Why Gen. M. Jeff Thompson Changed His Mind About Chalk Bluff

The Thursday May 25, 1865 edition of the Weekly Ottumwa Courier contains information on Gen. M. Jeff Thompson’s surrender.

The Thursday May 25, 1865 edition of The Weekly Ottumwa [Iowa] Courier reported the news of General M. Jeff Thompson’s surrender and it contains information of a particular location to surrender his command.

According to the paper it appears that originally General Thompson had chosen Chalk Bluff , Arkansas to surrender his command but something occurred to change his mind. The paper reported:

“At Cape Girardeau Lt. Colonel Hines was found with 200 of the 17th Illinois Cavalry to escort the flag of truce and messengers to Chalk Bluffs. The Day after the party left the Cape 200 more men of the same regiment with a section of artillery followed the escort party. With the exception messengers and escorts were nearly eaten up by mosquitos nothing occurred worthy of note until the banks of the St. Francois River were reached and Lt. Col. Davis and Captain Bennett and the escort of cavalry encamped at Chalks Bluffs, Mo.

Another detachment of cavalry, the 7th Kansas numbering three hundred men , under command of Col. Beveridge, had gone off toward Doniphan , so as to be prepared for emergencies. They encountered no opposition but arrived in Doniphan, Ripley County, Missouri about the time messenger or flag of truce arrived at Chalk Bluffs.

Upon reaching the Bluff it was ascertained that General Thompson had gone south to meet another flag of truce from General Reynolds, commanding the Department of Arkansas.”

The paper goes on to report that the final surrender and settlement was to be made on May 25th at Wittsburg, Missouri, on the St. Francis River and at Jacksonport, Arkansas on the White River, on the 5th of June.”

It is purely speculation on this writer’s part , but I feel perhaps General Thompson’s reluctance to travel to Chalk Bluff had something to do with the 7th Kansas Cavalry waiting in Doniphan.

The 7th Kansas had plundered their way from Missouri’s western border at the beginning of the war, all the way down to southeast Missouri at war’s end and as I wrote in a “Speak Out” forum on June 14, 2011:

“When the 7th Kansas Cavalry is mentioned most people think of the depredations it committed in Western Missouri; however, the 7th Kansas was very active in Southeast Missouri as well, and every bit as vicious. Thanks to the Reynolds County Genealogy a previously unknown newspaper clip has surfaced that sheds light on how the 7th Kansas viewed Missourians (even from the eastern side of the state).

“DAILY TIMES [LEAVENWORTH, KS], March 4, 1865, p. 3, c. 1

Through the kindness of Mr. A. G. Fraker, of the 7th cavalry, we have been permitted to copy the following items from a letter written by one of the boys of the 7th, now at Patterson, Missouri. It is dated Feb. 24th. Patterson is below Pilot Knob:

“We are getting this country pretty well cleaned out. We have killed several of the most desperate characters within the past two weeks. Have had a few unsuccessful chases after rebels. Most all of the rebel families have been ordered South. We met two families on their road to Dixie on foot. Captain Bostwick is in command of the post. A big scout went out this morning. The citizens are making maple sugar.”

General Thompson might very well have felt the 7th Kansas’ presence in Doniphan, Missouri was a trap and that they were “lying in wait”. One thing is for sure, Thompson was worried for not only his men but for their family members as well.

At 8:00 am on Thursday May 11, 1865 from Liddle’s (an area near Chalk Bluff, Arkansas, Thompson penned a dispatch to Lt. Colonel C.W. Davis , U.S. Army which stated:

“Colonel: Can you inform me whether the officers and men who were surrendered by General Robert E. Lee were permitted to pass within the Confederate lines or not? My reason for making this inquiry is that many of those I am called upon to surrender will prefer to go to Texas and Louisiana to remaining in neighborhoods where private animosities will keep the community in tumult, after the military authorities are withdrawn. Some will desire to take their families. Others think that their families will be safe will be absent themselves after being paroled. This is a very important matter to many on the border of Missouri and Arkansas, and you, will therefore , please let me know your understanding of this case.

M. Jeff Thompson

Brigadier General, Commanding North Sub-District of Arkansas.”

Clint Lacy is the author of Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition available in paperback for $15 & Kindle format eBook for $2.99

Wayne Klinckhardt to Speak at Civil War in Missouri Lecture Series

Wayne Klinckhardt, author of War for Missouri will be the guest speaker for the Stoddard County Rangers Camp#2290, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Civil War in Missouri Lecture Series.

The Stoddard Rangers Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #2290 is proud to announce that Wayne Klinkhardt of Bollinger County Missouri will be our next speaker in our Civil War in Missouri Lecture Series.

Mr. Klinckhardt is the author of “War for Missouri” and a U. S. Air Force veteran serving 1966-1970 as an intelligence analyst, nine months in TX, one year at the end of the Aleutian Islands and the balance of his time at the NSA. Mr. Klinckhardt holds an MBA from Lindenwood College. He took an interest in CW history at an early age and spent most of his life trying to find out what happened to an uncle that was killed somewhere near Midway ,MO during the Civil War.

The event will be held at the Stars & Stripes Museum and Library in Bloomfield , Missouri on Saturday February 29 at 2:00 pm. This is a free event and all are welcome.

Contact: Commander Clint Lacy: 573.238.9805

Lt. Commander Alan Jones: 573.820-5001

The Stars & Stripes Museum & Library,

17377 Stars and Stripes Way, Bloomfield, MO 63825

573.568.2055

Respect Escaped Leeper

William Leeper of Wayne County, Missouri

By all accounts William T. Leeper was an ambitious man. Through my research a picture begins to form of him. He was a man who desired to be a man of means, someone of prominence, of importance, a man of authority. In this picture are shadows of darkness, which if examined closely, reveal a man who was willing to do anything to achieve these goals. He was a driven man who chased his dreams with reckless abandon.

The official narrative for Leeper can be found in “Wayne County Place Names 1928-1945” archived at the Missouri State Historical Society which states:

“Colonel William T. Leeper moved to Wayne County in 1857 and purchased 225 acres of land. In 1858 he was elected County Surveyor and served until the beginning of the Civil War. He organized Company D. of the Twelfth Regiment of Missouri Militia and was made captain.”

That is a sanitized summary of the man. In a previous post I quoted a story from the Wayne County Historical Society about Leeper which states:

“History has not ignored Leeper’s methods or actions. In an account published in the Wayne County Journal Banner and shared on the Wayne County Historical Society’s social media page on August 1, 2018 , Captain William Leeper’s actions while he was in the 12’th Missouri Militia Cavalry (the 3’rd’s predecessor ) so much so that Leeper is labeled the “Chief Jayhawker” himself.

“Captain Leeper, I have no doubt, is wishing to merit and obtain a higher command than he now holds”. This was sent from Greenville and dated February 27, 1862, eleven days after the [Greenville] raid. A telegraph to General Gray at Pilot Knob was sent from Patterson soon thereafter. It read; “I have ordered Captain Leeper of CO B to Pilot Knob. Keep him and learn him to be a soldier”. One historian previously wrote about Leeper: “Captain Leeper’s methods of ferreting out and interrogating men to determine their loyalties were direct and brutal. He was known to shoot anything that moved and burn anything that would light. In February 1863 (almost exactly a year since the Greenville raid), Leeper and the 12th Missouri Militia participated in what was called by some “The Battle of Mingo Swamp” and by others as the “Mingo Swamp Massacre.” The McGee boys had just left the confederate army and returned home; ironically, to protect their home from Captain Leeper’s reign of terror. The McGee’s and their friends, the Cato’s sat unarmed at their camp at the McGee home when they were set upon in the early hours of February 4, 1863 by Captain Leeper and his “militia”. All 29 men were mercilessly gunned down in a barrage of gunfire. Captain Leeper’s report differs somewhat in that he reports “engaging a Union camp” on this date”.

 This account of Leeper is significant as it details his brutality (calling him the “Chief Jayhawker”) but also his gaffs. In this account , a quote of one of Leeper’s after action reports calls attention to Leeper referring to a Confederate camp as a “Union” camp.

Another instance can be found in Ivan McKee’s book “Lost Family, Lost Cause” which states:

“Some of the letters he wrote seem almost pathetic and his hatred must have bordered on the ruminations of a paranoid mind. An example: He had seen a report of a black Union group of soldiers in the general area. He wrote that he would like to see southern chivalry subdued by the African, and continued on that he would like to make a “flank” movement with black soldiers . The term, flank movement, as he used it showed unfortunately he had little or no concept of what a flank movement is in military tactics.”

Another , more humorous account of William T. Leeper’s gaffs , or Leeperisms (as I call them) can be found in the Wednesday February 28, 1872 , Lexington Intelligencer newspaper (which also shows how others viewed him), when Leeper was a Missouri State Representative.

The paper states that Leeper moved to amend everything and would move to amend the decalogue were it introduced in the House and that:

“The business of the House in particular would be greatly facilitated, if not improved, were some three or four [representatives] at home or bereft of speech.”

All of which prove that while that while William T. Leeper was willing to go to most any lengths to achieve success and become a man of means he was unable to achieve what he most wanted from many of his contemporaries, which was respect.

Clint Lacy is author of Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition which is available in Paperback for $15 and Kindle format for $2.99. It can be ordered by clicking this link or the image above.

More On "Jayhawkers" & "Bushwhackers"

Captain William Leeper 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union)

In a previous post I noted that the term “Bushwhacker” seemed to be used interchangeably to describe partisans of either Southern or Northern sympathies in Southeast Missouri.

This also seems to be true with the term “Jayhawker”. Captain William Leeper of the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union) seemed to do this often.

In a dispatch dated October 12, 1863 Leeper writes:

“Captain, Commanding Expedition.

COLONEL: In obedience to your orders, I left Pilot Knob September 28, 1863, with Companies D, M, and L, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, numbering 150 men, with instructions to go to Pocahontas, Ark., or any other point in that vicinity that seemed to demand attention. We reached Doniphan on the 30th ultimo. Company L having been sent by another road (somewhat to the right), killed 2 men en route. Also, on the 1st of October, Captain [R.] McElroy, with 30 men, was ordered forward, via “Buck Scull,” where he found 6 men, who ran, and were fired upon by the party. Four of the men were killed and another wounded. Captain [W. T.] Hunter, with a detachment, went via Current River, where he captured 2 soldiers and some Government property.

The several detachments arrived at Pocahontas on the 2nd of October, and remained until October 6th (a squad captured 2 notorious jayhawkers in the mean time), when we moved to Smithville, Ark., and on October 7th opposite to Powhatan, on the east side of Black River.”

In his book: “A History of the Ozarks Vol. II: The Conflicted Ozarks”, author Brooks Blevin writes:

“The Union military’s transition to a harsher brand of warfare after the war’s first year, exempted civilians from their traditional safeguards as noncombatants. Those suspected of having rebel sympathies and of aiding the Confederate cause found themselves targeted by troops hunting down guerrillas. “Launched to either find the partisans or punish the local community for harboring them”, according to historian Robert R. Mackey, these “punitive expeditions” became a common occurrence in no-man’s land. Pursuing Southern guerrillas from an MSM post at Patterson, in Wayne County, Missouri, in 1864, Captain William T. Leeper determined to take the fight to the civilians in the countryside. “I think I will be able to stop Jayhawking by making their friends responsible for their acts.”, Leeper assured his superiors in St. Louis. “Those who feed or conceal them are as mean as they are , and I will kill them if this thing does not stop. If Union men are robbed, I will take their property to pay for it. If they kill a loyal man, I will kill five of them.”

History has not ignored Leeper’s methods or actions. In an account published in the Wayne County Journal Banner and shared on the Wayne County Historical Society’s social media page on August 1, 2018 , Captain William Leeper’s actions while he was in the 12’th Missouri Militia Cavalry (the 3’rd’s predecessor ) so much so that Leeper is labeled the “Chief Jayhawker” himself.

“Captain Leeper, I have no doubt, is wishing to merit and obtain a higher command than he now holds”. This was sent from Greenville and dated February 27, 1862, eleven days after the [Greenville] raid. A telegraph to General Gray at Pilot Knob was sent from Patterson soon thereafter. It read; “I have ordered Captain Leeper of CO B to Pilot Knob. Keep him and learn him to be a soldier”. One historian previously wrote about Leeper: “Captain Leeper’s methods of ferreting out and interrogating men to determine their loyalties were direct and brutal. He was known to shoot anything that moved and burn anything that would light. In February 1863 (almost exactly a year since the Greenville raid), Leeper and the 12th Missouri Militia participated in what was called by some “The Battle of Mingo Swamp” and by others as the “Mingo Swamp Massacre.” The McGee boys had just left the confederate army and returned home; ironically, to protect their home from Captain Leeper’s reign of terror. The McGee’s and their friends, the Cato’s sat unarmed at their camp at the McGee home when they were set upon in the early hours of February 4, 1863 by Captain Leeper and his “militia”. All 29 men were mercilessly gunned down in a barrage of gunfire. Captain Leeper’s report differs somewhat in that he reports “engaging a Union camp” on this date”.

After the raid on Greenville there was a giant exodus of local men that joined the Confederate forces. Among them was Oliver D. Dalton (1833-1898), who’s mercantile business was raided and burned at Greenville; Lafayette Rubottom (1824-1903), who nearly escaped death in the raid; and James M. Bollinger (1821-1868), brother to Philip. (A daughter of J.M. Bollinger, was Lavinia (Bollinger) Twidwell, wife of Madison Twidwell.

Among their descendants locally today are; Mrs. Mary Lou McEwen of Silva, Jim Shearrer and son Dennis of Patterson and local members of the Deering families). Captain Leeper seems to have done more harm locally than good. Bitterness abounded for many generations thereafter toward him. He became known locally as the chief “Jayhawker.”

  • Clint Lacy is the author of ” Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition” which can be purchased in paperback ($15) and Kindle ($2.99) editions. Click Here to purchase.
Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition

The "Well-Disciplined" 3'rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry

Major James Wilson, 3’rd MSM Cavalry (Union)

I was inspired to write my book “Blood in the Ozarks” by learning of a massacre that occurred on Christmas Day, 1863 in Ripley County, Missouri. It was a terrible event in which men of the 3’rd MSM Cavalry (Union) launched a surprise attack against the men of the 15th Missouri Cavalry, CSA. It’s an event that some say didn’t happen, or at the very least was a simple rescue mission to liberate captured Union soldiers.

Others believe the attack by the 3’rd MSM Cavalry happened at a time when women and children were in the camp of Timothy Reeves’ 15th Missouri Cavalry, CSA for a Christmas dinner.

In “Blood in the Ozarks” I write:

“Skeptics of the “Wilson Massacre” which occurred on December 25, 1863 claim that the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union) was a well-disciplined, well led detachment that did not murder civilians on Christmas Day,1863 in Ripley County, Missouri.

Instead they propose that their commander Major James Wilson was a hero
who rescued over 100 Union prisoners and that when he was executed by Confederate Colonel Timothy Reeves in 1864 it was retribution for
the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry’s burning of Doniphan, Missouri.

In “Veterans and Events in the Civil War in Missouri Volume II” (found at the Bollinger County Library located at Marble Hill, Missouri) author Bob Schmidt writes:

“In January ‘64 Lt. Col. J.O. Broadhead resigned his commission and Colonel Richard G. Woodson, commanding the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry, petitioned General Fisk in St. Louis to promote Wilson to this post over the
favorite, Major H. M. Mathews…he was not,Mathews was promoted on February 18th, 1864”

Schmidt continues:

“On February 27, 1864, Colonel Richard G. Woodson was dismissed by Special Order 35 and resigned his commission in part to the embarrassment and furor when members of his command were captured at Centerville in December ‘63. Two days later the 29th, other commissioned officers of the 3’rd MSM Cavalry petitioned the Governor of Missouri, Willard P. Hall to promote Maj. Wilson to fulfill the vacancy left by Col. Woodson. Their request was denied and O. D. Greene received the commission instead.”

In an event that Schmidt describes as unusual Major Wilson was ordered on recruiting service by Special Order #249 dated September 8th, 1864 with the 14th Missouri Cavalry. Shortly after reporting for duty he was reprimanded for not carrying out the duties of his office and returned to the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

The problems of the 3’rd Missouri State Militia didn’t just stem from leadership either. The War of Rebellion records pages 344- 347, detail the cowardice of officers and men of the 3’rd MSM Cavalry in June, 1863 in the form of a letter written by General John W. Davidson from his headquarters at Arcadia, Missouri on June 28, 1863 which states:

“I beg leave to file this report at department headquarters as I am going out of the district. Some inquiry may occur as to why I arrested 2 officers and 27 men of the Third Missouri State Militia, especially as Colonel [Richard G] Woodson seems inclined to take the part of the men of his regiment, who have a second time misbehaved before the enemy. I have not had time to try the case, but I beg it be noticed, and this report filed to show my ground of action. -Brigadier – General J.W. Davidson Commanding”

Recently while scouring through archives I stumbled upon another account that attests to the character of the men who made up the 3’rd MSM Cavalry. This time it is found in an issue of the Nashville Daily & American newspaper dated March 9, 1864 which reported:

“Thomas A. Haynes , private, Company L, 3’rd Missouri State Militia is to be shot for horse stealing and robbing the store of John J.L. Collins of Logtown, Iron County, Missouri.”

The 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union) was not a “well-disciplined” unit, and Major James Wilson was no hero.

Horrible Murder in Missouri!

The January 14, 1864 issue of the Chicago Tribune reported the murder of Bollinger County Unionists in Dallas (Marble Hill) Missouri.

The Chicago Tribune in its January 14, 1864 issue reported an attack on the house of Daniel Critze by “eleven rebels” at midnight in Dallas, Bollinger County, Missouri. Killed in the attack were William Critze (brother of Daniel) as well as James Stevens. Wounded in the attack were Daniel Critze and Sheriff James Frasier [Fraser].

It is interesting that the paper describes the incident as a “massacre” when much worse incidents in which Unionists have murdered Southern sympathizers were never labeled as such. Of course, Missouri newspapers during this time were tightly controlled by the federal government.

The War of the Rebellion records contains a petition signed by Sheriff James Fraser to General Fisk asking for Union troops to be stationed in the Dallas, Bollinger county area. The entry reads:

“DALLAS, BOLLINGER COUNTY, Mo., December 31, 1863.
General CLINTON B. Fisk, Comdg. Dist. of Saint Louis, Mo.;


We, the citizens of the vicinity of Dallas, hereby beg leave to communicate for your consideration the condition of things in our county. We have been harassed and plundered and our best citizens murdered by roving bands of guerillas that infest the swamp south of us. On the night of the 27th instant 12 guerrillas made a raid here at 1 o’clock and killed James A. Stevens, our county treasurer ; also William Crites, a very worthy young man of our community. They took $30 from young Crites’ pocket after he was shot down. They also wounded our sheriff, James M. Fraser, with out halting him in due time. They went to John Lutes’ and forced $25 from him, besides taking many things out of the house. They shot at James A. Crites, a justice of the peace, six times, without halting him. They pressed Mr. Eaker as guide and took 2 horses from him. They took bed-quilts, money, etc, from Mr. Stevens. They were led by the two Bolin boys. Some 4 or 5 citizens fired them and shot one of the Bolins through the shoulder. One of them had his thigh broken in the skirmish, so he is here yet. He is a paroled Vicksburg prisoner; his name is Thomas Roberts. This is but a series of such raids committed amongst us. We do hereby beg leave respectfully to petition to you to grant us a company for this county, to be stationed at this place. Another reason that we urge is that our sheriff cannot collect the revenue without troops, either with him or in easy range, to keep things in proper subjection. If it would not be asking too much, we would suggest that Company K, Third Missouri State Militia, or Company E, Sixth Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, be sent to this field. We are, general, very respectfully, your humble petitioners,

J. M. FRASER,
Sheriff. THOS. CRAIG,
A. H. MOUREY.
[And 48 other citizens.]”

It is of interest to note that a number of these men held positions of authority in the community. James M. Frasier was the Sheriff, James Stevens was the County Treasurer and James Critze was Justice of the Peace.

Sheriff Fraser’s petition states that murder of Unionist was the reason he was asking for troops to be stationed in and around Dallas. He also adds a second reason was he was unable to collect taxes without troops.

The Chicago Tribune’s version of the account state that Sheriff Fraser and James Stevens (the Treasurer) were in the house at the same time… at midnight.

These accounts lead to a lot of questions. Were Sheriff Fraser and James Stevens having a meeting at midnight ( or 1:00 am depending on which account is more accurate)? Were James Fraser, James Stevens & Justice of the Peace Critze abusing their powers for financial gain?

I don’t know but I do know a lot of Union men in Southeast Missouri used their positions to enhance personal financial gain.

  • Clint Lacy is author of “Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition” paperback is available for $15 , Kindle eBook is available for $2.99. Click Here to order.

Using the Term "Bushwhacker" to Deflect Blame

Missouri “Bushwhackers” firing on a Union steamboat.

According to Civil War on the Western Border {.org} a “Bushwhacker” is defined as follows:

“The “bushwhackers” were Missourians who fled to the rugged backcountry and forests to live in hiding and resist the Union occupation of the border counties. They fought Union patrols, typically by ambush, in countless small skirmishes, and hit-and-run engagements. These guerrilla fighters harassed, robbed, and sometimes murdered loyal Unionist farmers on both sides of the state line. They interrupted the federal mail and telegraph communications, and (most troublesome to the Union command trying to quell the escalating violence in the border region) the bushwhackers held the popular support of many local farming families.”

In my January 31, 2020 post entitled “Who Murdered the Patterson Family” I noted that:

“In most history books the term “bushwhacker” refers to Southern partisan fighters on Missouri’s western border. Often these Southern partisans formed into “irregular”, “independent” companies of men. That being said, many people relate the term “bushwhacker” to “Southerner” and “Confederate”.

Through my research I have found that in this area of Southeast Missouri the term “bushwhacker” was used indiscriminately to describe Union or Confederate independent units. Cochran’s 90 Day (Independent) Militia was not attached to any other units, nor was it beholden to any other units, which qualifies he and his unit as “bushwhackers”.

In the post quoted above, I make the case that significant evidence exists to point the finger of blame for the murder of the Patterson family in Bollinger County, Missouri during the Civil War at one James Rogers, who was a member of Captain Cochran’s 90 militia.

After the war Rogers was appointed Sheriff of Bollinger County but later fled back to Michigan because, according to one newspaper account, he was charged for murders that were committed in the area during the war.

In my opinion using the term “Bushwhackers” to describe local Union militia units, seems to be intentional , not only to cause confusion in an attempt to deflect the blame from Union forces, but to point the finger of blame at Southern forces.

I have found another example of this. In the book “Revolution in America” author Don Higginbotham writes:

“My mother’s grandfather, Jonas Myers served in the Confederate Army and was killed in Northeast Arkansas after the conflict ended while on his way home to Bollinger County in Southeast Missouri. Some accounts say that he and several other local men on their return journey were robbed and then lined up and executed by so-called bushwhackers, lawless men who preyed on both sides. But the old tombstone that was erected after their bodies were exhumed and returned home says they were “murdered by Union soldiers.”