John S. Gray Papers

John S. Gray, a resident of Mound City, Kansas, enlisted in the 1st Light Artillery (Kansas), on July 24, 1861.1 The Battery was originally attached to General James Lane’s Kansas Brigade and operated near Fort Scott, Kansas. The regiment then participated in General James G. Blunt’s campaign in Missouri and Arkansas. From September through December 1862 it saw action at Newtonia, Missouri, Cane Hill, and Prairie Grove, Arkansas.2 Afterwards, the regiment spent several weeks in Springfield, Missouri repairing wagons and other equipment damaged in the fighting.3 Gray wrote to a friend from Springfield on March 9 in which he recorded his observations on recent events at the military post. Guerrillas were a constant threat to Union soldiers, but Gray reported they had been driven from the Springfield area.

The bushwhackers have about “played out.” I have not heard of any one being troubled by them for a long time, and there is no regular organized rebel force here. They have all gone to Vicksburg [Mississippi], or Texas, except the Mo. troops, the most of whom have deserted, and are now at home with their families. The “army of the frontier” has been split up, part of it having went South, and the rest of it being scattered about in Missouri
John Gray letter to a Friend in Springfield, Missouri – March 9, 1863

Gray also noted that many Native American soldiers had deserted the Confederate Army and joined the Federals. They were mostly Cherokees, Creeks, and Choctaws, but Gray thought they were of little use to the Union army:

They will not fight, unless compelled to, and then break thier line at the first volly. Such soldiers we have very little use for, especially where there is anything to be done. They will do very well, as Scouts and Skirmishers, and their they are not as good as whites.
John Gray letter to a Friend in Springfield, Missouri – March 9, 1863

Large numbers of military and political prisoners were held in Springfield at this time. Despite the constant presence of Union troops, some managed to escape as Gray described.

Eighty-seven rebel Prisinars escaped from the Provist Guard at springfield. Two of whom were Cols, three Majors, ‘five Capts,’ and the remainder privates. They made an opening in the end of the guard House, by cutting through a brick wall 2 ft thick. It took them 11 days and nights, to make the opening The brick taken from the wall were concealed in their beds to prevent detection. The first things they did after getting out was to get to the Government correll, and supply themselves with Horses. they next set fire to a large Hotel in the subburbs of the city, and then made tracks for “Dixie.”
John Gray letter to a Friend in Springfield, Missouri – March 9, 1863

Perhaps because of incidents like this, Gray was anxious for the arrival of Gen. Blunt from Kansas. Gray wrote:

He [Blunt] is the man for this country. It needs a man that will push ahead, and one that is not affraid to meet an enemy on an open field…He is worthy of the promotion few men would have encountered the difficulties, that he has, and came of victorious in every engagement. But he has, in every conflict with the enemy, he has conquered, and his name is is a terror to the rebels in South West, Mo. and North west, Ark.
-John Gray letter to a Friend in Springfield, Missouri – March 9, 1863

John Gray was mustered out of service on July 17, 1865.4

Contributed by the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
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  1. Kansas Adjutant General’s Office, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-’65. (Topeka: Kansas State Printing Company, 1896).
  2. UNION KANSAS VOLUNTEERS, “1st Independent Battery, Kansas Light Artillery”, National Park Service Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System,
  3. John Gray, Letter to a friend. 9 Mar. 1863. WICR 30945, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri.
  4. Kansas Adjutant General, Report of the Kansas Adjutant General.