There were other border counties, both in this and other States, during the late war, but the history of this county during that unfortunate period probably differed materially from that of her sisters. Many and many of the stanchest men in the county when approached on the subject would shake their heads and simply say that it was one they did not care to talk about. Yet so far as bloodshed was concerned, or even those secret assassinations and horrible nameless outrages that marked many a locality of our Union, the county was comparatively free.
When the news of the firing on Fort Sumter reached the county the people were dazed, and instead of gathering in excited crowds and discussing matters, each seemed to desire quietly to go to his home, and in an undertone talk it over.
In feelings toward the Rebellion and the Union cause, Morgan County was probably nearly divided, with a preponderance on the side of the Union cause. This mutual quiet continued until the capture of Camp Jackson by the Union forces, May 10, 1861. Then the war sentiment broke forth, and the people became actively excited. These noisy demonstrations on the Confederate side soon stirred the Unionists to outspoken words and to active and energetic efforts in aid of the Government. To the infinite credit of each side, it can now be truthfully told that the fighting element on both sides seemed by common consent to make up their minds to attach themselves to the regular army organizations before they should do any fighting. And on both sides men quietly went away, singly and in small squads, to find recruiting stations where they could be regularly enrolled in the respective armies. Had this respectable element in commencing been all, then the county would have felt no other than the fate of any land where the people have gone off to the war.
So far as one can now learn there were certain elements that remained here which of course produced more or less influence upon the community. The blood that was shed during the war, many of the assassinations and murders, if not all of them, in the county, are laid at the doors of marauding parties.
A man named Stephenson was the reputed head of the little band of bushwhackers in Morgan County. The opposing armies passed a number of times through the county, but all agree that they perpetrated few outrages on the people, at least not more than each side expected, and by the commanders' orders there were none. There was no battle within the county's boundaries. The nearest approach to a skirmish was not far from Versailles. It seems that five Union men had been sent out for some purpose. They were ambushed, or, as some accounts say, were caught in a lane and attacked by the bushwhackers. They made the best defense they could, and retreated. In a short distance George H. Dancer's horse fell, and he was overtaken by the rebels and shot dead. James M. Drummonds was wounded and taken off and killed. Henderson Marple was wounded. Aaron Wear and Newt Brown escaped unhurt.
Joe Jolly and Humphrey Cotty were hanged at Mount Carmel Church by bushwhackers.
There was a slight skirmish between bushwhackers and Home Guards near Byler's Mill, but no one was killed or seriously wounded. The bushwhackers killed several Union soldiers, and also two Germans near Florence, and Pete Hayes, a man named Palmer, and G. W. Shackleford, of Syracuse. John Rutherford was killed north of Versailles. Hugh and Peter Berger were carried off to Benton County and executed.
A bushwhacker named Job was court martialed and shot for murder.
Several Morgan County men, Germans, were killed in the Cole Camp attack. The only ones whose names are now recalled were Henry Otten, Peter Defore and a man named Jacobs.
An incident which occurred in Versailles during these troublous times will go far to leave upon posterity's mind something of the true condition of affairs. Two men, old citizens of Versailles, returned to town after an absence in the rebels' interest. One of them had had a horse and buggy taken by the Union forces. The two men charged that a man named Crawford had informed against them and been the cause of their loss, and openly avowed their intention to kill Crawford. They called him out of the post-office and told him their purpose. Dr. Thruston went to the man's rescue. Crawford jumped behind the doctor and seized him in his arms, begging him to save his life. The men then swore they would even kill the doctor unless he got out of the way. After much parley they told Crawford to get on the horse behind one of them, and they would not hurt him. He did so, and they rode into the brush south of town. Thruston followed, and when they halted he went to them and told them if they harmed Crawford the whole people of Versailles would be murdered and the town burned by Federal troops. The men claimed one of their brothers had just been arrested and taken to Tipton. After much parley Dr. Thruston agreed if they would give up Crawford he would take him and go to Tipton and bring the brother back. This arrangement was finally made, and Crawford was taken to Dr. Thruston's house. In the night he (Crawford) slipped out, went to Tipton, reported the affair, and soon 300 of Gen. Palmer's men came to wreak vengeance on Versailles. The officers fortunately called on Dr. Thruston, but learning all the facts, departed without molesting anyone.
In this way the prominent men on each side in the county were compelled, often at the risk of their lives, to interfere to save the community.
On the other hand there is laid to the fault of the Home Guards nearly an equal number of inexcusable acts. It is said they would charge a man with feeding bushwhackers, perhaps, and then commit serious offenses as a punishment. Henry Chaney, living ten miles north of Versailles, who was believed by the Home Guards to be a bushwhacker, was visited and killed, and his house burned, by a captain and squad of men.
While really there were very few great crimes in the county, yet the horrors of civil war were upon the people. Everyone felt that he carried his life in his hands. Every bush and hiding place the imagination filled with dreaded assassins. Suspicion attached to each person. Families were afraid to sleep in their houses at night, and men afraid to travel the roads or work in their fields by day. There were, indeed, few families but that at some time during these dark and dreadful days, slept away from their house. At first no one knew whom to trust or suspicion. How fortunate it is that now they can know their fears were often so groundless, and that the danger was more imaginary than real.
It is difficult to tell, in fact utterly impossible to accurately know, just how many men from Morgan County were in the service, on one side or the other. The adjutant-general's report only shows between 200 and 300 in the Government volunteer service, with some 600 who were in the Enrolled Militia service. In the rebel army it is a mere matter of estimate, and is placed at from 40 to 100 men.
On account of the conditions in the early part of the war, many men went to Sedalia and to Kansas, and some to Illinois, to enlist, and they have never been credited to Missouri on the records. The Confederates either hunted for Price‘s army or went to Claib, Jackson, at Jefferson City. There never was a public recruiting rebel officer in the county.
In 1861, when was loosed "the dreadful days of war," there were two full companies of Missouri State Guards in Morgan County -- one commanded by Capt. Samuel Livingston, and the other by Capt. George Butler, a brother of the present senator of that name, from South Carolina. These were State troops, and participated in the first Missouri battles. Butler‘s lieutenants were James B. Salmon and J. S. Thruston. Livingston's first lieutenant was W. H. Goddard. After the Camp Jackson capture, and before they entered the Confederate service, the companies were reorganized, and Butler became captain of the consolidated company, and Livingston, first lieutenant. After the Corinth battle Livingston was captain; Frank Madole and W. H. Meador, lieutenants.
In addition to the scattering squads which were enrolled in places outside of the county, and not therefore properly credited to this place, there was in the three-years' service in the Federal army, Company I, Twenty-ninth Missouri Infantry Volunteers, Capt. John L. Consales. He resigned March 10, 1863, being succeeded by John P. Hibler, who was severely wounded in a charge on the Yazoo. First Lieut. Hibler was succeeded by John W. Saunders, and Saunders was succeeded to the second lieutenancy by Joseph S. Rice. The Twenty-ninth Regiment were sent to Benton Barrack September 22, 1861; down the Mississippi, stopping at Cape Girardeau and Helena; up the Yazoo, then to Mississippi, and were in the siege and capture of Vicksburg. They were in Gen. Frank Blair's Fifteenth Corps and took part in Sherman's march, also being at Corinth, Chattanooga, Tuscumbia, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, etc. The regiment saw three years of hard service. Their ragged and decimated ranks were the grim evidences that Gen. Frank Blair was a fighter in the fullest sense of the word.
This company was raised in the northern part of the county, their first rendezvous and recruiting station being Syracuse.
In the Forty-third Enrolled Missouri Militia was Company K, from Morgan County, enlisted August, 1862. This at first was a battalion company -- Capt. William A. Mills, First Lieut. John Gills, Second Lieut. John H. Fisher. The first captain of this company was Belford S. Walker. He resigned, and was succeeded by First Lieut. Mills, when John Giles became first lieutenant.
Company M was also attached to the Forty-third Regiment, Capt. C. H. Brace, First Lieut. William H. Hartman, Second Lieut. August Ochrke being officers.
Battalion Company A, forty-three men, was attached to the Forty-third Regiment, and was officered by Capt. John Sims, First Lieut. William D. Morris, Second Lieut. James H. Reed; also Battalion Company B, Capt. C. H. Brace, First Lieut. William Hartman, Second Lieut. August Ochrke.
September 25, 1862, Andrew J. Hart, of this county, became lieutenant-colonel of the Forty-third Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia.
In this regiment Company C was officered by Capt. Moses S. Courtright, First Lieut. Thomas Harvey, Second Lieut. John McAdoo.
There were, in addition to the above, 600 Morgan County men in the different militia companies organized during the war.
There were Morgan County men in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Twenty-ninth and Thirteenth Kansas Regiments, but who and how many may never be known.
Gen. Lyons called out the Home Guards of Morgan County in May, 1861, to resist Price's State Guard. The Enrolled Militia were organized by authority of the governor in 1862. The Provisional Militia were ordered out in 1864 to resist Price's raid through this portion of the State.
The Morgan County Mounted Volunteer Militia, Capt. A. J. Hart, were organized in February, 1865, to look after the returning rebels.
Results of Civil Strife
From the inception of the war to the passing away of its worst effects were a sad decade of years to all the people of Morgan County. The first half of the ten years noted the going and returning of neighbors, and often old and dear friends, to the opposing armies, and their sometimes meeting in the far and sunny Southland just after a bloody battle. Of these actual soldiers who had met as enemies in the red gaps of war, those who lived to return to their old homes resumed their places quietly in society, content to forget the bloody past so far as words and actions were concerned. With them, when the fight was over it was wholly over, and in this respect there probably never was a better exhibition of good citizenship than was to be seen among the people of Morgan County.
Within the next five years after the war the effects had passed away, and the quiet and order, the good fellowship among the people, were the blessed evidences that peace hath her triumphs as well as war. A more orderly, quiet and peaceable community, one where life and property are secure and as little molested, than that of Morgan County, is not to be found in America.
An incident referred to elsewhere is given to illustrate something of the state of affairs during the troubles, and another incident, which occurred after the war, will go far to leave a correct impression of the second period of these times.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, building in Versailles had been taken by the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, and they had a minister and were holding meetings. The old minister of this church in the ante-bellum times was Rev. Litsinger. He attended meeting as soon as he returned, and when services were over he rose and announced that the regular Methodist Episcopal Church, South, would resume again their church, and hold regular services, commencing the next Sabbath. This announcement created a perfect commotion. He had taken the precaution to get the key and put it in his pocket. Upon being demanded to give up the key he refused, and some strong talk was indulged in. It continued to simmer and grow until finally the gentleman was arrested, and put under $600 bonds for preaching without having taken what some called the "kuckleburr oath." The same court had a few days previously put a horse-thief under $200 bonds. The Reverend made the neat retort on the court that "in this court it is three times worse to preach the word of God than to steal."
History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.