Report of Brig. Gen. James Totten, U. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF CENTRAL MISSOURI,
Jefferson City, Mo., March 26, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to state for the information of the major general commanding that I have just received official intelligence to the effect that on the evening of the 19th instant Capt. Thomas W. Houts, Missouri State Militia, commanding post at Warrensburg, Johnson County, having received information of the whereabouts of concealed powder, sent 15 men, under Lieut. A. W. Christian, to bring in the same to Warrensburg. The detachment was entirely successful, finding 125 kegs of powder (a portion of it damaged) buried in different places on the plantation of Mrs. Sarah B. Brinker, near Warrensburg. On the evening of the 22nd instant Captain Houts, Missouri State Militia, also sent 20 men, under Lieut. J. M. Jewell, to arrest several armed men who were supposed to be concealed in the house of Mrs. Burgess, about 10 miles southwest of Warrensburg. Lieutenant Jewell proceeded to the house and silently surrounded it. A woman, assuring him that there were no men in the house, opened the door. Instantly the rebels, 4 in number, sprang out, firing upon our men, who promptly returned the fire. It is thought that 1 of the party escaped unhurt. The other 3 were killed on the spot. Our loss was 1 killed and 1 badly wounded. The house was burned to the ground.
|Bird's Eye view of "Old Town" Warrensburg, MO in 1869|
On the morning of the 23rd an attempt to arrest a desperate character met with resistance, when he was shot dead. On the evening of that day, the 23rd, an attempt was made by incendiaries to fire the town of Warrensburg, but by prompt action on the part of Captain Houts and his command the design was frustrated. Two frame buildings only were destroyed. Captain Houts adds that Johnson County is infested by a gang of marauders and murderers who are a terror to the loyal citizens, but they will receive prompt attention. All three of the officers mentioned in this report merit the highest commendation for the promptness, energy, and zeal exercised in these affairs, and Lieut. J. M. Jewell, Missouri State Militia, and his party deserve especial notice.
I am, captain, your obedient servant,
Brigadier- General, Commanding District.
Capt. N. H. McLEAN,
Assistant Adjutant- General, Saint Louis, Mo.
In Bruce Nichols' book, "The Civil War in Johnson County", Bruce mentions a Thomas W. Houts, who in 1861 "help lead the attempt to lynch the McCowns", then created the "Red Shirt Company", and was eventually appointed captain in the Seventh Missouri Cavalry; Mr. Houts evidently was at some point before the end of the war, promoted to Major.
Excerpt from the Bruce Nichols Book-
Excerpt from the Bruce Nichols Book-
Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, Volume I, 1862, Volume 1 Amazon Book LInk
Court Martial of Major Thomas Houts 1891
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the President be, and he is hereby authorized to remit the unexecuted portion of the sentence of court-martial in the case of Thomas W. Houts, late major Seventh Cavalry Missouri State Militia, and to cause said Thomas W. Hoots to be honorably mustered out of the volunteer service of the United States, as of the date of said sentence of said court-martial: Provided that the said Thomas W. Houts shall not in consequence of the passage of this act be entitled to have or receive back pay or allowance. Approved, February 21, 1891.
H.R. 2968 and S. 740
Mr. COCKRELL, from the Committee on Military Affairs, submitted the following REPORT:
[To accompany H.R.2968.]
The Committee on Military Affairs, to which was referred the bills (B. li. 2968 and S. 740) for the relief of Thomas W. Houts, have duly considered the same and submit the following report:
The Senate 740 and H. R. 2968 are in the same words. They authorize the President to remit the unexecuted portion of the sentence of the court-martial in the case of Thomas W. Houts, late major Seventh Cavalry Missouri State Militia, and to cause said Thomas W. Houts to be honorably mustered out of the volunteer service of the United States as of the date of said sentence of said court-martial without any back pay or allowance. In the House the following report was made on said H.R. 2968:
The Committee on Military Affairs, to whom was referred the hill H. R. 2968, having considered the same, respectfully report:
At the beginning of the late war Thomas W. Houts was a prosperous young merchant in the town of Warrensburg, Johnson County, Mo.
Long before the firing upon Fort Sumter he had openly declared for the Union, and announced his intention of seeking an early opportunity of entering the military Service of the United States.
His father, then an old man, was a prominent and influential citizen of the county, and was an unconditional Union man, as was also his older brother, William L. Houts, with whom Thomas W. Houts was then associated in business.
The two brothers, at the risk of their lives, became very active in the Union cause, and were in constant communication with the Union leaders in that part of the State.
In May and June, 1861, when what was afterwards the Twenty-seventh Mounted Infantry Missouri Volunteers was recruited in that comity, Thomas W. Houts was one of the first men to shoulder his musket and take his place in the ranks. On the 4th day of July, 1861, he was mustered into the service, for three years or during the war, as a private soldier in that regiment. He was soon afterwards promoted to quartermaster, and served in the field with his command in the Army of the Frontier until the early part of January, 186-2. He then resigned and returned home, and re-enlisted at once as a private in Company A of the Seventh Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, whose first battalion was then being recruited thereby Maj. Emory S. Foster.
On the 11th day of January, 1863, Houts was promoted to the captaincy of his company. He took the field with it, drilled it up to a high state of efficiency, camped, marched, and fought in its front rank in the Southwest until the 16th day of February, 1863, when he was commissioned major of the second battalion of his regiment.
By that time he had made an enviable record as a true and faithful soldier, and was much beloved by the men under his command.
He was a very gallant and dashing cavalry officer, always ready for any sort of desperate service, and' distinguished among the many brave men with whom he served by extraordinary courage and coolness in action, as well as good judgment in the execution of difficult orders, groat zeal for the cause, and unflinching loyalty to his friends.
Had a proper opportunity been afforded him lie would have undoubtedly risen to a high rank in tbe service. As it was. he was justly regarded as one of the beat officers of bis grade in Missouri. He was, however, essentially a man of action, and therefore chafed under the restraints incident to garrison life, and was not as well versed in military law as many other men who wholly lacked his fiery zeal and splendid courage in the field.
In the summer of 1864 Major Houts was stationed with his regiment at Warrensburg, Mo., then the headquarters of the central military district of Missouri.
Then came the memorable campaign against Price in Missouri, in which Major Houts served with credit in the field at the head of his battalion.
Upon the return of the regiment to Warrensburg, in December, 1864, at the close of that campaign, its colonel (Philips) was placed in command of that district, its lieutenant-colonel (Crittenden) was detailed to command that post, thus leaving Major Houts as the ranking officer of the regiment.
The provost-marshal then on duty at that post, Captain Ferguson, of the Seventh, reported directly to the Provost-Marshal General, at department headquarters in St. Louis, but as Major Houts had not been placed in command of his regiment by any formal orders, the orders detailing Captain Ferguson for duty as provost-marshal had not been communicated to him, and" he was consequently not advised of their existence.
On the 13th day of December, 1864, William Higgins, then a private soldier in the Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry, now secretary of state of Kansas, arrived at Warrensburg in company with Major Houts's brother, Capt. William L. Houts, who then lived in Kansas.
They stopped with Major Houts's father, in Warrensburg, and of course frequently met Major Houts there.
Higgins had been regularly detailed for this trip by his commanding officer, who acted under the orders of General Blunt, then commanding the Department of Kansas, with headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.
The. commanders of the Departments of Kansas and Missouri at that time did not cooperate in perfect harmony, and that feeling perhaps extended to some of their subordinate officers.
On the 17th of December, 1864, Captain Ferguson arrested Higgins as a suspicions. character and had him confined in the county jail, even after he was informed that Higgins was a soldier in a Kansas regiment, regularly detailed on detached service.
Major Houts was greatly incensed at this action, as he thought it was wholly unjustifiable, and besides construed it to be an indirect and malicious personal attack upon himself, his family, and personal friends.
On the next day Colonels Philips and Crittenden were both absent from the post, but no order had been issued designating their successors in command.
Without knowing the extent of Captain Ferguson's authority, and acting on the mistaken impression that as the officer highest in rank then on duty at the poet he had the right to assume entire command, Major I louts ordered out a detail from his regiment, marched at the head of it to the jail, and then and there liberated Higgins from confinement, and returned him to his command at Paola, Kans., under an escort of citizens.
For this Major Houts was court-martialed and dismissed from the Army on February 7, 1865, after nearly 4 years of arduous and gallant service in the field.
From that time until the present Major Houts has been a prominent, prosperous, and law-abiding farmer in Johnson County, Mo., where he still lives.
The War Department makes the following report on this case, viz:
The records show that Thomas W. Houts was mustered in as captain. Company A, Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry, March 8, 1862 ; as major, April 4,1863, and was dismissed the service by sentence of general court-martial, promulgated in General Orders No. 34, from Headquarters, Department of the Missouri, February 7,1865, of which the following is a copy:
General Orders, ) HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,
No. 34. S Si. Louis, Mo , February 7, 1865.
Before the general court-martial, which convened at St. Louis, Mo., pursuant to Special Orders No. 16, current series, from these headquarters, and of which Brig. Gen. S. A. Meredith, United States Volunteers, is president, was arraigned and tried:
Maj. Thomas W. Houts, of the Seventh Regiment of Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, on the following charges and specifications:
CHARGE FIRST: "Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline."
Specification: "In this, that he, Thomas W. Houts, major Seventh Regiment Missouri State Militia, did take a detachment of his regiment, and going to the guardhouse of tbe post of Warrensburg, Mo., forcibly and unlawfully release a prisoner there confined named Higgins, an alleged deserter. This at Warrensburg, Mo., on or bout December 18, 1864."
CHARGE SECOND: "Disobedience of orders."
Specification: "In this, that be, Thomas W. Houts, major Seventh Cavalry Regiment, Missouri State Militia, having been lawfully commanded by his superior officer to remain in camp with his regiment, did disobey that command and leave his camp and regiment This at or near Warrensburg, Mo., on 01 about December 17, 1864."
CHARGE THIRD: "Breach of arrest."
Specification: "In this, that he, Thomas W. Houts, major Seventh Cavalry Regiment, Missouri State Militia, having duly been placed in arrest and confined in his quarters by his commanding officer, did leave his confinement before he was set at liberty by his commanding officer. This at or near Warrensburgh, Mo., on or about the 18th day of December, 1864."
To all of which charges aud specifications the accused pleaded "not guilty."
The court having maturely considered the evidence adduced, finds the accused as follows:
Of the specification, first charge, "guilty."
Of the first charge, " guilty."
Of the specification, second charge, "guilty, except the words 'and leave his camp and regiment."'
Of the second charge, "guilty."
Of the specification, third charge, "guilty."
Of the third charge, "guilty."
And the court does therefore sentence him, Maj. Thomas W. Houts, Seventh Regiment of Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, "to be dismissed the service."
Finding and sentence confirmed. Maj. Thomas W. Houts, Seventh Regiment of Cavalry. Missouri State Militia, ceases to be an officer in the service of the United States "from this date. By command of Major-General Dodge.
J. W. BARNES, Assistant Adjutant-General.
The proposed bill is drawn simply as an act of amnesty, and is strictly in the line of existing precedents.
It involves the payment of no money from the Treasury of the United States, and simply wipes out the disgrace attached to the name of a most deserving soldier, who lias borne the burden of this stigma in silence for nearly 23 years.
In the judgment of your committee it is a proper exercise of the power of amnesty vested in Congress, and is amply sustained by previous legislation of a precisely similar character.
Your committee therefore recommends that the bill do pass.
The following communication was presented to the House committee, to wit:
KANSAS CITY, MO., November 30, 1889. To the COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AFFAIRS,
Howe of Representatives, Washington, D. C:
Witli reference to the bill providing for the honorable muster out of Maj. Thomas W. Houts, late of the Seventh Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, as of the date of his dismissal from the service, I have to say that in view of the length of time that has elapsed since the finding of the court-martial in that case and the generally good record made by this officer while serving in the field, I approve of the measure and recommend its passage.
T. T. CULLKNDEN,
Late Lieutenant-Colonel Seventh Cavalry, Missouri Stale Militia.
The writer, late governor of Missouri, was the officer in command at Warrensburg at the time, but temporarily absent at the exact hour of the occurrence of the events out of which the charges arose, and is familiar with all the facts.
Your committee, in view of all the facts and circumstances connected with this case, report the bill (H. R. 2968) back to the Senate favorably and recommend its passage, and recommend that S. 710, for the same object, be indefinitely postponed.