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The “troublesome” Jessie Scouts

As we know, two of the Jessie Scouts (Union army intelligence collectors, who did their work dressed in Confederate uniform) got caught up in General Grant’s Purge of March, just prior to Battle of Shiloh. And these two – Carpenter and Scott – were accused of horse theft, arrested and sent away to St. Louis on March 29th under escort of Grant’s aide, Captain William Hillyer.

Curiously, Captain Charles Carpenter had been in similar straits only a month before. After completing a personal reconnaissance of Fort Henry about February 4th (said to have included a visit inside the Rebel stronghold) Carpenter returned to Union lines, made his report... and then was ordered “sent away, along with the other irresponsible Scouts” by direction of U.S. Grant. Captain Carpenter, IAW Field Orders No.60 was placed under arrest and sent away “never to return” on 10 February 1862. (Of interest, Captain Hillyer departed at the same time.)

Obviously, “never to return” Carpenter was with Grant’s forces at Crump’s/Pittsburg, so what was really going on?

It is known that communications during the Civil War could be conducted by courier or telegram (and both types could be encrypted.) With wire tappers and unscrupulous telegraph operators in existence, the most secure messages were not sent by telegraph; they were personally delivered (and best if they were verbal, so no chance of paper copy that could end up in the wrong hands.)

If it is assumed that Captain Carpenter was “arrested” so that Captain Hillyer could accompany him north without raising suspicion of some other purpose, where could they go? And what message could be delivered? On February 10th, General Grant had made up his mind to launch the attack against Fort Donelson (Lew Wallace, present at the War Council next day, said “it seemed to him as if General Grant had already made up his mind.”) Hillyer and Carpenter went to Cairo, where General Cullum had signature authority to approve “all actions” on Major General Halleck’s behalf. (Hillyer is afterwards reported as present at Fort Donelson; and Captain Carpenter is said to have conducted a reconnaissance of Fort Donelson.)

As regards the March 1862 arrest of Carpenter, that arrest was ordered on the 25th, but Captain Carpenter (under escort of Captain Hillyer) was not sent away til March 29th. What information or request could Hillyer have passed to General Halleck at St. Louis on Grant’s behalf ? (Captain Hillyer returned to Savannah aboard steamer Minnehaha evening of April 5th near midnight… so if any “instructions” came from St. Louis, they were overtaken by events.)

And what of the “horse thief” Captain Carpenter? On April 11th, Lew Wallace wrote that, “Captain Carpenter has returned from scout of Purdy, Bethel and the country around, and brings information that Purdy was evacuated last Saturday and has not been occupied [since the late Battle.]” Papers of US Grant vol.5 page 351.

Ozzy

References:  Papers of US Grant vol. 4 pages 153, 167, 174 – 5 and 421 – 2.

http://www.pddoc.com/skedaddle/058/exploits_of_capt_carpenter_of.htm  Exploits of Captain Charles C. Carpenter

 

Jessie.docx

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