The Kansas City Star, Nov. 28, 1897Kansas City was held as a military post from the time that Major Prince arrived with his battalion of regular cavalry and infantry from Fort Leavenworth in June, 1861, until the close of the war in 1865. The last two years of the war Kansas City was made the headquarters of a military district known as the “District of the Border, Brigadier General Thomas Ewing commanding.
KANSAS CITY IN WAR TIME
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TWO COURT-MARTIAL EXECUTIONS
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Both of the Men Faced Death Bravely, but
One was shot for Thievery and
the Other Was Hanged
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Two military executions took place during the period of the occupancy of the troops here – one of a federal solider named Fitzpatrick, belonging to Colonel Jennison’s first cavalry, the other a Confederate guerrilla, Dan Vaughn, hanged as a spy.
Colonel Jennison’s regiment arrived here in December, 1861, and camped just east of the Coates home, along what is now Twelfth street. The regiment contained more of the reckless, dare-devil spirit of plunder and robbery than any other body of soldiers that ever was quartered here,
Private Fitzpatrick left camp one night alone on an expedition of plunder and wandered out in the vicinity of Ninth and Harrison streets, a region which at that time was very sparsely settled. He entered a house occupied by a woman and her two daughters. He grossly insulted the ladies and plundered the house of everything valuable, besides destroying many articles of value only to the family, and burning up all the papers and letters that he found in the home.
The next day Colonel Jennison had the company to which Fitzpatrick belonged drawn up in line and one of the young ladies identified the culprit. Her story was fully corroborated by a march of the quarters occupied by Fitzpatrick, where many of the stolen articles were secreted. Fitzpatrick was placed under guard and a drumhead court martial convened to try him. He was found guilty of robbery assault and willful destruction of property. The court-martial sentenced him to be shot the next day and the sentence was carried out in accordance with the court.
The execution took place at 4 p. m. at a point about where Twelfth street now intersects Wyandotte. The day was cold damp and dismal and Fitzpatrick shuddered as he came from the guardhouse yet he was as brave a man as ever faced death. His grave had been previously dug and the execution took place close by it. When Fitzpatrick was placed in position he was asked by the officer in command of the shooting squad if he had anything to say. He simply shook his head and made no audible reply. Then the finding of the court-martial was read to him. He refused to have his eyes bandaged or to kneel but stood erect with his arms folded across his breast and looked steadily at the squad drawn up a short distance from him.
The word was given the soldiers discharged their guns and he fell. The body in the uniform he had worn was hastily buried the earth was closed over it. The soldiers were withdrawn and those who were present to witness the death of their comrade went back to camp.
The other execution took place in the year following 1863. ‘Dan’ Vaughn was a Confederate soldier or rather he was said to be a member of Quantrell’s guerrilla band. He was a brother of ‘Jim’ Vaughn a noted guerrilla leader who was in the band that took eighty unarmed federal soldiers from a train at Centralia, Ill and shot them to death.
Dan Vaughn was a native of this county and his home was in the vicinity of Independence. A military order had been issued by federal authorities which regarded as spies all Confederate soldiers captured inside of federal lines.
A young lady living near Wyandotte had been a former sweetheart of Vaughn’s and in order to see her once more he risked an lost his life. He knew that if he was captured he would be executed in accordance with the military order as a spy. With the evident belief that he would not be known to any one across the Kaw he left the brush of Jackson County and went in search of his sweetheart. After leaving her home at the end of his visit he did not immediately return to the woody fastness of the Blue or probably all would have been well with him. He went into a barber shop in Wyandotte for the purpose of having his hair trimmed and while there a file soldiers marched in and placed him under guard. He had been recognized and betrayed by a young man who formally knew him.
Vaughn was brought to Kansas City and held under guard until his identification was made complete. Then he was tried by a drumhead court martial and sentenced to be hanged. The order was carried out on the following day. A scaffold was erected near the spot where Fitzpatrick had been executed. Vaughn was taken from the guardhouse at the corner of Missouri avenue and Main street placed in a wagon and guarded by soldiers on all sides was escorted to the gallows.
Vaughn was undoubtedly a brave man and met his fate without a shadow of visible fear. When the rope was placed around his neck and the black cap drawn over his face he was asked to step upon the trap and he stepped forward with a firm and unwavering step. The rope which held the death trap in position was cut and the spirit of Dan Vaughn took its flight into eternity.
Vaughn was a young man of perhaps 23 years handsome and intelligent in appearance. While on the scaffold he told Captain Harvey of the Sixth Kansas that he at one time saved his life. Harvey was out with a squad scouring the country and at the time was considerably in advance of his men. Vaughn and others of a guerrilla gang were hidden in some underbrush near where the federal scout was passing. He told Harvey that he prevented his men firing upon him which they could have done and escaped before Harvey’s men came up.
As Vaughn stepped upon the gallows trap at the gallows he said
I’ll die a true Southern man”
He was hurried almost underneath the gallows upon which he had been executed but there was a rumor afterward that his friends opened the grave in the night succeeding his death and took the body away.
Very few people outside of the military went to see the execution of Vaughn although it took place in public. His death was made the excuse for desperate revenge by the guerrillas then infesting this part of the state.
Sometime after the execution of Vaughn General Blunt and his military band and a squad of soldiers were approaching the military post at Baxter Springs Kas, when they were surprised by Livingston’s guerrillas. The entire band of musicians was killed as were several soldiers. In fact only two or three escaped. Captain Tough now manager of the horse and mule department of the stock yards was one who escaped. He “knew horse” then as now and the good horse he rode saved him. On the body of one of the dead soldiers was pinned a strip of paper, on which was written
“Remember the cowardly hanging of Dan Vaughn at Kansas City”