear weapons loom heavily each and every day. Eventually, federal troops or military police have to be called in to try and stabilize all that’s going on. They might quarantine, initiate stringent curfews and check points, or use advanced technologies to observe and suppress anarchist combatants.
Do you think they might evacuate entire towns and force people living in unincorporated areas of Jackson County to move elsewhere – forced to abandon their real and much of their personal property – in a matter of days? This is exactly what happened in August 1863 when Order No. 11 was issued.
Page 2 of 2 - As it turns out, a nearly 500-page book about Order No. 11 has been published, and is available for sale from the Jackson County Historical Society. Author and local historian Ralph A. Monaco, II, Past President of the Jackson County Historical Society, has compiled the first-ever, comprehensive history and roster of those affected by Order No. 11.
Monaco’s book complements three major upcoming re-enactments on the events that took place 150 years ago. Mark your calendars for August 4, 1-4 p.m. at the Alexander Majors Home, for an event commemorating “Order No. 10.” Then, on August 17, 4-8 p.m., a first-person event will held near the Pacific House (6th & Delaware Street) in the River Market of Kansas City. The big event, however, will be September 14 at Missouri Town that includes events all day long, plus a candlelight tour after dark. See the Society’s online calendar at jchs.org, or ordernumber11.org for more details.
David W. Jackson is archives and education director of the Jackson County Historical Society.