Following the Lawrence Massacre in Kansas in August 1863, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued General Order No. 11 which forced the evacuation of all residents of rural areas from four Missouri counties (Jackson, Cass, Bates and portions of Vernon). Although the order was intended to eliminate pro-Confederate sanctuaries and supplies, the military action had tragic results. An estimated 25,000 Missourians were displaced by this order, and thousands of homes and farms were burned. By mid-September 1863, the destruction was over because there was simply nothing left to destroy. In Jackson County and along Missouri’s border, a “scorched-earth” policy reduced a once prosperous area into a wasteland. Thereafter, this area was known as “The Burnt District.”
Created by Wide Awake Films, Order No. 11: Martial Law on the Missouri Border includes Civil War-era objects and reproductions, map graphics, an original portrait of two Missouri sisters caught in the war, a reproduction sculpture of a Civil War-era handcart, and a video that elaborates on the display.
“Instead of focusing on the Civil War’s battle strategy and weapons, we designed the exhibition to emphasize the community impact. The war along the Kansas/Missouri border was fought in a very modern style, and civilians were often its targets,” states Shane Seley of Wide Awake Films. “We really wanted to focus on the societal disruption that inevitably trails war and conflict. This may have happened over 150 years ago, but it’s relevant today, especially when you look at what’s going on in places like Syria and Egypt.”
The exhibition runs in conjunction with other events that commemorate the 150th anniversary of Order No. 11.
A gallery talk at the opening reception will feature local author Ralph Monaco, who will discuss his newly released book, Scattered to the Four Winds: General Order No. 11 and Martial Law in Jackson County, Missouri, 1863. Also speaking will be Debra Goodrich Bisel, who wrote The Civil War in Kansas: Ten Years of Turmoil. The event will include a live performance of Civil War-era music.