D.R. Anthony had been on campaign with the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry for nearly eight months. He had led the 7th on a rampage of revenge through Missouri, and now the regiment was headed deeper into Confederate territory in Western Tennessee as part of Brigadier Robert B. Mitchell’s First Brigade, Fourth Division, which was in turn part of Brig. Gen. William Rosencrans’ Army of the Mississippi (Stephen Starr, Jennison’s Jayhawkers, 1973, 165). It was during this time he would seize a unique opportunity to thrust himself into the forefront of the national debate on slavery, and strike a blow against the “peculiar institution” that he hated so much.
The Federal Fugitive Slave Laws required slaves who crossed state lines be returned. When war broke out, Union commanders were forced to deal with large numbers of slaves trying to escape through their lines. General Benjamin Butler was one of the first to come up with a solution. Butler’s policy would find support from Washington in the First Confiscation Act, which provided Union officers the power to seize slaves engaged in helping the enemy. An abortive attempt at general emancipation was made in General Fremont’s August, 1861 order that declared martial law and emancipated all slaves in Missouri. While the martial law remained, emancipation would only last until September, when Lincoln ordered Fremont to modify the order and restrict it to slaves aiding the rebel war effort. The end of the institution of slavery in the Confederacy was not a stated goal of the Union war effort, though a there was an effort to start ending slavery in those Union states that still permitted it (Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland).
The 7th Kansas was formed shortly before the resignation of General Fremont, and after the elimination of his emancipation order for
the slaves of Missouri. In Fremont’s place was Major General Henry Wager Halleck, who took command on November 19, 1861, and he soon made apparent his stance on fugitive slaves. On November 20, 1861, he issued General Orders No. 3. In order to prevent the enemy gaining intelligence from returned slaves, he forbid fugitive slaves (or any other unauthorized person) from being admitted within Union lines or into Union camps. Later in 1862, General Isaac Ferdinand Quinby, commander of the district that included Union City, issued his own order reinforcing Halleck’s (Starr, 172-173).
The volunteer Jayhawkers of the 7th Kansas had already set a precedent for ignoring orders from Union high command, and D.R. Anthony would keep his own counsel on matters relating to slavery. Several nights later, the 7th Kansas, “camped one evening on the plantation of one Sims” ((Starr, 173), who they quickly discovered was a strong Southern sympathizer who had leant out his slaves in the past to aid in the war effort. When the regiment broke camp, eight of Sims’ slaves chose that moment to escape, just as slaves were doing elsewhere. Sims protested to the adjutant general of the brigade, W.H. Lawrence, who took him to the 7th in search of the runaway Negroes. When they arrived however, they found the Jayhawkers less than accommodating, promising to give up the slaves on one condition: that they could execute Sims for his adherence to slavery and the CSA (Starr, 173-174).
The Kansans’ disobedience was reported to Quinby, who declared in a new order that any regiment continuing to ignore the orders of Halleck and himself would be mustered out of service (Starr, 173-174). Quinby’s orders were delivered to General Mitchell, who had them posted before departing for two days of leave, evidently believing that nothing could go terribly awry in such a short time (Admire, Magazine of Western History, 1889, 698). Clearly, Mitchell, Quinby, and Halleck all underestimated Daniel Read Anthony, who, as commander of the Kansas 7th was the most senior officer remaining in the brigade, which meant command of the entire brigade fell to him. Sensing his narrow window of opportunity, Anthony issued Brigade Order 26, the most radical anti-slavery order yet issued by the Army or Washington. A copy of Order 26 is below. It can also be read as it was published by the Atchison, KS Freedom’s Champion. Whether or not Anthony knew what would come as a result of his order, he sallied forth all the same to strike his blow against slavery.
Admire, W. W. “An Early Kansas Pioneer.” Magazine of Western History 10, no. 5 (1889): 16.
Connelley, William Elsey. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis, 1918.
“Lt. Col. Anthony, While in Temporary Command.” Freedom’s Champion, June 28, 1862.
Richmond, Langsdorf and. “Letters of Daniel R. Anthony, 1857-1862 – Continued.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1958).
Starr, Stephen Z. Jennison’s Jayhawkers. Baton Rouge, LA: Lousisiana State Univ. Press, 1973.