Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


Chapter 11
Military History
Approved by Judge J. J. Gideon and Capt. George M. Jones

Part 10
When the War Was Over


But finally, in the language of Tennyson, "the war drums throbbed no longer," a most welcome time to the people of Greene county. It was about the first of April that news reached Springfield that General Lee's army in Virginia was in a bad way, then Richmond, the Confederate capital, was occupied by the Union army and on April 9th Lee surrendered his forces at Appomattox. Finis was written at the close of the bloody, terrible and disgraceful chapter in the history of the great western republic, a chapter that should never have been written, for it was a political war, pure and simple, entirely unnecessary, and so awful in its results that the nation will never recover from it, from a physical standpoint at least. It was at last over, but the ruin, wreck, woe, poverty, depravity, suffering, hatred, animosity, vindictiveness, malevolence and a thousand other regrettable things that always follow in the train of the martial god Mars, were to remain and to no little extent still remain after the lapse of a half century, the unsightly scars still visible, for time cannot wholly erase the marks of that which once has been. If the leaders on both sides could have foreseen these horrible results some way would have been found to avoid war.

Although Springfield had no railroad at that time, it will be remembered. that the telegraph had been extended through southwestern Missouri, and the wires brought the news of the surrender the day it occurred, and on the night of April 10th the Union people of Greene county held a great celebration in Springfield, citizens and soldiers alike participating. Bonfires were built which could be seen for many miles in every direction, a salute of two hundred guns were fired from the forts. Liquor flowed freely, and orders were issued that any sober man who was found on the streets after nine o'clock should be fined and forced to drink a liberal portion of his fine. On the other hand, there was sadness in the homes of the Confederate sympathizers, but they had for some time foreseen the inevitable end of their cherished. dreams and had resigned themselves to their fate with admirable stoicism.

Some of the Missouri Confederates were among the very last to give up their arms, including a portion of Shelby's brigade, at that time a part of Gen. Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi army. Gen. Sterling Price, Gen. Joe Shelby and about five hundred other Missouri soldiers went to Mexico, for awhile, but finally those who had followed the ill fortunes of the stars and bars began drifting back to their families and desolated farms in Missouri, many passing through Greene county, and others to their homes here. The vanquished wearers of the gray were, in most instances, allowed to return in peace to their own hearth-stones, but some brutes who wore the blue abused and mistreated them, and occasionally some were not permitted to remain, and others had to fight for the opportunity to be again with their families. But there were not many occurrences of this nature reported in Greene county, and in no instance was anyone murdered here simply because he had served in the Confederate army. [382]

During the Civil war a number of revolting crimes were committed in Greene county; in fact, there was scarcely a settlement in which one or more atrocious murders were not perpetrated. A few of these have been mentioned in this chapter, others will be found in the other chapters in this volume. They cannot be ignored by the historian, who must be impartial and set forth facts faithfully, sparing no one or favoring anyone, although these events form an ugly stain on the history of the county.

From time to time during this polemic strife military executions took place at Springfield, all the subjects being Federal soldiers who had been found guilty of murder, robbery, desertion and other crimes. In 1863 two soldiers were shot near the Fulbright spring for desertion and going over to the Confederates. In 1864 a soldier belonging to the regular army murdered a half-witted citizen out on the Fayetteville road for his money. He was tried by court-martial, sentenced to be shot, and executed south of town, near the Owen home. He was exceptionally cool in the presence of death and seemed utterly indifferent to his fate. When he was removed from the jail he assisted in placing his coffin in the wagon, on which he rode to the place of execution as if he had been going out for a holiday in the country. When the moment arrived for his execution he took the position of a soldier in front of a post, head erect, heels on a line little fingers extended along the seams of his trousers, and gazed steadily into the faces of his executioners. When the officer gave the command to the firing party to make ready the prisoner raised his hand and pointed to his heart significantly. The next moment when the command to fire was given six musket balls riddled his heart, but he did not drop suddenly, sinking slowly down by his post.

Another soldier was executed in the north part of town for deserting from the Fourth Missouri State Militia to Sid Jackman's bushwhackers.

The execution that attracted the most attention and comment was that of Lieutenant Charles Brownlee, a Confederate, in 1863. He was a resident of Moniteau county, and he was tried and convicted by a military commission of Boonville of being engaged in murder, robbery and burning houses in which people were living at the time, in Monitcau and Cooper counties. The commission sentenced him to be shot, and General Schofield, then in command of the department of Missouri, approved both finding and sentence but before the latter could be executed, Brownlee made a sensational escape from jail in Boonville, aided by his sweetheart, and got safely away into Arkansas, where he joined the Confederate army and was commissioned a lieutenant, serving until the close of the war. In the spring of 1865 he started north with the intention of making his way into central Missouri, and passed through Greene county. A scouting party of Federals captured him in Polk county and brought him to Springfield, where he was recognized by some of the officers who had been members of the commission that had tried him at Boonville two years previously. Gen. G. M. Dodge, who was at that time commanding the department in Missouri, with headquarters in St. Louis, was at once notified by telegraph, and was asked what disposition to make of the prisoner. He promptly wired back tot carry out the sentence of the commission and to shoot him. A second telegram was sent the general, more fully explaining the case, and a reply was quickly received to the effect that Brownlee should be shot at once, as he was not a regular Confederate soldier. Whereupon, Lieutenant Brownlee prepared a written appeal to General Sanborn, asking that his sentence might be commuted to banishment during the war. This was a piteous supplication, and was later printed and widely distributed over the country. It was not in General Sanborn's power to grant the commutation asked for, but if he had been invested with the authority, no one believed he would have done so, since he even refused to recommend Brownlee to the clemency of General Dodge, saying: "I shoot my own murderers, robbers and house-burners, and I cannot show any favors to the enemy's rascals that I will not grant to my own." So the lieutenant was taken out just south of town and shot, May 11,1865. Much criticism resulted. Many of the Confederate sympathizers denounced the execution as purely a "military murder," and even many Federals, some of them officers, who knew all the facts in the case, thought that the ends of justice would have been satisfied had Lieutenant Brownlee's sentence been mitigated or commuted to banishment or life imprisonment, or even imprisonment for a term of years.

In no community in the United States did the news of the assassination of President Lincoln cause more profound regret than in Greene county, and in Springfield many of the business houses were closed, and the town was generally draped in mourning. Funeral ceremonies of an appropriate nature were held here on April 18th for the martyr. There were speeches, a procession and other forms of ceremony. A few of the more unreasonable Confederate sympathizers in the county freely expressed their delight and satisfaction because the President had been killed, and a few of the equally unreasoning Radicals desired to show their great grief by killing every unarmed "rebel sympathizer," as they called all Confederate families of the county; however the majority of the citizens conducted themselves with becoming propriety during the excitement. [384]

THE DRAKE CONSTITUTION.

The famous Drake Constitution was adopted by the state convention April 18, 1865, Mr. Mack, the delegate from Greene county, voting for it. It was to be presented to the voters for adoption on June 6th, and the canvass that time was one of great bitterness. Notwithstanding the fact that all the main Confederate armies had surrendered and the President of Confederacy was a prisoner, a number of guerrillas and bushwhackers continued to operate in Missouri, to the detriment of the peace and safety of the sections which they infested. Their presence furnished an excuse for keeping a number of Federal soldiers in the field and they were stationed in many counties, their principal duties being to hold the outlaws in check and punish them when apprehended. One of the sections (if the proposed new constitution provided that all those who had participated in or given any kind of voluntary aid or encouragement to the Confederate cause should be debarred from voting or holding office, as well as from teaching, preaching, practicing law and engaging in various pursuits, and all such were prohibited from voting for or against the adoption of the constitution. Nothing during the war caused among the people of this state a greater degree of hatred, malevolence, revenge and general ill-will. It caused heated discussions and brawls everywhere, the very character of the issue itself widening the chism caused by the war instead of assisting to obliterate it. Under this, the third section of the constitution, hundreds of taxpayers, many of them old and respected citizens, non-combatants during the war and men of education and influence, were disfranchised, and denied the privilege of the ballot in the decision of the momentous issue before the state. But the Radicals and supporters of the proposed constitution argued that citizens who, by overt or covert acts, had attempted to destroy their government; who had, by taking up arms against the Union, committed treason, or in deeds, words and sympathy given encouragement to those who had, were not and could not be proper recipients of the ballot. It was further maintained that, had the Confederate been successful, and Missouri become in reality one of the Confederate states, then every Union man in the state might have considered himself truly fortunate if be had been permitted to live in Missouri; that no Union soldier or militiaman, or those who had sympathized with either, would have been allowed to vote; and that, in all probability, General Price's threat, made early in the war, would have been carried out, and the two hundred and fifty million dollars' worth of property belonging to the Union people of the state would have been confiscated for the benefit of those who had supported the Confederate cause. [385]

The constitution was adopted by a small majority and went into effect July 4, 1865. Greene county cast an overwhelming vote in favor of the constitution, there being one thousand and seventy-one votes for it and two hundred and eight votes against it, making a majority, for the constitution of eight hundred and sixty-three.

The author of the new constitution was Charles D. Drake, of St. Louis, who was a strong pro-slavery man before the commencement of the Civil war. The bitter days when this constitution was in force have long since passed, but perhaps not all the hatred which it engendered, as many old Confederate veterans still retain vivid recollections of its workings.

Federal troops remained at Springfield some six months after the close of the war, or until the autumn of 1865, owing to the fact that large quantities of valuable government stores were here as well as the general hospital for the Army of the Frontier, and the fact that it was headquarters for this district. On May 18th General Mullings accepted the appointment as colonel of the Twelfth regiment of Missouri Militia, an organization perfected in 1865 to preserve the peace. There were two regiments of the Missouri Militia organized in Greene county. The other, the Thirteenth regiment, was commanded by Col. John Hirsh. General Mullings was placed in command of all the militia in this district. On June 9th the citizens met and passed resolutions complimentary to Gen. John B. Sanborn, who had been ordered from the command of the district of Springfield to take the field against the hostile Indians in Colorado. He was succeeded in this district by Brigadier-General McKean on June 20th. Five days later seventy-five Confederate soldiers from the old Trans-Mississippi army passed through Greene county on their way to their homes in various parts of southwestern Missouri. They met with no hostile treatment from the Federals at Springfield. A battalion of Colonel Gravelly's regiment, the Fourteenth Missouri Cavalry, which had been stationed in Greene county for some time, left on July 6th for Fort Riley, Kansas, with the intention of accompanying General Sanborn on his expedition against the western Indians. During this summer many bodies of Federal troops were ordered to Springfield to be paid off and mustered out of service. During the months of June and July Col. John D. Allen, of the Fifteenth Missouri Cavalry; Col. Thomas Derry, of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry; Col. Dudley Seward and Maj. Albert Barnitz, the two latter of the Second Ohio Cavalry, were successively in command of the post or sub-district of Springfield. The Second Wisconsin left for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on July 20th. Seven days later the general hospital at Springfield was reduced to a post hospital, and placed in charge of Doctor Moxley. Dr. H. S. Chenoweth had been relieved as surgeon of the post a few days previous. [386]

During the summer of 1865 the troops and men in the employ of the government at Springfield gradually diminished until by the latter part of the summer they were comparatively few. Bur they were turbulent and some of them rowdies and wicked. On June 20th the soldiers got on a general drunk and "took in the town," quarreled and engaged in a free-for-all fight among themselves, and with the civilians, one soldier shooting Dick Hornbuckle, a negro, without provocation. And on August 4th, Jerome Leeper, a government employee and a bad character, shot and killed, during a quarrel another government employee. Leeper had been released from confinement in the stockade only a day or two before. He escaped from the authorities and was not captured. On August 10th, the fourth anniversary of the battle of Wilson's Creek, the siege guns which had been planted in the forts at Springfield were removed and started for Rolla, escorted by two companies of the Second Ohio Cavalry. Other ordnance and the ordnance stores soon followed. In a few days four other companies of the Second Ohio Cavalry left for St. Louis to be mustered out. Four other companies of the same regiment were left behind.

FAREWELL TO THE MILITARY.

Military encampments and buildings began to disappear rapidly by the middle of August. The soldier must now turn his attention from the arts of war to the pursuits of peace. His services in the field were no longer required. It was back to the plow, the shop, the busy mart.

On August 10th a meeting was held in the court house at Springfield for the organization of a society to raise funds for the erection of a monument to the Federal soldiers on the battle-field of Wilson's Creek, but nothing of a tangible character ever came of the matter.

On September 18th a great sale of government property was held in Springfield by Quartermaster R. B. Owen, including five hundred head of horses and mules, many of them good ones, but they brought an average of only about forty dollars apiece. On September 12th the post hospital here was broken up, and the sick soldiers, now only four in number, were sent to Rolla. Doctor Moxley, the surgeon in charge, started for his home in Ohio the same day to be mustered out of service. About this date there arrived at their homes in Greene county Brevet Brig.-Gen. John E. Phelps and Captain Orr, both having just been mustered out with the Second Arkansas Cavalry. [387]

During the earlier part of the war the women of Springfield formed an association whose object was the maintenance of a soldiers' orphans' home, wherein the orphans of Federal soldiers who had been killed or died in the Union service could be cared for until they reached an age when they could care for themselves. Mrs. Mary Phelps, wife of John S. Phelps, former congressman and colonel of a Greene county regiment, was at the head of the association. For her services in caring for the body of General Lyon and the valuable assistance rendered the Federal army generally, Congress had given Mrs. Phelps the sum of twenty thousand dollars, and this she had mainly expended in fitting up the home for the fatherless children and in caring for them. At first the home was situated in the east part of town, later moved to a site about a mile south of the public square. For the purpose of raising additional funds for the home, Mrs. Phelps was the prime factor of "the orphans' fair," held in Springfield in the autumn of 1865, for which commendable work she was praised by the press all over the state.

The last squad of Federal soldiers in Greene county left during the month of September. These troops belonged to the Second Ohio Cavalry. On September 7th the four companies that had remained in Springfield to care for the government property went to Rolla, leaving only twenty men behind. But, five days later Captain Hillhouse, with twenty more men, returned and took charge of the post. These soldiers were all that were left at that time of the once great armies in Southwestern Missouri; but at last they, too, received marching orders on the morning of September 23d, and the bugler of that little troop announced to the people in prolonged bursts of notes that the dreadful reign of terror and bloodshed for Greene county was at last over, and in a short time Captain Hillhouse led his company along St. Louis street toward the well-beaten road that led to Rolla, the men shouting many a farewell to Springfield as they rode away out of sight, this, the rear guard of the mighty Army of the Frontier, and then was heard the faint notes of the bugle as it blew the "retreat!" As they passed the farms those who had worn the blue waved at them, and those who had worn the gray sighed musingly and turned to mend their broken fortunes. [388]


Next Part | Table of Contents | Keyword Search
Greene County History Home | Local History Home


 Springfield-Greene County Library