View Full Version : A widow's story, SW Missouri

08-29-2004, 03:51 PM
MEMPHIS DAILY APPEAL, [MEMPHIS, TN], April 12, 1862, p. 2, c. 5-6

The Raid of Osceola, September 21, 1861.

Memphis, April, 1862.

Editors Appeal: I have been requested by several friends to publish a statement of facts which occurred at Osceola, and of which I had personal knowledge. At first I deemed it unadvisable, but on reading an article in the Appeal in reference to the conduct of the Federal troops at Nashville, their pretended kindness and consideration to the people there, and the evident motive thereof, I determined to send to your paper a simple account of my experience of their wanton cruelty and insult, when policy holds forth no inducement for hypocrisy. I have been further confirmed in this resolution from a perusal of Andrew Johnson's speech at that place. It is right that a few startling truths should meet his mass of falsehoods. Read what he says of the friendly intention of our invaders, and then all I shall tell you of their treatment, of what they call a conquered province, and judge what your fate will be when the chains they are forging shall be clasped around you.

Perhaps the people of the South who have heard of the raid of Osceola, have wondered what should have given to this remote little village such importance in the eyes of the Kansian robbers, as to make it the object of an expedition, in which, they acknowledge, three thousand men and two pieces of artillery were engaged. In the first place, it was a stronghold of men, who had risen en masse whenever their forays called for protection to the border, and they had long threatened its destruction. Then when South Carolina boldly proclaimed the old Union null and void, in consequence of northern violation of all its sacred obligations, and the selection of a sectional candidate for the presidency, who publicly declared that "the irrepressible conflict" should be the most important part of the programme of his administration, the citizens of this place raised one of the first secession banners that floated in the air of Missouri, and companies formed there were among the first to enlist in the holy cause. The ladies were untiring in their zeal, and were busy night and day in the completion of tents and clothing for the soldiers of their own and other counties. All this gave it a notoriety of rebellion which was used as an excuse to cover the other and more powerful motives which induced the raid. Like Capt. Dalgetty, the promise of good pay was heard when the call of patriotism was unheeded. Our merchants had large and rich assortments of goods, which were freely exchanged with the State troops for scrip, for the issue of which the Legislature had given no sanction. A branch bank was established here and its glittering heaps were a great temptation. Col. Snyder, of the State army, had in operation a cartridge factory in the suburbs. When Gen. Price moved up from Springfield to Lexington, a part of the ammunition was sent to Osceola for safe keeping until called for. All these things were well known to Lane and Montgomery, as we afterward discovered that the latter was in constant correspondence with a woman in our midst, a Yankee, it is true, but one whom we had considered a lady. The first intimation of danger was a threatened attack from the Union rabble of Thomasville, a Black Republican town near us. All of our men who were not in the army banded together, keeping watch day and night, and this and the opportune arrival of Capt. Landis, and a company on their way to Price, saved us from that demonstration. Hardly had that cloud passed by when the news came that the regular Kansas jayhawkers were marking on us with a force of about 5,000 men. We had no defense against them. A little company of 36 men under Capt. Weidemeger was all the opposing force left us. The specie of the bank, the papers, etc., were hastily concealed; $90,000 of the specie about my own residence, which did not make me feel very comfortable. The negroes of the town and neighborhood were sent with provisions to the woods; a few goods were hidden, and then as the alarm of their advance came nearer the few gentlemen left, among whom were the bank officers, sought refuge in the thick growth around the place. At about 3 o'clock in the night, we, the defenseless women and children, heard the first reports of their firearms mingled with those of the brave little band of 36 who fired at the foe from behind an old building, as they neared the town. The contest against such odds was short, of course, though 40 of their number were killed, as one of their officers and several of their privates acknowledged. A pause, and then the cowards, fearful to advance on the unprotected town, commenced a cannonading which endangered the lives of the females and children who were its only garrison. By sunrise they had satisfied themselves that they might make the venture, and poured in. Then commenced the pillage. The stores were broken into and rifled; their Union brethren, of whom I am thankful to say there were but few, called to share in the robbery. The unlicensed soldiers seized on the whisky first, and soon became so ungovernable that the officers ordered the destruction of what remained of that article. The rude outlaws entered the dwellings, demanding of the ladies their sentiments, "North or South? and commanding an answer. I for one was glad of the opportunity to declare myself separate and distinct from all sympathy with such a band of thieves, and they certainly heard no complimentary words from the ladies of Osceola that day. As soon as they had taken all they desired, the torch was applied, and amid the shrieks of the frightened women and children, and the roaring of the first kindled flames, they went on from the stores to the bank, which had been left open, even the safe, to prevent its destruction; to our church which was destroyed with laughing words and blasphemous jests, and then to the private dwellings. Lastly, the court house, with all the records, was set on fire, because, they said, secession soldiers had sheltered there. The houses of my two sons, one of whom was absent in the army, and my daughter, were consumed among the rest. Mine was in the suburbs and fortunately escaped. I was very uneasy about the money, but although they searched other residences, mine was overlooked. Our barn filled with grain and hay was burnt, and a soldier was approaching the house with a torch, but was prevented by Montgomery from applying it. Just then a panic seized them. They heard a rumor that Gen. Slack's division of State troops was advancing from Warsaw, and pell mell they obeyed the hurried order to retreat with their ill gotten booty. Quickly ever trace of their presence, except the run they left behind, had disappeared, and we thought we should be at peace again. But soon we heard a noise behind our smokehouse, and on going thither found a Federal soldier seated on a powerful horse, flourishing his revolver in a drunken, bravado manner. I spoke to him as calmly as I could, and asked him what he wished for. "You have had a little fire here to-day, madam," he said, with an unfeeling laugh. I told him "yes, an outrage had been committed there, such as the civilized nations would shudder to hear of." "It is all right, madam," he replied, "you deserve it all for your cursed rebellion." I asked him again if he wished for anything. He said he wished me to tell him the shortest way to the ford. I gave him the information required, and he turned off, rode by the back yard where my daughters and niece were sitting, threw his pistol forward, nearly in their faces, frightening them very much and passed on to the front yard. I went to the front portico to watch the movements, fearing that he intended to set fire to the house. When he reached the gate, he placed two fresh caps on his pistol, and holding it up called for me. I went with as brave a look as I could assume, and asked why he called me to him. He intimated that the way to the ford which I had directed him to take, looked too much like an ambuscade, and asked me to guard him through the thicket. I told him nothing could induce me to do so, and shewed him the broad road, and told him if he was afraid he had better proceed in that direction. He paused a moment, then dashed down the brushy way to the river, and plunging in swam his horse across, fearing to look for the ford. From this time until Fremont's advance and final retreat, our men were too uneasy to stay often in their houses at night, and lived like wild beasts more than human beings.

We heard of the capture of Lexington, and hoped that our delivery was at hand. Then the news came that Price was forced, for want of caps, to retreat again towards the Arkansas line, and soon after, that Fremont was advancing with a powerful army. This was confirmed in a few days by the arrival of Lane's division on the banks of the Osage, opposite Osceola.

A company of Delaware Indians, mounted and led by Lt. Johnson, plunged into the stream, and the gentlemen of our household had hardly leapt the palings into the thickets beyond the house, ere they had surrounded our dwelling, and commenced their insulting search. You may imagine the effect produced by a band of whooping Indians, arrayed in war dress and paint, on unprotected women, who had so lately passed through the terrors of their first visit. They found six good guns around the premises, some lead and bullets, and about sixty kegs of powder concealed in our carriage house, part of which belonged to our army. They also found nearly $10,000 in coin, which had been buried in the yard—our paper money of less value, we had about our persons. Lieut. Johnson captured two of our negro men and forced them by threats of hanging, shooting, etc., to show them our farm teams, etc. The goods which had been saved from the burning, our supply of flour, some furniture, clothing and jewelry, were there. The goods they distributed among their Union friends. The flour and clothing they bestowed on a train of negroes sent off in haste to Kansas. The furniture was broken up, the ladies bonnets, laces, jewelry, etc., stolen or wantonly destroyed. Even the books did not escape them, but were torn up and scattered to the winds. A volume of Bancrofts "United States," containing a portion of the history of the revolution, told too heavily against them, and was reduced to fragments. Lieut. Johnson then proceeded in his disgraceful work, to yet lower depths of infamy, by commencing a search through our house. No place was too sacred for him to invade, and with smiles and unfeeling remarks he opened our family papers. Several letters from my soldier son to his father, (but lately dead) he boastingly held up as proofs of treason by which to wrest from the widow and orphan all that robbery had left. These with several from the Hon. Wald P. Johnson, abstracted for the same purpose, he refused to return to me, and when I applied to Lane, he endorsed the decision. I wondered if I were dreaming when I looked out from my window, while this was going on, and saw the stars and stripes, waving near, its once glorious folds, protecting and sanctioning the proceedings of desperadoes, who had forgotten that a Constitution ever existed, which protected the liberties of the people.

This young lieutenant was scarcely advanced to manhood—so young and yet so old in wickedness. He belongs to a good family in Indiana, and his brother-in-law, who was evidently ashamed of his conduct, said he was astonished at his rapid march in evil, and acknowledged that he would "not only steal, but lie about it afterward."

I must do the Jayhawkers the justice to say that some of their officers were respectful and kind to us, which is better than my experience of the "gentlemanly Sturgis" and his lawless troops, who came just after. We were kept in constant terror, however, by their threats against our absent sons, brothers, and friends. Several of the officers told me that Lane has sent the Indians out, with orders to shoot them down wherever they were found. I went to his head-quarters with my son's wife, who was almost frantic, to learn the truth. He calmly told me if was so, and advised me to send him word to give himself up, spicing his remarks and advice with oaths and curses against the rebels. He spoke against treason as if he had never been an attainted traitor, with Federal troops after him, when he made his famous run into Iowa.

When Lane, the leader of the van,
His swiftest soldier still outran.

When Gen. Sturgis came he denounced his illustrious compeer in unmeasured terms, and, at first we though him sincere. But before he left we discovered the source of his indignation, in the fact that he had been awakened to the knowledge that Lane was the more successful and profitable rogue. His soldiers were much more insulting than Lane's, and spared us neither curses or threats of every evil. May God grant that I may never be placed in such brutal company again, where woman's purity and dignity were unrespected, and where, for the first time, my cheek burned with shame that I had ever been a citizen under their disgraced banner. What does it cover now?

Oppression, wrong, and tyranny,
Cold-hearted thirst for anarchy,
Licentious passion, wild and free,
And shame's disgusting brow.

Some of Lane's officers deemed it their duty to protect the citizens who wished for it, by placing a guard around their houses.

Terrified by the conduct of the soldiers under Sturgis, I rose from a sick bed to go and ask for a similar safeguard. Col. Fuller, a member of the general's staff, seemed much amused at my distress and application, but promised to grant my request. But he never sent the guard, and left us exposed to fears worse than death, during his stay in Osceola. this is a simple statement of some of the scenes which occurred at Osceola, during the ravages of the war in Southwest Missouri. I could add incident on incident, horror on horror. I could tell of the reign of blood and terror in Jackson county and other unfortunately exposed parts of the border, but this may surely suffice. Andrew Johnson knows all this, and yet he comes to his own State—a State which has honored and loved him—with the kiss of Judas, to betray her. I hope the golden bribe of his treachery may Tarpeia like crush him with its weight. As much as I have suffered, I would suffer on, even to death, rather than see my countrymen of the generous and chivalric South yield to the tender mercies of men like these. I pray that the tide of blood may soon be stayed by the establishment of the liberties of the Confederate States; otherwise I had rather share in their annihilation, that see them vassals to tyrants who ignore every honorable principle of civilized warfare, and glory in rapine, murder, and robbery. If the voices from the desolation of Missouri could speak, the ruined fields, the rifled granaries, the brave men murdered, the women and children driven from burning homes in the rigor of winter, the violated sanctuaries of the living God, if these could speak, they would send trumpet tones of warning to those among us who weakly deem that submission may purchase immunity from all this wrong and degradation. Brethren of the South! your hope lies in the justice of your cause, in strong arms, brave hearts, and the God of battles.

Glory to them who die in this great cause,
Kings, bigots, can inflict no brand of shame,
Or shape of death, to shroud them from applause,
Their hangman fingers cannot touch their fame.

Though fortune waver, still there will be some
Proud hearts, the shrine of freedom's vestal flame,
Long trains of ills may pass, unheeded, dumb,
But vengeance is behind, and justice is to come."


Vicki Betts