Nonprofit aims to save Civil War's 'Kitty Hawk

General Order No. 11


One of the most stunning items on display at the Missouri History Museum's "Civil War in Missouri"  exhibit is George Caleb Bingham's  painting of General Order No. 11. I General Thomas Ewing is seated on a horse watching the Red Legs enforce the order. I was struck by Bingham's use of light and shadow, a near photographic sense of depth of field, and the use of detail to bring the drama to life.

General Order No. 11 is the title of a Union Army directive issued during the Civil War on 25 August 1863, forcing the evacuation of rural areas in four counties in western Missouri. The order, issued by Union General Thomas Ewing, affected all rural residents regardless of their allegiance. Those who could prove their loyalty to the Union were permitted to stay in the affected area, but had to leave their farms and move to communities near military outposts. Those who could not do so had to vacate the area altogether.

While intended to deprive pro-Confederate guerrillas of material support from the rural countryside, the severity of the Order's provisions and the sometimes savage nature of its enforcement alienated vast numbers of civilians, and ultimately led to conditions in which the Rebel bushwhackers actually found themselves with even greater access to supplies than before. It was repealed in January of 1864, as a new General took command of Union forces in the region.

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