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

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.

A Giant in the Ozarks

This story comes courtesy of the Oregon County (Missouri) Genealogy Facebook group.

The September 10, 1885 issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat carried the story of a discovery of the skeletal remains of what can only be described as a giant, in a cave located nine miles from Thayer, Missouri.

The paper describes the giant as follows:

“The explorers found the skeleton of a man 9 feet one 1 inch in height , which was well proportioned. In removing the skeleton some of the joints dropped loose. The finger nails were found to be petrified. There was also found a considerable quantity of ancient furniture.”

This however, was not the only discovery of giants in Missouri the following was published in:

PROVIDENCE EVENING PRESS, SEPTEMBER 3, 1883
A GIANT’S SKELETON
MUST HAVE BEEN GOLIATH.

“Hon J. H. Hainly, a well known and reliable citizen of Barnard, Mo., writes to the Gazette the particulars of the discovery of a giant skeleton four miles southwest of that place. A farmer named John W. Haunon found the bones protruding from the bank of a ravine that had been cut by the action of the rains during the past years. Mr. Hannon worked several days in unearthing the skeletons, which proved to be that of a human being whose height was twelve feet. The head through the temples was twelve inches;  from the lower part of the skull at the back to the top was fifteen inches, and the circumference forty inches. The ribs were nearly four feet long and one and three-quarter inches wide. The thigh bones were thirty inches long and large in proportion. When the earth was removed the ribs stood up high enough to enable a man to crawl in and explore the interior of the skeleton, turn around and come out with ease. The first joint of the great toe, above the nail, was three inches long, and the entire foot eighteen inches in length. The skeleton lay on its face, twenty feet feet below the surface of the ground, and the toes embedded in the earth, indicating that the body either fell or was placed there when the ground was soft. The left arm was passed around backward, the head resting on the spinal column, while the right was stretched out to the front and right.  Some of the bones crumbled upon exposure to the air, but many good specimens were preserved and are now on exhibition at Barnard. Medical men are much interested. The skeleton is generally pronounced a valuable relic of the prehistoric race.”

The discovery of skeletal remains of Giants is not limited to the Ozarks, or Missouri for that matter. Author Jason Colavito has put together an impressive archive of newspaper accounts of giants throughout the years. He has documented accounts from across the United States and the world and if this subject is of interest, you can read these fascinating stories at his website: http://www.jasoncolavito.com/newspaper-accounts-of-giants.html

Marketing vs Facts: Southeast Missouri was Rebel Territory

From the Wednesday June 5, 1864 Chicago Tribune.

This post is historical with a touch of commentary. First I must address the disturbing trend of eliminating everything Confederate out of the history books, the town squares and tourism brochures.

I can only imagine that those in charge have based their decisions on today’s politically charged environments. It’s safer to only publish pictures of Union reenactors , discuss Union achievements and important contributions made by Unionists in certain areas.

It’s safer that way. It keeps protestors out of communities. It doesn’t damage income from tourism and after all, the Union fought against the evils of slavery. Right?

There are a couple of problems with this strategy. Yes it may be safer economically and politically but it damages tourist areas historically.

First of all, if the Confederates never exist, then who did the Unionist fight? Second these economic development strategies could severely backfire on them with this “riding the high horse while taking the low road” strategy.

It’s no different in Southeast Missouri. Our monuments still exist but for how long? If they do remain how long will it be before “someone” demands an interpretive plaque be installed on the monuments to tell you how evil Southerners were?

History can be tricky. Missouri history can be more tricky. Many Unionists were slave owners. Many Confederates were dirt poor farmers who never owned slaves.

Many “home guard” militias affiliated with the Union cause lacked leadership and discipline. That’s what makes a clip from the June 5, 1864 Chicago Tribune so interesting. The paper reported that Southeast Missouri was filled with “rebels” and attempts to stifle them by the forming of “Home Guard” units were unsuccessful, mainly because the (Union) government appointed their leaders.

The Chicago Tribune reported:

“The Rebels are conscripting all able bodied men in Stoddard and Bollinger counties, but as the commodity is scarce the product will be small. Our cavalry is after them but the Southeast [ Missouri -Ed.] is overrun with rebels.

Attempts to raise two regiments of 90 day’s militia for home service promise to be a failure on account of the poor quality of officers usually appointed by the government.”

I promise you won’t see that in any economic development / tourism brochures these days. So what’s the solution?

For starters lets stop sacrificing historical facts for marketing dollars, history can’t be changed and it shouldn’t be changed. The tourism dollars will still follow and possibly generate even more tourist dollars if entities are honest with them. Honesty is a cornerstone of business and it should be the cornerstone for those who are in the business of tourism.

Thar’s Gold in Marble Hill!

A newspaper clipping from the May 26, 1866 Charleston Daily News

Apparently gold was discovered in Marble Hill, Missouri. The source of the news comes from the May 26, 1866 Charleston Daily News (Charleston, S.C.) and at the time Marble Hill was called “Dallas”.

According to the paper a rock which served as part of the foundation of a house that had been burned during the Civil War. The paper states that when the rock was ground up $60 worth of gold was refined from it. The paper also reported that the rock came from a local quarry just outside of town.

This is the first time this writer has ever heard of gold being discovered in the Southeast Missouri Ozark Foothills of Bollinger County, Missouri and as far as I know this was the only time gold was ever discovered here.

Just Released: Blood in the Ozarks- Expanded Second Edition

Foothills Media LLC is pleased to announce the release of “Blood in the Ozarks: Expanded Second Edition”

Deep in the Ozarks of Southeast Missouri a battle still raises about a massacre committed on Christmas Day, 1863 in Ripley County, Missouri by members of the 3’rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry led by Major James Wilson. While naysayers state that the “massacre” was nothing more than a rescue mission to free Union troops captured days before by Colonel Timothy Reeves and his 15th Missouri Cavalry, CSA, local historical documents, newspaper articles and military records prove bias on their part, painting a picture of a government cover up and the needless slaughter of men, women and children along with Confederate soldiers on the holiest day of the year. In this Expanded Second Edition the reader will find more photos, newspaper archives and other sources of information that paints a clearer picture of this tragedy.

More information, more photos at a more affordable price!

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