Military Engagements in Boone County

Black Hawk Indian War

Much has been written, and still more might be written, about the volunteers from Boone County, in the various wars our country has been unfortunate enough to engage in. Beginning in 1832, with the Black Hawk Indian war, we find Boone county furnishing soldiers, and we learn of their marches to Clark and Lewis counties, and over into the state of Iowa. By being at the right place on time, they prevented Black Hawk from coming to Missouri, with his band of Indians.

Seminole Indian War

In 1837, Boone County furnished a large number of soldiers, who, under the leadership of Col. Richard Gentry, Capt. John Ellis and Capt. Thomas D. Grant, marched to Florida and took part in the battle of the Kissemee and Okeechobee. By their successful fighting, the Indians were driven from Florida and compelled to go west, where by treaty they had agreed to go. The ladies of Columbia made and presented to this regiment a silk flag, on which was the following:

Gird, gird for the conflict.
Our banner wave high.
For our country we'll live.
For our country we'll die.

The presentation of this flag was in front of Gentry's tavern, which then stood at the northeast comer of Ninth and Broadway, where the J. H. Haden building now stands. This flag is still in existence.

Mormon War

Almost as soon as Boone County's soldiers returned from Florida, which was early in 1838, the Mormon war broke out. Again, Boone County soldiers were found ready and willing to do service for their country, and two regiments were raised for that war. Col. John Ellis, Col. Joel Hem and Maj. Stewart B. Hatton were in command, and did service in Missouri and Illinois; but the Mormon war was soon at an end.

Mexican War

Strange as it may seem to us today, the young men and boys of Boone County were eager to leave home and join Doniphan, Kearney, Price and others and cross the plains to engage in the Mexican war. But strange though it is, many of them did, and they won for themselves honors that are equal to those worn by any of our military heroes. The march across the plains under the leadership of Gen. John Ellis and Capt. John Hinton, through an enemy's country, without supplies, and the victories they won were simply marvelous. Then, too, most of them were beardless boys; but General Doniphan said they marched and fought like old regulars. Again, the ladies of Columbia showed their appreciation of Boone county soldiers by presenting to this company a silk flag with the words "Boone Guards" printed on it. On their return, the people of Boone and Howard counties gave a dinner in Rocheport in honor of these heroes.

Kansas War

After many public meetings and a great deal of discussion, on the subject of whether Kansas should be a free state or a slave state, troops were raised and marched to "Bleeding Kansas," as it was called, and they engaged in the Kansas war. Lewis Robinson and Samuel

A. Young, both of Boone County, were the leaders in this military undertaking. These men accompanied the troops from Howard County, and took part in the famous battle of Ossawatomie.

The Civil War

Boone County Men

Fortunately few battles of any importance were fought in Boone County during the Civil war, although Boone County furnished such leaders on the Union side:

Gen. Odon Guitar
Gen. Jos. B. Douglass
Col. Jno. P. Philips
Col. F. T. Russell
Maj. Frank D. Evans
Maj. Lewis P. Miller
Capt. Henry N. Cook
Capt. Samuel A. Garth
Capt. James A. Adams
Capt. Tyre G. Harris
Lieut. Marshall H. Harris
Lieut. Carey H. Gordon

Southern side such leaders as:

Gen. William Y. Slack
Col. Eli Hodge
Col. J. J. Searcy
Col. Harvey McKinney
Col. M. G. Singleton
Capt. Jno. H. H. Maxwell
Capt. C. V. Bicknell
Capt. M. G. Corlew
Capt. Wm. F. Roberts
Capt. Jas. H. Lowry


A skirmish between the Federal forces under Gen. Lewis Merrill and some Southern soldiers occurred on Broadway in Columbia, but few persons were injured. The Federals were encamped in and around the university, and the Southern men suddenly rode into town, taking the Federals by surprise, and taking possession of Broadway, the courthouse and county jail. In the jail were confined some Southern prisoners, who were released and taken away by the soldiers; and some eighty Federal horses were also captured. Soon the Federals organized themselves, galloped down Ninth Street to Broadway, keeping up a constant fire, and followed the fleeing Southerners to a point beyond Mores station. General Merrill was very indignant because he thought some citizens of Columbia had reported conditions in town to the Southern soldiers; and he threatened to bum the town, but some Union sympathizers persuaded him that such action would be wrong and would result in no good.

Goslin's Lane

The battle of Goslin's lane occurred near Woodlandville, in this county, and resulted in a victory for the men in command of Thomas Todd and George Todd, and their capturing a large number of wagons of provisions and supplies from the Federal soldiers. Other battles were known as the battle of Hallsville, the battle of Mt. Zion church, the battle of Perche creek, the battle of Dripping Springs and the battle of Cedar creek.


By far the most serious engagement in Boone County during the war was the Centralia massacre, which occurred in September, 1864. Bill Anderson, the guerrilla leader, was camped with about three hundred and fifty or four hundred of his men at a point a few miles southeast of Centralia, near the M. G. Singleton farm. There was no railroad from Centralia to Columbia then, but a stage made one round trip each day, being driven by Joseph Kelley, a son of the former jailer of Boone County, and a brother of Miss Roxy Kelley, of Columbia. Maj. Jas. S. Rollins, Jas. H. Waugh, Jno. M. Samuel, Boyle Gordon, Lafayette Hume, and perhaps others, were passengers in the stage on that day, on their way to attend a political convention at Mexico. Major Rollins was then a member of congress and Mr. Waugh was then sheriff of this county. Anderson's men attacked the stage, and at the point of a pistol required each man to hand over his pocketbook, watch and other valuables. The valise which Major Rollins was carrying contained a white shirt with his name written in indelible ink across the lower part of the bosom. Ab the guerrilla could not read, he was unable to identify Major Rollins; and, as Major Rollins insisted that his name was Johnson and that he was a Methodist preacher and wanted a clean shirt to wear the next Sunday, he was allowed to go and take his shirt with him. .Mr. Waugh had a somewhat similar experience, for he had a number of papers in his pocket, which had his name and official character written on them; but, as he insisted that his name was Smith and that the papers he had were simply copies of his grandfather's will, the guerrilla allowed him to go, and take the telltale papers with him.

A barrel of whiskey was discovered on the depot platform, and the guerrillas broke open the head and helped themselves. They were beginning to feel the effects of it, when the train on the North Missouri railroad came in from the east. As soon as the engineer saw the guerrillas in town, he at first tried to run through Centralia without stopping; but the guerrillas fired on the train, threw some ties and pieces of lumber on the track and compelled him to stop. On the train were twenty-four Federal soldiers, who were going home on a furlough, and these were at once taken in charge by the guerrillas, and, under the direction of Bill Anderson, their clothing was taken off, and they were marched to one of the streets of the town. After taking one of their number, who was an officer, to their camp for the purpose of exchange, the remaining soldiers were shot and killed, while standing in line. The guerrillas, after robbing the mail, baggage and express car and assaulting and robbing many of the passengers and citizens of Centralia, and burning the train and the station, returned to their camp, taking with them some of the whiskey, which they gave to their companions.

Maj. A. V. E. Johnson was at that time in command of the Federal forces at Mexico, and, hearing of the outrage in Centralia, he at once came with some of his men to that town. He was cautioned not to attempt to attack Anderson, as Johnson's men were new in service; and he was specially warned that Anderson was past master in the art of strategy. But Johnson, feeling that it was his duty to resent this insult to his country and his flag, marched to the place where Anderson's men were encamped. As he approached the little hill, he discovered Anderson's men on top of the hill and apparently ready for an attack. Anderson ordered his men to dismount, which they did; and Johnson, being surprised and fearing some trick was about to be played on him, ordered his men to dismount, which they did, sending their horses some feet to the rear. In a moment Anderson's men leaped into their saddles, their horses started down the hill at full speed, and every man began firing at the Federals and at the same time yelling at the top of his voice. Before Johnson's men could either mount or take in the situation, they and their horses were in the worst of confusion, and were completely routed, 123 out of 130 of them being killed. Major Johnson fell at the first fire, and no one near him survived. Major Johnson and many of his command are buried in the National Cemetery at Jefferson City, where a suitable monument to their memory was erected.

One of Johnson's soldiers who survived said that he made his escape by running forward and passing between two of Anderson's men, unobserved. He ran on to a meadow and hid behind a haystack, pulling up hay at the bottom and crawling under. He remained there till late that night, when he crawled away, passing over the dead bodies of his comrades and often putting his hands and knees in their blood.

Hearing of the slaughter of Major Johnson's command, Gen. Joseph B. Douglass, then stationed at Columbia, started out in pursuit of Anderson's men. Coming close enough, two small cannon were used by Gen. Douglass, which had a telling effect on the guerrillas, and caused them to leave Boone County, after sustaining serious loss.

Columbia Tiger Company

After hearing of the great destruction wrought by Bill Anderson and his men in other parts of the county, especially in and near Centralia, the citizens of Columbia, irrespective of their war feelings, joined a company for the protection of Columbia, its schools and churches. This organization had the bold and somewhat vicious name of "Columbia Tiger Company," and the members of this company were the first tigers who ever called Columbia their headquarters. James S. Rollins was elected captain, A. J. Harbinson and John F. Baker, lieutenants, and Lewis M. Switzler, sergeant. A blockhouse, made of logs, was erected at the intersection of Broadway and Eighth streets, suitable portholes made in the four sides and suitable military supplies placed therein. This blockhouse was built just over a well, which had previously been dug at the crossing of those streets, and thus plenty of water could be furnished the soldiers. The courthouse and Baptist church were used as sleeping quarters for the soldiers and both buildings were barricaded, and had portholes. They were surrounded by a ditch, which was intended to keep the ''Bushwhackers" from setting fire to a load of hay and running it up to the courthouse, and thereby bum the courthouse. Of course, sentinels were on every road leading from Columbia, and a watchman was on top of the courthouse day and night. By reason of the determination of the men composing this company. Bill Anderson and his cohorts never came to Columbia.

Carried Money to St. Louis

Thomas B. Gentry, who was a merchant in Columbia and well acquainted with its early history, told the following experience that he had during the Civil war:

"The express companies refused to accept of money for transportation, after one or two robberies, and, as Bill Anderson's men were threatening to come to Columbia, and had visited every other town in the county, the banks were afraid to keep much currency on hand. As I was going to St. Louis to buy goods, my friends at the Exchange National Bank asked me to take twenty thousand dollars to St. Louis for them, and deposit it with a bank in the city. I did so, riding on the stage from Columbia to Centralia, and on the North Missouri Railroad from Centralia to St. Charles, with no protection, except a pistol that I carried.

The weather was very cold, and it was necessary for me to walk across the Missouri River on the ice, which I did, carrying my valuable package. On the St. Louis county side, I boarded a train, which got me into St. Louis after dark. The first hotel at which I stopped was crowded, and some gamblers made so much noise in an adjoining room that I could not sleep. So I got up and left that hotel and walked around a few blocks to the Laclede, where I registered and took the package of money with me to my room. That night a burglar tried to gain an entrance to my room, over the transom, but I heard him and frightened him away. I do not suppose that he had any idea how much money was in my room, or he probably would not have been so easily frightened. The next morning I went to the bank and gave the package to the proper person, and for once in my life was glad to get rid of money.''


© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913