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Forgot to mention in my earlier post — the commander of the Union forces at the Battle of Kirksville was Col. John McNeil, who made himself one of the most hated men in Missouri (by the rebel side, anyway) a few months after this battle by ordering the notorious “Palmyra Massacre.” McNeil showed his inclinations toward extreme measures after the Kirksville fight by ordering the execution of fifteen prisoners on grounds that they had broken their parole from an earlier capture. Other summary executions, including one of a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate regular army who was neither a paroled ex-prisoner or an out-of-uniform bushwhacker, followed in the next few days.

Whether these killings were justified militarily is a matter of disagreement, but actions such as McNeil’s certainly added to the hardening of sentiment that led Missouri into its downward spiral of brutality during the war. The re-enactors in Kirksville reminded us of that by not only re-enacting the battle, but also the drumhead courts-martial and firing squads that followed.

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