Shelby County in the Civil War

Governor Jackson early took steps to organize regiments of militia, professedly to defend the state; but Union men believed these would be used to help the secessionists. Crockett Davis and Daniel G. Minter early raised a company for Jackson's forces in this county. The people of Shelby were as profoundly stirred by the exciting events occurring in the country as the people of any county. The Union men and the secessionists each began to hold secret meetings to lay plans to advance the cause they favored. They remained friendly when they met men of opposing views, but both sides began to prepare for war. Though the Union men were in the majority, the secessionists were bold. Public as well as secret meetings were held, and strong language was used on both sides.

Flag raisings were common and these were occasions for bitter talk. June 13, 1861, the Second Iowa Infantry came through Hunnewell on the train, fired on the citizens and took two prisoners. This made the excitement more intense. Captain Hughes organized a company for the Union army at Shelbina. A lot of young men from this company went to St. Joseph and enlisted in the old Missouri Thirteenth and a little later were captured with Mulligan at Lexington. July 10, the fight at Monroe City took place, and about the same time a detachment of Illinois soldiers from Macon went to northwest Shelby and cut down a secession flag.

About this time a company of home guards was organized at Shelbyville with Joseph Forman as captain. This company helped for some months to guard the railroad and the government supplies at Hannibal. On July 10, a company of secessionists from Ralls County burned the railroad bridge across Salt River near Hunnewell; and soon after Brig.-Gen. John McNeal made his headquarters for a time at Hunnewell and then a short period at Shelbina. Quite a number of young men left the county and enlisted in Colonel Green's Southern regiment. Frisby McCullough sent some of his Confederates to Shelbyville and took Captain Forman and Col. John F. Benjamin prisoners, but they were soon released. In September, General Hurlbert concentrated his Union forces at Bethel to attack Green, supposed to be at Philadelphia, in Marion County. Three soldiers of Hurlbert's command, going alone from Shelbyville to Shelbina, were fired upon by bushwhackers, one was killed and one wounded. The bushwhackers made their escape. They were all young men of this county, but are now dead; one, at least, subsequently became a good citizen of the county, but most of them were killed during the war.

About the 1st of September, Colonel Williams of Iowa, with six hundred men passed through Shelbina and went to Paris, then returning to Shelbina. As he returned, he learned that General Green, who had mustered all the Confederate forces he could secure, was coming from Florida, in Monroe County, with the intention of capturing Williams and his men. Williams reached Shelbina after dark and learned that Hurlbert had taken all his troops to Brookfield, and that Green with two or three thousand men was about to attack Shelbina, The next morning Green sent Colonel Williams a note demanding his surrender or to have the women and children moved out of town. The women and children were moved, but Colonel Green's note was not answered. The latter then opened fire with two pieces of artillery of Captain Kneisley's Palmyra battery. The cannon were well aimed and the shots struck near the center of the town, two passing through the hotel. The Federals had no artillery and therefore could not fight back. So the infantry took a train for Brookfield and the mounted men rode along near the train. Colonel Williams reported that he barricaded the streets for battle, but being besieged by three thousand Confederates, who had cannon, while he had none, he was unable to hold the town; that he lost one man and that Captain McClure, of the Second Kansas, had his foot shot off. After the Federal retreat. Colonel Green took the town and captured a few knapsacks, four mules, a wagon and some guns. This was called the Battle of Shelbina. Then Colonel Green s men went east to Salt River Bridge, which they burned. This was the second time it had been destroyed. At night after Green left Shelbina, some of his men returned and burned some cars on the track. Soon after the above. General Pope arrived at Hunnewell with a considerable force and made that town his headquarters for some days.

After the Federal defeat at Bull Run and after Wilson's Creek, secessionists became active in this county, and quite a number of young men and boys joined Green and later Green joined General Price south of the Missouri. In August, Captain Stacey of Hunnewell vicinity, organized an irregular squad of men which never became a part of the Confederate army. With these men he made a raid on Palmyra and took provisions and two prisoners. He also fired on a train load of soldiers near Hunnewell and wounded two.

Hon. John McAfee, once speaker of the Missouri House, Ex-Senator James S. Green, of Lewis, and Ex-Congressman Thomas L. Anderson, of Clarion, did more, it was said, to incite men to fight against the government than any other men in North Missouri: yet no one of these ever became a soldier. General Hurlbert took McAfee prisoner and put him at hard labor, digging trenches. Yet he lived through it all and for many years afterward was a citizen of Quincy, Illinois. The other two notables named went over to Illinois early in the war and remained there till the war was over.

In July, Colonel, afterward General, U. S. Grant in command of the Twenty-first Illinois and Colonel, afterward General, John M. Palmer in command of the Fourteenth Illinois, came to Salt River Bridge near Hunnewell as it was important to the government to keep the railroad open. General Grant sent for substantial citizens of the vicinity and told them he was not there to injure any individual, but only to uphold the government; that the war was not to free the Negro, if he thought it was, he would take his men to the South. He talked to his guests in his easy, business-like way, explained the difference between soldiers and marauders, and said that when he required any provisions he would pay for them. He acted so differently from some who had been there, that he became popular even with the Southern sympathizers. About this time a block house was made on the eastern bank of Salt River over-looking the bridge. It was so constructed as to leave opportunity for the soldiers while in it, to shoot through the corners and at the same time be mainly protected.

General Grant went from the bridge to Florida, then to Mexico, Missouri, and then further south. In his ''Personal Memoirs,' the General says: ''At the time of which I now write we had no transportation and the country about Salt River was sparsely settled, so that it took some days to collect teams and drivers enough to move the camp. While preparations for the move were going on I felt quite comfortable; but when we got on the road we found every house deserted. In the twenty-five miles we had to march, we did not see a person, old or young, male or female, except two horsemen, who were on a road that crossed ours. As soon as they saw us, they decamped as fast as their horses could carry them. I kept my men in the ranks and forbade their entering the deserted houses or taking anything from them. We halted at night on the road and proceeded the next morning at an early hour. Harris had been encamped in a creek bottom for the sake of being near water. The hills on either side of the creek extend to a considerable height, possibly more than a hundred feet. As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris camped and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me that it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view, I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterward. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had to fear his. The lesson was valuable.''

In 1884 General Grant wrote R. L. Holcomb, who was compiling a history of this county, as follows:

''Long Branch, New Jersey, August 3, 1884. In July, 1861, I was ordered with my regiment, the Twenty-first Illinois Infantry, to north Missouri to relieve Colonel Smith of the Sixteenth, who was reported surrounded on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. On my arrival at Quincy I found that the regiment had scattered and fled. I then went with my regiment to the junction of the road from Quincy with the one from Hannibal, where I remained for a few days, until relieved by Colonel Turchin with another Illinois regiment. From here I was ordered to guard the workmen engaged in rebuilding the Salt River Bridge. Colonel Palmer was there with his regiment at the same time. When the work was near completion, I was ordered to move against Thomas Harris, who was reported to have a regiment or battalion encamped near Florida, Missouri. I marched there, some twenty-five miles from Salt River, but found on arrival that he had disbanded about the time I started. On my return, I was ordered to Mexico, Missouri, by rail. Very truly yours, U. S. Grant."

Of the events of the Civil war the above are the principal ones taking place in this county during 1861.

Early in 1862, under the directions of Acting-Governor Gamble, who took the place of Jackson after he went south, H. S. Lipscomb, of Palmyra, John F. Benjamin, Dr. A. C. Priest and W. J. Holliday of Shelbyville, and others, the Eleventh Cavalry regiment was organized. Afterward this was consolidated with the Second regiment, state militia. When the leaves came out in the spring, many opponents of the government resorted to bushwhacking. They hid in the brush and shot soldiers as they passed along the road or were carried past in trains. In March, Stacey's men took J. M. Preston from his home near Monroe City to Stacey's camp in Shelby and killed him. They charged him with being a spy. This aroused the Union men and they threatened retaliation. Stacey kept eastern Shelby and western Marion disturbed for a long time. Later in the season his men fired upon Colonel Lipscomb's regiment as it marched from Shelbina to Shelbyville, killing two soldiers and a citizen named Lilburn Hale. A posse from Shelbyville went in pursuit of Stacey, killed two and one drowned, and Stacey just escaped capture. When the news of the bushwhacking reached Shelbyville, great indignation was manifested. Colonel Benjamin was wild with excitement and declared that three of the men held there as prisoners should be shot. He selected first, Roland Harvey of Clark County, who had been captured a few days before, and had him shot. Then the news came that two of Stacey's band had been killed, and the Colonel was persuaded to stay his hand.

The following from Colonel Glover will give an idea of the condition of affairs in 1862:

Edina, April 10, 1862.
Captain Benjamin,

Sir: I send you a list of names marked (A), who did the killing of militia in this (Knox) county. The others are members of a bushwhacking company in this and other counties. Give a list of the names to your commissioned officers with instructions to hold all such if arrested. Keep their names as secret as possible. I do not want them to know they are suspected or we shall not be able to catch them. You have two of them, I am told (the Feltz). Hold them safely. We have five or six of them, and on yesterday we killed one of the murderers, William Musgrove. These men are scattered all over the country. You will be as active as possible and charge your men to be cautious. These men are frequently to be found in the vicinity of Magruder's on Black creek. These fellows are in the habit of crossing Salt River, southeast of your town, on a bridge on an unfrequented road. You will do well to give it some attention. My instructions are not to bring in these fellows if they can be induced to run, and if the men are instructed they can make them run. Yours respectfully, J. M. Glover."

In September, Gen. Lewis McNeil in command at Macon, shot ten prisoners, two of them citizens of this county, to wit: Prank B. Drake and Edward Riggs. About this time also was the massacre of ten men at Palmyra by order of General McNeil. Buildings were also burned, three in this county being especially notable: the home of Robert Joiner in Tiger Fork, and the homes of Carter Baker and John Maupin in Jefferson Township. These men were accused of keeping rendezvous for bushwhackers and murderers. Lieutenant Holliday and Captain Priest executed the order to burn these houses.

In the latter part of '62 Colonel Porter was about the only active Confederate in northeast Missouri. The others had gone south. Many men from Shelby joined him. J. T. S. Clements of Hager's Grove raised a company of eighty men in twenty-four hours and joined Porter. Soon after this, the battle of Kirksville was fought. McNeil was in command of the Union forces and Porter commanded the Confederates. Porter was routed and many prisoners were taken. Of these many were tried for violating their parole and shot. The Shelbyites among these were: James Christian, David Wood, Jesse Wood and Bennett Hayden.

In 1863 and 1864 Shelby County had 504 men in the militia, and the people lived in more peace than during the two preceding years. But in July, 1864, the notorious and dreaded Bill Anderson with thirty-four desperate men entered Shelbina early one morning. He made Judge Daniel Taylor hold his horse while he looked around the place. He lined up the citizens and robbed them, and then plundered the business part of the town, then fired the depot and some cars standing on the track. He was in Shelbina about four hours, and then went east and burned Salt River Bridge for the third time. Soon after this, occurred the Centralia massacre by Bill Anderson. The foregoing are the more important events in Shelby during the terrible war. Though peace came in 1865 and was heartily welcomed by the people, it found a very bitter state of feeling between Union men and Southern sympathizers. The former were elated by their victory and the latter felt the strong arm of power over them. They felt depressed and downtrodden. They had no voice in choosing any officers, and many Union men declared that ''the Rebels" had no rights and ought to be punished. In 1866 the following ministers were indicted for preaching the gospel without having taken the test oath: Jesse Faubion, Henry Louthan, Robert Holliday, Milford Powers, William Pulliam, Father Phelan, and some others. These men were arrested, but the cases were never tried, as Father Cummins had taken his case to the supreme court of the United States, and the prohibition against preaching and teaching without taking oath was knocked out. Gen. Frank P. Blair, who had been a gallant soldier on the Union side, refused to take the oath and was disfranchised. This was all ended by B. Gratz Brown's election in 1870; and after that the bitter feeling between those who had been on the Union side and the Southern sympathizers died out, and is now happily dead forever.


© 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