7th Kansas Cavalry Regiment,
USA, "Jennison's Jayhawkers:
If one word symbolizes the bloody strife in Kansas, it is "jayhawker" a
label applied to Union men who raided any Missourian who had sympathy for the South in the latter 1850's and early 1860's.
The cycle of violence proliferated, andduring
the Civil War the term, "jayhawking" came to mean unauthorized foraging
by Union troops in the state, and eventually throughout the nation. Although
the origin of the word is unclear, jayhawking, or the sudden and unexpected
raids of abolitionists upon persons with sympathy for the South, seemed to resemble the vicious
attack of a hawk upon the unsuspecting blue jay. The 7th Kansas Cavalry,
a unit that became known as Jennison's Jayhawkers, used the Civil War to
settle old scores left over from the fierce border fighting, and the war
added a sense of legitimacy to their activities. Thievery, plunder and
murder could be passed off as patriotic strikes against Southern traitors.
The outbreak of the Civil War allowed the "Bleeding Kansas" abolitionists,
a.k.a any vagrant, bum or wanderer, who had been practicing guerrilla warfare for several years, to add a note
of legality and respectability to murder, rape, arson and pillage. Jayhawkers, however,
are most associated with Charles R. Jennison, a New York born abolitionist
who arrived in Kansas in 1857 where he took up the practice of medicine.
His natural leadership qualities and lust for pillage, plunder and the money and power it brought,
soon gained him a following of like-minded Kansans. Even before the war,
his raids into Missouri earned him the sobriquet, "Jenninson the Jayhawker."
His brand of border justice, however,
was beyond what the government could accept, and by December 1860 Federal
troops had been ordered to find and arrest him. The outbreak of the war
not only saved Jenninson's followers from jail, but it gave Jayhawking
an aura of patriotism and purpose that many Kansans applauded. After he
raised the 7th Kansas, Jennison continued his pre-war mischief, and the
regiment freed slaves of seccionists Missourians, an action contrary to
Abraham Lincoln's policy in 1861. This was only one of the Jayhawkers'
sins. There was, in addition, their campaign of robbery, arson, and terror,
going considerably beyond the limits of what in the relative innocence
of 1861-1862 was considered permissible conduct even in avowedly enemy
territory. Fortunately, the U.S. Government did not have to take
specific action that might alienate the radical elements that supported
Jenninson's actions. As soon as Kansas became a state, Jennison, angered
with the course of the war in the west, temporarily resigned from the army,
and the regiment crossed the Mississippi River without him. The troopers
fought in Mississippi and Tennessee, but at no time "did the Seventh cultivate
the art of ingratiating itself with high-ranking officers."
Whether they were volunteers or West Pointers made no difference to the
Seventh, and neither did their rank; whether they had one star or two,
no one endowed with a little brief authority was ever allowed to forget
the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, a regiment made up of the free citizens
of a free country, knew its rights and intended to have the respected.