Book Profile
Thomas Ewing Jr.
Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General
Thomas Ewing Jr.
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Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2008
Pages: 377
ISBN: 0826218067
ISBN-13: 9780826218063
Related Files
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Horatius At The Bridge: Daniel McCook
McCook Article JKBA June 2014.pdf
Dan McCook was the up and coming star in the Leavenworth law firm of Sherman, Ewing and McCook which in 1859 was the premier firm involved in large land sales all the way to Fugitive Slave Act prosecution and defense. A sickly child, McCook practiced in the shadow of Thomas Ewing Jr. and William T. Sherman, and during the civil war commanded a brigade of Sherman's troops in the battle for Atlanta. His practice in 1859-60 and his service in the Union army are chronicled in this article, which was published by the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association in June 2014. It is adjunct to my 2008 biography of Thomas Ewing Jr. The KBA is a voluntary bar association of over 8,000 members.
Saving Lincoln's Presidency & a Free Kansas in the Bargain
Ewing Article JKBA Dec 2012.pdf
This article on Thomas Ewing Jr., the first chief justice of Kansas and Kansas lawyer, was first published in December 2012 in the Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, in Topeka, Kansas. It features the grist of Bleeding Kansas, and the important role Ewing played in the civil war, notably the saving of Lincoln's Presidency. The KBA is a voluntary bar association with over 8,000 members.
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An Ohio Whig family with roots in the South, the Ewings influenced the course of the Midwest for more than fifty years. Patriarch Thomas Ewing Sr., a former Whig senator and cabinet member for two different Whig Presidents, was the pre-eminent real estate lawyer of the era and the Old Salt Boiler raised four major players in the nation's 19th Century history—including William Tecumseh "Cump" Sherman, who was taken into the Ewing family as a shy nine-year-old, and who went on to marry his foster sister, Eleanor "Ellen" Ewing. 

Ronald D. Smith now tells the wider story of this extraordinary clan that played a role on the national stage through the illustrious career of one of the sons and Sherman's brother in law, Thomas Ewing Jr.

In Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General, Smith introduces us to Ewing, a remarkable 19th century politician and attorney in his own right.  First as a real estate lawyer, judge, and speculator in Kansas, he helped form and promote the Free State party.  Then as a general in the Union army and a post-war figure in national Democratic and Greenback politics, he had enormous impact on national politics.

Smith takes readers back to Bleeding Kansas, with its border ruffians and land speculators, reconstructing the rough-and-tumble of its courtrooms to demonstrate that Bleeding Kansas was as much about claim-jumping as about slavery. He describes the seat-of-the-pants law practice in which Ewing worked with his brothers Hugh, brother in law Cump Sherman, and Dan McCook. He then tells how Tom came to national prominence in the fight over the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, was instrumental in starting up the Union Pacific Railroad, and became the first chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court.

Ewing obtained a commission in the Union Army and raised a regiment of infantry, later mounted, that saw significant action in Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.  After William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas, as the Western Missouri district commanding general, he issued the dramatic General Order No. 11 that expelled residents from four counties in western Missouri into Arkansas, an event as Smith describes it, "the most aggressive nonracial civilian relocation order in American history."  Then this confidant of Abraham Lincoln's went on to lead an outnumbered band of Union artillery and infantry at Fort Davidson in 1864, a key battle in Southeast Missouri that Smith shows perhaps saved Lincoln's 1864 presidential reelection.  After the assassination, Tom Ewing courageously defended three of the assassination conspirators—including the disingenuous Dr. Samuel Mudd—in the War Department's elaborate show trial.  Ewing did so because of how Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had treated Ewing's brother in law, Cump Sherman, badly in the press during Sherman's surrender negotiations with Joe Johnston.  In 1868 Ewing again clashed with Stanton, lobbying the key vote to block the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Smith examines Ewing's life in meticulous detail, mining family correspondence for informative quotes and digging deep into legal records to portray lawmaking on the frontier. Many books have been written about Sherman, but this book fills the gaps in an interlocking family of remarkable people—one that helped shape a nation's development in its courtrooms and business suites. Thomas Ewing Jr.: Frontier Lawyer and Civil War General retells a chapter of Kansas and American history and opens up a panoramic view of antebellum America, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age that followed.

Upcoming Events

Sep. 27, 2017
Battle of Pilot Knob Reenactment
Location: Fort Davidson
Pilot Knob, MO

Every third year a full-scale reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob is staged, attracting tens of thousands of spectators.  The 2014 re-enactment commemorated the 150th anniversary of this pivotal battle in the West.  The assault on Fort Davidson in 1864 by Confederate troops left 1,300 of their most experienced soldiers dead, missing or wounded and thwarted the last best hope the Confederacy had to sweep Missouri back into the Confederacy, destroy St. Louis, and embarrass the Lincoln Administration, perhaps costing Lincoln the 1864 presidential campaign. 

The fort and site are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 


Oct. 25, 2017
Battle of Mine Creek
Location: South of Pleasonton, Kansas
Sponsor: Kansas History

    The Battle of Mine Creek was the aftermath and final downfall of Confederate General Sterling Price's ill-fated attempt to invade Missouri and then Kansas during late 1864.  As stated in Jeff Stalnaker’s excellent book on this battle, “Union troops controlled much of the South, Sherman's men marched with impunity through Georgia and defeat at Gettysburg was a painful and distant memory,” and Grant and Lee were stalemated in the east in the Petersburg trenches.  “The Confederacy needed to stem the tide. Confederate major general Sterling Price led an army of twelve thousand mounted infantry on a desperate charge through Missouri to deliver the state to the Confederacy and dash President Lincoln's hopes for reelection. This daring campaign culminated with the Battle of Mine Creek. A severely outnumbered Union army crushed the Confederate forces in one of the war's largest and most audacious cavalry charges.”

    Imagine what the Confederals saw:  two brigades of Union cavalry, several thousand horses, in two long lines thundering toward your positions, with your backs to a swollen river and trying to protect wagons loaded with plunder and loot from the Missouri campaign.  Mine Creek was a disaster for the Confederacy. The clash of the outnumbered Union force against a hamstrung CSA line of battle was an overwhelming Union victory.  Price's army scattered and remnants limped back into Arkansas.  Actual CSA casualties from Price's Missouri raid are unknown but some historians place the losses at 75% killed, wounded, or missing.


Ron Smith
111 E 8th St.
PO Box 360
Larned KS 67550
620-285-3157




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