The Confederates' Last Attempt
by Bruce Nichols
As the winter continued into 1864, it gave no hint of the violence that was to begin in the spring. While Quantrill's band was wintering down south, there was little guerrilla activity in the county, although many bushwhackers remained hidden in wooded recesses. A letter written during this winter by eighty-year-old Mrs. Deborah Silliman, living near Warrensburg, commented on county conditions. She reported that many runaway slaves had made their home near the Union post at Warrensburg, the quartering of troops in private buildings, the employment of her son Charles to defend Captain Andrew Jackson of the First Regiment in court-martial, and the burning by vandals of a house next to hers. Besides vividly describing her own troubles, Mrs. Silliman revealed that many families had fled the county for safety when their men went off to war. Her letter tells of eight such refugees murdered on the road fourteen miles east of Warrensburg a few weeks before. This letter reveals the lawlessness prevalent in Johnson County even so late in the war. Lizzie E. Brannock, a resident of the Chapel Hill in northwest Johnson County, wrote a revealing letter about life in that southern neighborhood on January 13. She told of the loss of her house a year earlier during Major Thomas Herrick's "red leg" raid there, the frequent plundering of her possessions by outlaws and the imprisonment of her husband and brother in the Gratiot Street prison.
When Couch's group got close enough, the "Kansans" opened fire, killing Couch and two of his men instantly and felling another who feigned death and lived. The civilians accompanying the Union men were spared harm by a man who boasted he was Quantrill. This small disaster shocked Johnson County and the surrounding area Also in late April, a soldier identified only as Riley, convicted of murdering an Irishman in front of the poor man's family, was publicly executed in Warrensburg —a hopeful, yet gruesome, sign for a return of law and order. May brought more frenzied activity than actual combat. After Quantrill's May 20 attack on Lamar, Missouri, many miles to the south, all Union posts feared his next move. Johnson Countians' fears that Quantrill might come their way were justified on May 22 when guerrillas attacked a small party of First Regiment militiamen under Sergeant Solathel Stone four miles northeast of Chilhowee. Reverend Richard M. King of Captain William H. Thompson's citizen guards accompanying Stone was killed, and the rest were captured except one man who escaped. As Quantrill's gang hurriedly crossed western Johnson County, they upset Federal communications by destroying telegraph lines and capturing a pouch full of dispatches. The bushwhackers disappeared into the Sni-A-Bar hills before any of the pursuing Union troops could get close. During the excitement of May, construction of the "Pacific Railroad" was completed to Knob Noster and the Ninth Minnesota Infantry began a tour of duty in the area to guard the new tracks. On June 5, a foot patrol led by Lieutenant Daniel Shumate of the First Cavalry tired on twelve bushwhackers leading pack horses near the Blackwater but did not hit any of them. Two days later the same patrol fired on a man accompanied by two women in the same area, but he escaped leaving a Federal overcoat and blanket.
© 2011 The Missouri History Museum. All rights reserved.
The building that was to become Gratiot Street Prison was a large brick structure with two wings. The northern wing (along Eighth Street) had been the medical college.On January 8, Colonel James H. Ford's Second Colorado Cavalry was introduced into the region to replace the troublesome Kansas "jayhawker" troops, previously used by the Union command to guard the Missouri-Kansas border. These tough frontiersmen had no private scores to settle in Missouri and were to perform gallant service fighting guerrillas in Johnson and adjoining counties in 1864. Colonel McFerran ordered Company G of the First Cavalry to Columbus in northwest Johnson County from Lexington on January 13 after citizens of the latter town complained about the conduct of its officers and enlisted men. This episode clearly contrasts the fresh Colorado troops with the ill-mannered militiamen. On January 14, the leadership of the First Regiment ordered its men to show more respect for private property of civilians. Perhaps the Union command was at last beginning to control its unruly troops. Violence gradually returned to the county throughout February and March. The first skirmish of 1864 took place on February 22 when Lieutenant Walter B. Hamilton's squad of the Fourth Missouri State Militia Cavalry attacked twenty guerrillas of a Captain Blunt's band near Blackwater river in the north. The bushwhackers escaped after Hamilton and one of the guerrillas were wounded. The next day Captain Milton Burris and nineteen men of the First Regiment waylaid the same rebel band, mortally wounding two of them before the rest scattered into the Sni-A-Bar hills. A Kansas City advertisement on February 28, 1864 called for five hundred men to work on the railroad being constructed between Warrensburg and Holden and offered the inducements that the "country is healthy, water good and wages paid monthly in cash." The notice failed to mention what, if any, protection from guerrillas was available; but here was a sign that commerce was reviving in anticipation of an end to bloodshed. The peaceful winter of 1863-1864 ended on a note of violence on March 10 when the district commander issued a general order calling for the formation of civilian home guards for patrol and guard duty. The return of good weather in April prompted local guerrillas to stir from their winter hideouts and Quantrill and his men were back for another fighting season after a winter in the south. The season began abruptly on April 28 with the defeat of a Union party in the northwest corner of the county. Earlier that day Major Jesse L. Pritchard, leading forty-eight men of the Second Colorado, found traces of eighty to one hundred guerrillas heading north (probably from a winter in the South like Quantrill) near Rose Hill in the southwestern corner and began to track them. The Union force followed the trail north past Holden and then to Chapel Hill where Pritchard learned he was too late to prevent disaster. The guerrillas had stopped earlier at a house fifteen miles northwest of Warrensburg on the Chapel Hill road when Lieutenant James E. Couch of the First Regiment and his small party rode up. According to Samuel McLaren, a civilian survivor traveling with Couch's party, the guerrillas were wearing Federal uniforms and identified themselves as Kansas troops.
|County Map about 1880|
On June 11, the ill-fated patrol of and fourteen men of the First Cavalry was sent out from Holden to the Kingsville area to the west. The next day Dick Yeager's and "Bloody Bill" Anderson's band of fifty mounted guerrillas — on their way north from wintering in Texas — ran into Parman's astonished patrol on open prairie and easily killed all but Parman and two others who fought their way to cover and escaped. The pursuing Union troops discovered that Yeager's and Anderson's guerrillas had previously attacked the stage nearby, ransacking the mail and robbing the passengers before encountering Parman's party. It was obvious that some of the twelve slaughtered men had surrendered only to be shot; one of the corpses had been scalped and the other bodies had been mutilated. "Bloody Bill" wrote his version of the fight one month later in a letter he sent to Lexington newspapers.
He claimed that he would have spared the militiamen had they surrendered, since he heard their company consisted mostly of southern men. Anderson boasted that he and two of his men had dispatched all twelve. He ridiculed their marksmanship and taunted Federal leaders by daring them to send their men out for him to train. By any version, the Parman massacre was one of the worst defeats of the war in Johnson County. On June 20 a squad of partisans kidnapped a civilian named George Peake near Clear Fork to guide them around the Union home guard at Knob Noster on their way north. They later released him and continued on to Dunksburg where, on June 27, they fought that village's home guard, killing two Dunksburg men (John McGuire or one of his older sons and a man identified only as Bales). Captain William B. Ballew, leading a fifty-man patrol of the Seventh Cavalry in the area, head of this and struck out in pursuit of the guerrillas as they turned back south. Ballew's force caught up to the rebels on June 28 after tracking them eighteen miles and in the ensuing battle, one on each side was killed. As the rebels continued their flight across southeast Johnson County, they shot Thomas and Isaac Cooper (the latter survived) for unknown reasons before Ballew's patrol lost track of them near Post Oak Creek between Chilhowee and Warrensburg. Sometime in June, Battery L of the Second Missouri Light Artillery began a three-month tour of duty in Warrensburg — an indication that Federal leaders must have expected more trouble during the summer. July brought more railroad progress and some interesting explanations. Railroad construction was completed to Warrensburg that month (July 4), providing local Union forces better communication and transportation. This left Warrensburg as the western terminus for the "Pacific Railroad" for about a year, which stimulated the area's economy.
Six to eight carloads of goods arrived daily from the east, and twenty or more freight teams were required to carry goods from the town throughout the region. On July 1, Miss Anna Fickle of Warrensburg was sentenced to three years in a Union prison for attempting to help a prisoner escape from the provost prison at Lexington. Missouri guerrillas were already sensitive about southern women after the collapse of the women's prison in Kansas City in 1863, and this new incident provoked "Bloody Bill" Anderson to write angry letters to area Union leaders such as General Brown and Colonel McFerran. Anderson's letters: 1) warned citizens not to take up arms against guerrillas, 2) asserted that he had "...chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge (himself) for wrongs that (he) could not honorably avenge otherwise." 3) denounced Federals for warring against southern civilians, especially women, 4) threatened to abuse Union women if southern ones were not left alone, and 5) gave his own version of the Parman fight. County warfare during July was more beneficial to the Union than earlier. On July 11 William E. Chester, a lieutenant of the Knob Noster Home Guards, led a party of them to scatter a band of guerrillas in the town. A patrol of the Seventh Regiment led by Major Thomas W. Hoots fleshed six or seven bushwhackers from the brush near Columbus on July 12 but failed to catch them as the rebels had fresher mounts. Captain James M. Turley's twenty-five-man patrol of the Seventh Cavalry fought Hutchins' and William "Bill" Stewart's band of guerrillas near Clear Fork on July 16, killing five of the bushwhackers. Sometime during the war, Bill Stewart's gang robbed and burned the village of Cornelia south of Warrensburg and not far from Clear Fork. Perhaps this was the time. On July 20 a band of one hundred guerrillas mulct' Jeremiah V. Cockrell and one Greer was reported near Chapel Hill. On July 27, Corporal William T. Hisey (a farmer from Warrensburg) and four men of the Seventh Cavalry — hunting a stray horse along Blackwater River — were attacked by Dick Yeager's (Picture Link)band of twenty guerrillas, whom they chased off after wounding Yeager and killing two of his men. Captain Melville Foster's patrol of the same regiment had a running fight with Yeager's band the next day from near Columbus to Big Creek in the southwest corner of the county, killing two, wounding four, and scattering the rest. Lieutenant Elisha Horn with ninety-three men of the Seventh Regiment discovered about fifteen guerrillas in a grove less than two miles south of Chapel Hill on July 30 and charged into them, killing one and wounding another before the rest scattered. Obviously, Union troops in Johnson County worked energetically throughout July to recover from their defeats in June. Guerrilla activity seemed to increase in August in spite of the vigorous Federal patrolling. Lieutenant M. A. Thompson of the Knob Noster Home Guards requested help on August 2 when he noticed "...a great many rebels in town," but the district headquarters nine miles west at Warrensburg told him to handle things himself by ordering out his home guards and closing the saloons. On August 5 Captain William P. Baker, with thirty men of the Seventh, chased a small squad of guerrillas on Big Creek and Crawford's Fork in southwest Johnson County, killing one. A forage train under Corporal John A. Adams (a Warrensburg farmer) of ten men of the same regiment fought eight guerrillas of Hutchinson's band near Holden on August 12, but the only reported result was that Adams' men captured five rebel weapons. On August 17, fifteen guerrillas robbed and burned the stage in western Johnson County between Holden and Pleasant Hill, cut telegraph wires, and escaped efforts of Federal troops to catch them. On August 22, Captain Foster took Lieutenant Francis Pharis and fifty men of the Seventh Cavalry and arrested the Durrett (Benjamin L.), Stoner, Cowarden (Frances), and Scott families of western Johnson County for feeding bushwhackers. Foster reported from Holden on August 23 that Quantrill and Dick Yeager with two hundred men were in the vicinity and might attack to release those southerners held there. They did not, but Foster moved his prisoners to Warrensburg the next day to prevent further worry. On August 25 about eighty troops of the Seventh Cavalry, led by Captain Oscar B. Queen and guided by William E Chester, encountered two small squads of rebels near Rose Hill, capture several horses, and perhaps wounded some of the guerrillas in the chase that ensued. Queen commented in his repeal that Chester often went into southern neighborhoods dressed as a Confederate to obtain intelligence about guerrillas movement from unsuspecting rebel sympathizers. Sometime during the last of August bring the tea of August or the fit of September, George Todd's gang of bushwhackers swept through the county killing discharged Union veterans, Union sympathizers, and men of German background as Union sympathizers based on the large number of German-Americans in Federal Missouri units in 1861. August must have seemed disappointed to Union leaders in the area for guerrilla bands suffered no notable loss during the month despite hard work by Federal patrols. September began violently on its first day as Lieutenant Daniel V. Man's (a Warrensburg farmer) patrol of the Seventh Regiment completely routed forty-five guerrillas five miles south of Lone Jack in the west, killing one and wounding several at the loss of one Union trooper killed. Two of Marr's men were badly injured when their horses fell during a charge in the fighting. To pay damages for the stage burned on August 17, Captain Melville Foster with thirty men from his Holden garrison on September 7 to the Walnut Creek area in the southwest and provided protection to Unionist families moving out. That evening, bushwhackers murdered Bailey P. Dean who lived north of Holden had acted as a guide for Union Patrols. Two nights later on September 9, unidentified militiamen murdered four southern sympathizers in reprisal for Dean's death. Yet, the distraction of guerrilla activity could not divert local attention from vital developments in eastern Missouri. By late September, Confederate General Sterling Price's long-awaited rebel invasion or Missouri was well under way. At long last. southern sympathizers in Union-occupied Johnson County had hope for liberation. As the invasion progressed, the tempo of guerrilla movement increased. On September 21 and 22, local Federal troops tried in vain to catch up to a band of sixty bushwhackers as they rode north from near Calhoun in Henry County to the Blackwater River area near Columbus. Union authorities guessed that this band was sent from the south to gather intelligence from some upcoming Confederate maneuver, because its members dropped off in twos and threes along the route of march. These rebels were probably sent to prepare for General Price's invasion of the region in October. On September 25, about one hundred guerrillas passed two miles west of Holden heading south. The next day, nine more rode by four miles from Warrensburg kidnapping two Negroes and stealing horses and mules. Captain Ballew at Knob Noster reported two bands of one hundred guerrillas each and another of fifty near that town also on September 26. Meanwhile, Price's invasion surged closer even after a bloody repulse at the Battle of Pilot Knob in eastern Missouri on September 27. The morale of Union sympathizers, battered by over three years of guerrilla terrorism, must have sunk to the lowest ebb of the war. On September 27, Federal leaders began to organize Companies G and M of the Fortieth Enrolled Missouri Militia under Captains Clifton Bondurant and Leroy C. Duncan, respectively, in anticipation that the regular militiamen would soon be ordered away to fight the invasion. Expecting the worst, the home guard in Knob Noster set to preparing defenses in the little town. As the last regular troops left Warrensburg on September 29, citizen guards there under the leadership of veteran Emory Foster, (called back to service from a retirement forced because of Battle of Lone Jack wounds), began to fortify the deserted Union post. Foster's new force, called first the "Johnson County Citizen Guards" and then "Foster's Cavalry Battalion, Missouri Volunteers," stayed in Johnson County about two weeks waiting and patrolling as the Confederate force moved steadily closer. Elements of the rebel invasion reached the county in mid-October. On October 15, Sedalia, to the east, fell to Shelby's — Confederate cavalry division in a nerve battle. That night Union troops, streaming into Warrensburg from that fight, retained Knob Noster lost to the rebels. too. The next day as Price's force moved past Johnson County to the north, heading west for an encounter with the Federal force near Kansas City, Foster's Johnson Countians were ordered to join the fighting. Foster moved out and joined General Blunt's Kansas force near Pleasant Hill to the west and together they rode to Holden on October 17 and on to Lexington the next day. Major Anderson's force fell back from Warrensburg on October 17 fearing the advent of rebels from Knob Noster and brought Blunt the report of a spy encountered at Warrensburg telling of Price's movements and intentions. the same day, reconnaissance sent to that town by Blunt revealed that the rebels had pulled back to the main force without entering Warrensburg. Meanwhile, Federal forces from the east — pursuing the Confederates — moved through the area about this time. The list of the pursuing union commands passed through Chapel Hill on October 22 Price was finally defeated the next day at the fierce battle of Westport, just south of Kansas City. During the battle, Garnishe Pleasonton arrested General Brown and his assistant, Colonel McFerron of the First Regiment. As Philips took command of Brown's brigade, leadership of the Seventh Cavalry fell to Warrensburg's Colonel Thomas T. Crittenden. All four had served many months of the war in Johnson County. Crittenden, Philips, and the Johnson Countians of the Seventh Regiment fought gallantly at the Battle of Westport and throughout the resulting pursuit southward of Price's beaten Confederates. Meanwhile, Johnson County gradually recovered from the invasion. Major Foster's command was detailed on October 27 to escort Missouri Governor Willard P. Hall from Independence to Warrensburg. They remained on duty at Warrensburg until November 4 when they were mustered out. The First Regiment returned In Warrensburg, their old duty station, escorting Confederate prisoners taken in Price's retreat from Fort Scott, Kansas on October 31 or November 1. Colonel Philip's regiment was also stationed at Warrensburg after returning from the pursuit of the rebels. The last weeks of 1864 were strangely quiet. Captain Bondurant's Company G, Captain David Marr's Company M of the Fortieth Enrolled Missouri Militia were released from active duty on October 31 and November 1 -- ending more than thirty days service during the invasion. Railroad construction had been halted six miles east of Holden during the excitement, and the advent of winter threatened to limit further work. The peace after the Storm of invasion indicates how crestfallen guerrillas were after the major Confederate defeat. Guerrilla activity had increased throughout the year as if in anticipation of the Confederate Army, but with its defeat, most local guerrillas and the supporters probably realized that a liberating army would not or could not be sent into Missouri again.
|"Bloody Bill" Anderson|
|Pacific Railroad Completed to Kansas City through Johnson County Missouri in 1864.|
The Southern cause was finished in Johnson County, Missouri, but the fighting was not.
(Editor's Note: This article is taken from Bruce E. Nichols, "The Civil War in Johnson County, Missouri" an unpublished Master's Thesis, Department of History, Central Missouri State University, 1974.)
(Editor's Note: This article is taken from Bruce E. Nichols, "The Civil War in Johnson County, Missouri" an unpublished Master's Thesis, Department of History, Central Missouri State University, 1974.)