Opinion

Another treacherous woman, cut-throats and guerrillas

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The following two incidents occurred within a few days of each other at opposite sides of southern Missouri and illustrate that during the Civil War the "mayhem" that was Missouri occurred throughout the entire "Show-Me-State!" Both incidents maybe found on Pages 761-764 of Series I, Vol. 22 of the Official records of the War of the Rebellion.

Headquarters, Neosho, Nov. 29, 1863

Sir: for the information of the commanding general, I report the success of a scout (patrol) taken by me with 20 men to Jasper County. Having learned a few days previous to my starting out, of 10 or 15 Bushwhackers harboring (hiding) on Turkey Creek, in Jasper county, about 20 miles from this place (the weather being very cold), I thought it would be a good time to catch them.I proceeded on my route about 9 miles, on to the waters of shoal creek and discovered a light in the thick brush and in the direction that I knew the light did not proceed from any house and I knew it must be the camp-fire of gurerrillas. I then dismounted my men, leaving a small force with the horses and I with the remainder started on foot, proceeding very cautiously to within 200 yards. I then sent Lieut. John R. Kelso to reconnoiter and ascertain the force of the enemy and their situation. Lieut. Kelso reported that they had a tent and from the best of his knowledge, there were only three. Owing to the dense thicket we had to penetrate, we thought that we could slip up and surprise (them) with a small force better than (with) a large one, knowing if there were more rebels than we expected, the remaining portion of the men under m y command were in easy striking distance. We arrived at the appointed place, the signal was given and we fired, killing two of them, that being all there were at that time. Their names were Martin Levacy, of Lawrence County and woods, given name not known. It was now about 10 o'clock of the night and we pushed on for Turkey Creek and arrived at one of the places.

When within about a quarter of a mile of the house, we again dismounted and moved stealthily onward toward the house, which we succeeded in surrounding before being discovered. I immediately hailed the inmates of the house and demanded a surrender of all men and arms there were in the house. After some little delay, occasioned, I suppose, in secreting one of their tribe under the floor of the house, after they had put him away decently, they concluded to surrender and commenced handing their arms (weapons) out of the window. The woman that handed out the arms stated that there was only one man in the house! We went in and arrested him and started. I noticed a fine black overcoat hanging in the house and mistrusted that there must be another somewhere. After I had got about 40 yards from the house, I turned back and asked the lady if there was not another man somewhere about the house. She then replied if there was she could not help it. I then snatched up a fire-brand (torch) and was going to dash it under the floor and poor "Secessia (a rebel sympathizer) came crawling out, saying, "Here is my arms; I am your prisoner." I should have killed him then, but we were close to the rendezvous of another party and I did not want to raise any alarm, although he justly deserves deatg, as there are a good many Union citizens in this portion of the state that are knowing his jayhawking and shooting at good Union men; in fact, from the story of loyal citizens round this place, he is a perfect desperado; his name is Dempster Lindsay, formerly of Jasper County of this state.

We then proceeded toward another house. Before getting to the place, we again dismounted and surrounded the house, as before, hailing in the same manner. After there was a light made in the house, they commenced handing out their arms. One of the rebels was up stairs and was going to jump out of the window, but was deterred by two of my men shooting at him, which alarmed some others that were near, who made their escape. We captured 3 rebels at this place and recaptured a Federal soldier, taken prisoner by the same party. He belongs, he says, to the 14th Kansas Cavalry, Co. I. He was left, sick by a train passing down. We succeeded in capturing all his arms, excepting a revolver, together with his horse and equipments. The alarm being raised and knowing that the hunt was broken up for that time, we started back to camp with 5 rebel prisoners, 1 Federal soldier and 6 horses, belonging to the prisoners we captured. The prisoners are all men of desperate character, being regular guerrillas, that have infested and been a terror to all loyal citizens of southwest (Missouri).

Milton Burch, Captain, Commanding Detachment, 8th Mo. State Militia, Cavalry

Headquarters, Bloomfield, Mo. Dec. 2, 1863.

Sir: I received information, about the 25th of November that a force was being concentrated some 50 miles south of here About the 27th of November, I learned that a large force had been raised and were on the west side of the Saint Francis.

In the mean time, I received your dispatch, wanting me to be on the alert to defend myself. I immediately made preparations to defend the post until the last and remained in readiness until the morning of the 29th when I was surrounded by 500 rebels about 7 a.m. and immediately opened the fight with two small howitzers (cannon), throwing shell into the ranks of the enemy, which soon made them disappear from the hills which surrounded this place and take refuge in the hollows and sinks beyond. At 8 a.m., they sent a flag of truce, demanding the surrender of the place stating that they had us completely surrounded, my communications cut and that we should be treated as prisoners of war, threatening to charge and take this place on a refusal to comply with (their) demand. I went over and met the flag myself. It was signed by one Lee Crandall, colonel, C. S. Army, commanding. I simply answered that "I was ready to fight, but not surrender; if they wanted to fight, to open the ball! I returned to the court-house and opened fire on them the 2nd time. After firing several shots into them, they withdrew, threatening to return soon. I then sent lieut. W.B. Dorsey, under a flag of truce, proposing to fight them, which they declined and intimated an intention to retain Dorsey as a prisoner. His ready wit saved him and he was permitted to return under an escort I then built as strong a barricade as I could with such materials as I could find about the post, encircling the whole court-house square; placed my men and horses and arms inside, waited patiently until night for their reappearance, but they failed to show themselves again. At night I caused my men to sleep on their arms, inside their barricade.

At about 11 p.m., I received a dispatch from Major J. Robbins, informing me that he was ordered to make inquiries concerning the condition of the post. I immediately informed both S. Montgomery and Robbins of what had transpired during the day, when they moved their columns into town. Major Montgomery tendered me the use of his battalion to assist me in pursuing them. Overtaking them this side of Chalk Bluff, engaged them and dispersed them, following them in their fight to Brown's Ferry, below chalk's bluff, where they became so scattered that I concluded to return, which I did, arriving here at 12 midnight Dec. 2, (1863), having marched a distance of over 100 miles in two days and a half.

I captured and brought into Bloomfield five dirty, hungry-looking scamps who looked to poor to live, besides having killed several. I also captured two horses and returned them to the post. The only thing done by the rebels was upon the pickets.

I am satisfied that their only object was plunder. I also learned from old citizens who were taken and held by Crandall during his stay about the place, that all the notorious horse-thieves, cut-throats and guerrillas who infest this country were with them.

Valentine Preuitt Captain, Commanding Post

The very smart "Southern Woman" was one of many "Missouri Women" allied with the "southern" or "northern" cause who used their wits to protect their families and homes throughout the Civil War. Captain Preuitt was a good Union "Hound" who continued to pursue the elusive Confederate "Foxes" in Southeastern Missouri.