PROTECTING THE LIVES OF TWO PAROLED SOLDIERS
By S. C. Turnbo
There were some desperate fellows in the Civil War.
These ruffians killed indiscriminately unarmed men of the opposite side whenever they had the chance. These characters belonged to both armies and it was a shame to the honor of the regular armies of both north and south that these barbarians were tolerated in their wicked work. In some cases the commanders were not to blame for they could not help it and the cruel offender went unpunished. Mr. William Robinson, a member of the First Arkansas Cavalry on the union side gave the writer this account. "I remember shortly after the battle of Prairie Grove that the company I belonged to and another company of the regiment were sent from Fayetteville to Spring-field, Missouri, for supplies or in other words a train of wagons was sent and we were ordered to go along with it as an escort to guard the wagons to prevent them falling Into the hands of the confederates. I was well acquainted with a number of men who had enlisted In the southern army who had formerly lived in Pulaski County, Missouri, where I was born and partly raised. These men were my friends. Though we were divided in sentiments. They went south and I went north as the saying was then, yet I loved these men for they were good neighbors and the war did not spoil our friendship. True I thought they did wrong in defending some principles that the southern people held to, but I suppose they thought I did wrong in enlisting for the defense of the stars and stripes. I have never regretted in taking sides with the union and I do not suppose that a true confederate soldier was ever sorry that he contended for the sunny south. I am sorry to say that there were a few rough men in our regiment that had no mercy on confederate prisoners if they had an opportunity to display their cowardice without being exposed. A few days after the Battle of Prairie Grove a number of the confederate soldiers who lived in Missouri that were captured by our men in the fight at Prairie Grove were paroled to return to their respective homes. The federal authorities deemed it prudent to do this for they thought that after these men had returned home they would reconsider what they had done in taking up arms against the union and join the federal army and make as good soldiers on the government side as they had been for the southern confederacy and so they were paroled and sent on their way home to obey the laws in force where they lived. On our return back from Springfield with the wagon train of supplies we met several of these paroled soldiers on their way home and I also noticed that when we met these men and they had passed on some few of our most desperate and wicked men of our command would drop back and after they were gone we could hear the distant report of guns and it was not long before it leaked out that these men were murdering paroled confederates and that a few officers encouraged the dirty and brutal work of shooting these unarmed and defenseless men, Some of the men including some of the officers protested against this babarity but It done but little good. Finally we met two paroled men who were my neighbors in Pulaski County their names of which were Buck Elmore and Milton Brown. I recognized them but I did not get to speak to them and if they recognized me they did not let it be known. My brother Ezekiel Robinson was a member of the same company I was and we were riding side by side when the two southern men passed us. As soon as they had gone on by us I told my brother who they were for he failed to recognize them. I told him that we must not let them wicket men kill them and he agreed to help me interfere in their behalf. In a few minutes more we saw these same murderers drop back and we knew their purpose at once. I and my brother waited long enough until they rode just beyond our view and we followed them and urging our horses into a fast gallop as we overtaken them just as they had caught up with the two southern men who were traveling the main road and not making any efforts to shun us by turning to one side and following bypaths. The two southern boys were surprised at seeing four cavalry men dash up behind them and followed by two others and were horrified to find that the first four men were preparing to shoot them down, but we interfered and informed them if they shot them boys they would suffer for it and more than that if they killed them they would have to kill us too if they got in their shots first, they cursed terrible oaths for our interference but we told them that they could do their worst if they got in their work first. We told them we intended to protect them that they were on parole and none but cowards would take advantage of them. At this they called us traitors and all other mean epithets were hurled at us that they could think of,, finding that they dare not hurt the two men in our presence they reined their horses around and rode back toward the command. It was now that the two Southerners recognized I and my brother and thanked us very courteously for our timely interference in saving their lives. We had no time for further talk for we were compelled to leave them and galloped back and soon overtook the four men that wanted to kill them. They were sulky but we kept an eye on them for we were afraid they might go back and kill the two men yet but they did not. Some years after the great struggle had ended and what was left of us had settled down to citizenship again I met these same two men once more and after a cordial greeting of each other they informed me that they quit the main road after we left them and went through the woods and prairies and followed trails all the way to their homes in Pulaski County."
Springfield-Greene County Library