Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri • ca. 1914

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 1
Military History of Greene County Before the Civil War

No one conversant with the facts can deny that of the one hundred and fourteen counties of Missouri, none has a more interesting or important military history than Greene county. From her earliest organization down to he present time, covering a period of eighty years, her citizens have proved their patriotism and gallantry on many a "blood red field of Mars," unhesitatingly offering their services and their lives, if need be, on the altar of their country in every war; and neither this or any other state of our Union has produced a braver, more intelligent or effective body of soldiers. This is partly accounted for by the fact that their progenitors were military men, having fought in the early wars gf the nation, their fathers and grandfathers shedding their blood in the Revolution and the War of 1812, enlisting in the defense of "the flag that has never touched the ground," from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas and others of our older states. Another reason is that the earlier residents of Greene county were outdoor men, engaged in farming for the most part, and, the country being new and well stocked with game of all kinds, they were hunters and familiar with firearms, most of them being expert marksmen, consequently they loved adventure, camp life and enjoyed the familiar feel of their trusted weapons. But whatever the cause, they covered themselves with glory, and their descendants will always be proud of their war records.


It was believed up to some two years ago that only one veteran of the Revolutionary war ever settled in Greene county, but, thanks to the Springfield Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution, it has been found that six of the soldiers who fought in our war for independence wended their way from the Atlantic seaboard, most of them stopping in Tennessee a short time, then coming on to Greene county in the thirties, and here spent the rest of their lives. They were named as follows: William Freeman, who was one of General Washington's scouts, was the first of the present numerous and well known Freeman family here. He died about the middle of the nineteenth century and was buried in the National Cemetery here. James Barham died in 1864 and is buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery near Bois D'Arc. Timothy Scruggs died in the early forties and is buried in the Griffin Cemetery at old Delaware Town, four miles south of Battlefield. Samuel Steele died in the early forties and is buried at Mt. Comfort, near Hickory Barrens. David Bedell, who died in 1840, is buried in Old Salem Cemetery, near Hickory Barrens.. His brother-in-law, Elisha Headlee, died a year later and was also buried in the Old Salem Cemetery. Nathan Clifton settled very early in the eastern part of this county, later a part of Webster county, his death occurring near Marshfield at a very advanced age, in 1864. His daughter Evaline remained unmarried in order to take care of him in his old age, and she lived to be ninety-six years old, dying on April 15, 1912, just across the line from Greene county. [229-230]


The first military service in which the citizens of Greene county participated was the Osage war. Not much of a "war," it is true, but worthy of historical record, nevertheless. When the pioneers settled here in the early thirties this entire section of the state was occupied by the Osage Indians, and in the winter of 1836-37 numerous bands of this tribe lived in various parts of Greene county, and they became more or less annoying to the settlers. Governor Lilburn W. Boggs was appealed to in the matter, and he ordered Col. Charles S. Yancey, who at that time was in command of a Greene county company of militia, to compel the Indians to at once leave this country, cross. the state line and remain there, on their allotted lands in the Indian Territory. The object in forcing the red men to retire was to protect the settlers and prevent a collision between them and the Osages. When Colonel Yancey went to notify the head chiefs of the tribe of governor's order, he was accompanied by Lieut. Col. Chesley Cannefax and Capt. Henry Fulbright, the colonel deeming it unwise to call out his regiment until it became absolutely necessary, believing it better that he go in person among the Indians and inform them of his mission. The three officers, on a clear cold morning, set out to visit the camps of the red men which were located to the south and southwest of Springfield. They were accompanied by a negro boy named Charley, who had been reared among the Delawares, who had also occupied a portion of southwestern Missouri, and the lad was well versed in various Indian dialects, so acted as interpreter. The first night out the party stopped with William Brooks, near the site of old Linden. The following day Brooks accompanied the party, and all night they camped on Bryant's fork on the North fork of White river, and while there the snow fell to the depth of eighteen inches. The following morning Brooks abandoned the party, and as he was a great hunter and familiar with the country, Colonel Yancey tried to persuade him to remain with them until the Indians were found. Here the party debated for some time as to whether they should turn back, but finally pushed on over the rugged hills and through the deep snow banks.

They came upon the first party of Indians near the mouth of Flat creek, in what is now Stone county. It was a large party, all mounted on ponies, and was just starting on a bear hunt. Colonel Yancey was dressed in full regimentals with cocked hat, sword, sash, epaulets and plumes, and, being a robust man physically, of unusual height, presented quite an imposing appearance. He knew the savages; love for pomp and display, and believed his "armorial bearing" would make a deep impression upon them. As the officers drew up, the Indians halted, huddled together, gazing at the party a few moments without uttering a word, then, raising a shrill and peculiar yell, galloped rapidly past the colonel and his men and disappeared in the forest, giving no heed even to Charley, who called to them in their own language. The wild yell of the hunters was answered, caught up and repeated, echoing from hill to hill and was sent up and down the valley, except to the north, a circumstance which the visitors noted and which occasioned them a great deal of uneasiness. Although they hardly knew how to interpret their strange conduct, the Indians were followed. Colonel Cannefax later said, in speaking of the incident: "I did not like the signs, and, as I rode up alongside Colonel Yancey, I looked to see if there was any change in his face, and I thought there was; but, if we were both scared, 'neither of us spoke our thoughts." After several surprises and much perturbation, the officers finally came upon the Indian camp, where the entire band had gathered in the meantime, and had made a hideous savage toilet of feathers, paint, beads, bear-claws, deer-hoofs, and other Indian finery, presumably for the purpose of giving their strange visitors a proper reception. From his dress the Indians had concluded that Colonel Yancey was a person of great consequence, perhaps the "Great White Father" himself from Washington.

A cordial reception was tendered the officers, who were led to the tent of Chief Naw-paw-i-ter, to whom the governor's message was delivered through Charley, the interpreter. The chief expressed regret in being compelled at once in such inclement weather, owing to the condition of his tribesmen, who were, he said, not prepared for a long journey through the snow and cold. He said there were in camp about two hundred of his people, warriors, squaws and papooses.. He asked his pale-face brothers to give him a few days' time, that the weather might moderate, so that the women and children would not suffer. To this wish Colonel Yancey very considerately and very readily consented, giving a written permission to Chief Naw-paw-i-ter to remain with his people where he was for a few days' time or until the unusual cold weather had passed. The conference over the party was hospitably and bountifully entertained by the Indians, and the following morning the officers resumed their journey, hunting other bands of Osages, spending several days in a fruitless quest until, on their homeward journey, they suddenly came upon a large band of Indians, composed of all the hunting parties in the southwestern part of the state. This was at a saw-mill in Barry county, about thirty-five miles southwest of Springfield. The red men seethed to be engaged in preparation for some important enterprise. One warrior rode among his fellows brandishing his tomahawk, bow and arrows, and now and then making indecent gestures toward the whites. As the assemblage had the general appearance of a war-council, Colonel Yancey and his aides held a council of their own to determine what should be done. He and Captain Fulbright thought it better to visit the Indians and deal cautiously with them, and induce them with fair speeches to return to their reservation, as they had with the first band. However, Colonel Cannefax did not share their views, believing the situation demanded more drastic measures, wishing to return home, get the militia regiment together as quickly as possible and then visit the Indians, prepared to enforce any demands that might be made upon them. His counsel was finally adopted and the party rode rapidly back to Springfield. They were not long in thoroughly arousing the entire vicinity. Rifles were repaired, cleaned and oiled, bullets were run, provisions prepared, and everything done to place the county "on a war footing." Everybody lent a helping hand, the women doing as much as the men, and in thirty-six hours over one hundred men, well armed and properly mounted, were at Ozark, on the Finley, in Christian county, confronting the Osages. Although the Indians were vastly superior in numbers to the whites, they were armed chiefly with bows and arrows. They began to retreat as Colonel Yancey's regiment moved forward. They were followed rapidly, but cautiously, by the militia, and on the second evening took them on the west bank of the James river, near the mouth of creek. The militia was at once drawn up in line less than one hundred yards from the Indians, and Colonel Yancey demanded of the chief that his men should deliver up their arms, as security against hostilities, This he refused to do for some time, but at last, seeing that he must submit or fight, be reluctantly yielded, and set the example by coming forward and laying his bow and arrows on the ground. Most of the warriors followed his example, but some of the younger ones refused, and were compelled with difficulty to give up their arms. Some of the militia behaved very rudely toward some of the squaws, but the colonel's reprimand was so severe that no second offense occurred. [230-232]

After much parley the Indians consented that their weapons should be temporarily put out of commission, so the flints were removed, naked bullets were rammed tight into the barrel of each gun, then the weapons were returned to the red men, who were compelled to resume their March toward their reservation. The two following days were bitter cold, which occasioned much suffering among the women and children, especially while crossing Oliver's prairie, where the barbed north winds had a better sweep than in the hill country. In about three days more the band reached the state line, where Colonel Yancey warned the Osages not to return again to the Ozark country, and started back with his militia to Greene county. The same day they were overtaken by a chief of the expelled tribe, who was accompanied by a white man named Matthews, who begged them to return to attend a council of their chiefs, which had been called, they said, to consult with the white men. This Colonel Yancey refused, to do, saying that he had no power to treat with them. Upon reaching Springfield the militia found that there was intense excitement all over the county and adjoining counties, caused by wild rumors to the effect that a general Indian war had been begun, and that the community was liable to be attacked, by the savages, at any moment. Not only the women and children, but many of the men of the little village of Springfield, were greatly terrified, and Major Barry, who was at that time a leading merchant and citizen here, was preparing to haul away his entire stock of goods to a place of safety, probably in one of the caves of the county. However, no hostilities followed, and the excitement soon abated, the people being assured by the militia that there was no immediate danger from the Indians. [233]


The Osage Indians failed to keep their promise to remain out of Missouri territory and in the summer of 1837 the settlers of Greene county were again thrown into a state of great excitement through fear of an Indian invasion. The outrages perpetrated by the savages were so well known to the pioneers that the remotest possibility of trouble with red men at once excited the gravest apprehensions, and often the wildest alarm. The Ozark country was unprotected from raids from the Indians from their reservations in the Indian Territory, and often rumors were set afloat that the savages were on the war path. The Greene county people refused to take any chances whatever with the knights of the tomahawk, and agreed among themselves when they began clearing the wilderness and upturning the wild prairie sod that they would band together and immediately crush the red rovers of the forests if they made even the slightest manifestation of bad faith or crooked conduct—no cabins in ashes and scalped wives and abducted children for them. No trouble had ever been experienced with the Delawares, who were numerous in this section, and no one was afraid of them. But roving bands of other tribes occasionally caused alarm among the frontiersmen. In June, 1837, one of the bands of Senecas came up from the Indian Territory, stole horses, and other property, especially just across the lines in Polk and Dade counties, and when asked to make restitution, refused and made certain threatening demonstrations. A settler named Thatcher, living on Cedar creek, was visited one day by an Indian who wanted to trade "squaws" with him. He was promptly knocked down by Thatcher and driven away; but the following day while at work in his clearing, the white man heard a shot and felt a rifle ball whizz past his ear. He gave the alarm, and the county court of Polk county ordered Maj. L. A. Williams (who subsequently became a prominent physician in Springfield) to take command of a company of militia, hastily raised for the purpose, and compel the Indians to leave the country. The object of the expedition was speedily accomplished, and Major Williams' company was disbanded.

Three-quarters of a century ago the laws of Missouri provided that every able-bodied man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five should enroll in the state militia and drill regularly three or four times annually. All militia officers were elected by the privates and commissioned by the governor. The Seventh Division then embraced southwest Missouri, and the militia of Greene county composed the First Brigade, while Polk and an adjoining county or two composed the Second Brigade. The first organization of these counties under this arrangement was in 1837, and the first general officers elected were as follows: Joseph Powell, major general of the First Division; N. R. Smith, brigadier-general of the First Brigade; Abner Nall, brigadier-general of the Second Brigade. [233-234]

While Major Williams was expelling the Senecas, trouble broke out anew with the Osages, a large number of which tribe had gathered near Sarcoxie, and were acting in a manner as to arouse suspicion. When detailed information of this fact reached General Powell he at once order the entire militia under his command to mobilize, and soon marched his division against the Indians, taking them by surprise. They were too over-awed by the formidable looking force of militia to offer serious resistance, and after some parleys and councils they were marched out of the state and into their own territory, and made to give solemn assurances that they would never return without permission. They stoutly persisted in their innocence of any evil intentions in coming to the Ozark country, maintaining that they were merely on a hunting and fishing expedition, and that they knew nothing of any stolen horses or other property, averring to the last that, as previously, they would continue stanch friends of the whites. After an absence of two weeks, General Powell and his division of militia marched back to Springfield, and the Greene county troops were disbanded and permitted to return to work in their crops, and the people again permitted their "nerves" to settle, and resumed the peaceful pursuits. It was subsequently learned that the outbreak had been greatly exaggerated from the start. The Indians had done nothing amiss, and perhaps had no ''evil designs against the settlers and all the alarm, uneasiness, mustering, marching, were unnecessary. But the Greene county troops saw enough of their commanding officer to decide that he was not the proper man to lead them against the foe, in the event of factual hostilities, General Powell being no military man, either by education or experience, and committed many breaches of military law and discipline, according to his men. Upon charges preferred by Gen. N. R. Smith, of the Greene county brigade, General Powell was afterwards tried by a military commission and dismissed from the state service, being succeeded by General Nelson, who, in turn, was succeeded by Col. Charles S. Yancey, of Greene county. It is related, too, that General Smith was lacking in military qualifications himself. On one occasion a militiaman, who had seen service in the regular army, was stationed as a guard at the camp of the First Brigade, when General Smith approached and was halted by the guard, who asked him to give the countersign; "I don't know the countersign, but I am General Smith, from Springfield, and it is all right," and started on into camp, when the guard again halted him, refusing to permit him to pass without the countersign.

The above account of General Powell's expedition against the Osages was long referred to by the early settlers in this locality as the "Sarcoxie war," which was one of the remarkable "wars" of history, in that it was bloodless. [234-235]


There still live in Springfield several men and women enjoying the tranquility of upwards of three score and ten years who lived in this locality when the Mexican war broke out. Some of them, who were little more than children, remember the stirring events of those days most vividly and remember as if they had picked up the facts at first hand, the stories that were told so often that the have come to seem like personal experiences. Those were exciting times in Greene county—in 1846—and the year following when we invaded the land of the Montezumas to fight for Texas and won California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and a part of Wyoming. The annexation of Texas was the alleged cause of the declaration of war by Mexico against the United States in April, 1846 and the attack on American soldiers by Mexicans the ground of the retaliatory declaration by the United States, May 13, but not until the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma had been fought, on May 8th and 9th. Great excitement prevailed throughout the country, and in no state did the fires of patriotism burn more brightly than in Missouri. Not waiting for the call for volunteers, the St. Louis Legion, under Col. A. R. Easton, hastened to the scene of conflict and citizens of Greene county began to make preparations to go to the front. During the month of May, Governor John C. Edwards called for volunteers to join the Army of the West, an expedition under Gen. Stephen W. Kearney, to Santa Fe. Fort Leavenworth was the appointed rendezvous for the volunteers, and by June 18th the full complement of companies to compose the first regiment had arrived, and there Col. Alexander Doniphan's regiment, the First Missouri Mounted Volunteers, was organized and was soon on the march along the historic Santa Fe trail to New Mexico. Missouri had sent into the field at that time, all told, one thousand six hundred and fifty-eight men. About a month later Sterling Price, then congressman from Missouri, resigned his seat, and in August raised a mounted regiment, one mounted extra battalion, and one extra battalion of Missouri Mormon infantry to reinforce the Army of the West. Mr. Price was made colonel, and D. D. Mitchell, lieutenant-colonel, this regiment being known as the Second Missouri Mounted Volunteer Infantry, and were soon off for the seat of conflict. There were more volunteers than could be accepted. In September another regiment was organized at Fort Leavenworth, of which Col. Thomas Ruffin had command, but at that time its services at the front were not required. In this regiment was one company from Greene county, under Capt. A. M. Julian. Samuel A. Boak was first lieutenant. The company, marched from Springfield to Leavenworth and engaged in the organization of the regiment, was disbanded and returned home after an absence of one month. The company numbered about seventy-five men. In the spring of 1847 Samuel Boak organized another company, and was made captain. It was well equipped and was a fine body of stalwart men, and left Greene county in excellent shape, followed by the best wishes of the citizens, a great crowd having assembled to see the company start on its long march. A barbecue was given on St. Louis street, about two blocks east of the public square, after which speeches were made and a flag presented by the citizens. Captain Boak was a lawyer of considerable note, and had been in partnership in the practice of his profession with John S. Phelps. He made an appropriate response in behalf of his company. He proved to be a good officer, however, but little of him is known. He had not long been a resident of Springfield, nor did he remain long after the war. In 1849 he went to California and was killed at Marysville that fall. His company was mustered into the service in May, 1847, and comprised a portion of the Third Missouri Mounted Volunteers, which regiment was commanded by Col. John Ralls. This regiment followed the first and second regiments over the great plains of the Southwest and operated into the Mexican states as far as El Paso, Chihuahua and Santa Cruz de Rosales, at which latter place March 16, 1848, under Colonel Ralls, seven companies of the regiment, two companies of United States Dragoons, under Major Beal, and the Santa Fe Battalion, under Major Walker, constituting a force of about six hundred and fifty men, fought a hard battle with the Mexicans under General Freas, who were in the town and well sheltered by breastworks. The battle lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until about sundown, when the Americans charged the enemy's works and defeated the Mexicans with a loss of three hundred and thirty killed, and a great number wounded; and a large quantity of arms, ammunition, wagons, teams, etc., were captured. The American troops then occupied the town, the Mexicans having surrendered a large number of prisoners, who were released the following day on parole. A few days after this battle all the American forces returned to Chihuahua, where they remained until the close of the war, except seven companies of the Third Missouri, that were stationed at Santa Cruz de Rosales, and occupied that post until the latter part of the year. In July, 1848, these companies were ordered to Independence, Missouri, and mustered out the following October. The other three companies were stationed at Taos, New Mexico, during their term and never rejoined their regiment until they were mustered out with it, at Independence. These three companies had been under command of Major Reynolds, who died on his return, in October, 1848, at Fort Mann, on the Arkansas river, below the crossing of the Arkansas river. Conspicuous among the engagements in which the Missouri volunteers participated in Mexico were the battles of Bracito, Taos, Santa Cruz de Rosales, Sacramento, El Embudo and Canada. When Captain Boak's company returned to Springfield, after seeing considerable hard service at the front, where it distinguished itself for bravery and courage, it was given an imposing reception and a hearty welcome. Another barbecue was given the troops at Fulbright's spring, where there was much speech making, and the veterans were lionized as heroes. [235-237]


Of the one hundred and nine men who left their homes in the then sparsely settled communities of Southwest Missouri in 1847 and gathered in Springfield to offer their services in answer to President Polk's call for volunteers to fight Mexico, only one is known to be living in 1914. He is Maj. William Marion Weaver, of Springfield, who is Greene county's sole survivor of the Mexican war. He is in his eighty-fourth year, but he is more active than a great many men twenty years his junior and his constant reading of newspaper dispatches touching on the Mexican situation has revived the patriotism and spirit of adventure that led him to fight for his country sixty-seven years ago.

I guess I'm too old," Major Weaver tells his friends, "but if they need me I am ready." [237]

Major Weaver was but seventeen years old when he enlisted for the war against Mexico. In company with the other one hundred and eight men, representing southwest Missouri's contingent and of which he was the youngest, he went from here to Independence, Missouri, where all were mustered into the 'I'hird Missouri Mounted Volunteers, Col. John Ralls commanding. Colonel Ralls made him a bugler.

He made the march over the Santa Fe trail to Santa Fe, his regiment being under the command of Gen. Sterling Price. He took part in a number of engagements in the eastern and northern part of Mexico.

"We probably were less fortunate than the soldiers under Scott," said Major Weaver. "For we never were given a real good fight by the Mexicans. We had to contend with guerrillas in our campaign. The Mexicans would fire a few volleys at us and when we got into action they would fall over one another in making their getaway. There were no fortified towns between where El Paso now stands and the city of Chihuahua encountering any great resistance.

"About seventy-five out of our company returned to Springfield at the close of the war. Those who found graves on Mexican soil, for the most part, died of disease. Our casualties throughout the brief war were comparatively few. Most of those who were killed met death as a result of their venturing too far beyond our outposts. The snipers got them, just as they did the American marines at the occupation of Vera Cruz in 1914."

Major Weaver strongly advocates not only intervention in Mexico by the United States, but the establishing of a protectorate in the country, just as England did in India and Egypt.

For a number of years Major Weaver gave an annual dinner at his home here with survivors of the Mexican war as his guests. His last dinner for the veterans was given three years ago. At that time only five attended. The last of these dinners has been held. Only two or three of those who attended these dinners are alive and they are too feeble to travel.

Major Weaver's list of the members of Company G is believed to be the only one other than that kept by the government. It was secured from the adjutant general's office in Washington, D. C., in March, 1908, by Senator W. J. Stone, acting on the request of Major Weaver. Addresses of the members were not given, as it is contrary to the rules of the office. The roll of the company was as follows: [238]

Captain, S. A. Boak; first lieutenants, Robert Love, A. M. Brittingham; first sergeant, John M. Crockett; sergeants, John Kelly, Robert A. Forbes, William I. Cannefax; corporals, A. B. Allison, C. S. Drumwright, G. M. Bedford., James I. Byrd; privates, H. A. Anthony, A. I. Adkins, William Anderson, Wilbert Bass, Jessy Bird, G. W. Brittingham, M. T. Benton, Chestley Cannefax, John R. Cannefax, Mathew Cook, Enoch Cook, Abner Cotter, B. M. Cox, William Crabtree, Edward Coker, John Craig, Lymon Crandle, Barnet Deeds, William L. Daniel, Shadrick Dickens, Ennis Dickson, Solomon W. Edgar, Freeman S. Greard, James Galloway, Jesse Galloway, Charles Galloway, Robert Hall, David Hodges, John Holland, Henry Horn, James Hughes, Jonathan Hoover, Hiram Helms, Smith Helms, Weeden Helms, Jesse Hammons, Robert Horton, William E. Hanson, Elisha Hughes, Elijah M. Harpwood, William F. Henry, Samuel E. Hamilton, William Hale, Benona Hinson, John Innmon, Henry Innmon, William L. Joyce, James Jameson, Philip Jackson, Simon Johnston, William Johnston, Hugh Jones, Andrew Johnston, James F. Kelly, Alexander Knepper, Theodrick Layton, William C. Layton, George W. Lea, Frederick Lesser, Henry O. Lowry, James R. Long, John F. McMahan, John May, John W. Mitchel, Nicholas Misslong, John R. Maadly, Morgan Martin, Jason Mobley, Christian Mitten, James Morris, James McAlley, James Oliver, William Price, A. N. Pearce, Peter P. Patterson, Philip Payne, C.,A. B. Quillings, Richard A. Rickets, W. W. Reynolds, Lewis M. Russell, Elisha Swift, Nimrod Smith, Gustavus R. Scruggs, James R. Sheshane, Edmond Stephens, John W. Span, Benjamin W. Swithson, William Sims, James Stalcup, Mark Stalcup, Smith Turner, William Victor, James Walker, William M. Weaver, Solomon Yowchum. [239]

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