The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

This account was narrated to me by Mr. Dave Garoutte at Tulsah, Indian Territory, on the 30th of August, 1906. Mr. Garoutte served in the federal army during the troubled days of the sixties. Here is his story. "My father was a staunch democrat but he was opposed to slavery. Though while he admitted that the white people were much superior in intelligence to the negro race yet he said that it was wrong to enslave any race of people and hold them as property. My father was also a union man and contended that the stars and stripes was the flag for us to live under. When I was 23 years old, I enlisted in the United States Army. This was in 1861 soon after the war broke out. I belonged to Company F, 24 Missouri, S. H. Boyd regiment and S. P. Barris as my captain. Now to the story I set out to tell you, " said Mr. Garoutte. "It was in the month of October, 1864. The confederate General Sterling Price was on his way through Missouri with a heavy force of cavalry. As he and his army was advancing it was supposed that he might march to St. Louis and attempt to capture the city and the command I belonged was on waiting orders at De Soto in Jefferson County. Early one morning a stranger made his appearance in our camp claiming to be a deserter from the confederate army. His pants and shirt were ragged and dirty and he was without a coat. He was a suspicious looking character and we looked on him as a spy. We suspected him so strong that the commander ordered him arrested under the charge that he had entered our lines in disguise for the sole purpose of finding out the condition of our troops. The weather was cool and the prisoner stood in need of a coat. As soon as he was arrested he was placed in the guard house to await an investigation of his case which could not be done until the following day. At night the sergeant of the guard who was a generous hearted man offered to loan the prisoner his overcoat for the night to which the prisoner said he was glad to accept. A special guard was placed over him which was relieved every two hours and replaced by another man. During the night it developed that the man was a real spy and that his name was Cole and if I mistake not he lived in Iron County, Missouri. The guard was notified of this and was instructed to not let the man escape and that he would be tried for his life on the following morning. Soon after daybreak when the sergeant of the guard approached close to the guard house the prisoner who was not fettered took off the overcoat and said, "Here, Sergeant, is your coat for which I thank you very much for the use of it last night." And the sergeant took the coat and remarked, "Prisoner, you was welcome to it for it made you feel more comfortable last night." As he spoke these words he stepped back a few paces to put the coat on. The guard was standing in a few yards of where the prisoner was. Just as the unsuspecting non-commissioned officer had got the overcoat partly on and while both hands were engaged, the prisoner darted at the sergeant with an open knife in his hand. The knife had a long keen point and edge and the prisoner had jerked it from its concealment on his person. As the prisoner reached the sergeant he cut his throat from ear to ear. It was done so quick that the guard nor spectators were dumbfounded and no one had time to interfere to save the sergeants life and his victim fell to the ground in the agony of death. When the dying man struck the ground the guard rushed at the prisoner without firing at him and the latter struck him with the knife and he fell dead. As the guard sank down from the effects of the fatal knife one of the other guards made an attempt to shoot him. But the prisoner was quicker with the use of the knife than the soldier was with the gun and the former darted at him and plunged the blade of the knife into his body which inflicted a dangerous wound. In the meantime a great stir and excitement was aroused among the officers and privates. The spy seeing that his only way to escape was by flight and with the blood stained knife in his hand he made a dash for liberty. The soldiers were ordered to capture him alive if possible and a large body of troops mounted their horses and pursued the fleeing man who ran one-half a mile from the guard house be-fore the soldiers were enabled to surround and capture him. But he made a desperate resistance before he was made to give up his knife and brought back to the guard house where two of his victims lay dead and another one desperately wounded. Though a number of the men admired his bravery and could not blame him for trying to escape, but their ire was roused for the killing of their two comrades and the wounding of another and they declared he should suffer at once and not wait for a court martial to be convened. And so he was ordered to be hung forthwith. A stout rope was ordered to be brought for-ward and the doomed man was conducted to a walnut tree which stood near Governor Fletcher’s yard gate in the town of De Soto where one end of the rope was made into a noose and put around his neck and the other end was thrown over a limb of this walnut and with hands pinioned together behind his back the man was pulled up from the ground and hung until he was dead. He died brave. He never flinched or ask for mercy. At the time of the execution I was attached to the 14th Iowa," said Mr. Garoutte as he ended this interesting story of the war.


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