A STAMPEDE IN A BLACKJACK THICKET
By S. C. Turnbo
An account of a wartime incident as told me by Mr. James Thomas who was born and reared in Green County, Missouri, gives some idea of the terrible encounters of those stormy days. Mr. Thomas in relating the event said that while he lived four miles northeast of Springfield, Missouri, "The United States forces kept a stage stand in one mile of our house and a detachment of soldiers was kept constantly on hand to guard the stage line and stand. The stage coaches were used in carrying the mails, dispatches and other matter that was indispensable and consequently it was necessary to be well protected by federal cavalry. On the early morning of June lst, 1863, I noticed 14 mounted men ride across the road beyond the corner of our field. They appeared, to be traveling in a very cautious manner. I knew from their appearance that they were not federal, Their uniforms and equipments were different from the northern men and I pronounced them to be southern men. Our family that were living were union in sentiment and as we lived within the federal lines I deemed it prudent as well as my duty to report my discovery to the authorities though I was not quite ten years old. As soon as the party passed from my view I went in haste to a party of federal soldiers and told them what I had seen and some of them reported it immediately to their commanding officer and without the loss of a minute he ordered a number of mounted soldiers to make an investigation. As I was the informant they told me to go along with them and show them the way and where I saw the party cross the road and I complied with their orders for I knew better than to refuse. When we reached that part of the road where I had observed the cavalcade of men cross it the federal soldiers took up their trail and followed it to the edge of a blackjack thicket where the officer in charge of the soldiers halted his men and sent forward a few men on foot to reconnoitre the location of the enemy for it was presumed that they were concealed in the thicket until such time as they saw fit to come out to make an attack on the stage stand for the purpose of robbery. The detail of soldiers were instructed to be cautious and make as little noise as possible and locate the party and the men went on and gradually made their way through the thick grove of blackjacks and discovered them in a place where they were well shadowed by the thick clusters of blackjacks. They had all dismounted and were lounging around in the shade of the trees. some were lying down, others sitting up. Guns and equipments were lying scattered around in the grass. Their horses were turned loose to graze and were scattered here and there. They were certainly very careless and this neglection was their doom. They were so derelict that the reconnoitering party approached them near enough to make a minute detail of their carelessness without being discovered and after they had made all the investigation necessary they crept back to the main force and made their report which surprised the officer and men for they were convinced now that their carelessness indicated that they were not regular confederate soldiers but a band of guerrillas and robbers and were waiting until night to make a dash for spoils. The commander ordered all the men to dismount and leaving two or three men to take charge of the horses he lead his force into the thicket and after working their way through carefully and silently they came up near where the enemy were still displaying their ignorance and carelessness. The federals were ordered to fire a volley at the men and charge them which they did killing five men and wounding others. The survivors that were able fled in dismay nearly all of them leaving their horses, guns and equipments. It was a stampede of those that were left that were able to retreat and made their escape. The victors collected the horses together and the guns and saddles that were of value were gathered up and the wounded cared for. The federal soldiers did not tarry any longer than necessary for fear that other forces of the enemy might be nearby and attack them and lose what they had gained and taking the wounded with them they returned back to camps and a detail of men was sent back with tools to bury the dead and on arriving on the scene they dug a short and shallow trench and they carried the dead men and placed them down In it then they out off a lot of small blackjack brush and leaves and layed them on the dead forms and covered them over with dirt. One of the detail who helped to bury the dead was a tall fellow named George Smith and was a very wicket man and after they had buried the bodies and were preparing to leave this man Smith pointed his finger at the filled up trench where the dead men lay cursed them and says., "Lay there and take a nap till the woods burns and we will burn you with it." Among the wounded was a small lad of a boy who said that the party were guerrillas and they had him along with them for a waiter. This boy after recovering from his wounds enlisted in the federal army."
Springfield-Greene County Library