Military History Monday: Jennison’s Jayhawkers

CharlesJennisonThis Civil War regiment, the 7th Kansas Cavalry, was organized by Charles Rainsford Jennison and became known as “Jennison’s Jawhawkers.”  By the time the regiment was mustered in on October 28, 1861, the terms “jayhawk,” “jawhawker,” and “jayhawking” were already part of the national lexicon long before the Civil War broke out in April of 1861.

The term “jayhawk” and it’s various iterations seems to have originated as early as the late 1840’s along the Kansas-Missouri border.   There are several theories as to how the term came into usage, but as far as a Kansan is concerned it is deeply rooted in the state’s history – it’s also Kansas University’s mascot.  The name combines two birds, since there is no such thing as a “jayhawk” in nature – so mythically speaking it’s sort of a cross between a quarrelsome, nest-robbing blue jay and a sparrow hawk, a stealthy hunter.

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  1. That was really interesting. Thanks for the write up. I don’t know whether to cheer for Jennison for being at the cutting edge of the anti-slavery movement or to condemn him for excesses and the the repeated stories of “friendly fire” against civilians and unionists. It’s all food for thought.

    • Bloody Kansas indeed. Thanks for stopping by!


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