Jayhawking is something that intrigues me quite a bit. I grew up in Kansas and always knew that Jayhawking was a term that came from around the Civil War. However, it was always a subject that we seemed to move over quickly in school. I had never really thought about where the name “Jayhawk” came from. I looked it up and apparently it comes from the jaybird and the hawk. The jay distresses intruders and the hawk kills them. It makes sense in the context of the kind of Jayhawking that Charles Jenison was doing.
Charles Jenison came from New York originally and was a doctor for a while. He quit the trade and decided to start stealing horses instead in and around the Kansas Territory. He was very good at doing this and traded the horses to neighboring states. Not only did he become known as a legendary horse stealer, he also became known as a devout abolitionist. He hung two Missourians who he caught returning slaves to their “masters”. Missourians were obviously outraged. Jenison said what he was doing was “honorable and just”.
Jenison was put in charge of the 7th Kansas Calvary Regiment. They became known as “Jenison’s Jayhawkers.” Becoming lieutenant colonel seemed to justify his prewar behavior. He and his regiment were assigned to the Western Missouri border. This allowed him to continue on with his guerilla-combat like ways. He resigned from his position for a while and started a small business. After Quantril’s raid, he was once again asked to raise a regiment and protect the border.
After the civil war, Jenison was elected onto the house of representatives and later the senate. He led a very interesting and influential life. However, it was highly debated as to whether or not he was of noble character. In whatever way people may view him though; he is part of a legacy that we still study today. It is a legacy that we even revere through our own school’s mascot, the Jayhawk.