The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In recalling incidents of Civil War times Jim Thomas, an old time resident of Green County, Missouri, tells of his father’s experience With a band of men one day during the war while he lived four miles northeast of Springfield. "At the time I speak of, " said Mr. Thomas, "the confederates were in possession of Springfield. One night before they gave up the city two mounted men come to father’s house and father gave them their supper and fed their horses. Though the two men made no threats but we supposed that they were spies from a band of robbers sent there to find out whether we had any property worth their while and trouble to come and take. My father owned a fine stallion and two good mares which were kept out in the woods in the care of my brother, Bill Thomas, to prevent them from being stolen. My brother was careful not to bring them home when the main roads were frequently traveled over with war parties, some of which were regular confederate soldiers and some were marauders, thieves., and robbers of all kind. On the following day after the two men had visited our house that night we saw 30 horsemen advancing slowly toward the house. They did not appear to be in a hurry. When the head of the column reached the yard gate the leader halted the men and called for my father who was in the house end had made no attempt to get away. Father went out into the yard and the leader ask him where his stallion and two mares were, which father flatly refused to tell him. The leader did not interrogate him anymore, but ordered five of the men to dismount and take charge of him and while they were dismounting and hitching their horses the leader ordered a tall slim fellow of the band to take a rope from one of the saddles and fix a running noose. This was rough language for it indicated something dark and my father knew what it meant, but said nothing. My stepmother, whose name was Liddie and my sister, whose name was Celia Ann, and my-self prepared for the worst for we were convinced that there were enough men to overpower and murder everyone of us. My father was standing in the yard in front of the door and the leader ordered the men to put the rope around father’s neck and swing him up in the air and if they let him down in time he might change his mind and tell where the horses were. When the men took hold of him to place the noose around his neck he resisted but there was so many or them they soon overpowered him and resistance was useless and he stood still. At this Juncture my stepmother and sister, both of which were nearly frightened nearly to death, rushed up to my father and tried to push the men away but finding they could not do this they grabbed hold of the rope and tried to snatch it from the men’s hands but their strength was too weak against so many stout men. They changed their tactics and while the robbers made efforts to place the noose around father’s neck the two women would jerk the rope away. Once and awhile the men would get the noose almost over his head when with a dexterous lift the women would raise it up in spite of the attempts of the ruffians to fasten it around his neck. The more they worked to hang father the harder the women struggled to prevent it. I was only a boy but I well remember how myself and stepmother and sister begged and implored the thieves not to hang him. It was a stirring and sorrowful scene. All the family except father was crying and he did not seem to be a bit afraid. It seemed at one time that they would succeed in getting the noose at the right place and then they would drag him to a tree and throw the loose end of the rope over a limb and pull him up but the two brave women foiled them in their murderous work. Finally the men desisted for it seemed that the firm resistance made by my stepmother and sister baffled them and they ask father if he would go to Springfield with them and he answered in the affirmative. To this stepmother and sister stoutly protested against his going off with them for they believed that it was only a pretense to get father away from the house so that they could shoot or hang him and when father started to the yardgate to go with them we all pleaded with them so hard not to take him off that after they had started with him a short distance they turned him loose and rode on and he come back to the house. It was not that our grief turned to shouting and rejoicing for we were so glad that his life was saved. my father did not remain at home anymore until after the southern men gave up possession of Springfield."

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