Volume 2 , Number 1 , Fall 1964
My father Page Woods was one of the first to join the Home Guards of Missouri. They were camped at Mount Vernon, Missouri, in the early part of the war. They were informed that there was a band of bushwhackers at Chesapeake, and that they were raiding farms, taking anything they could carry away, and making housewives prepare meals for them.
The captain dispatched a few men to go to Chesapeake to investigate. My father was one to go, and there was also a little man by the nickname of "Snooks" with them. These bush-whackers or thieves were hidden in the woods near a spring and as the small band of Home Guards approached they fired on them.
Being outnumbered, the Home Guards turned their horses back toward Mount Vernon. A bullet from the enemy killed Snooks horse. Snooks started running as soon as his horse fell and my father said he was keeping speed with the horses for about one hundred yards. Dad saw that he was going to be left and hollered to him to get on a stump that was near the road and get on behind him.
They made it back to camp and informed the Captain what had happened.
More men were sent back, but no trace of the bushwhackers was seen.
Later, my father was ordered into the main Army and was on his way home on a furlough. As he was nearing home he noticed a company of men at a neighbors house. They were drinking something, and he supposed it was a few men who had gathered there for a neighborhood talk. Some had on Army clothes and others were in civilian clothes. He stopped near enough to hear their conversation, and a big man in blue told Dad he was a prisoner and to hand over his pistols. He started to pull out two cap and ball guns when the Captain hollered, "Unbuckle that belt. These boys will kill you." The Captain took his arms and ordered him to ride with him. One can imagine Dads feelings at that moment.
They turned South and rode all day and until after dark. The Captain ordered a halt at a farmhouse somewhere in North Arkansas, and told them all to dismount and feed their horses. When that was done, he told Dad to come with him and they went into the house. The Captain ordered supper for them all. Another prisoner began to complain about being sick as soon as they got their horses cared for.
When supper was ready, Dad asked the head man if he might eat at the first table, and was granted the privilege.
After they had finished their meal, one of the women asked the Captain if she might talk to "this man", pointing to Dad. The Captain granted her request if she wouldnt let him get away, and she assured him she would not.
She asked Dad to come in the kitchen, and told him they thought that the man who said he was sick was trying to get away and that he was one of the men that had burnt her sisters house. That put Dad to thinking fast. He said, "You ladies dont know whose hands youre in." One of the women said, "Thats what Ive been telling Sis."
The prisoner did get away and there wasnt anything said concerning the house burning. Dad always thought he saved the fellows life.
Next, they were all ordered to get ready for another days ride. They went on South, crossed the Boston Mountains, and stopped near Russelville, Arkansas. They had traveled three days and always waited until after dark to put up for the night.
One morning the man in blue told Dad for him to be slow in getting ready and when the last man was on the road for him to turn his horse toward home and ride, and fast. That morning the Captain didnt say anything about Dad riding with him, just ordered everyone on the road. He told Dad, "If these boys overtake you, they will kill you." Dad turned his horse in the opposite direction and was in a run from the first. He had a long start on the road, and stopped his horse to let him get his wind. He heard two horses coming in a run. He rode up to a cornfield and kicked off two rails. He made his horse jump in the field and he rode out in the corn out of sight and stopped. The men came up and saw his horses tracks leave the road. One of them said, "Hes went through the field", and they ran their horses around to head him off.
Dad went back and made his horse jump back on the road and put the spurs to him. He didnt stop anymore until noon.
That country was a wilderness; no houses to get a meal or feed for his horse. At noon he pulled the saddle and blanket off his horse and turned him loose to graze. Dad laid down on the ground to rest, and then back on his horse to finish the days ride. It took him almost three days to get home.
His home folks nor his Army company didnt know what had happened to him. But anyway he got home unharmed except for exposure and being tired, as well as his horse. He was glad to be there and alive.
Dad never did know what had become of the other prisoners or just who the men were, maybe a Southern Army inspection of Missouri to find out the location of the Unions encampments.
When I was a boy, I would sit up of nights and listen to him tell of his encounters during his three years in the Union Army. He was in the Wilson Creek and Pea Ridge fights, and was a dispatch bearer in both battles. He rode the same gray horse all through the War, and said he never had him outrun when they had to turn tails.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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