Unusual manuscript diary of a newspaperman in Missouri during the Civil War, detailing life under Union occupation in Independence and on Confederate guerrilla warfare.

Principally Independence, MO and Paroquet, KY: 1 January 1863 - 26 December 1863.

Price: $12,500.00

About the item

Approx. 70pp., written in pencil. Mostly brief daily entries, although with some gaps. Lacks pages for Nov. 27 to Dec 2. With additional approx. 30pp of memoranda in the rear recording significant events 1861-1862 and with detailed accounting of income and expenses. Black morocco wallet style binding, some leaves detached. John B. Thomas, Jr., "Best of Breed: Col. H. Milburn McCarty as a Country Editor", in Filson Historical Quarterly, vol. 63 (Jan. 1989).

Item #365213

Prior to the Civil War, the area around Kansas City and Independence Missouri served as an important starting point for travellers heading to California. In 1858, journalist and publisher Harry Milburn McCarty (1822-1891) founded The Border Star, a pro-slavery Democratic newspaper based in nearby Westport, now part of Kansas City. "The Border Star, making a lively and propitious start, was a good paper, particularly interesting for making the most of its location at the jumping-off-place for western migration. It claimed circulation as far as California, and published such things as tables of distances for wagon trains..." (Thomas, p. 32). Publication under that banner seems to have ceased in 1860 as the newspaper became the Kansas City Enquirer and Star and with the outbreak of the Civil War publication seems to have stopped altogether. Although the dates are a bit confused (his diary records the arrest in December 1861, though an account published in the Elizabethtown News and quoted by Thomas suggests the arrest just following the Battle of Lone Jack in August 1862), it would seem that around the time of the Union occupation of Independence, McCarty was arrested as a Confederate sympathizer, jailed at Fort Leavenworth and his newspaper office destroyed by the military.

The present diary for 1863 opens, seemingly shortly after being released from prison, with McCarty in Union-occupied Independence, accepting a job working for fellow newspaperman (and later Mayor) William Peacock. He records on January 2: "Resolution – Avoid all disputation or even conversation about politics. The reason for this is obvious. No good but much evil results from loose expressions of political opinions in times of political wars..." over the next three months (approx. 28pp) McCarty records the divided nature of Independence, detailing guerrilla raids by Quantrill, Todd and others, and on the military occupation.

On Jan. 9 he writes: "Fight on the prairies between Geo. Todd's guerrillas and some Federals. Four dead Federals brought to town and some wounded. Two missing. 11 prisoners brought from Kansas City and put to work." Two days later he records: "Another dead today brought in to town. Killed in Friday's fight by the bushwhackers. His ears were cut off close to his head." The following week he recounts a similar act: "It is said that a soldier was killed by guerrillas and his body horribly mutilated ... one ear filled with powder and exploded."

Life in Union-occupied Independence was filled with suspicion and harsh treatment. On Jan. 13 he recounts being invited to a party which had been approved of by the military, only to find that the event was raided by Union forces and "the names of all the guests noted down and all of them (the ladies particularly) were required to report themselves at headquarters next day and take the oath of allegiance." On Jan. 22, he writes: "Gen. [Benjamin F.] Loan has issued an order directing his subordinates to treat confederate soldiers found in their districts as guerrillas and outlaws, to hang or shoot them when taken prisoner, to shoot them down like wild beasts and to serve their aiders, abettors and sympathizers in the same way..." He recounts a few days later that a citizen has been imprisoned for sending his mules across the river. The situation seems to worsen by the beginning of February, writing on Feb. 4 and 5: "Squads of soldiers are daily sent to the country to hunt out guerrillas and discover southern sympathizers ... Several houses in the country were today burned and two men killed by the troops. Five girls brought in as prisoners of war." On Feb. 8 he details a raid on a guerrilla hideout after someone betrayed their location, "eight or ten were slaughtered as they came out of their cave."

Not much had changed by the following month. He writes on March 5: "The neighborhood overrun with Kansas Red Legs and other thieves. Not a night passes without somebody being robbed." The following day a "Gang of 40 runwaway negroes passed through town on their way to Kansas and received assistance from the military." On March 8, Col. Penick is replaced by Col. McFerren in command at Independence, though the treatment of local citizens still harsh. He recounts on March 14: [Troops] entered business houses and residences of various citizens and searched desks, safes and drawers for private papers ... The search was for Ritual of Golden Circle [i.e. Knights of the Golden Circle]." On March 20 McCarty's wife closes her school and he records that all churches have been ordered to fly the U.S. flag.

On March 22 another guerrilla raid close to town causes "great excitement": "The number of dead brought in from the battle-field are 8, all Federals. The flag-bearer shot in the forehead ... Soldiers highly excited and take out their spite on citizens. Some beaten, some knocked down, and others driven from the square ... General consternation among the secesh. Fears of a general riot ... People afraid to leave their houses." Retribution continued the following day: "Major Ransom with a gang of Red Legs are in the country, hunting for bushwhackers and for contraband goods, horses and all sorts of plunder. They are devastating the country."

On March 29, McCarty determines to leave Missouri and return to his family home in Paroquet Springs, Kentucky: "Life not safe here any longer". Much of the remaining portion of the diary details his travel back to Kentucky, his business prospects writing as a correspondent for various newspapers, and more mundane events like fishing, meals and the weather. See Thomas, "Best of Breed: Col. H. Milburn McCarty as a Country Editor", in Filson Historical Quarterly, vol. 63 (Jan. 1989) for a detailed accounting of McCarty's newspaper career following the war.

[With:] A group of 9 documents acquired with the diary, most associated with McCarty, including in part: a letter to McCarty from his wife, Lodviska "Lodie" Colmesnil McCarty, written 19 September 1858 shortly after his departure for Westport, MO; two promissory notes made out to H.M. McCarty, while he was in Westport, MO, dating to 11 April 1859 and 9 May 1860; and a bill of sale signed "H.M. McCarty" on "Jessamine Journal, McCarty & Co. Prop's" letterhead whereby H.M. McCarty conveys interest in his newspaper and printing office to his son, Harry M. McCarty, Nicholasville, KY, 15 February 1889, and accompanied by "Jessamine Journal" postal cover.