Captain Maxwell Phillips Order Book

Maxwell Phillips was a farmer in Saline County, Kansas, before he was commissioned on May 28, 1863 into the Union army.1 He served in the Third Regiment Indian Home Guards, which was part of the Kansas Infantry. The Third Regiment, under Col. William A. Phillips, was formed at Tahlequah and Park Hill in the Indian Nation, which is now Oklahoma, in July 1862.2 Most of his service was spent between Fort Gibson in the Indian Nation or Fort Scott and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In December 1862, the regiment participated in the capture of Fort Davis near present day Muskogee, Oklahoma, and helped protect the Kansas border from Missouri bushwhackers like William Quantrill.3 Col. Phillips was wounded in a skirmish with bushwhackers in February 1863.4

Maxwell Phillips recorded all facets of the official procedures and events that took place at Fort Gibson. Phillips described in his reports the obstacles the regiment faced; such as desertion, cattle rustling, and improper processing of paperwork. Phillips often had men desert only to return asking to rejoin the unit. He would petition his superiors to allow these men to return with some minimal form of punishment. Normally, in a time of peace the Army would never have accepted a deserter back into service. They would have been considered Absent-With-Out-Leave and considered a criminal but the Union Army needed every able-bodied man they could find, so they were willing to bend the rules, slightly, to make some exceptions. In March 1864, Phillips wrote to a commanding officer requesting that several of his men who had returned of their own accord be reinstated to the regiment.

Sir I hereby Send you the names of Men who have deserted from My Co’ (G) and have voluntarily returned and respectfully Request that they be restored to duty with loss of Pay and allowances during absence

-Capt. Maxwell Phillips letter to A. Morton – Mar. 16, 1864

There were numerous hindrances that the soldiers assigned to Indian regiments dealt with on a daily basis. One of the most serious problems Phillips recorded was the theft of cattle from the Union supplies. With a scarcity of food, stolen supplies were a huge detriment to the survival of a regiment. He encouraged the support of local Native Americans to help with the procedure of finding the stolen cattle but it was difficult to prove who stole the cattle. This became even more difficult when higher ranking officers were giving permission or passes to incompetent men who came into the Indian Territory under the pretext of purchasing cattle legally, but they then stole the cattle from the Native Americans for their own financial gain. Occasionally, they even stole the cattle from the families of the Indian soldiers in Phillips own regiment.

I regret that I am Obliged to leave the State without being able to present; to You My business in person. I reported to Your Adjt General upon My Arrival, I have not been able to recover any Cattle: though I have found Several herds. I have reason to believe that persons who have Obtained passes or permits from you to purchase Stock in the Indian Nation have Abused the privelige Granted; and have Obtained the Stock by Stealing it

I examined a herd at Fort Scott [Kansas] of about 580 head of Cattle, in possession of one John McWhirt, I found Over 50 different Indian Brands both Creek and Cherokee, Some of the Stock being the property of Men in My Own Co’ the Greater portion of them being the property of Loyal Soldiers, who have not even been permitted to Sell their Stock, nor, in Many Cases, been permitted for Over two Years to leave the ranks to look after it, Some of the Stock was Contraband.

-Capt. Maxwell Phillips letter to Samuel Ryan Curtis – Sep. 12, 1864

Communication was very difficult to maintain between soldiers in the Western Territory and their commanders back east in Missouri. The inefficiency of communication and the nature of the war led to confusion and misplacement of important documents. Phillips repeatedly requested confirmation that invoices and reports he had sent were received. He also requested information on several new soldiers he received, so that they could be properly mustered in to the unit.

Fort Gibson C.N. [Cherokee Nation] Nov 23d 1864 Lieut J. S. Lane [6th Kansas Cavalry] Act’ Asst Com’ of Musters Sir! I had three men Mustered into my Co’ by You on the 28th day of June 1864! Namely Fox Kenner, Rope, & Teacher, I Signed blank Muster in Rolls, that were to be filled out by You and forwarded to me. I have not Received them & desire to have the Record of the Muster Will You please to forward to me the Muster-in-Roll of these men as Early as possible

-Capt. Maxwell Phillips letter to General Commanding District of the Frontier – Dec. 5, 1864

Phillips meticulously recorded the official procedures and events that took place within the Kansas and Indian Territories and how the problems faced by the men stationed there were different than what soldiers in Missouri and Arkansas encountered. His collection is unique in that it contains such a wide variety of documents. Not only do we have Phillips order books and official government documents including receipts and affidavits, but also included were educational materials he was personally studying.

Contributed by the Oklahoma Historical Society

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  1. Maxwell Phillips, Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.
  2. Oklahoma Historical Society, “Indian Home Guards”, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture,
  3. Frederick H. Dyer, . A COMPENDIUM OF THE WAR OF THE REBELLION. 3 Volumes. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.
  4. William G. Cutler’s, “State History, Part 18”, History of the State of Kansas,