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February 3, 2017

Willard Hadley Executed in Warrensburg, MO After Long Confession of Killing over 110 Men

Willard Francis Hadley
Alias Joe Hadley and Joe Anderson
Platte and Johnson Counties, Missouri  Partisan

Willard Francis Hadley was a leader of a Guerrilla band. He was executed at Warrensburg, MO on May 20, 1864, by the Union Army. He had also been a member of Silas Gordon's Company of Confederate Cavalry and guerrilla Unit, and a member of Quantrill's Guerrillas. He sometimes used the alias Joe Anderson, sometimes Joseph Hadley, and was once paroled under the name Willard Francis.

Union district commander Brigadier General Egbert Brown ordered Hadley to be executed after he heard Hadley assert that he had rode with Quantrill on the Lawrence Raid on 21 August 1863. Area Union commanders and even Brown himself ordered other men executed who had admitted they "rode with Quantrill on the Lawrence raid," so a precedence had been set.

There are two unusual quirks to his story.

First, he gave a very long detailed confession, sounding as though, if he was going to die, he wanted to die for every act he had committed against the enemy, not just the one for which he was arrested.  

Second, at first his wife didn't understand why he had been executed. She thought he was in the Union Army. He had married her while recuperating from a shoulder wound. He had been married six days when he was arrested at her mother's home in Johnson County, Mo.

On the 1860 Missouri census, the John Davis household in Lee Township, west-central Platte County near Farley, lists 21-year-old, Indiana-born laborer Wm. Hadley.

Paxton's 1897 "Annals of Platte County," on page 323 states that Silas Gordon's guerrilla company from Platte County was sworn into Confederate service at Springfield with "Will" Hadley as a member on 16 January 1862. Since much of Si Gordon's unit was composed of Platte County men, the census record does fit.  Military service records for "W. F. Hadley/Willard F. Hadley" show that he was a member of Company I, 1st Missouri Cavalry Regiment (CSA), commanded by Capt. Silas Gordon.  Company  I was from Platte County.

Newspaper coverage of Hadley's long confession and execution by musketry on 20 May 1864 can be found in the:  1 July 1864 edition of the "Missouri Statesman" of Columbia taken from the "Missouri State Times" of  Jefferson City, The 25 May 1864 edition of the St. Louis "Daily Missouri Democrat" , Liberty Tribune, June 17, 1864, and The Kansas City "Western Journal of Commerce" of 18 June 1864. All are worded a little differently, apparently edited for space.

The Confession

My name is Willard Francis Hadley. I was born in the State of New Hampshire May 1842. My parents are French. I came to Missouri in the spring of 1850. to Platte County. I drove a stage for a living.

At the commencement of the war I lived in Platte County, Missouri, I went into a company of guerrillas with Silas L. Gordon. I was a  lieutenant. I was in this company for one month. I then resigned and started an independent company of my own, and went to regular bushwhacking. I ranged in Ray, Platte and clay counties; in August 1861, I crossed the river into Kansas going into Leavenworth and Atchison counties. I stayed there until the 18th day of September 1861. On that day I re-crossed the Missouri River into Platte county. On that same day I captured a train of cars, killing twenty-one men and burning the train. This was on the Western and St. Joseph Railroad. And on the same day I burnt one railroad bridge and chopped down another. I retreated from there to Platte City.

When I got there I met Major Joseph, since, of 5th M.S.M.. He drove me back in Bee Creek. I secreted myself in the brush and fired upon the Federals when they came up. They then fell back dismounted and charged on foot. I threw down the fence on my right, and ordered my men to remount and fight in the field. I charged upon them, and drove them back, taking one cannon. They then rallied and recaptured the cannon. Both parties then retreated. I had one man wounded. I then disbanded my men out til the day before the fight at Blue Mills. I then gathered my men together and was in the fight. I had two men killed, Charles Brown and Thomas Hopkins.

From there I started for Lexington, but did not get there. I met a scout of Feds. I bushwhacked them and killed eleven men. I lost one man, Charles Moore. I then retreated to Liberty, in Clay County. From there, I went back into Jackson county, Missouri. There I came up with a squad of five Feds and killed them.

From there I went to Johnson county, Kansas. There I met a squad of Jennison's men. They killed my horse and took me prisoner. I made my escape the following night by killing the sentinel. I took a horse and saddle from Jennison's camp and got with my company the next day. I had forty-one men. From there I went to Wellington, Mo. and killed four men in town. From there I went to Pink Hill in Jackson county. There met some of Hunter's men.  There I had one man killed, Sam Mitchell. I killed five Feds, took two prisoners, and paroled them the next day.

From there I went to Lone Jack. There I met Silas Gordon. We divided our men into squads of ten and then we separated, and on the 28th of September we all got together in Johnson county, Kansas. We had ninety men  From there we went to Springfield, Mo. and were all sworn into the Confederate service. There I acted as a scout until Price retreated to Cross Hollows. Here I deserted with forty men  and went into the rear of the Federal Army. There I met scouts of Feds In the first I killed 14 men, burned 12 wagons and took 30 horses. In the second I killed five men and took 11 prisoners and paroled them on the spot. Then I came back close to Springfield, Missouri and turned my men over to Lieut. Lantern, Confederate officer. From there I started  south and went to Riggsville, Arkansas. From there to Texas. From there to Chocktaw Nation. There I recruited 14 men. From there I went in July 1862 to Jackson Co., Mo. I did nothing on the route.

On the 15th day of August I had 29 men, got into a fight with the Redlegs and killed ten of them. I lost one man, Jonathan Vall. There I got with Quantrill. I stayed with him one night and left next morning for Lick Skillet. I came up with some Feds and killed 11 men. I lost one man taken prisoner, Joseph Cooper. From there i went to Sibley.  Here I met Col. Dick Childs and Quantrell and had a fight at Sibley. There I was wounded in my left shoulder and my horse killed. Then I did nothing but dodge from place to place, until I was taken prisoner on the 6th of February, 1863, at the widow Hill's. I was first sent to Sedalia; from there to Jefferson City;  from there to St Louis; and from there to Young's Point, Louisiana. Opposite that place, I cut a boat loose in the night and made my escape to Vicksburg. I staid there until the surrender of the place  I was paroled in the name of Willard Francis.

From there I was sent to Demopolis, Alabama, with the rest of the prisoners. Then I went to Louisiana and raised an Independent company of 36 men, to act on the Mississippi as guerrillas. I took two transports loaded with commissary goods and burnt them. I lost two men at this time and killed 11, took 30 prisoners and paroled them. I then fell back 30 miles from the river and met a scout of Feds. I ambushed them and killed 21, took 5 prisoners and paroled them. I lost one man, Arthur Dankan.  Here I met General Holmes of the Confederate Army. He ordered me to report at Shreveport with my men. I refused to go. He ordered me to be arrested. I disbanded my men and went to Shreveport myself, and was arrested by order of General Holmes. I was court-martialed and sentenced to be shot on the 17th day of February, 1864. On the night of the 16th, I made my escape. I was court-martialed for refusing to report my company to the Confederates and fighting by my own book.

I made my way to Arkansas, and from there to Missouri. There were four of our company, Hugh Cole, John Edwards, John Adkins, and myself. We were all armed. Hugh Cole had a navy, Edwards one, and myself two. I lost mine in swimming Walnut Creek. I was taken prisoner and put in prison.

I went into the war to be a terror to the Feds. No man in this country has done more harm than I have. I went in to rob and to steal without regard to law. I thought the South  had her rights trampled upon.  I am now sentenced to be shot. But I still think I have been fully revenged.

This is a true copy of the statement given by the prisoner.

John H. Smith

Lieut. and Asst. Provost Marshal  

Provost Marshal Reports

Hadley, Joseph,                Jackson Co,  Independence         John W. Meador testifies that he lives in Lafayette County; states Joseph Hadley lurked in his neighborhood for six weeks; was with Sam Clifton's band of bushwhackers; came to his house armed   04-22-1863          F1190      

Hadley, Joseph,                Jackson Co, Independence          Note from Col. Remick to Provost Marshal stating that Hadley is a prisoner and that he is sending testimony against him; Mr. Meador is a reliable Union man          04-24-1863 F1190  

Hadley, Mary E.,   Saint Louis,  Johnson Co.  Explains she has heard several prisoners were killed in St. Louis; one of them was Jo Hadley (proper name Willard Hadley); asks for description of person killed; thought husband was in U. S. Service                06-06-1863          F1190   

Hadley, Willard Francis, Johnson Co, Warrensburg            Asst. Provost Marshal Smith reports that, in compliance with Special Order, Willard Francis Hadley was executed at 4 o'clock p.m. today (May 20) 05-20-1864 F1190         

Hadley, William Francis, Johnson Co, Warrensburg           Brig. Gen. Brown orders that William Francis Hadley (alias Joseph Anderson) be shot to death; he was in the Lawrence massacre; formal papers of "Guilty" by mail             05-19-1864                F1190                      

Hadley, William Francis, Johnson Co., Warrensburg   Document cover includes several entries: 1) reports execution of Hadley; 2) two referrals; 3) request from St. Louis wants information; 4) note from Provost Marshal in St. Louis; no record of Hadley 06-04-1864 F1190

Hadley, William Francis, Johnson Co., Warrensburg Special Order directing that prisoner William Francis Hadley, a bushwhacker, be shot to death with musketry; Lt. John Smith to execute sentence; Sgt. Kinney to furnish coffin and transportation          05-19-1864          F1190


Military Records:

Hadley, Willard, Rank:    Private,   Side:   Confederate, Type of Unit:  Cavalry                                           Name of Unit: 9th Regiment Cavalry 1st Brigade Missouri Volunteers     

Commander: Captain  S. M. Gordon


HADLEY, WILLARD F., Rank:  Private, Side:  Confederate, Type of Unit: Cavalry                                      Organization:   Missouri Volunteers CSA                                                                                                       

Name of Unit:  1st Regiment Cavalry Volunteers CSA
Also listed : Hadley, Willard F. MO 10th Cav. Co.C
Confederate Parole Record

Last Name, First Name
Francis,   Willard
Rank: Private 
Unit Information:
Company  Regiment State  Branch
        I             1    MO              Cavalry
Battle Record: Vicksburg
Date Captured    County Captured   State Captured      Battle
1863-07-04               Warren Co.                 MS               Vicksburg
Disposition of Capture:
Surrendered at Vicksburg

The Death Sentence Order

"The Encyclopedia of Quantrill's Guerrillas" lists a number of good references for William Francis Hadley and his farewell performance for the Union tribunal at Warrensburg in May 1864. I suppose from Hadley's perspective the Yanks had him dead to rights with no way out from an execution, so he "laid it on thick."
It seems Hadley was not exaggerating in all that he said. The problem for us is that Hadley is from Platte County, and not as well known to us as Quantrill's Jackson County men, so he almost comes to us "out of the blue."
I found in the 1860 Missouri Census the John Davis household in Lee Township, west-central Platte County near Farley that contained 21-year-old, Indiana-born laborer Wm. Hadley. I know the "Liberty Tribune" newspaper article of 17 June 1864 said Hadley was born in New Hampshire in May 1842. Well, the census-takers sometimes made mistakes as did the newspaper reporters, so who do we believe? The period newspapers mentioned that Hadley worked prewar driving stagecoaches, so maybe the census-taker didn't find Hadley home when he was making his rounds and had to rely on a neighbor to tell him about the young man and where he was born.
The Liberty newspaper also said Hadley joined Silas Gordon's company on 16 January 1862, and, indeed, Rose directs us to Paxton's 1897 "Annals of Platte County," on page 323 that tells us that Silas Gordon's guerrilla company from Platte County was sworn into Confederate service at Springfield with Will Hadley as a member. Since much of Si Gordon's unit was composed of Platte County men, the census report about the Indiana laborer in the census of Platte County does fit. Also, the Missouri State Archives has a brief military service record for "W. F. Hadley" as a member of Company I, 1st Missouri Cavalry Regiment (CSA). James McGhee's new book, "Guide to Missouri Confederate Units, 1861-1865" on page 48 does state that Company I of this regiment was from Platte County and was commanded by Captain Silas M. Gordon. At least that part of Hadley's confession seems to be true.
Other newspaper coverage of Hadley's long confession and execution by musketry on 20 May 1864 can be found in the 1 July 1864 edition of the "Missouri Statesman" of Columbia taken from the "Missouri State Times" of Jefferson City. Also you can find this in the 25 May 1864 edition of the St. Louis "Daily Missouri Democrat" and the Kansas City "Western Journal of Commerce" of 18 June 1864.
Firing Squad during the Civil War
After the execution by firing squad

 There are valuable clues in Hadley's detailed confession. He mentioned that he joined Quantrill with his band of 28 men in Jackson County in August 1862, but was wounded in the shoulder and had his horse killed during the 6 October 1862 fight at Sibley. The shoulder wound may have put him out of action for a while. If I recall my reading correctly, Captain Fernando Scott brought his band of Platte, Clay, and Ray County guerrillas over south of the Missouri River to Quantrill about the time Hadley said he joined Quantrill. Either Hadley stretched the truth about who led those 28 men or he really did have his own guerrilla band in summer of 1862. To support Hadley's claim that he led his own guerrilla band, he recited several specific skirmishes north and south of the Missouri River from 1861 through 1862 where he named specific members of his gang by name and the approximate dates they were killed. I checked a couple of those names he dropped against the 1860 MO Census and those men did live in the region where he said those things happened.
The St. Louis newspaper article seemed to say that Union district commander Brigadier General Egbert Brown (who had moved his headquartes to Warrensburg that spring) ordered Hadley to be executed after he heard Hadley assert that he rode with Quantrill on the Lawrence Raid on 21 August 1863. Area Union commanders and even Brown himself ordered other men executed who had admitted they "rode with Quantrill on the Lawrence raid," so a predecence had been set.
Even though we haven't heard much about this guy, I tend to believe most of the details he left to us from his windy confession. I think he raised his spirits as he was about to face death by recalling all of his accomplishments for the southern cause. It may have fed his battered ego that somebody was actually writing down all that he said, too. Maybe that made the man feel he wasn't going to die for some obscure act but a whole string of fights against the Federals. That must have been important to him. Bruce Nichols


Willard Francis Hadley
Willard's father, William Hadley was born 3 April 1807 in Lyndeborough, New Hampshire, son of Chase and Hannah (Smith) Hadley. He married Almira French 3 August 1837 in New Hampshire. They went to New York, then to Indiana. She died about 1840-1846 probably in Jefferson County, Indiana. They had sons, William F. and Walter F. 
He married, second, Melvina Stites, who was 20 years his junior, on 7 September 1837 in Jefferson County, Indiana.
The family moved to Platte Co., MO in 1850, then moved to Atchison Co., KS about 1856. Atchison borders Platte. Apparently, Willard chose to remain in Platte, or went back.
Children of William and Almira were:
Willard F. b. 1838 NY
Walter F. b. 1840 NY
Children of William and Melvina were:
Zachary T. b. 1848 IN
Melvina b. 1855 MO
George P. b. 1857 KS
Mary Agnes b. 1859 KS 
Ida May b. 1862 KS 
Anna b. 1864 KS 
Alfred b. 1866 KS 
Melissa b. 1868 KS 
1850 census, Smyrna Twp., Jefferson Co., Indiana 
William Hadley 41 NH 
Melvina 21 OH 
Wm. F. 13 NY 
Walter F. 7 NY 
Zachary F. 2 IN 

1860 census, Lancaster Twp., Atchison Co., KS 
Wm. Hadley 52 NH 
Melvina 32 IN 
Walter F. 20 NY 
Zachariah F. 10 IN 
Melvina 5 MO 
Geo. P. 3 KS 
Mary 1 KS

Willard Francis Hadley (alias Joe Anderson, Joseph Hadley)                                             

Birth: May 1838 New York
Death: 20 May 1864 in Warrensburg, MO of firing squad                                                                            
Burial: Hill family cemetery, Jackson, Johnson Co., MO
Mary Elizabeth HILL, Birth: 12 Apr 1844, married 01 Feb. 1863 to W. F. Hadley, in Johnson County, Mo.                                                                                                          
Mary Elizabeth remarried to William O. Hays after his death and had 5 children. She died about 1876 in Johnson Co.  William and the children were with his mother in Johnson in 1880. 
Her Father: William HILL b: 23 Apr 1814                                                                
Her Mother: Vaney Emmeline HORNER b: 14 Mar 1820

Some other documents pertaining to Willard Hadley
His Military Service card

One of the complaints against him

Cover and Letter his wife wrote asking about his death

James R. Baker Jr.
Brig. Gen. Brown orders that William Francis Hadley (alias Joseph Anderson) be shot to death; he was in the Lawrence massacre; formal papers of "Guilty" by mail.