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February 24, 2017
1862 Rebels Killed SW of Warrensburg - Capt/Major Thomas W. Houts Court Martial 1891
Report of Brig.
Gen. James Totten, U. S. Army.
DISTRICT OF CENTRAL MISSOURI,
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,
General, Commanding District.
Capt. N. H.
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-
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
[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.
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
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
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
On the next day Colonels Philips and Crittenden were both absent
from the post, but no order had been issued designating their successors
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
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,
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
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
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
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.