This solemn monument reminds visitors of the destructive nature of the Civil War upon thousands of families in Missouri. Known as the "Burnt District," this section of Missouri was destroyed by Union forces following General Order No. 11 in 1863. Recognizing that this area harbored rebel bushwhackers who were raiding homes in Kansas and other areas under the guise of supporting the Confederacy, Union leaders ordered the evacuation of all citizens from Jackson, Cass, Bates, and northern Vernon Counties. While a number of residents were aiding bushwhackers, the majority were simply trying to avoid the conflict and protect their farms and homes from raiders and thieves. After the citizens left their homes, Union troops destroyed homes, farms, and supplies throughout the region. This "scorched earth" policy was designed to prevent bushwackers or rebel supporters from remaining in the area but had a far more devastating consequence upon the people who lived in the area. The selection of a chimney represents the only portion of hundreds of homes that remained standing following the destruction by fire.
Historians continue to debate the necessity and effectiveness of General Thomas Ewing Jr.'s Order Number 11. His decision exiled several thousand citizens of a state that remained in the Union and hardened anti-Union feelings in the area. At the same time, bushwhacker attacks had resulted in terrible violence along the Kansas-Missouri border, and these counties were home to many families that had offered material support to the bushwhackers and other Southern sympathizers. Four days after the deadly attack by Missouri bushwhackers upon the city of Lawrence on August 21, 1863, General Ewing responded with General Order 11. Ewing later explained his decision as intended to both end the attacks by bushwhackers and protect the people of Missouri against reprisal by Kansans who might seek revenge upon the people who inhabited areas known to harbor rebel sympathies.
Union officer and Missouri resident George Caleb Bingham, painted a mural depicting the destruction caused by Order No. 11 following the war. Bingham described the aftermath of this order in a 1877 letter to the St. Louis Republican newspaper. He wrote, “Dense columnns of smoke arising in every direction marked the conflagrations of dwellings, many of the evidences of which are yet to be seen in the remains of seared and blackened chimneys, standing as melancholy monuments of a ruthless military despotism which spared neither age, sex, character, nor condition." The issuance of Order No. 11 remains of one the most significant historical events to take place in the area.
Neely, Jeremy. The Border Between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas-Missouri Line. Columbia London: University of Missouri Press, 2007.
Bingham, George Caleb. Letter to the Editor. Printed in the St. Louis Republican; February 26. 1877.