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Thursday, May 5, 2016

'Ordered to be shot'

Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Ordered to be shot." uch was the fate of most Confederate guerrillas (if you are of the Southern persuasion) or bushwhackers (if you are of the opposing or Yankee point of view) in Missouri during the Civil War.

If a Confederate guerrilla or bushwhacker was unfortunate enough to be captured by the Blue Bellied Billy Yanks the grim reaper would quickly claim another soul because "Union" justice for the guerrilla was usually swift and fatal. In the field as opposed to being in garrison at a camp or post before being "Ordered to be shot" the prisoner was often tried before a Drum-Head Court Martial.

According to Mr. Webster, this term was derived "from the former use of a drum as the judges table held for the trial of offenses in the field during military operations or troop movements."

Of course many "Union" commanders preferred to execute the guerrillas as combatants during an engagement and not take them as prisoners. The following reports briefly describe the execution of a few Confederate guerrillas in Missouri in April of 1864.

All of these reports are located on Pages 215, 216, 232, 259, 286 and 287 in vol. 34, Part III, Correspondence in the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

Melville, Mo., April 18, 1864

Lt. P.S. Kenney, Quartermaster, 1st Mo. State Militia Cavalry:

Lieutenant: there are 25 to 35 bushwhackers making their way into your district. I hope to God that you may catch them; if you do I am in hopes that your commander will be so kind as to let you kill the very last devil of them.

Our horses are so weak in this department that we can do but little scouting.

Yours very respectfully,

T. Middaugh, 1st Lt. Co. A. 6th Cav. Mo. State Militia."

(There is no doubt what would have happened to any Confederate guerrillas who were unfortunate enough encounter a victorious patrol lead by Lieut. Middaugh! Death would have been instantaneous without the benefit of a trial.)

Headquarters District of North Missouri, St. Joseph, Mo., April 18, 1864
Lt. Col. Daniel M. Draper, Macon, Mo.;

Try the bushwhacker by drumhead court-martial tonight and let every soldier in Macon shoot him if guilty, as he doubtless is! Don't allow such prisoners to be brought in.

Clinton B. Fisk, Brigadier General

Headquarters District of North Missouri, St, Joseph, Mo., April 18, 1864
Col. J.T.K. Hayward, Brookfield, Mo.:

Tell the party who have the bushwhacker at Hunnewell that I want no such prisoners! Your orders are correct. Let that be the rule henceforth.

Clinton B. Fisk, Brigadier General

Warrensburg, Mo., April 22, 1864.

Major General Rose-crans:

The Missouri Republic-an, April 19, first page, fourth column, has an account of Paddy Mullins which is clearly proved by evidence forwarded to these headquarters. He belongs to Brownlow's band of six who infested Cooper County last summer and on their return from the south a few weeks since robbed a store 2 miles north of Tipton.

Two of the band, Brownlow and Cowall, were caught last year, tried by military commission and sentenced to be shot, which was confirmed, but (they) made their escape from the jail at Boonville. I have ordered Mullins to be shoton Saturday, the 23rd, at 4 p.m.

E. B. Brown,

Brigadier General.

Brownsville, Mo., April 25, 1864.

Col. John F. Philips, Comdg. 2nd Sub-District of Central, Sedalia, Mo.:

Sir: I have the honor to report the capture and execution of a bushwhacker at this place on the 24th Instant. The particulars as follows: On the morning of the 23rd instant, being informed that a bushwhacker was in the neighborhood, I immediately sent out my men in every direction and with the aid of the citizens guards, succeeded in capturing him late in the evening and at 9 o'clock on the morning of the 24th instant, I had him shot and decently buried.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R.M. Box, Capt. Co. H, 7th Cavalry, Missouri State Militia.

Headquarters 2nd Sub-District of Central Missouri, Sedalia, April 27, 1864.

Respectfully referred to Brig. Gen. E. B. Brown, commanding the District of Central Missouri, for his information.

This man Johnson (bushwhacker) stole a horse and hat from a Mr. Higgins on flat Creek, 6 miles south of this place and was pursued by citizens and soldiers sent out from here and was captured by Captain Box.

JNO. F. Philips, Colonel, Commanding Sub-District.

Brownsville, Mo., April 25, 1864

Col. John F. Philips: Colonel:

I herewith send you the statement of the bushwhacker that I had shot on the morning of the 24th instant, in his own words as follows:

I spent the summer and fall of 1863 from June 1 to Dec. 7, 1863m in Platte, Clay and Buchanan counties. I was with the Rebel Cols. John Calhoun Thornton 7 John H. Winston (both of Platte County). At times there were only two or three of us together, at other times there was a considerable company of us together. On the 7th of December, I, in company with six other men, started south and went to Arkansas (not thinking it safe for us to remain in Missouri throughout the winter).

In the latter part of March I started back to Missouri in company with four other men, two of whom stopped in Texas County, Mo., the others came with me to this side of the Osage River and crossed the Osage River, above the mouth of Linn Creek on the 19th instant. On the 20th we came in contact with some Federal soldiers and I think that the two men that were with me were killed or captured. I was making my way back to Platte County, expecting to join Colonels Thornton and and Winston, if there, and spend the coming summer as I did the last. I don't belong to the Confederate Army, nor have not since August 1, 1862. I have never taken the oath (of Allegiance to the United States) nor ever intended to submit to the Federal authorities if I could help it.

My name is James A. Johnson.

The above are the important points of his statement.

Your obedient servant,

R. M. BOX, Captain, Co. H, 7th Cavalry,

M. S. M.

It appears that James A. Johnson was "Ordered to be shot" and was shot within 24 hours of his capture, without even a Drumhead Court Martial because there is no mention of one in any of these documents.

Therefore, Captain Box was indeed following the orders of General Fisk and the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches