Tuesday, February 26, 2013
One of the most controversial orders of the Civil War, General Orders No. 11 was issued by General Thomas Ewing, commander of the District of the Border, on August 25, 1863. The order was issued in the wake of guerrilla leader William Quantrill’s attack on Lawrence, Kansas on August 21, 1863.
Hoping to eliminate civilian support for the guerrillas, the order commanded all persons living in the Missouri counties of Jackson, Cass, Bates and part of Vernon to evacuate their homes within 15 days.
Those living within one mile of a Union military post were allowed to remain. Those able to prove their loyalty to the satisfaction of local Union commanders were allowed to move to any military station in the district, or to any part of Kansas (except the counties on the eastern border). All others were to leave the district.
Ewing’s order virtually depopulated these areas, and numerous homes were burned, causing a great deal of suffering without completely eliminating the guerrilla threat. George Caleb Bingham, one of Missouri’s most famous artists, was outraged by the order, and promised Ewing that “If you persist in executing that order, I will make you infamous with pen and brush as far as I am able.” Bingham carried out his threat with the painting “Order No. 11,” and became an outspoken critic of Ewing for the rest of his life.