Major Tompkins, Thirteenth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, and affidavits accompanying said report, it is evident that the said Colonel Best richly deserved his fate,and would have received it at the hands of a military commission had he been tried; yet his case does not appear to have been one of that class which requires the summary punishment inflicted upon members of guerrilla bands when actually taken in arms engaged in their unlawful warfare. Best was undoubtedly a spy and was engaged in inciting insurrection, but the laws of war do not justify, the punishment of even these crimes without trial, not do they justify such treatment of guerrillas under any circumstances except where the formal process of law has failed to arrest the evil. When it becomes necessary to dispense with the form of trial and execute certain classes of outlaws upon the spot orders directing this course must be constructed strictly and literally, and officers charged with the execution of such orders must be held to the most rigid accountability for going beyond the terms of the order.
The commanding general is satisfied, however that while Major Tompkins erred in this case he did so honestly, believing that he was discharging with strict fidelity an important and disagreeable duty.
The commanding general therefore takes pleasure in honorably acquitting Major Tompkins of all intentional wrong and in restoring him to his command.
Major Tompkins will be immediately released from arrest and return to duty with his regiment.
By order of Brigadier-General Schofield:
C. W. MARSH,
SAINT LOUIS, July 8, 1862.
Refuges from Price's army report that large numbers of rebel Missouri troops have crossed the Mississippi at Sterling in small parties and are joining Hindman and McBride. Hindman has ordered all the small bands in Northwest Arkansas to join him at Little Rock. I have heard nothing from General Curtis since he started down White River. Guerrillas in force have possession of all the country in this rear. I am starting a train from Pilot Knob under a strong escort.
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
HEADQUARTERS, Fort Scott, July 10, 1862.
Captain THOMAS MOONLIGHT,
CAPTAIN: I find that my force at this post is entirely too small to do the effective duty expected of us by the commanding general. As provost guard there is much to do, as the state of the country has been and is quite unsettled, and the well-disposed citizens, feeling that the commanding general is severe and that is determined to put down jayhawking and kindred crimes, have taken hold of the matter, and are active and vigilant, and feel it their privilege to call on me as provost-marshal for details of men to assist them,which I immediately give.
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