SAMUEL S. HILDEBRAND,
THE RENOWNED MISSOURI BUSHWHACKER
AND UNCONQUERABLE ROB ROY OF AMERICA;
BEING HIS COMPLETE CONFESSION
SAMUEL S. HILDEBRAND,
ROB ROY OF AMERICA
PROOF OF AUTHENTICITY.
This is to certify that I, the undersigned, am personally acquainted with Samuel S. Hildebrand (better known as Sam Hildebrand, the Missouri Bushwhacker," etc.,) and have known him from boyhood; that during the war, and on several occasions since its termination, he promised to give me a full and complete history of his whole war record; that on the night of January 28th, 1870, he came to my house at Big River Mills, in St. Francois county, Missouri, in company with Charles Burks, and gave his consent that I and Charles Burks, ln conjunction, might have his confession whenever we were prepared to meet him at a certain place for that purpose; that in the latter part of March, 1870, in the presence of Sam Hildebrand alone, I did write out his confession as he gave it to me, then and there, until the same was completed; and that afterwards James W. Evans and myself, from the material I thus obtained, compiled and completed the said confession, which is now presented to the public as his Autobiography.
A. WENDELL KEITH, M. D.
STATE OF MISSOURI,
COUNTY OF STE. GENEVIEVE.
On this, 14th day of June, 1870, before me, Henry Herter, a Notary Public within and for said county, personally appeared W. H. Couzens, J. N. Burks and G. W. Murphy of the above county and State, and on being duly sworn they stated that they were well acquainted with Charles Burks of the aforesaid county, and A. Wendell Keith, M. D., of St. Francois county, Missouri, And to their certain knowledge the men set forth in the foregoing. certificate are true and correct, and that Samuel S. Hildebrand also acknowledged to them afterwards that he had made to them his complete confession.
WM. H. COUZENS, MAJOR C. S. A.
J. N. BURKS,
G. W. MURPHY
Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 14th day of June, 1870.
Hon.,,. ELLIS G. EVANS,
Senator, Rolla District.
Hon.,. E. C. SEBASTIAN,
Representative, St. Francois county.
Hon. MILTON P. CAYCE,
Sheriff St. Francois county.
WILLIAM R. TAYLOR,
Clerk St. Francois county.
The Statement made by A. Wendell Keith, M. D., is entitled to credit from the fact of his well-known veracity and standing in society.
HON. JOSEPH BOGY,
Representative Ste. Genevieve county.
Clerk Ste. Genevieve county.
EXECLTIVE OFFICE, JEFFERSOX CITY, Mo.
June 22, 1870.
I here certify that the persons whose official signatures appear above have been commissioned for the offices indicated; and my personal acquaintance with Dr. Keith, Honorables Evans, Sebastian, Cayce, Bogy and Sheriff Murphy is such that I say without hesitation their statements are entitled to full faith and credit.
J. W. McCLURG,
Governor of Missouri
SAMUEL S. HILDEBRAND,
ROB ROY OF AMERICA;
BEING HIS COMPLETE CONFESSION
RECENTLY MADE TO THE WRITERS, AND CAREFULLY. COMPILED
By JAMES W. EVANS AND A. WENDELL KEITH M. D.
OF ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, MO;
TOGETHER WITH ALL THE FACTS CONNECTED WITH HIS EARLY HISTORY.
JEFFERSON CITY, MO.
STATE TIMES BOOK AND JOB PRINTING HOUSE,
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
SAM HILDEBRAND DRIVEN FROM HOME
FRANK HILDEBRAND HUNG BY THE MOB
SAM HILDEBRAND KILLING McILVAINE
THE MURDER OF WASH. HILDEBRAND AND LANDUSKY
STAMPEDE OF FEDERAL SOLDIERS
SAM HILDEBRAND BETRAYED BY COOTS
SAM HILDEBRAND'S LAST BATTLE
COL. BOWEN CAPTURES HILDEBRAND'S CAVE
Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1870, by
JAMES W. EVANS and WENDELL KEITH, M. D., In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri.
The public having been grossly imposed upon by Federal spurious productions purporting to be the "Life of Sam Hildebrand," we have no apology to offer for presenting the reader with his authentic narrative.
His confession was faithfully written down from his own lips, as the foregoing certificates abundantly prove.
From this copious manuscript we have prepared his autobiography for the press, with a scrupulous care to give it literally, so far as the arbitrary rules of language would permit. Sam Hildebrand and the authors of this work were raised up from boyhood together, in the same neighborhood, and we are confident that no material facts have been suppressed by Hildebrand in his confession.
The whole narrative is given to the reader without any effort upon our part either to justify or condemn his acts. Our design was to give the genuine autobiography of Sam Hildebrand; this we have done.
The book, as a record of bloody deeds, dare-devil exploits and thrilling adventures, will have no rival in the catalogue of-Wonders ; for it at once unfolds,
with minute accuracy, the exploits of Hildebrand of which one-half had never yet been told. Without this record the world would forever remain in ignorance of the right history of his astounding audacity.
We here tender our thanks to those of our friends who have kindly assisted us in this work, prominent among whom is Miss Hilda F. Sharp, of Jefferson City, Mo., who furnished us with those beautiful pencil sketches from which our engravings were made.
JAMES W. EVANS,
A. WENDELL KEITH, M. D.
BIG RIVER MILLS, l\!o., June, 1870,
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE HILDEBRAND FAMILY.
Note: A very long, 1,000 year old German poem, 6 pages long, which was located here was scanned and put on the Illustrations page (Page 4). It has nothing to do with Sam Hildebrand- jrbakerjr
Following the genealogy down, we meet with several of the Hildebrands celebrated in the ecclesiastical, literary and scientific world. Of the parentage of
Gregory VII. but little is known more than that he was a Hildebrand, born near Rome, but of German parents. On becoming a Roman Pontiff in 1077, he assumed the name of Gregory. He occupied the chair of St. Peter for eight years, during which time he assumed an authority over the crowned heads of Europe, never before attempted. He was a bold man, but was driven from his chair in 1085.
George Frederick Hildebrand was a famous physician, who was born June 5, 1764, at Hanover. He was one of the most learned men of his age; was appointed professor of Anatomy at Brunswick, but he soon took the chair of Chemistry, at Erlangen, in Bavaria. He died March 23, 1816, leaving some of the most elaborate
and valuable works ever written.
Ferdinand Theodore Hildebrand was born June 2, 1804, and under the tuition of Professor Schadaw, at Berlin, he became very renowned as a painter. He
followed his tutor to Dusseldorf in 1826, and· was one of the most celebrated artists of the Academy of Painting at that place. In 1830 Hildebrand visited Italy to
view the productions of some of the old masters, and afterwards traveled through the Netherlands. Some of his best pictures were drawn to represent scenes in the works of Shakespeare, of which" King Lear mourning over the death of Cordelia," was-perhaps the most important. But among the critics, "The sons of Edward" was considered his greatest production.
It is not our purpose to name all the illustrious HiIdebrands who have figured in German history or literature; for it must be borne in mind that from the ninth
century down to the sixteenth, the name Hildebrand was almost invariably applied as a given name; it was not until that century that it appears as a surname. It is a fact, however, well known to historians, that the same given name is frequently retained in a family, and handed down from one generation to another perhaps for one thousand years.
In the southern part of Germany the name Hildebrand was borne by a certain class of vassals, but in the Northern States of that country, there were families of
noble birth by the same name. The record of those nobles run back with a great deal of certainty to a very remote period of German history-beyond which, the
dim out-lines of tradition alone can be our guide. This tradition, whether entitled to credit or not, traces the genealogy of the Hildebrands in the line of nobles up to Sir Hildebrand, the exiled hero mentioned in the Book of Heroes.
According to the record of the Hildebrand family, as given by Henry Hildebrand of Jefferson county, Missouri, to the authors of this work; the seventh generation back reaches to Peter Hildebrand of Hanover.
He was born in 1655, and was the youngest son of a nobleman. His father having died while Peter was yet a boy, he was educated at a military school, and after arriving to manhood he served several years in the army. Returning at length, he was vexed at the cold reception he received from his elder brother, who now inherited the estate with all the titles of nobility belonging to the family. He resolved to emigrate to the wild solitudes of America, where individual worth
and courage was the stepping stone to honor and distinction. His family consisted of a wife and three children; his oldest son, Jacob, was born in 1680; when he was ten years of age the whole family emigrated to New Amsterdam, remained three years and then settled in the northern part of Pennsylvania, where he died a few years afterwards.
Jacob Hildebrand's second son, Jacob, was born in 1705. He was fond of adventure and joined in several exploring expeditions in one of which he was captured by a band of Miami Indians, and only escaped by plunging into the Ohio river and concealing himself under a drift of floating logs. His feelings of hostility against the Indians prompted him to join the expedition against them under Lieutenant Ward, who erected a fort at what is now called Pittsburg, in 1754, here he was killed in a vain attempt to hold the garrison against the French and Indians under Contrecoeur.
His third son, John Hildebrand, was born in 1733, and at the death of his father was twenty-one years of age. Like most of the frontiersmen of this early period,
he seemed to have an uncontrollable love of adventure. His most ardent desire was to explore the great valley of the Mississippi. At the period of which we are now speaking (1754), he joined James M. Bride and others and passed down the Ohio river in a canoe; to his regret, however, the company only reached the mouth of the Kentucky river, cut their initials in the barks of trees, and then returned. In 1770 he removed to Missouri.
His family consisted of his wife and two boys. Peter was born in 1758, and Jonathan in 1762. He built a flat-boat on the banks of the Ohio, and taking a
bountiful supply of provisions, he embarked with his family. To avoid the Indians he kept as far from each shore as possible, and never landed but once to pass
around the shoals. On reaching the Mississippi he spent more than a week in ascending that river to gain a proper point for crossing. He landed on the
western side at Ste. Genevieve.
Viewing the country there as being rather thickly settled, he moved back into the wilderness about forty miles and settled on Big River at the mouth of Saline
creek. He was the first settler in that country which was afterwards organized as Jefferson county. He opened a fine farm on Saline creek, built houses, and
considered himself permanently located in that wild country. The Indians were unfriendly, and their hostility toward white settlers seemed to increase until
1780, when Peter Chouteau, by order of the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, went to see Hildebrand and warned him to leave on account of Indian depredations.
He then removed to St. Genevieve. In 1783, Peter Hildebrand left Ste. Genevieve and settled on Big River in the same neighborhood where his father had resided. He had a wife and four children, whose names were, Isaac, Abraham, David, and Betsy. He was a good marksman and very fond of hunting. After he had resided there about one year, he was shot and killed by the Indians on the bank of Big River one morning while on his return from hunting wild game, after which the family removed nearer to a settlement.
In 1802, David Hildebrand settled on Big River, and about the same time Jonathan Hildebrand settled himself permanently on the same river. He lived until
the commencement of the late war, and then died at the age of one hundred years. He had three sons, whoso names are, George, Henry, and Samuel.
In 1832, George Hildebrand and his family moved higher up on Big River and settled in St. Francois county-his house was the Hildebrand homestead referred
to in these pages-and he was the father of Samuel S. Hildebrand, whose Autobiography we now submit to our readers.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF SAMUEL S. HILDEBRAND.
Introduction.-Yankee Fiction.-Reasons for making a full confession.
Since the close of the late rebellion, knowing that I had taken a very active part during its progress several of my friends have solicited me to have my history written out in full. This anxiety to obtain the history of an individual so humble as myself, may be attributed to the fact, that never perhaps since the world began, have such efforts been put forth by a government for the suppression of one man alone, as have been used for my capture, both during the war and since its termination. The extensive military operations carried on by the Federal government in South-east Missouri, were in a great measure designed
for my special destruction.
Since the close of the rebellion, while others are permitted to remain at home in peace, the war, without any abatement whatever, has continued against me with a vindictiveness and a lavish expenditure of money that has no parallel on this continent; but through it all, single-handed, have I come out unscathed and unconquered.
My enemies have thrust notoriety upon me, and have excited the public mind at a distance with a desire to know who I am and what I have done. Taking advantage of this popular inquiry, some enterprising individual in an eastern state has issued two or three novels purporting to be my history, but they are not
even founded on fact, and miss the mark about as far as if they were designed for the Life of Queen Victoria.
I seriously object to the use of my name in any such a manner. Any writer, of course, who is afflicted with an irresistible desire to write fiction, has a perfect
right to do so, but he should select a fictitious name for the hero of his novels, that his works may stand or fall, according to their own intrinsic merit, rather than the name of an individual whose notoriety alone would insure the popularity of his books. But an attempt to palm a novel on the inquiring public as a history of
my life, containing as it does a catalogue of criminal acts unknown to me in all my career, is not only a slander upon myself, but a glaring fraud upon the public.
Much of our misfortune as a nation may he attributed to the pernicious influence of the intolerant, intermeddlng, lrrepressible writers of falsehood. In a community where the spirit of fiction pervades every department of literature and all the social relations of life, writers become so habituated to false coloring and deception, that plain unadorned truth has seldom been known to eminate from their perverted brains; it would be just as impossible for them to write down a naked fact as it would for the Prince of Darkness to write a volume of psalms.
The friend who has finally succeeded in tracing me to my quiet retreat in the wild solitudes of the down trodden South, is requesting me to make public the
whole history of my life, without any attempt at palliation, concealment or apology. This I shall now proceed to do, in utter disregard to It perverted public
opinion, and without the least desire or expectation of receiving justice from the minds of those who never knew justice, or sympathy from those who are destitute of that ingredient.
The necessity that was forced upon me to act the part I did during the reign of terror in Missouri, is all that I regret. It has deprived me of a happy home and the joys of domestic peace and quietude; it has driven me from the associations of childhood, and all the scenes of early life that so sweetly cling to the memory of man; it has caused my kind and indulgent mother to go down into her grave sorrowing; it has robbed me of three affectionate brothers who were brutally murdered and left weltering in their own innocent blood; it has reduced me and my family to absolute want and suffering, and has left us without a home, and I might almost say, without a country.
A necessity as implacable aa the decrees of Fate, was forced upon me by the Union party to espouse the opposite side; and all the horrors of a merciless war were waged unceasingly agaimst me for many months before I attempted to raise my hand in self defense. But fight I must, and fight I did! War was the object, and war it was. I never engage in but one business at a time-my business during tho wa.r was killing enemies. It is a very difficult matter to carry on a war for four years without someone getting hurt. If I did kill over a hundred men during the war, it was only because I was in earnest and supposed that everybody else was. My name is cast out as evil because I adopted the military tactics not in use among large armies.
They were encumbered with artillery and fought where they had ample room to use it, I had no artillery and generally fought in the woods; my plan was the most successful, for in the regular army the rebels did not kill more than one man each during the war.
Early History of the Hildebrand family.-Settled in St. Francois county, Missouri.-Sam Hildebrand born.-Troublesome Neighbors.- Union Sentiments.
In regard to the early history of the Hildebrand family, I can only state what tradition has handed down from one generation to another. As I have no education, and can neither read in English nor Dutch,
I am not able to give any of the outlines of history bearing upon the origin or acts of the Hildebrands in remote ages. This task I leave for others, with this
remark, that tradition connects our family with the Hildebrands who figured in the German history up to the very origin of the Dutch language. The branch of the family to which I belong were driven from Bavaria into Netherlands two hundred years ago, where they remained about forty years, and then emigrated to Pennsylvania at the first settlement of that portion of America.
They were a hardy race of people and always shunned a city life, or being cooped up in thickly settled districts; they kept on the outskirts of aggressive civilization as it pressed the red man still back into the wild solitudes of the West, thus occupying the middle ground or twilight of refinement. Hence they continually breathed the pure, fresh air of our country's morning, trod through the dewy vales of pioneer life, and drank at Freedom's shady fountains among the unclaimed hills.
They were literally a race of backwoodsmen inured to hardship, and delighted in nothing so much as wild adventure and personal danger. They explored the hills rather than the dull pages of history, pursued the wild deer instead of tame literature, and enjoyed their own thoughts rather than the dreamy notions
eminating from the feverish brain of philosophy.
In 1832 my father and mother, George and Rebecca Hildebrand, settled in 8t. Francois county, Missouri, on a stream called Big River, one of the tributaries of
the Meramec which empties into the Mississippi about twenty miles below St. Louis.
The bottom lands on Big River are remarkably fertile, and my father was so fortunate as to secure one of the best bodies of land in that county. Timber grew
in abundance, both on the hills and in the valleys, conl5equently it took a great deal of hard labor to open a farm; but after a few years of close attention, father,
by the assistance of his boys who were growing up, succeeded in opening a very large one. He built a large stone dwelling house two stories high, and finished it off in beautiful style, besides other buildings, burns, cribs and stables necessary on every well regulated farm.
Father and mother raised a family of ten children, consisting of seven boys and three girls. I was the fifth one in the family, and was born at the old homestead
on Dig River, St. Francois county, Missouri, on the 6th day of January, 1836.
The facilities for acquiring an education in that neighborhood were very slim indeed, besides I never felt inclined to go to school even when I had a chance.
I was too fond of hunting and fishing, or playing around the majestic bluffs that wall in one side or the other of Big River, the whole length of that crooked and very romantic stream. One day's schooling was all that I ever got in my life; that day was sufficient for me, it gave me a distaste to the very sight of a school house. I only learned the names of two letters, one shaped like the gable end of a house roof, and the other shaped like an ox yoke standing on end. At recess in the afternoon the boys got to picking at me while the teacher was gone to dinner, and I had them every one to whip. When the old tyrant came back from dinner and commenced talking saucy, I gave him a good cursing and broke for home. My father very generously gave me my choice, either to go to school or to work on the farm. I gladly accepted the latter, redoubled my energy and always afterwards took particular pains to please my father in all things, because he was so kind as not to compel me to attend school.
A threat to send me to school was all the whipping that I ever required to insure obedience; I was more afraid of that than I was of old Haw-head-and-bloody.bones," or even the old scratch himself.
In 1850, my father died, but I still remained at the homestead, working for the support of my mother and the rest of the family, until I had reached the age
of nineteen years, then, on the 30th day of October, 1864-, I married Miss Margaret Hampton, the daughter of a highly esteemed citizen of St. Francois County. I built a neat log house, opened a farm for myself within half a mile of the old homestead, and we went to housekeeping for ourselves.
From the time that my father first settled on Big River, we had an abundance of stock, and especially hogs. The range was always good, and as the uplands
and hills constituted an endless forest of oaks, the inexhaustible supply of acorns afforded all the food that our hogs required; they roamed in the woods,
and of course, many of them became as wild as deer; the wild ones remained among the hills and increased until they became very numerous. Whenever they
were fat enough for pork, were in the habit of going into the woods with our guns and our dogs and killing as many of them as we could.
A few years after my father had settled there, a colony of Pennsylvania Dutch had established themselves in our neighborhood; they were very numerous
and constituted about two-thirds of the population of our township. They soon set up "wild hog claims," declaring that some of their hogs had also run wild; this led to disputes and quarrels, and to some "fist and skull fighting," in which my brothers and myself soon won the reputation of "bullies." Finding that they
had no show at this game, they next resorted to the law, and we had many little law suits before our justice of the peace. The Dutch out swore us, and we soon
found the Hildebrand family branded by them with the very unjust and unpleasant epithet of "hog thieves'" but we went in on the muscle and still held the woods.
As our part of the country became more thickly settled and new neighbors came in, they in turn were, prejudiced against us; and the rising generation seemed to cling to the same idea, that the Hildebrands seemed to love pork a little too well and needed watching. Unfortunately for me, my oId neighbors were union men; all my sympathies too, were decidedly for the union. I heard with alarm the mutterings of war in the distance, like the deep tones of thunder beyond the frowning hills. I had never made politics my study.
I had no education whatever, and had to rely exclusively on what others told me. Of course I was easily imposed upon by political tricksters, yet from my
heart I deplored the necessity of a resort to arms, if such a necessity did exist, and whether it did or not was more than I could divine.
While my union neighbors and enemies were making the necessary preparations for leaving their families in comfortable circumstances before taking up arms in defense of their country, there were a few shrewd southern men around to magnify and distort the grievances of the southern people. In many cases the men whom they obtained had nothing in the world at stake, no useful object in view no visible means of acquiring an honest livelihood, and were even without a horse to ride. This, however, only afforded them a pretext for practicing what they called "pressing horses," which was done on a large scale. Neither political principles, patriotic motives, nor love of country prompted this abominable system of horse stealing. It was not confined to either party, and it was a remarkable co-incident how invariably the political sentiments of a horse-pressing renegade would differ from the neighbor who happened to have the fastest horses.
Determination to take no part in the War.- Mr. Ringer killed by Rebels.-The cunning device of Allen Roan. - Vigilance Committee organized.-The baseness of Mobocracy.- Attacked by the Mob.-Escape to Flat Woods.
In the spring of 1861, the war of the Great Rebellion was inaugurated, and during the following summer was carried on in great fury in many places, but I shall only speak of those occurrences which had a particular bearing upon myself.
I called on some good citizens who were not republicans and whom I knew to be well posted in the current events of the day, to ask them what course it was
best for me to pursue during the unnatural struggle. They advised me to stay at home and attend to my own business. This I determined to do, so I paid no further attention to what was going on, put in my crop of corn at the usual season and cultivated it during the summer.
On the 9th day of August the popular excitement in St. Francois county was greatly increased by the killing of Mr. Ringer, a union man, who was shot at his
own house for no other cause than his political principles. He. was killed, as I afterwards learned, by Allen Roan and Tom Cooper. It should be borne in mind
that Roan was a relative of mine with whom I was on friendly terms. I was not implicated in the death of Ringer in, any manner, shape, or form, but suspicion
rested upon me; the "Hildebrand gang" were branded with the murder.
I could not check Roan in the rash course he was pursuing; but in all sincerity, I determined to follow the advice given me by no certain union friend, who told me to take no part in the cause that would in the end bring disaster upon myself. It was good advice; why then did I not follow it? In the presence of that Being who shall judge the quick and the dead, I shall truthfully and in a few words explain the whole matter.
I had no sooner made up my mind fully what course to pursue, than I was caught in a cunningly devised trap that settled my destiny forever. One evening Allen Roan came to my field where I was plowing and proposed swapping horses with me; the horse which he said he had bought was a better one than my own, so I consented to make the exchange; finding afterwards that the horse would not work in harness, I swapped him off the next day to Mr. Rogers.
Prior to this time my neighbors had organized themselves into what they called a Vigilance Committee, and were moving in squads night and day to put down
horse stealing. Only a few of the committee were dangerous men, but Firman McVIlvaine, who was put at the head of the gang was influenced by the worst
element in the community; it became a political machine for oppression and bloodshed under the guidance of James Craig, John House, Joe McGahan, John Dunwoody, William Patton, and others, who were swearing death to every man implicated in any way with the southern recruits who were pressing horses.
The horse I had traded for from Allen Roan and which Rogers obtained from mc, proved to be the property of Dunwoody. I was apprised of the fact by a friend at night, and told also that they had threatened me and my brother Frank with death if they could find us, and notwithstanding our entire innocence in the matter, we were compelled to hide out. We knew that when the law is wrested from the civil authorities by such men as they were, that anything like a trial would not be permitted. 'We secreted ourselves in the woods, hoping that matters would take a different turn in a short time; each night I was posted in regard
to their threats. I would willingly have surrendered myself to the civil authorities with a guarantee of a fair trial; but to fall into the hands of an unscrupulous
mob who were acting in violation of law, particularly when law and order was broken up by the heavy tramp of war, was what we were compelled by all means to avoid.
We had no alternative but to elude their search. It is a fact well known, i that in the upheaval of popular passion and the overthrow of law and order under any pretext whatever, It nucleus is formed, around which the most vile, the most turbulent, and the most cowardly instinctively fly. Cowardly villains invariably
join in with every mob that comes within their reach; personal enmity and spite is frequently their controlling motive; the possible opportunity of addressing
some snpp0l'led grievance without incurring danger to themselves is their incentive for swelling the mob. A person guilty of any particular crime, to avoid
suspicion, is always the most clamorous for blood when some one else stands accused of the same offense. In the Vigilance Committee were found the same materials existing in all mobs. No brave man was ever a tyrant, but no coward over failed to be one , when he had the power. They still kept up the search for me and my brother with an energy worthy of a better cause.
It was now October, the nights were cold and we suffered much for the want of blankets and even for food. 'Ye were both unaccustomed to sleeping out at night and were chilled by the cold wind that whistled through the trees. After we had thus continued in the woods about three weeks, I concluded to venture in one night to see my family and to get something to eat, and some bed clothes to keep me more comfortable at night.
I had heard no unusual noise in the wood! that day. had seen no one pass, nor heard the trump of horses feet in any direction. It was about eleven o'clock at night when I got within sight of the house, no light was burning within; I heard no noise of any kind, and believing that all was right I crept up to the house and whispered "Margaret" through a crack. My wife heard me, and recognizing my voice she noiselessly opened the door and let me in.
We talked only in whispers, and in a few minutes she placed my supper upon the table. Just as I was going to eat I heard the top rail fall off my yard fence.
The noise did not· suit me, so I took my gun in one hand, a loaf of corn bread in the other, and instantly stepped out into the yard by a back door.
McIlvaine and his vigilantes were also in the yard, and were approaching the house from all sides in a regular line. In an instant I detected a gap in their
ranks and dashed through it. As they commenced firing I dodged behind a molasses mill that fortunately stood in the yard, it caught nine of their bullets and
without doubt saved my life. After the first volley I struck for the woods, a distance of about two hundred yards. Though their firing did not cease, I stopped
midway to shoot at their flame of fire, but a thought struck me that it would too well indicate my whereabouts in the open field, so I hastened on until I had
gained the edge of the woods, and there I sat down to listen at what was going on at the house. I heard Firman McIlvaine's name called several times, and very
distinctly heard his replies and knew his voice. This satisfied me beyond all doubt that the marauders were none other than the self-styled Vigilance Committee.
I was fortunate in my escape, and had a deep sense of gratitude to heaven for my miraculous preservation. Though I had not made my condition much better by
my visit, yet I gnawed away, at intervals, upon my loaf of corn bread, and tried to reconcile myself as much as possible to the terrible state of affairs then existing. I saw very plainly that my enemies would not permit me to remain in that vicinity; but the idea of being compelled to leave my dear home where I was born and raised, and to strike out into the unknown world with my family without a dollar in my pocket, without anything except one horse and the clothing we had upon our backs, was anything in the, world but cheering However, I had no alternative; to take care of my dependent and suffering family, was the motive uppermost in my mind at all times.
After the mob had apparently left, my wife came out to me in the woods. Our plans were soon formed; after dressing the children, five in number, as quietly
and speedily as possible, she brought them to me at a designated point among the hills in the dark forest. She returned to the house alone, and with as little noise as possible saddled up my horse, and after packing him with what bed clothing and provisions she conveniently could, she circled around among the hills and rejoined me at a place I had named in the deep forest about five miles from our once happy home. Daylight soon made its appearance and enabled me to pick out a place of tolerable security.
We remained concealed until the re-appearance of night and then proceeded on our cheerless wandering. In silence we trudged along in the woods as best we could, avoiding the mud and occasional pools of water. I carried my gun on my shoulder and one of the children on my hip; my wife, packing the baby in her arms, walked quietly by my side. I never was before so deeply impressed with the faith, energy and confiding spirit of woman. As the moon would occasionally peep forth from the drifting clouds and strike upon the pale features of my uncomplaining wife, I thought I could detect a look of cheerfulness in her countenance, and more than once I thought I heard a suppressed titter when either of us got tangled up in the brush.
When daylight appeared we were on Wolf creek, a few miles south of Farmington; here we stopped in the woods to cook our breakfast and to rest a while. During the day we proceeded on to what is called Flat Woods, eight miles from Farmington, in the southern part of St. Francois county, and about ten miles north from Fredericktown. From Mr. Griffin I obtained the use of a log cabin in a retired locality, and in a few minutes we were duly installed in our new house.
McIlvaine's Vigilance Mob.-Treachery of Castleman.- Frank Hildebrand hung by the Mob.- Organization of the Mob into a Militia Company.
The Vigilance Committee, with Firman McIlvaine at its head, was formed ostensibly for the mutual protection against plunderers; yet some bad men were in it. By their influence it became a machine of oppression, a shield for cowards, and the head-quarters for tyranny.
After I left Big River my brother Frank continued to conceal himself in the woods until about the middle of November; the weather now grew so cold that he
could stand it no longer; he took the advice of Franklin Murphy and made his way to Potosi, and in order to silence all suspicion in regard to his loyalty, he went
to Captain Castleman and offered to join the Home Guards. Castleman being Intimate with Firman McIlvaine, detained Frank until he had time to send McIlvaine word, and then basely betrayed him into the merciless hands of the vigilant mob.
In order to obtain a shadow of legality for his proceedings, McIlvaine took brother Frank before Franklin Murphy, who at that time was justice of the peace
on Big River. Frank was anxious that the justice might try the case; but when Murphy told them that all the authority he had would only enable him to commit
him to jail for trial in the proper court, even if the charges were sustained, they were dissatisfied at this, and in order to take the matter out of the hands of the
justice and move it beyond his jurisdiction, they declared that he had stolen a horse in Ste. Genevieve county.
The mob then took Frank to Punjaub, in that county, before Justice R. M. Cole, who told them that he was a sworn officer of the law, and that if they should produce sufficient evidence against their prisoner, he could only commit him to jail. This of course did not satisfy the mob; to take the case out of his hands, they stated that the offense he had committed was that of stealing a mule in Jefferson county. They stated also that Frank and Sam Anderson had gone in the night to the house of a Mr. Carney to steal his mare; that Mrs. Carney on hearing them at the gate, went out and told them that Mr. Carney was absent and had rode the
mare; that they then compelled Mrs. Carney to go with them a quarter of a mile in her night clothes to show them where Mr. Becket lived; and finally that they went there and stole his horse. Failing however to obtain the co-operation of the Justice in carrying out their lawless designs, the mob left with their prisoner,
declaring that they were going to take him to Jefferson county for trial.
The sad termination of the affair is soon told. The mob took my kind, inoffensive brother about five miles and hung him without any trial whatever, after which
they threw his body in a sink-hole thirty feet in depth, and there his body lay for more than a month before it was found. A few weeks after this cold blooded
murder took place, Firman McIlvaine had the audacity to boast of the deed, declaring positively that Frank bad been hung by his express orders. This murder
took place on the 20th day of November, 1861, about a month after I had been driven from Big River.
A few nights after my arrival at Flat Woods I made my way back to my oId home in order to bring away some more of my property, but on arriving there I found that my house had been robbed and all my property either taken away or destroyed. I soon learned from a friend that the Vigilance Committee had wantonly destroyed everything that they did not want. I returned to Flat Woods in a very despondent mood. I was completely broken up.
The union men were making war upon me, but I was making no war upon them, for I still wished to take no part in the national struggle. I considered it "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight." But a sense of my wrongs bore heavily upon me; I had been reduced to absolute poverty (to say nothing of the murder of my brother) by the unrelenting cruelty of Firman McIlvaine who was a rich man, drowned in luxury and surrounded by all the comforts of life that the eye could wish, or a cultivated appetite could desire.
The war was now raging with great fury in many sections of the country; yet I remained at home intent on making a living for my family, provided I could do
l'!0 without being molested, but during all the time I was at work, I had to keep a sharp lookout for my enemies.
That leprous plague spot-the Vigilance Committee ~finally ripened and culminated in the formation of a company of militia on Big River, with James Craig for Captain and Joe McGahan for First Lieutenant. The very act for which they were so anxious to punish others, on mere suspicion, they themselves now committed with a high hand.
They were ordered to disarm southern sympathizers and to seize on articles contraband of war, such as arms and ammunition. This gave them great latitude;
the cry of "disloyal" could be very easily raised against any man who happened to have a superabundance of property. "Arms" was construed also to include arm chairs and their arms full of everything they could get their hands on; "guns" included Gunn's Domestic Medicine; a fine claybank mare was confiscated" because she looked so fiery, and a spotted mule because it had so many colors; they took a gun from Mr. Metts merely because he lived on the south side of Big River; they dipped heavily into the estate of Dick Poston, deceased, by killing the cattle for beef and dividing it among themselves, under the pretext that if Dick Poston had been living, ho most undoubtedly would have been a rebel.
His house at Flat Woods attacked by Eighty Soldiers - Wounded.- Miraculous Escape.- Captain Bolin.-Arrival in Green County, Arkansas.
In April, 1862, after we had lived at Flat Woods during six months of perfect tranquility, that same irrepressible Vigilance Committee, or some men who
had composed it, learned finally that I was living at Flat Woods. Firman McIlvaine and Joe McGahan succeeded in getting eighty soldiers from Ironton to aid in my capture. I had been hauling wood; as soon as I unloaded the wagon I stepped into the house, and the first thing I knew, the eighty soldiers and the vigilantes were within gunshot and coming under full charge. I seized my gun and dashed through a gap in their lines that Heaven had again left open for my escape. They commenced firing upon me as soon as I was out of the house. The brush being very thick not far off, I saw that my only chance was to gain the woods, and that as soon as possible. I ran through the garden and jumped over a picket fence-this stopped the cavalry for a moment. I made through the brush; but out of the hundreds of bullets sent after me, one struck my leg below the knee and broke a bone. I held up by the bushes as well as I could, to keep them from knowing that I was wounded. While they had to stop to throw down a fence, I scrambled along about two hundred yards further, and crouched in a gully that happened to be half full of leaves; I quickly buried myself completely from sight. The soldiers were all around in a short time and scoured the woods in every direction; then they went back and burned the house and everything we had, after which they left and I saw them no more.
Sixteen of Captain Bolin's men on the day before had been seen to cross the gravel road; this, probably, was why the federal soldiers did not remain longer.
Captain Bolin was a brave rebel officer, whose headquarters were in Green county, Arkansas, and under whose command some of the most daring spirits who figured in the war, were led on to deeds of heroism scarcely ever equaled. Our condition was truly deplorable; there I lay in the gully covered up with leaves, with one leg rendered useless, without even the consolation of being allowed to groan; my family, too, were again without shelter; the soldiers had burned everything-clothes, bedding and provisions.
As I lay in that gully, suffering with my wounds inflicted by United States soldiers, I declared war. I determined to fight it out with them, find by the assistance of my faithful gun, "Kill-devil," to destroy as many of my blood-thirsty enemies as I possibly could.
To submit to further wrong from their hands would be an insult to the Being who gave me the power of resistance. After the soldiers had left, my wife came in search of me, believing that I was wounded from the manner in which I seemed to run. I told her to go back, that I was not hurt very bad, and that when she was satisfied that no one was watching around, to come at night and dress my leg. She went, however, in search of some friend on whom we could rely for assistance.
Fortunately she came across Mr. Pigg, to whom she related the whole circumstance, and he came immediately to my relief. He was a man of the right stripe; regardless of consequences, he did everything in his power to relieve my suffering, and to ,.supply my family with bedding and provisions. He removed us by night to a place of safety, and liberally gave us all we needed.
While I thus lay nursing my wound, my place of concealment was known only to a few men whom we could easily trust. In my hours of loneliness I had much time for reflection. The terrible strait in which I found myself, naturally led me to the mental inquiry: Have I the brand of Cain, that the hands of men should be turned against me? What have I done to merit the persecution so cruel and so persistent?" I could not solve the questions; in the sight of a just God I felt that I
did not merit such treatment. Sometimes I half resolved to go into some other State on purpose to avoid the war; but I was constantly warned by my friends
who were southern men, (the only men with whom I could hold communication at present,) that it would be unsafe to think of doing so, and that my only safety
lay in my flight to the southern army. The vigilance mob had nearly destroyed every vestige of sympathy or good feeling I had for the union people. They had
reported me, both to the civil and military authorities, as being a horse thief, and, withal, a very damgerous man.
On thinking the matter over I lost all hope of ever being able to reinstate myself in their favor and being permitted to enjoy idle peaceful privileges of It quiet
citizen. The die was-cast-for the sake of revenge, I pronounced myself a Rebel.
I remained very quietly at my place of concealment while my wife doctored my wounded leg for a week before my friend had an opportunity of sending word
to any of Captain Bolin's men to come to my relief. As soon as my case was made known to them, however, a man was dispatched to see me for the purpose of
learning all the particulars in the case. He came and asked me a great many questions, but answered none. When he arose to depart he only said, "all right-rest easy."
The next night I was placed in a light spring wagon among some boxes of drugs and medicines, and was told that my wife and family would be taken to Bloomfield by Captain Bolin in a short time, and protected until I could come after them. A guard of two men accompanied us, and rode the whole night without speaking a word to anyone. Nearly the whole route was through the woods, and although the driver was very watchful and used every precaution against making a noise, yet in the darkness of the night I was tumbled about among the boxes pretty roughly.
When daylight came we halted in a desolate looking country, inhabited only by wild animals of the forest. We had traveled down on the western side of St. Francois river, and were now camped near the most western bend on that river near the southern line of Madison county; we remained all day at that point, and I spent most of my time in sleeping. When the sun had dipped behind the western hills we again commenced our journey. Our course seemed to bear more to the eastward than it did the night before, and as we were then in a country not so badly infested with Federals, we traveled a good part of our time in narrow, crooked roads, but they were rough beyond all description, and I was extremely glad when about eight o'clock in the morning we halted for breakfast on the western bank of St. Francois river, about midway between Bloomfield, in Stoddard county, and Crane creek, in Butler.
While resting hero a scouting party from General Jeff. Thompson's camp came riding up. "Well boys! what have you in your wagon?"
"Drugs nnd medicines for Captain Bolin's camp."
On hearing this they dismounted and kept up a lively conversation .around the camp fire. Among their number was a jovial fellow who kept the rest all laughing. I thought I knew the voice, and as I turned over to peep through a hole in the wagon bed, he heard me and sprang to his feet.
"Who in thunderation have you in the wagon?"
"Some fellow from St. Francois county, wounded and driven off by the Federals."
"The devil! why that is my native county. I'll take a look at that fellow. Its Sam Hildebrand as I live!
How do yon do, old rapscallion?"
'Well, well, if I haven't run across Tom Haile, the dare-devil of the swamps!"
"Old drugs and medicines' what are you doing here? trying to pass yourself off for a great medicinal root I suppose. Do you feel tolerable better? I'm afraid you are poison. Say, Sam, did you bring some good horses down with you?"
"Hush Tom! if they find out that I'm not a horse thief, they will drum me out of camp!"
The party soon prepared to start; the first man who attempted to mount came near being dashed to the ground in consequence' of the rattling of a tin cup
some one had tied to his spur. Tom said it was a perfect shame to treat any man in that way; the man seemed to think so, too, judging from the glance he
cast at Tom. But they mounted, dashed through a sheet of muddy water, then over a rocky point, and soon were far away amid the dim blue hills.
We started on, and after traveling until about midnight, we reached the State line between Missouri and Arkansas, there we remained until morning; on starting again we were in Green county, Arkansas, and sometime during the day we arrived safely at the Headquarters of Captain Bolin, and I was welcomely received into the little community of families, who were here assembled for mutual protection-most of them were the families of Captain Bolin's men. I received every attention from them that my necessities required, and as my wound seemed to be doing well, I felt for a time quite at home.
Interview with Gen. Jeff. Thompson.-Receives a Major's Commission.-Interview with Captain Bolin.-Joins the "Bushwhacking Department."
Captain Bolin with most of his forces were somewhere in the vicinity of Bloomfield, Missouri, and as I was anxious to identify myself with the army, I got
the use of a horse as soon as I was able to ride, and in company with several others proceeded across the swampy country east of the St. Francis river, for the
purpose of joining General Jeff. Thompson. I reached his headquarters in safety, and stayed about camp, frequently meeting acquaintances from Missouri and
occasionally getting news from home. As soon as I could gain admission to the General's headquarters I did so, and he received me very kindly. He listened
very attentively to me as I proceeded to state my case to him-how my brother had been murdered, how I had barely escaped the same fate, and how I had finally
been driven from the country.
General Thompson reflected a few moments, then seizing a pen he rapidly wrote off a few lines and handing it to me he said, "here, I give you a Major's commission; go where you please, take what men you can pick up, fight on your own hook, and report to me every six months." I took the paper and crammed it down into my pantaloon's pocket and walked out. I could not read my commission, but I was determined to ask no one to read it for me, for that would be rather degrading to my new honor.
I retired a little distance from camp and taking my
seat on an old cypress log, I reflected how the name of " Major Sam Hildebrand" would look in history. I did not feel comfortable over the new and very
unexpected position in which I had been placed. I knew nothing of military tactics; I was not certain whether a Major held command over a General or whether he was merely a bottle washer under a Captain. I determined that if the latter was the case, that I would return to Green county and serve under Captain Bolin.
As I had no money with which to buy shoulder straps, I determined to fight without them. I was rather scarce of money just at that time; if steamboats were
selling at a dollar a piece, I did not have money enough to buy a canoe paddle. I stayed in camp, however, several days taking lessons, and hearing the tales of
blood and pillage from the scouts as they came in from various directions.
By this time my wound felt somewhat easier, so I mounted my horse and made my way back to Green county, and arrived safely at Captain Bolin's headquarters.
The Captain was at home, and I immediately presented myself before him. He said he had heard of me from one of his scouts, and was highly gratified that one of his men had seen proper to have me convoyed to his headquarters.
"I presume," said ho, "that you have been to the headquarters of General Jeff. Thompson. Did you see the' Old Swamp Fox ?'"
"What did he do for you ?"
Here I pulled my commission from my pocket, that now looked more like a piece of gun wadding than anything else, and handed it to the Captain.
"Well, Major Hildebrand-"
"Sam, if you please."
"Very well then, what do you propose to do ?"
" I propose to fight."
"Sam, if you please."
"All right, sir! Sam, I see that you have the commission of a Major."
"Well Captain, I can explain that matter: he formed me into an independent company of my own-to pick up a few men if can get them-go where I please-when
I please-and when I go against my old personal enemies up in Missouri, I am expected to do a Major part of the fighting myself."
At this the Captain laughed heartily, and after rummaging the contents of an old box he drew forth something that looked to me very much like a bottle After
this ceremony was over he remarked:
"Well sir, the commission I obtained is of the same kind. I have one hundred and twenty-five men, and we are what is denominated' Bushwhackers'; we carry on a war against our enemies by shooting them; my men are from various sections of the country, and each one perhaps has some grievance to redress at home; in order to enable him to do this effectually we give him all the aid that he may require; after he sets things to right in his section of country, he promptly comes back to help the others in return; we thus swap work like the farmers usually do in harvest time. If you wish an interest in this joint stock mode of .fighting you can unite your destiny with ours, and be entitled to all our privileges."
Captain Bolin's proposition was precisely what I so ardently desired. Of the real merits of this war I knew but little and cared still less. To belong to a large army and be under strict military discipline, was not pleasing to my mind; to be brought up in a strong column numbering several thousands, and to be hurled
in regular order against a mass of men covering three or four miles square, against whom I had no personal spite, would not satisfy my spirit of revenge. Even in a fierce battle fought between two large opposing armies, not more than one man out of ten can succeed in killing his man; in a battle of that kind he would have no more weight than a gnat on a bull's horn.
I was fully satisfied that the" Bushwhacking department" was the place for me, with the continent for a battle field and the everlasting woods for my headquarters.
Trip to Missouri.- Kills George Cornecious for reporting on him.-Kills Firman McIlvaine.- Attempt to kill McGahan and House.- Returns to Arkansas.
My wound kept me at headquarters for about six weeks after my arrival in Arkansas. During all this time I could not hear a word from my family, for the
Federals had possession of every town in that section of country, together with all the roads leading from one county to another.
On the 1st day of June, 1862, having been furnished a horse, I took my faithful gun, "Kill-devil," and started on my first trip back to Missouri. As my success would depend altogether on the secrecy of my movements, I went alone. I traveled altogether in the night, and most of the time through the woods. From Captain Bolin's men I had learned the names of Southern sympathizers along the whole route, so I made it convenient to travel slowly in order to favor my wounds and to get acquainted with our friends.
I arrived in the vicinity of Flat Woods, in St. Francois county, Missouri, on the 12th day of June, and immediately commenced searching for George Cornecious,
the man who reported my whereabouts to McIlvaine and the soldiers, thereby causing me to be wounded and expelled from Flat Woods. After searching two days and two nights I succeeded in shooting him; he was the first man I ever killed; a little notch cut in the stock of my gun was made to commemorate
To avoid implicating my family in any way with my transactions, I satisfied myself with exchanging words with my wife through a friend who was thought by his neighbors to be a Union man. My family resided in a little cabin on Back creek, and my wife was cultivating a garden.
To carry out the daring object I had in view-that of killing Firman McIlvaine-I went to Flat river, and after remaining several days, I took a pone of bread
for my rations and walked to his farm on Big river after night. I passed through his fields, but finding no place where harvesting was going on, I crossed Big river on a fish trap dam and ranged over the Baker farm on the opposite side of the river, about a mile above Big river Mills, where the McIlvaine family now resided. I found where harvesting had just commenced in a field which formed the southwestern corner of the farm. This field is on the top of a perpendicular bluff, about one hundred feet high, and is detached from the main farm by a road leading from Ste. Genevieve to Potosi.
A portion of the grain had already been cut on the western side of the field, near the woods j there I took my station in the fence corner, early in the morning,
thinking that McIlvaine would probably shock the grain while the negroes were cradling. In this I was mistaken, for I saw him swinging his cradle in another
part of the field, beyond the range of my gun.
I next attempted to crawl along the edge of the bluff among the stunted cedars, but had to abandon the attempt because the negroes stopped in the shade of the cedars every time they came around. Then I went back into the woods, and passed. down under the bluff, along the edge of the river, until I got opposite the
place where they were at work, but I found no place where I could ascend the high rock. I went around the lower end of the bluff, and crawled up to the field
on the other side, but I was at too great a distance to get a shot. Finally, I went down to the river and was resting myself near a large flat rock that projected out
into the river, where some persons had recently been fishing, when suddenly Firman McIlvaine rode down to the river and watered his horse at a ford about sixty yards below me. I tried to draw a bead on him, but the limb of a tree prevented me, and when he started back he rode too fast for my purpose.
At night I crept under a projecting rock and slept soundly; but very early in the morning I ascended the bluff and secreted myself at a convenient distance from where they had left off cradling. But I was again doomed to disappointment, for, as the negroes were cradling, McIlvaine was shocking the grain in another
part of the field.
In the evening, as soon as they had finished cutting the grain, all hands left, and I did not know where they were. I next stationed myself at a short distance from
the river, and watched for him to water his horse; but his father presently pass;ed along leading the horse to water,
I again slept under the overhanging rock; and on the next morning (June 23d) I crossed the river on the fish dam, and went to the lower part of McIlvaine's farm. There r found the negroes cutting down a field of rye. They cut away for several hours, until they got it all down within one hundred yards of the fence, before McIlvaine made his first round. On getting a little past me, he stopped to whet his scythe; as soon as he had done so he lowered the cradle to the ground, and for a moment stood resting on the handle. I fired, and he fell dead.
Nothing but a series of wrongs long continued could ever have induced me to take the life of that highly accomplished young man. After the outbreak of the war, while others were losing horses, a fine mare was stolen from him. The theft was not committed by me, but my personal enemies probably succeeded in making him believe that I had committed the act. He was goaded on by evil advisers to take the law into. his own hands; my brother Frank was hung
without a trial, and his body thrown into a sink-hole, to moulder like that of a beast; my own life had been sought time and again; my wife and tender family
were forced to pass through hardships and suffering seldom witnessed in the annals of history. The mangled features of my poor brother; the pale face of
my confiding wife; the tearful eyes of my fond children-all would seem to turn reprovingly upon me in my midnight dreams, as if demanding retributive justice. My revenge was reluctant and long delayed, but it came at last.
I remained in the woods, near the residence of a friend for a day or two, and then I concluded to silence Joe McGahan and John House before returning to Arkansas. I proceeded to the residence of the former, who had been very officious in the Vigilance mob, and posted myself in some woods in the field within one hundred yards of the house, just as daylight began to appear. I kept a vigilant watch for him all day, but he did not make his appearance until it had commenced getting dark; then he rode up and went immediately into his house. By this time it was too dark for me to shoot at such a distance. I moved to the garden fence, and in a few minutes he made his appearance in the door with a little child in his arms. The fence prevented me from shooting him below the child, and I could not shoot him in the breast for fear of killing it.
He returned in the door only a minute or two, and then retired into the house; and while I was thinking the matter over, without noticing closely for his reappearance, I presently discovered him riding off. I went to a thicket in his field and slept until nearly day, when I again took my position near the house, and
watched until night again set -in, but fortunately for him he did not make his appearance.
I now went about four miles to the residence of John House, selected a suitable place for my camp, and slept soundly until daybreak. I watched all day, but saw nothing of my enemy. As soon as it was dark I went back to Flat river, and on the next night I mounted my horse and started back to Green county, Arkansas, without being discovered by anyone except by those friends whom I called on for provisions.
Vigilance mob drives his mother from home.- Three companies of troops sent to Big river.- Captain Flanche murders Washington Hildebrand and Landusky.-Captain Esroger murders John Roan.- Capt. Adoph burns the Hildebrand
homestead and murders Henry Hildebrand.
I shall now give a brief account of the fresh enormities committed against the Hildebrand family. The same vindictive policy inaugurated by the Vigilance
mob was still pursued by them until they succeeded, by misrepresentation, in obtaining the assistance of the State and Federal troops for the accomplishment of their designs.
A Dutch company, stationed at North Big River Bridge, under Capt. Esroger , a Dutch company stationed at Cadet, under Capt. Adolph, and a French company stationed at the Iron Mountain, under Capt. Flanche, were all sent to Big River to crush out the Hildebrand family.
Emboldened by their success in obtaining troops, the Vigilance mob marched boldly up to the Hildebrand homestead and notified my mother, whom they
found reading her Bible, that she must immediately leave the county, for it was their intention to burn her house and destroy all her property.
My mother was a true Christian; she was kind and affectionate to everybody; her hand was always ready to relieve the distressed, and smooth the pillow for the afflicted; the last sight seen upon earth by eyes swimming in death has often been the pitying face of my mother, as she-hovered over the bed of sickness.
I appeal to all her neighbors-I appeal to everybody who knew her-to say whether my mother ever had a superior in this respect.
When ordered to leave her cherished home, to leave the house built by her departed husband, to leave the quiet homestead where she had brought up a large family, and where every object was rendered dear by a thousand sweet associations that clung to her memory, she turned her mind inwardly, but found nothing there to reproach her; then to her God she silently committed herself.
She hastily took her Bible and one bed from the house-but nothing more. She had arrangements made to have her bed taken to the house of her brother,
Harvey McKee, living on Dry Creek, in Jefferson county, distant about thirty-five miles. Then, taking her family Bible in her arms, she burst into a flood of tears, walked slowly out of the little gate, and left her home forever!
I will here state that I was the only one of the Hildebrand family who espoused the Rebel cause. After the murder of my brother Frank, I had but three brothers left : William, Washington and Henry William joined the Union army and fought until the close of the war. Washington took no part in the war, neither directly nor indirectly. Never, perhaps, was there a more peaceable, quiet and law abiding citizen than he was; he never spoke a word that could be construed into a sympathy for the Southern cause, and I defy any man to produce the least evidence against his loyalty, either in word or act.
While the war was raging, he paid no attention to it whatever, but was busily engaged in lead mining in the St. Joseph Lead Mines, three miles from Big River Mills, and about six miles from the old homestead. In partnership with him was a young man by the name of Landusky, a kind, industrious, inoffensive man, whose loyalty had never once been doubted. My sister Mary was his affianced bride, but her death prevented the marriage.
My brother Henry was a mere boy, only thirteen years of age. Of course he was too young to have any political principles; he was never accused of being a Rebel; no accusation of any kind had ever been made against him; he was peaceable and quiet, and, like a good boy, he was living with his mother~
and doing the best he could toward supporting her.
True, he was very young to have the charge of such a farm, but he was a remarkable boy. Turning a deaf ear to all the rumors and excitements around
him, he industriously applied himself to the accomplishment of one object, that of taking care of his mother.
On the 6th day of July, 1862, while my brother Washington and Mr. Landusky were working in a drift underground, Capt. Flanche and his company of cavalry called a halt at the mine, and ordered them to come up; which they did immediately.
No questions were asked them, and no explanations were given. Flanche merely ordered them to walk off a few steps toward a tree, which they did;
,he then gave the word "fire!" and the whole company fired at them, literally tearing them to pieces!
I would ask the enlightened world if there ever was committed a more diabolical deed? If, in all the annals of cruelty, or in the world's wide history, a murder more cold-blooded and cruel could be found?
A citizen who happened to be present; ventured to ask in astonishment why this was done; to which Flanche merely replied, as he rode off, "they bees
the friends of Sam Hildebrass!"
It was now Capt. Esroger's time to commit some deed of atrocity, to place himself on an equality with Capt. Flanche; so after a moment's reflection, he concluded that the murder of my uncle, John Roan, would be sufficient to place his brutality beyond all question.
John Roan was a man about fifty years of age, was proverbial for his honesty, always paid his debts, and kept himself entirely aloof from either side during the war, but against his loyalty nothing had ever been produced, or even attempted. One of his sons was in the Union army, and another was a Rebel.
Being my uncle, and the father of Allen Roan, however, was a sufficient pretext for the display of military brutality. His house was situated about three miles from
St. Joseph Lead Mines and about the same distance from the Hildebrand estate.
On the 10th. day of July, Capt. Esroger and his company rode up to his house, and the old man came out onto the porch, with his white locks streaming in the wind, but never once did he dream of treachery. Esroger told him that he "vas one tam prisoner," and detailed six men to guard him and to march along slowly until they should get behind.
They did so until they got about a mile from his house; there they made him step off six paces, and while his eyes were turned towards Heaven, and his hands were slightly raised in the attitude of prayer, the fatal word "fire" was given, and he fell to the earth a mangled corpse~There was still another actor in this bloody tragedy, who had to tax his ingenuity to the utmost to select a part in which to out do, if possible, the acts of atrocity committed by the others. This was Capt. Adolph.
On the 23rd day of July, Capt. Adolph and his company with an intermixture of the Vigilance mob, went to my mother's house-the Hildebrand homestead- for the purpose of burning it up. The house was two stories high, built of nice. cut stone, and well finished within, making it altogether one of the best houses in the county.
The soldiers proceeded to break down the picket fence, and to pitch it into the house for kindling. They refused to let anything be taken out of the house, being determined to burn up the furniture, clothing, bedding, provisions, and everything else connected with it.
All things being now ready, the house was set on fire within, and the flames spread rapidly from room to room, then through the upper floor, and finally out through the roof. The house, with all the outer building was soon wrapped in a sheet of fire. My little brother Henry and an orphan boy about fourteen years of age, whom my mother had hired to assist Henry in cultivating the farm, were present at the conflagration and stood looking on in mute astonishment. Esroger ordered brother Henry to leave, but whether he knew it was their intention to shoot him after getting him a short distance from the house, as was their custom, it is impossible for me to say. Probably feeling an inward consciousness of never having committed an act to which they could take exceptions, he did not think that they would persist in making him go, so he remained and silently gazed at the burning house, which was the only home he had ever known.
When ordered again to leave, he seemed to be stupefied with wonder at the enormity of the scene before him. Franklin Murphy being present told him it was best to leave, so he mounted his horse and started, but before he got two hundred yards from the house, he was shot and he dropped dead from the horse. Thus perished the poor innocent boy, who could not be induced to believe that the men were base enough to kill him, innocent and in-offensive as he was. But alas I how greatly was he mistaken in them!
They next burned the large frame barn, also the different cribs and stables on the premises; then taking the orphan boy as a prisoner they left.
Some neighbors, a few days afterwards found the body of my little brother and buried him.
This was the crowning act of Federal barbarity toward me and the Hildebrand family, instigated by the low cunning of the infamous Vigilance mob. I make no apology to mankind for my acts of retaliation; I make no whining appeal to 'the world for sympathy. I sought revenge and I found it; the key of hell was not suffered to rust in tae lock while I was on the war path.
I pity the poor miserable, sniveling creature who would tamely have submitted to it all.
Such a man would be so low in the scale of human conception; so far beneath the lowest grade of humanity, that the head even of an Indian would grow dizzy in looking down upon him.
Trip with Burlap and Cato.- Killed a Spy near Bloomfield - Visits his Mother on Dry Creek-Interview with his Uncle - Sees the burning of the homestead at a distance.
As yet, I had heard nothing about the atrocities committed against the remaining members of the Hildebrand family; but in order to stir up my old
enemies in that quarter, I selected two good men, John Burlap and James Cato, to accompany me in another excursion to St. Francois county, Missouri.
They, too, had been badly treated at the outbreak of the war, and had several grievances to redress, for which purpose I promised them my future aid.
We procured Federal uniforms, and started late in the afternoon of July 13th, 1862; but on arriving at St. Francis river, we found it out of its banks from
the heavy rains that had fallen the day previous. My comrades were rather reluctant about venturing into the turbid stream amid the floating driftwood;
but I had ever been impressed with the truth of the old adage, that it was "bad luck to turn back." I plunged my horse into the stream and made the opposite shore without much difficulty. I was followed by Burlap and Cato, who got across safely, but were somewhat scratched by the driftwood. We built a fire, dried our clothes, took a "snort" from our black bottle, and camped until morning.
Nothing of interest occurred until we reached the vicinity of Bloomfield, in Stoddard county, Missouri, when we met a man in citizen's dress, whom we accosted in a very familiar manner, asking him if there were any Rebels in that vicinity. He stated that there was a party of Rebels in Bloomfield, and that
we had better make our way back to Greenville to the command, otherwise we would be sure to fall into their hands. He stated that he had been with them all day, pretending that he wanted to enlist; that he had learned all about their plans, and thought that about to-morrow night they would all be taken in. I inquired if they had not suspicioned him as a spy? He answered that they had not; that he had completely deceived them. I then asked him if he did not want to ride behind me and my companions, by turns, until we reached Greenville?
He signified his assent by springing up behind me. I let him ride about two miles, but not exactly in the direction of Greenville, for I told him that I was aiming to strike a certain cross road, which seemed to satisfy his mind. He had much to tell us about his exploits as a spy, and that he had learned the names of all the Rebels in Greenville and Fredericktown. By this time we had enough.
I told him I was Sam Hildebrand, knocked him off my horse, and then shot him. I felt no compunction of conscience for having ended the days of such a scoundrel. A little notch underneath the stock of old" Kill-devil" was made, to indicate the probability that he would fail to report.
On the rest of our trip we traveled altogether in the night, and avoided the commission of any act that would be likely to create a disturbance. We
arrived safely at the house of my brother-in-law, on Flat river, who lives within ten miles of the Hildebrand homestead.
Here, for the first time, I heard of the murder of my brother Washington, also that of my uncle, John Roan. Mother's house had not yet been burned, but she had been peremptorily driven from it, and had sought refuge with her brother, in Jefferson county. The country was full of soldiers, and the Vigilance mob were in their glory. Their deeds would blacken the name of John A. Murrel, the great land pirate of America, for he never robbed a lady, nor took the bread from orphan children; while they unblushingly did both.
On learning these particulars, I determined to go to Dry Creek for the purpose of seeing my mother, although the soldiers were scouring the country in every direction for fifty miles for my destruction.
We started at night, but having to travel a circuitous route, daylight overtook us when within six miles of my uncle's. We made a circuit, as was my custom, round a hillside, and then camped in such a position that we would be close to our pursuers for half an hour before they could find us.
My companions took a nap while I kept watch. They had not been asleep long before I discovered a party of men winding their way slowly in the semi-circle we had made. There were ten of them, all dressed in Federal uniform. I awakened my companions, and they took a peep at them as they were slowly tracking us, at a distance of three hundred yards. We could hardly refrain from making war upon them, the chances being so good for game and a little fun, but my object was to see my mother; so we let them pass on to the place where our tracks would lead them out of sight for a few minutes, then we mounted our horses and rode on to another ridge, making a circuit as before, and camping within a quarter of a mile of our first ambush.
On coming to that place, the Federals struck off in another direction, probably finding our tracks a little too fresh for their safety.
When night came, we made our way cautiously through the woods to within a few hundred yards of my uncle's house. I dismounted, and leaving my horse with my comrades, approached the house carefully, and climbed upon a bee-gum to peep through the window. I discovered that there were two strange men in the room, and I thought I got a glimpse of another man around in a corner; but as I leaned a little to one side to get a better view, my bee-gum tilted over, and I fell with a desperate crash on a pile of clapboards. I got up in somewhat of a hurry, and, at about three bounds, cleared the picket fence, and deposited myself in the corner of the garden to await the result.
The noise, of course, aroused the inmates of the house, and they were soon out with a light, but with no utensils of war except a short double-barreled shot-gun, in the hands of my uncle. He inspected the damage done to his favorite bee-stand, and breathed out some rough threats against the villains who had attempted to steal his honey. After ordering his family and the two strangers back into the house, he posted himself in a fence corner about thirty yards off, for the purpose of waging war against the offenders, should they attempt to renew the attack.
The night not being very dark, I was fearful that if I attempted to climb over the picket fence, the old man might pepper me with shot. So I moved myself. cautiously around to the back part of the garden, and found an opening where a picket was missing. Through this aperture I succeeded in squeezing myself, and then crawled around to the rail fence where my uncle was, until I got within two panels of the old man, when I ventured to call him by name, in a very low tone. He knew my voice, and said: "Is that you, Sam? "
My answer in the affirmative brought him to where I was, and although the fence was between us, we took a hearty shake of the hand through a crack. He told me that the two men in the house were Union neighbors, who came over to tell him that the trail of a band of bushwhackers had been discovered about six miles from there, and that on to-morrow the whole country would be out in search of them. He told me to go back until his neighbors took their leave, and then to come i~ and see my mother, who was well, but grieving continually about her son, "Sam."
I fell back to my companions, reported progress, and again took my stand in the fence corner. As soon as the two neighbors were gone, my uncle made known to my mother, and to his wife and daughters, the cause of the disturbance; the younger members of the family having retired early in the night, were all fast asleep. As soon as my uncle thought it prudent to do so, he came out and invited us in. Although my mother had received the news of my visit with a quiet composure, yet, on my approach, she arose silently and started toward me with a firm step, but in a moment she tottered and would have fallen, but I caught her in my arms; she lay with her head on my bosom for some minutes, weeping like a child, and I must confess that now, for the first time since I was a boy, I could not restrain my tears. My mother broke the silence by uttering, in broken sentences: "Oh, my dear son! Have you indeed come to see your mother? I thought I would go down with sorrow- to my grave, as I never expected to see you again on earth!"
How my manhood and my iron will left me at that moment! How gladly would I have left war and revenge to the beasts of the forest, and secreted myself in some quiet corner of the earth, that there, with my mother and my family, I might once more take delight in the sweet songs of birds, and in the tranquil scenes of life, like those I enjoyed in my younger days!
My mother became more tranquil, and We talked over matters with a great deal of satisfaction; and my uncle, to divert our minds from a subject too serious, occasionally poked fun at me, by accusing me of trying to steal his bee-gum, in which he was joined by my two comrades. His two daughters were flying around in the kitchen, and presently announced a supper for us all. We enjoyed ourselves finely until two o'clock in the night, at which time we were compelled to leave, in order to secure a safe retreat from the vigilant search to be made for us during the following day.
On starting, we rode back on our old trail half a mile, to where we had crossed a small creek, down which we rode, keeping all the time in the water, for about three miles, to a public road leading south, which we followed about six miles; then, on coming to a rocky place where our horses would make no tracks, we left, the road at right angles and traveled in the woods about two miles; here we made a semi-circle around a hill, and camped in a commanding position. My comrades did picket duty while I slept nearly all day. At night we went to a friend who lived near my old residence, and from him we learned that our trail had been discovered on our way up, that the whole militia force, composed most exclusively of my old enemies, together with some Dutch regulars, were quartered at Big River Mills; that the woods were being constantly scoured; that each ford on Big river was guarded night and day, and that they considered my escape impossible.
Before the approach of daylight we secreted our horses in a deep ravine, covered with brush and briars, and then hid ourselves underneath a shelving
rock near the top of a high bluff, from which, at a long distance, we had a view of my mother's house -the homestead of the Hildebrand family. We remained here all day, during which time the house was surrounded by soldiers, how many I could not tell, but they seemed to fill the yard and the adjoining inclosures. Presently I saw a dense column of smoke arise from the house, which told me too plainly that the Vandals were burning up the home of my childhood.
The flames presently burst forth through the roof and lapped out their long, fiery tongues at every window. The roof fell in, and all that remained of that superb house was the blackened walls of massive stone.
Gladly would I have thrown myself among those Vandals, and fought them while I had a drop of blood remaining; but it would have been madness, for I would have been killed too soon, and my revenge would have been ended, while my enemies would still live to enjoy their pillage.
Immediately after dark we returned to our horses and commenced our retreat to Arkansas; but instead of going south we traveled west about twenty miles, until we struck on a creek called Forche a' Renault, in Washington county; then turning south, we traveled over the wild pine hills west from Potosi, and camped in a secure place between Caledonia and Webster.
We started on in the evening, and just before sunset made a raid on a store, getting all we wanted, including several bottles of "burst-head." We traveled mostly in the night, followed Black river down to Current river, crossed at Carter's Ferry, and made our way safely to Green county, Arkansas.
Trip with two men.-Killed Stokes for informing on him.- Secreted in a cave on Big river.- Vows of vengeance - Watched for McGahan.- Tom Haile pleads for Franklin Murphy.- Tongue-lashed and whipped out by a Woman.
After remaining a few days at headquarters I commenced making preparations for another trip against my enemies on Big river. I was yet ignorant of the murder of my brother Henry, and knew nothing about the burning of my mother's house, except what I saw at the distance of a mile, a few hours before I started back to Arkansas. I was now fully determined to use the same weapons upon some of my enemies, and to retaliate by any and all means placed in my power. I told the boys my plan. Among those who were present was Thomas Haile, or "devilish Tom", as he was called, and as usual, he was spinning some of his laughable yarns; but when I spoke the name of Franklin Murphy as probably connected with the house
burning, he stopped short in his conversation, and after a moment's reflection he proposed to go with me to see some of his old friends. To this I readily consented. and after selecting another man, we started on our way. we passed through Stoddard and then into Wayne county after a man by name of Stokes. He had fed me on my previous trips, inducing me to believe that he was a substantial Southern man; I learned shortly afterwards that he was laying plans for my capture, and had, more than once, put the Federals on my trail. Notwithstanding I had these statements from good authority, I was unwilling to take his life until I knew to my own certain knowledge that he was guilty. I did not wish to fall into the error, so common among the Federals, of killing an innocent man to gratify the personal enmity of some informer.
Just after dark I went to his house alone, he greeted me in a very cordial manner and remarked: "Well, Mr. Hildebrand, I'm glad to see you-hope you are well-and are yet too smart for the Feds."
"Are there any Feds in Greenville?"
"None, sir, none 'at all; I was there to-day; the place is entirely clear of the scamps. By the way, Mr. Hildebrand, are you alone?"
"Oh yes; I am taking this trip by myself:"
"Glad to assist you, sir; You must stay with me to-night; I'll hide you tomorrow in a safe place; can go on to-morrow night if you like; would like for you to stay longer."
I thanked him for his proffered assistance, but told him that as I had troubled him so often I would go to a neighbor's about a mile off and stay until the next night. I went back a short distance to where my men were and waited about an hour.
My two men after putting on the Federal uniform, rode around the place and approached the house from another direction; they rode up in a great hurry and called Mr. Stokes out. Tom Haile in a very confidential tone commenced: " Well sir, we are on the hot track of Sam Hildebrand! he is here again; he robbed a man down on the Greenville road, five miles below here, about sunset; he came in this direction, and we concluded to ride down to your house thinking that you might have seen or heard something of him." " I reckon I have, by George! Sam Hildebrand was here not more than an hour ago, and I tried to detain him; he was alone and said he was going to stay until to-morrow night at a certain house; I know the place; hold on a minute! I'll get my gun and coat and will go with you-we've got him this time, sure I" . "All right," said Tom, "come along; we are always glad to meet a man of your stripe."
He marched along with the boys until they came to where I was waiting for them; Stokes had forgotten to ask many questions, but on coming up to me in the dim moonlight he asked, "how many men have you?" one of my men answered "twelve."
He at once began laying plans for my capture, and related what he had done on previous occasions to capture Sam Hildebrand, but that Sam was too sharp for him. "When I thought that he had said enough I stopped him with the remark-" I am Sam Hildebrand myself!" and emptied old" Kill-devil " into his bosom.
We then proceeded on, traveling altogether in the night, until about day-break; one morning we got near the ruins of the old Hildebrand homestead, and called at the house of a friend. Knowing that we were in an enemy's country and liable to be trailed, we could not sleep, nor could we travel in the daytime, considering the fact that if our enemies got after us we would have to run about one hundred and fifty miles to get out of their lines, and that the government had no less than four thousand men in active employment all the time for the especial purpose of capturing me. We secreted our horses in a thicket under a bluff and entered a cave nearby, which was afterwards called by my name. Our friend remained in the cave a few minutes with us, and it was from him I learned the particulars of the atrocities committed by the Federal troops, in the murder of my poor innocent brother Henry.
I shall not attempt to describe my feelings, when the truth flashed across my mind that all my brothers had been slain in cold blood-Frank, first, and now the other two - leaving me not a brother upon earth except my brother William, who was in the Federal army, but whose well known loyalty was not sufficient to shield his neutral brothers from an indiscriminate butchery. For several hours I remained quietly in the cave, studying the matter over, but finally my mind wall made up. I determined to sell my life as dearly as possible, and from that moment wage a war of fire and blood against my persecutors, while one should last, or until I was numbered with the dead.
I hastily gathered my arms; only one word escaped escaped my lips: Revenge!" sounded and reechoed from the deepest recesses of the cavern, and with one wild rush I made for the mouth of the cave; but my two men happening to be there, sprang to their feet and choked up the passage; but near it was another outlet- I dashed through it, and down the steep declivity I hastily made my way, and mounted my horse. But Haile was close after me, and before I could pass around a fallen tree he had my horse by the bridle.
"Hold on, Sam! Don't be a fool. If you are going to throw your life away, you cannot expect to kill a dozen; if you take your own time. you may kill a thousand! If I go back without you, what could I tell your wife and children? Come, Sam, you must not forget your duty to them. See how they have clung to you! Light now, and go with me to the cave."
I have but a faint recollection of going back to our retreat; but when I awoke it was nearly sunset, and Tom soon had me laughing in spite of myself. When night came we moved our position about five miles, to the residence of William Patton, as he was a man whom I particularly wanted; but we were unsuccessful; he was at home when we first went there, but by some means he succeeded in eluding our grasp. We left there, and before daylight we had secreted our horses in a thicket on Turkey Run, a small creek emptying into Big river above Addison Murphy's, and had stationed ourselves near the residence of Joe McGahan, on the different roads leading to his house. About eight o'clock in the morning I concluded that it was fruitless to watch for him any longer; so I proposed to repair to Franklin Murphy's residence, which was not more than a mile from where we were; but Tom suggested that we must now return to our horses and consult as to our future movements.
We found our horses all right; but when I expressed a desire to stir up Franklin Murphy for being present at the burning of my mother's house, and several other little incidents that led me to think strangely of his conduct, Tom Haile replied: "I do not believe that he sanctioned, in any manner, the outrages of which you speak; he could not rescue your brother Frank from the hands of a mob who seemed to have the sanction of public opinion; he could not prevent an army of soldiers, acting under the command of another man, from burning the house, nor from killing your brother Henry. Once for all, let me tell you that it will never do for you to attempt to harm that man. He is a member of a certain Order, that dates back for thousands of years; the members are bound together by an obligation to watch over each other's interests, and to shield each other, as much as possible, from any impending danger."
Tom was so sincere, and looked so serious-which was not common with him-that I told him I never would harm one of them, if I knew it, unless it was in self defense.
We now thought it best to make our way back to Arkansas. We passed through Farmington and Fredericktown on the following night, and then camped in the woods until evening. We started before night, in order to capture some fresh horses. Dressed in Federal uniforms, we were riding along the road in Madison county, when on passing a farm, I saw a fine looking horse in a lot near the house. I halted my men, dismounted and went up to the horse to catch him, but he was a little shy, and kept his head as far from me as possible. While I was thus trying to get a halter on the spirited animal, a woman stepped onto the porch
and bawled out: " See here I What are you trying to do?"
"I'm trying to catch this horse."
" Let him alone, you good-for-nothing! Don't you look pretty, you miserable scamp, trying to steal my only horse! "
"Yes, madam, but I'm afraid you are a rebel."
" I am a rebel, sir, and I'm proud of it! I have two sons in the rebel army, and if I had six more they should all be in it. You white-livered, insignificant scum of creation I you had better let him alone. Why, you are worse than Sam Hildebrand! He wouldn't take the last horse from a poor widow woman! "
By this time I had caught the horse, but as soon as the woman made that last remark, I pulled the halter off, begged her pardon and left. On getting to headquarters, Tom never let me rest about that adventure.
Another trip to Missouri.- Fight near Fredericktown.- Horse shot from under him.-Killed four Soldiers - Went into their camp at Fredericktown and stole four horses - Flight toward the South.-Robbed "Old Crusty."- Return to Arkansas.
While I was recruiting at our headquarters in Green county, Arkansas, Capt. Bolin and most of his men returned to rest themselves for a while. Of course our time passed off agreeably, for we all had so much to say, and so much to listen to, that the mind was actively engaged all the time, rendering it impossible for time to drag heavily. Having thoroughly rested myself, on the 25th day of August I selected three men, and we started on a trip to St. Francois county, Missouri. Nothing unusual occurred until we arrived in Madison county. On getting within about eight miles of Fredericktown, daylight overtook us, and we stopped at an old friend's house for breakfast, who had always treated us kindly, for I had stopped with him several times on my previous trips. He stated to us that there were no troops in Fredericktown. Upon receiving this information, from a source, as we supposed, so reliable, we felt quite free, and resolved to make our journey on that day to my old home on Big river. So, after getting our breakfast and feeding our horses, we made our way quietly to our usual place of crossing the gravel road leading from the Pilot. Knob to Fredericktown, when we were suddenly fired on from the brush by about fifty soldiers. Fortunately for us, we had not kept 'the usually travelled path that crossed the road at the place where the soldiers were stationed in ambush; consequently we were about two hundred yards from them, and none of us were hurt, though my horse was shot from under me; the ball that pierced his chest, passing through my pantaloons, slightly burning my knee.
At the word from me my three men whirled into the brush, and we retreated back in the direction from which we came, my men on horses and myself on foot. I was still lame from the effects of the wound received at Flat Woods, but we made good time, and effected our escape. On getting about a mile, I ordered my men to hitch their horses in a thicket, and we would hold the place if they undertook to follow us. After waiting for some time and not hearing from them, we concluded to make our way cautiously back to where we had been fired upon, and try to get a shot. We crept slowly up, and saw six or seven men near the place, but we could not get close enough from the side we were on; so we made our way in the direction of Pilot Knob about a mile, crossed the gravel road behind a hill, and came up on the opposite side.
We got in sight of them just in time to see a party ride up, leading our three horses; at this, I concluded to try one of them at long range, seeing distinctly from our position that we could get no closer without exposing ourselves too much. I pulled off old" Kill-devil" at one of them who wore shoulder-straps; at the crack of the gun the gentleman got a very hard fall, which, I am fearful, killed him. At this they concluded to follow us into our native woods, for which they paid very dearly.
They made a dash on us, which caused us to scatter in different directions, to divide their party up into several squads. Each one of us took a course through the woods in the roughest places we could find, which rendered it very difficult for them to follow. I stopped at every place, such as fallen timber, steep banks and high rocks, to get a pop at them, and would be off again in a different direction.
Sometimes I was in front, sometimes at one side, and frequently in the rear. I was pleased to see them have so much pluck, for it afforded old "Kill-devil" an opportunity to howl from every knob and dense thicket in the wild woods until about one o'clock in the evening, when they gave up the chase and quit the unequal fight.
On meeting my men, at dark, on the top of a certain high hill designated by me in the morning, I had four new notches on the stock of old "Kill devil," indicating by that rough record that four more of my enemies had gone to that land where the righteous would cease from troubling them or making them afraid. Two of my men had killed a man apiece, and the other had made what we call in fishing ., a water haul." I suppose, however, that he betook himself into some secure corner to meditate on the uncertainty of all human affairs until the danger was over.
The Federals, on the next day, started in search of us with three or four hundred men; but their numbers being so great, we did not make war upon them that day. At night it rained very hard, and whilst it was raining we went into Fredericktown; finding all things quiet about camp, we managed to steal a horse apiece from them, but did not get the saddles and bridles, as we were in a hurry. We got about thirty miles on our way back to Arkansas before morning-each of my men riding bare· backed, with only a halter for a bridle. I stopped, however, at the old gentleman's where we had got breakfast, for the purpose of having a small settlement with him, as he had deceived us in regard to the soldiers at Fredericktown, and, as we believed, had reported us, for we noticed that his son, a lad about fifteen years old, had rode off while we were eating our breakfast on that morning. I stopped, but the old man was not at home, so I took an old saddle and bridle from him, and went on to Arkansas, leaving the Federals to hunt for us, which we were told they kept up about ten days.
Before reaching Arkansas, however, for the purpose of laying in our winter's supplies, we diverged about twenty miles from our usual course to pay our
respects to an old Union man living at the crossroads, who had caused the expulsion of two families from the neighborhood by reporting on them.
He still had the remnants of what had once been a full country store. No Federal soldiers happened to be near the premises at the time, so we rode up to his house about sunset, and while I left one man at his door to prevent anyone from leaving the house, we went with the old crusty fellow to the store. He was not disposed to be accommodating, but we bought everything that we could put upon
our horses and upon a mule that we borrowed of him, and, after telling him to charge it to Uncle Sam, with the Big river mob for security, we left, and before morning were out of the reach of danger.
On reaching camp, we relieved the needy, not forgetting the two families that "Old Orusty" had driven from his neighborhood.
Trip with three men.- Captured a Spy and shot him.- Shot Scaggs.- At night charged a Federal camp of one hundred men.- Killed nine men.- Had one man wounded.- Came near shooting James Craig - Robbed Bean's store and returned
My family still remained in Cook settlement, in St. Francois county, Mo., and as they were in the enemy's country, I did not think it prudent to pay them a visit, knowing that it would only bring ruin upon them if the fact of my visit should ever become known to the Unionists in that county. But determined by some means or other to effect their escape to Arkansas as soon as it would be prudent to make the attempt. Capt. Bolin and his men had promised me their co-operation if called upon for that purpose; but I was well aware that our whole force would be insufficient for the accomplishment of the object, if attempted by force of arms, for two or three thousand men could be brought against me in less than twenty-four hours.
To keep myself well posted in regard to the strength of the enemy along the route, I selected three of Quantrill's men, and in the latter part of September, started on another raid into Missouri.
On arriving at the St. Francis river we found it swimming, but made no halt on that account, having by this time become inured to all kinds of hardships and dangers.
On the second day after we started we left the main road and diverged several miles to our right, for the purpose of traveling in day time. On getting within sight of a house we discovered some one run into the 'yard, and immediately afterwards we saw a little boy running toward a barn. The movement being a little suspicious, we dashed forward and were soon on each side of the barn. We discovered a man through a crack, and demanded his surrender; he came to the door and threw up his hands. On taking him back into the barn, we discovered his bundle to contain a complete Federal uniform, and when we noticed that the citizen's dress which he had on was much too small for him, we at once pronounced him a Federal spy. We found a letter in his pocket, written by a man by the name of Scaggs, to the authorities at Fredericktown, containing the names of his rebel neighbors, whom he was desirous of having burned out. One of the men in the list I happened to know, and by that means I knew that Scaggs lived about seven miles from there. We took the spy half a mile and shot him, then, changing our course, we started on the hunt for Scaggs, whose residence, however, we did not find until after dark. Dressed in Federal uniform, we rode up to the gate and called him out. On arresting him we took him to the house of a friend, who told us that Scaggs had already made two widows in that neighborhood by reporting their husbands. We took him with us until daylight appeared, hung him to a limb in the woods, and made our way toward Castor creek, in Madison county.
The next night, on crossing Castor creek, we discovered a camp of Federals; judging them to be about twenty or thirty strong, we concluded to charge them for a few minutes; but on getting into their camp we found that there were three or four times as many as we expected; so we charged on through as quick as possible, still two of our horses were killed and one of my men we slightly wounded in the fleshy part of his thigh. After getting through their camp, we captured the four pickets who were placed in a lane on the opposite side. As we came from the wrong direction, they mistook us for their own men, until we had taken them in. My two men who had lost their horses, now mounted those taken from the pickets. As soon as the pickets told us that they were Leeper's men, we shot them and hurried on.
On our return, at another time, we were told by the citizens that we killed five and wounded several more in our charge through their camp; making nine men killed, including the pickets. My wounded man could not be kept in Missouri with any degree of safety, and according to the usage of the petty tyrants who commanded the little squads of Federals, it would have been death to any man under whose roof the wounded man might have taken refuge; the man, without any questions asked, would have been shot, his house and property burned, and his wife and children turned out into the world, houseless, forlorn and destitute. To avoid the infliction of such a calamity upon any of our friends, my wounded man was under the necessity of making his way alone back into Arkansas.
My other two men and myself traveled the remainder of the night in the direction of my old home in St. Francois county. I learned that a prolonged
effort was made on the following day to trail us up to our camp in the woods; but a rain having fallen about daylight, our tracks were entirely destroyed. On the following night we made our way to the house of a friend, near the ruins of my once happy home. Here I remained, resting myself and scouting over the country on foot, two whole days and nights, trying to shoot some of the miscreants who had belonged to the old mob, but they kept themselves so closely huddled that I had no chance at them.
On the second day, however, while lying near the road, James Craig, captain of the mob-which by this time had assumed the name of Militia-with two men whom I did not recognize, came along, riding very fast. I got a bead on Craig, but my gun did not fire; and I will say here, that this was the only time during the war that old "Kill-devil" deceived me.
On returning to my friend near my old home, he stated to me that our horses, which we had concealed in a nook in one of the bluffs of Big river, had been discovered by some boys who were hunting, and that they had gone to report to the militia.
Upon receiving this intelligence, we started at once to our horses, found them all right, and, not being satisfied with the results of our trip, we concluded to obtain some supplies from our good Union friends before leaving. We got on Flat river about the middle of the afternoon, and rode up to a store kept by the sons of John Bean, one of whom belonged to the Vigilance mob-but he was not there.
The boys had sense enough to make no demonstration, so, without damaging anything whatever, I took such things as we needed, in part payment for my property which the mob had destroyed.
The boys looked a little displeased; they considered us bad customers, and did not even take the trouble to book the articles against us. The militia, having received the report of the boys, mustered their whole force and, on the following day, struck our trail and overtook us between Pilot Knob and Fredericktown; they followed us about ten miles, but only got sight of us occasionally on the tops of hills we had to pass over. Night came, and we neither saw nor heard them any more. We traveled all night and about daylight we rode up to the house of a man named Slater, in the southern part of Wayne county, Missouri, for whom we had been watching for some time. He had made himself very busy ever since the beginning of the war by reporting Southern men. He succeeded in having several of them imprisoned, and their families impoverished. We found him at home; his manhood wilted like a cabbage leaf; we took him about a mile from home and shot him.
We then pursued our way home to Green county, Arkansas, and divided our spoils amonKst the destitute families driven there by the ruthless hands of Northern sympathizers.
The Militia mob robs the Hildebrand estate.- Trip with ten men - Attacks a Government train with an escort of twenty men - Killed two and put the others to flight.
Directly after the termination of my last trip, certain events transpired in St. Francois county of which it is necessary that the reader should be informed.
I have already stated that the infamous Vigilance mob finally came to a head by the organization of its worst material into a militia company with James Oraig for captain and Joe McGahan for first lieutenant. As Craig could neither read nor write, and did not know his alphabet from a spotted mule, the lieutenant was actually the head and front of the marauders. Their design in assuming the form and style of a militia company was merely for the purpose of legalizing their acts of plunder. They did not pretend to take the field against the Rebels, or to strike a single blow in defense of the State or anything else. While drawing their pay from the government, they spent their time hunting hogs, sheep, and cattle belonging to other people.
Having killed all my brothers but one (and he was in the Union army where they could not reach him), they proceeded to divide the property of the Hildebrand estate among themselves. Mother, though decidedly a Union woman originally, they had long since driven her off to Jefferson county, with nothing but her bed and Bible. The homestead had been burned, yet there was an abundance of stock belonging to the estate, and a large field of standing corn.
They collected the stock and gathered the corn, and then proceeded to divide it among themselves. In this division they disagreed very much; a question arose whether an officer was entitled to any more than a private, and a few of them went home declaring that they would not have anything if they could not get their share.
At the very time this valorous militia company had stacked their muskets against the fence and were chasing mother's sheep and pigs around through the dog fennel, I was capturing a government train and getting my supplies in an honorable manner.
About. the first of November, 1862, having learned that the Federals were in the habit of hauling their army supplies to Bloomfield from Cape Girardeau on the Mississippi river, Capt. Bolin and myself determined to lily in our supplies from the same source.
We took ten men and started with about ten days' rations. Arriving on a stream called White Water, which, with Castor creek, forms the Eastern fork of St. Francis river, we concealed ourselves in an unfrequented part of the woods. It was necessary that we should be thoroughly posted in regard to the expected time of the arrival of the train, and the probable strength of the escort.
I undertook this delicate mission disguised as a country farmer, in search of a stray mule. without my gun I made my way on foot to the vicinity of a mill and there concealed myself near a road to a wait the arrival of some one going to mill. Presently a man came along with a cart and oxen, but I let him pass, fearing that my questions might arouse his suspicions.
I remained there nearly an hour for some boy to pass; at length I saw one at a distance coming slowly along, riding on his sack and whistling little fragments
of " John Brown." I stepped into the road before he got near me and walked along until I met him. I asked about my mule, but of course he knew nothing about him. I told him that I had concluded to hunt no further, but that I was anxious to return to Bloomfield if I could only meet with a conveyance for I was tired of walking so much. He told me that the government wagons would pass there on the following day and perhaps I could get a ride. I told him that I would be afraid to do that for the Rebels might capture me; he said that there was no danger of that, for twenty soldiers always went with the wagons.
I returned to my comrades with all the information we wanted. and we soon settled all our preliminary arrangements for the attack. After dark we took the road along which we knew they were to pass; we selected a place called the Round Pond, and secreted ourselves in a clump of heavy timber through which the soldiers could not see, in order that they might imagine the woods full of Rebels. Night passed and the morning hours wore away, when at length we saw two government wagons coming, and in the sunlight sure enough, twenty bayonets were gleaming.
We suddenly broke from the woods with a great shout, and dashed in among them with all the noise we could make. We fired a few shots, killing two and causing the remainder to break for the woods in every direction. The sole object of our trip being to get supplies of clothing, ammunition, etc., we felt no disposition to hunt them down, but let them continue their flight without any pursuers. We unhitched the horses and packed them with such things as we needed; after which w burned the wagons and every thing else we could not take with us.
On starting back we went through Mingo Swamp and made our way safely to St. Francis river, which we found out of its banks. With a great deal of difficulty we succeeded in swimming the river with our train, but with the loss of one man named Banks, who unfortunately was drowned. Becoming entangled in a drift of grape vines and brush, he drowned before we could render him any assistance.
To Next Page