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I was born in Mount Gilead, Ohio, on the 19th of December, 1844. Father moved his family to Lawrence, Kansas, in the spring of 1857. That summer we occupied the historical log cabin that J. H. Lane and Gaius Jenkins had trouble over,—resulting in the tragic death of the latter. Shortly prior to the killing of Jenkins, we moved to Peru, Indiana, where we remained until the latter part of March, 1861, when the family returned to Kansas.

Myself and oldest brother traveled overland by team and wagon. We had three head of horses. We left the State line of Indiana at Danville, and crossed the Mississippi to Hannibal, Missouri, the day that General Beauregard fired on Fort Sumter. And the War of the Rebellion was on. As we were driving up a street, in the evening of that great day, an old gentleman standing at the gate in front of a cottage hailed us and asked where we were going. "To Kansas," was brother's reply.
The old gentleman walked out to where we had stopped, and said: "Boys, you are goin' into a peck of trouble. Gineral Buregard cannonaded Fort Sumter to-day, and is at it yit. Boys, I'd turn round and go back to whar ye come frum."
Brother said: "No, Uncle, we could never think of such a thing. Our father and mother are now at Lawrence, Kansas, and we must go to them."
He replied: "That place you are going to will be a dangerous place. There has already been a power of trouble out thar whar you are goin', and thar's bound to be a heap more; and all over the nigger, too. I own nineteen of 'em, but if it would stop the spillin' of blood I would free every one of 'em to-night."
This old gentleman had a kind, pleasant-looking face, wore the typical planter's hat, and seemed to take a fatherly interest in us; directed us to a certain farm house on our road where we could get accommodations for the night. And we passed on, having for the first time in our lives seen and talked with the owner of human chattels.
Some neighbors came to the house where we stayed that night, and in earnest fireside talk conveyed the idea that there would be no war; for, said they, when the North finds out that we are in earnest they will not fight us.
My brother, being four years older than I, took part in the evening's talk, and told them that it was but fair to leave the negro out of the question, and to consider the Union as our forefathers left it to us, and that he did not think that twenty-odd millions of people would consent to have the Union of our forefathers dismembered.
The next day, as we were passing through a densely timbered region, an old negro came out from behind a large tree near the wagon-track. His wool was white as snow; his head was bared, and, holding in one hand an apology for a hat, he gave us a courteous bow, and said: "Please, Mars, is we gwine to be free?" (Their underground telegraph was already bringing word from South Carolina to Missouri.)
My brother, being more diplomatic than I could or would have been at the time, said to him, "Why, you surprise me, Grandpop. You look fat and sleek and I know you have more freedom this minute than I have."
Passing on up the State road that leads through Independence, in Jackson county, I could not help but notice the change that had come over my brother. All along the route we had passed over we would talk about and comment on places we passed, objects we viewed, and anything amusing he would make the most of, to have the time pass as pleasantly as we could. But _now_ his face had taken on a more serious look. He seemed at times to be more concerned than I ever remembered him to be before. Twelve miles before arriving at Independence, he said to me:
"John, I will do all of the talking from this on, when we meet anyone, or when in presence of anybody."
He afterwards told me the reason he had suggested this to me was, that the man of the house where we had stayed the night before had told him that a large Confederate army was being recruited at Independence; that the blockade was in force, and that all people bound for Kansas were forbidden to pass on through to that State. My brother did not wish to be caught on any contradictory statements that I might make.
We had traveled only about three miles after charging me to not talk, when suddenly five men on horseback rode up behind us, and, slowing down, engaged in conversation with my brother. I listened very attentively to the following dialogue:
"Whar you-uns goin' to?"
"To Kansas."
The speaker said: "We air too, purty soon. Me and this feller was out thar four year ago," pointing to one of the party, and meaning the border troubles of 1856. "We're goin' after Jim Lane and a lot more of the Free-State Abolitionists. What place you goin' to?"
"Lawrence."
"Why, that's a Abolition hole. You a Abolition?"
"Abolition? What is that?" my brother asked.
"Why, do you believe in free niggers?"
"I don't know enough about the subject to talk about it."
"Whar did ye come frum?"
"Indiana."
One of the others said, "Thar is whar I come frum."
The first spokesman said: "I come frum Arkansaw ten year ago, to the Sni hills."
Whereupon my brother asked, "What stream is this we are approaching?"
The first spokesman said, "This here crick is the Blue," and added, "you-uns'll never git to Kansis."
My brother shifted his position in the wagon-seat so as to face the speaker, and asked, "Why do you say that?"
"Oh, because the provost marshal will stop ye when ye git to town," meaning Independence.
My brother's name was Ralph Emerson, the family all calling him "Em" or "Emerson."
I said, "Emerson, I want a drink of water."
Just as he crossed the stream he stopped the team, took a tin cup that we carried along, and got down and handed me up a cup of water; and the five horsemen rode on.
As they were leaving us, the first spokesman said, "We'll see ye up town, boys."
As we were passing up the main street in Independence, we were aware that we were very much observed. This being the very earliest period of the war, there were no Confederate uniforms, but in order to distinguish an enlisted man from a civilian each soldier had a chevron of white muslin sewed diagonally across his left arm. The strip was about two inches wide and five or six inches long. These soldiers were to compose a portion of what was afterwards known as the famous flower of the Southwestern Army, C. S. A.
When we arrived about the central part of the town, we were halted. The man who halted us had on his left arm, in addition to the white chevron, one of red, just above the white one, on which were some letters, but I do not remember what they were. He had a cavalryman's saber and a Colt's revolver on his person. After halting us, he called to two other men, saying, "Come and search this wagon."
Just as the men were climbing into the wagon we were asked where we were going.
"To Kansas," said my brother.
"Go ahead—search that wagon," said the man who halted us.
Pretty soon one of the searchers said, "Sargent, here is a box of guns on their way to that d——d Abolition country."
I laughed in spite of myself.
To diverge a little: My father had been a cabinet-maker in his earlier life, and he had purchased a nice set of cane-seat chairs while we lived in Indiana. They were put together with dowel pins, and he thought as we boys had no load he would take them apart and pack them in a box, and we would haul them to Kansas. It so happened that the box he made to pack the chairs in did very much resemble a gun box, and I was forcibly reminded of the similarity in October, 1862, when my company was opening some gun boxes at Lawrence to arm ourselves with, when we were now sure-enough soldiers.
The sergeant ordered Emerson to turn the team around. One of the horses was tied behind the wagon. He was a large bay gelding, and as the team swung around on a haw pull, I noticed "Charlie," the horse, had been untied from the wagon and was being led through the crowd. In an instant I was off of the wagon, wound my way through the crowd, jerked the halter-strap out of the fellow's hands that was leading "Charlie," and with a bound I was astride of as fine a horse as was in all Missouri. The crowd set up a yell, but it had more of the cheer in it than that fearful Rebel yell we dreaded to hear in after years.
The crowd was now so dense around the wagon that the way had to be cleared for us to follow the sergeant, who was leading the way to the Provost Marshal's office. I cannot remember of ever being the center of so much attraction as we were that day.
Arriving at the Provost office, we were ordered inside. I tied "Charlie" by one of his mates, and accompanied my brother inside, where we were seated. On the opposite side of a table or desk from where we were was seated a large, florid-faced gentleman about sixty years of age. He had a frank, open countenance, wore gold-rimmed glasses, and was twirling a gold-headed cane in his hands. The sergeant saluted him, and said:
"Colonel, these boys are smuggling guns through to Kansas."
The Colonel replied: "That is a very serious business, indeed."
My brother arose and said: "Colonel, that is all a mistake. That box contains nothing but a set of cane-seat chairs, together with strips of carpet and the necessary wrappings to keep the varnish from being scratched and the furniture from being defaced."
The old Colonel, as they called him, arose, and, walking to the door, asked: "Sergeant, where are those guns?"
"In a box in that wagon by the door," came the answer.
"Have the box put on the sidewalk here and opened," which was done, and found to contain just what Emerson had told them.
The Colonel came close to where we were sitting and asked where we came from, and being answered, he asked to what particular part of Kansas we were going to. Emerson said we were going to Lawrence, but as the Shawnee Indians could now sell their lands we expected to purchase land of them in Johnson county.
"Sergeant," said the Colonel, "see that these boys are safely conducted outside of our lines on the road to Kansas City," and said to us, "That is all."
We went to the wagon, my brother driving the team and I bringing up the rear on "Charlie."
Coming around a bend and seeing our flag floating over Kansas City, I hurrahed, when my brother stopped me and made me tie the horse to the wagon and get up on the seat beside him. He said to me very sharply: "Young man, wait until you are out of the woods before you crow. Wait until we get to Lawrence—then we will be all right."
Poor boy! little did I think then what was in store for our country and him, and that he would be the sacrifice our father and mother had laid upon their country's altar. He barely escaped with his life at the sacking of Olathe, to be finally wholly deceived, surprised and shot down by a volley from Quantrill's bushwhackers at Baxter Springs, Oct. 6, 1863,—twenty-seven bullets crashing through his body. Of this, more extended mention will be made hereafter.
We drove that afternoon and evening through Kansas City and Westport, and arrived at the old Shawnee Mission late in the evening, having crossed the Missouri border in the evening twilight, and were once again on Kansas soil, whose eighty thousand and odd square miles of territory had given, would yet, and did give more lives for liberty and Union than any other State in the Union according to her population.
The next day in the afternoon we drove up Massachusetts street, in Lawrence. We noticed the absence of the circular rifle-pits—one at the south end of the street, the other near the Eldridge House; but we noticed the presence of men in blue uniforms. Then we noticed our father, and in a few moments our family were united. Father and mother had been very solicitous about us. Such men as E. R. Falley, S. N. Wood and others telling father that if we ever got through Missouri at all it would be a miracle, on account of the blockade. All Lawrence was up and preparing to answer back the fatal shot that Beauregard had fired. And the flag we already loved so well took on a new meaning to me.
The next day our family moved down through Eudora and on out to Hesper, where, just over the line in Johnson county, my father purchased two hundred acres of Shawnee Indian land, on Captain's creek. On this land my father, mother, a sister and two little brothers lived during the Slaveholders' Rebellion; and after the Quantrill raiders passed our house that memorable August night in 1863, to do at Lawrence what the world already knows, that mother and sister carried from the house, boxes and trunks so heavily laden with household goods to a cornfield, that when the excitement and danger were over they could not lift them, when they found the Ruffians did not return that way.
Before drifting these chapters to the early settlements of southern Kansas, and finally to the mountains and plains of the Southwest, the author deems it pertinent and relevant to follow more or less the Kansas and Missouri border, and on down through Indian Territory and Arkansas, from 1862 to 1865, the final ending of the rebellion, which found me at Little Rock, Arkansas. One incident occurred during the winter of 1861 that gave me my first glimpse of a Missouri guerrilla. My brother Emerson was teaching school at Hesper. One afternoon, one of the scholars left a bright-red shawl on the playground at recess. The road from Lawrence to Olathe ran through this playground. I was seated near a window at the south side of the school-room, in plain view of the road and shawl, when I noticed three men traveling east. One of them dismounted and picked up the shawl, and, mounting his horse, the three rode on. I called my brother's attention to the fact. He went to the door and called to the men, saying, "Bring back that shawl." They looked back and said something to him that he did not understand, and rode on, one of them putting the shawl over his shoulder. My brother dismissed the school, and, going to the nearest house, procured a horse and overtook them at the Bentley ford, on Captain's creek, and brought back the shawl. The words that Turpin of Olathe and his Missouri pals used when my brother overtook them were afterward remembered by one of these desperadoes as he was lying on the floor of a shack on the west side of the public square in Olathe, his life ebbing away from mortal gunshot wounds from Sheriff John Janes Torsey, of Johnson county. My brother, stooping over him, asked the dying bushwhacker if he remembered him. "Yes," came the feeble answer, "and I am sorry I said what I did to you when you came after the shawl last winter."
My next sight of a guerilla was in the summer of 1862, at Eudora. A German named Henry Bausman kept a road-house just north of the Wakarusa bridge, on the Lawrence road. He kept beer, pies, cakes, bologna sausage, and cheese to sell to travelers. His son Henry was about my age, and I thought a good deal of him, and when I would make the seven-mile ride from home to Eudora for the mail, I would cross the bridge and have a few moments chat with young Henry. On this particular occasion we were in the garden, not twenty steps from the road, when we saw a man approaching from the timber from the direction of Lawrence. It was the man that terrorized the border—Charles William Quantrill. But we did not know it at the time. He dismounted, tied his horse to a hitching-rack in front of the house, and went inside. Henry said to me:
"John, I believe that fellow is some kind of a spy. He has passed here several times in the last year, always going the same way. Let's go inside and see him."
When we came into the front part of the house where Bausman kept his beer and eatables, Quantrill was sitting on a bench with his back against the wall. He would look towards the living-room in the house, then toward the front entrance, and two different times he got up and walked to the door, looking up and down the road. He had on two revolvers; his overshirt was red, and he wore a sailor's necktie. After he left and had crossed the bridge going through Eudora, I got on my pony and started for home. When Quantrill got to the old stage line he turned towards Kansas City, I crossing the trail going on southeast to my home.
How did I know it was Quantrill? Only by the general description afterwards.
In the month of August, 1863, at Fort Scott, Kansas, Henry brought me the first published news of the Lawrence massacre. Henry being a poor reader, I read to him the account of the horrible butchery, after which he said:
"Oh if we only knew that that was him at our house last summer how easy we might have saved all this bloody work, for he must have been planning this terrible deed; and just to think my father had two guns loaded leaning against the wall at the head of the bed he and mother sleeps in. We could have killed him so easy and saved the town." Henry was my good German comrade, for we were then both soldiers in the same company.
Early in August, 1862, a gentleman, Booth by name, came into our neighborhood buying steers and oxen to be used in hauling military supplies to New Mexico over the old Santa Fé Trail. The train was being outfitted at the old outfitting post near Westport. My father sold Mr. Booth several head of cattle and he added to this purchase many more in the neighborhood, but could not get near as many as he wanted. He got my father's permission to help him drive the cattle to the outfitting station.
We started the cattle from my father's farm the afternoon of the 16th day of August, 1862, and drove them to Lexington, about four miles from home, on the old Kansas City & Topeka stage line. There was a large hotel there and we put up for the night, turning the cattle in a lot or corral and putting our horses in the stable. We went to the house and were standing on the front porch facing the stage road when suddenly Mr. Booth said: "Johnny, come with me, quick!" and passing through the house and on out and into the barn, and as I followed him in he said "shut the door."
He was nervous and excited. He took off his revolver belt and unbuttoning his clothes as if he was going to disrobe he took from his waist a broad soft belt, saying: "Here, get this around your waist quickly; unbutton your pants and get the belt next to your body." After all was arranged as he wished, he had me take my coat from my saddle and put it on, he saying "I know it is very warm, but please wear it for a while." Then he said: "Now, Johnny, you are a young farmer lad and would not be suspected of having any money. But I would. There is over three thousand dollars in that belt. Now don't say a word about it."
We had no sooner got back to the porch than it was made plain to me what had caused Mr. Booth's quick actions. Looking down the stage line towards Monticello we saw approaching about twenty-five mounted men.
They came up within a hundred and fifty steps of us and halted and for quite a little bit seemed to be holding a council.
Presently three of the party came on up to the hotel. Mr. B. accosted them with "How do you do, gentlemen?" The courtesies of the day passed when one of the three asked "are you the proprietor?" Getting a negative answer, another one asked if he could tell them how far it was to Lanesfield on the Santa Fé trail, and what direction it was. Mr. B. said "perhaps this boy can tell you."
I stepped to the corner of the house and told them it was about twelve miles in this direction, pointing toward the place. They asked "What creek is that we crossed back yonder?" I answered Kill creek. One of them said "I thought so when we crossed it, but was not sure." Another said, "then that is the way we want to go up that west prong;" and saying good-by they rode back to their companions and all turned south and rode over the unsettled prairie toward Lanesfield.
One of the three men I noticed in particular; he had red hair, short scrubby beard and the scar of a recently healed wound under his left ear. I saw this same man's lifeless body in December, 1863, in the Boston Mountains in Arkansas.
That evening after it had become dark Mr. Booth and I took some blankets and went northwest from the house some distance to a swale and lay down in the prairie grass to sleep. Mr. B. told me in the morning he had had a bad night of it and had not been able to sleep but little; but I, a growing husky farmer boy, was sound asleep in a jiffy. Mr. Booth said he would give the world if he could sleep like I did. He awoke me in the early dawn and we went to the house.
After breakfast we saddled our horses, turned the cattle out and grazed them down to Kill creek; then after watering them and grazing them a few moments longer we drove them past Monticello and made our noon stop in some scattering sumac where grass was good and plentiful. We ate our lunch that had been put up at the Lexington hotel and that evening drove to an old Shawnee Indian's on Mill creek and put up for the night.
The next day, when we were about five miles from the outfitting post, we met a second lieutenant with twenty-five soldiers sent out to look for Mr. Booth. Just at that period of the war there was an unusual stir along the border. Lots of the guerrillas from north Missouri had worked their way south to the Sni hills; those from the two Blues were active and the troops at Independence (Union troops now) were kept busy chasing the bushwhackers.
When the lieutenant met us he said "Hello, Mr. Booth! How are you? We got uneasy about you and they sent me to look you up."
"What is the news?" asked Mr. B. (It seemed that he and the officer were former acquaintances.)
"Well," said the lieutenant, "the devil is to pay! We've been getting the worst of it for the present; the president has called for more troops; your uncle Jim was killed a few days ago by the Youngers; Quantrill is going to raise the black flag. Bill Anderson, Spring River Baker, Pony Hill, Cy Gordon, and all the guerrilla leaders swear they will make the people over the border earn the title of 'Bleeding Kansas.'"
That settled the matter for me. I had been importuning my father for the past six months to give his consent for me to enlist in the army; but he would say, "wait a bit; let us watch. Maybe we will all have to turn out. We will see,—you are very young for a soldier." But this lieutenant's running talk had decided me. I would go in the army as soon as I got back home.
Mr. Booth told the officer about the mounted men we saw at Lexington. "Yes," said the lieutenant, "that is why I was sent this way; those fellows crossed the Missouri at Lee's Summit three nights ago and went west between Kansas City and Independence; but we never heard of it until about midnight last night. They were headed off by Pennick's men from getting to the Sni hills; but I can't see how or why they would go so far west before turning south. But they were thought to be west of here. Some think that George Tod is their leader."
Here Mr. Booth spoke to me, asking, "Johnny, are you afraid to start back home alone?"
I said "No, sir; I don't think anybody would harm a boy." I took the money belt from my waist and handed it to Mr. Booth, who took from a purse in his pocket a ten-dollar bill and a two-dollar Clark and Gruber bill. Handing them to me he said, "you are riding a splendid horse. He is as tough as a pine knot. Now you ride back to the old Shawnee Indian's, have him feed your horse and get you all you want to eat; you can then ride to your father's by 2 o'clock to-night." He bade me good-by, saying, "I hope your folks will come out of this trouble without harm."
Poor Booth! We learned that the gray matter oozed from his brain the following October, in Johnson county, Missouri, he having been shot in the temple by the Youngers.
I arrived home a few minutes after the old Seth Thomas clock struck twelve, August 19th, and on the following 2d day of September I enlisted in what was known in its organization as Company E, Twelfth Kansas Infantry, Charles W. Adams Colonel, son-in-law to Senator James H. Lane.
On the following 24th day of December I was 17 years old. I enlisted at Lawrence, was sworn into the service by James Steele of Emporia, who was my first captain. One of the conditions of oath was that I would accept such bounty, pay, rations and clothing as were or would be by law provided for volunteers. Yet in 1864 I had to skirmish around pretty lively and provide the ration part myself.
After being sworn in I was sent into a room adjoining and put on my first uniform. There was a near-sighted, cross-eyed fellow in this room who had charge of affairs. There was a long table piled with clothing. It was the worst lot of shoddy that ever came from a factory. At this time I was small, even for my age. I had to take a pair of pants that were many sizes too large. Then we hunted over the pile of pea-jackets and got the smallest one, and it was just too much of a fit.
Then my hat! Oh, such a hat! It was black, high crown, about a four-inch rim, a green cord around it, a brass bugle on the front, and it had a large fluffy black feather plume from the band up and angling over the crown.
That day I had a daguerreotype picture of myself taken, and when the artist showed it to me I felt so big that President Lincoln's overcoat would not have made me a pair of mittens.
Shoes came next, and I got a fit. Then came a knapsack and haversack. The knapsack I loaded up with two suits of underclothes and a fatigue blouse. Then came a pair of dog-hair blankets; and when I strapped the whole outfit on my back I must have looked like Atlas carrying the world.
I now started for home on a three days' leave of absence. That evening I boldly walked into the kitchen where my mother was preparing the evening meal. At sight of me she threw up both of her hands, exclaiming "Great Cæsar!"
I said, "No mother, I am neither Cæsar nor Brutus, but I am a Union soldier."
One could have taken two seamless grain sacks, cut the bottom out and run a gee-string through and made equally as good-fitting a pair of pants as I had on.
On returning to Lawrence I found the recruiting camp up the river a little way from town. It was near the Kansas river and close by a big spring that I remembered of being at many times during the summer of 1857. After staying at this camp a few days we marched south to a block-house on the Osage river, twelve miles north of Fort Scott, Kansas. This block-house was called at the time Fort Lincoln. From there we marched back to Paola, where my regiment was mustered into the service; and a few days afterward the wounded from the Prairie Grove battle passed through Paola to the Leavenworth hospital.
My regiment was formed out along the border by companies and battalions, my company going to Shawneetown after it had been raided and sacked.
In February we were in Fort Scott. In April I was put on detached duty; was assigned to C Company, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, with headquarters on the Drywood, in Jasper county, Mo., and for months we rode the border from Balltown to Spring river, being in the native heath of Pony Hill, and finally ending his career. Lexington's men suffered in proportion to the killings and robberies they committed, and Cy Gordon made himself scarce.
I was back to my company in August and at 3 A. M., October 7th, 1863. Henry Bausman, our drummer boy, beat the long roll so vigorously that we were in line, some in stocking-feet, some bareheaded. We were ordered to get three days' rations, hard-tack and bacon, and hurry to Baxter Springs, where, the day before, Quantrill with four hundred bushwhackers had surprised and deceived the little garrison and killed 65 soldiers and seven commissioned officers—my brother included in the list.
By daybreak we were _en route_ for Baxter Springs, riding in Government wagons drawn by six-mule teams. We arrived there long after night, and learned that sixty-five bodies had been buried in one trench, and the bodies of the commissioned officers we had not met on our road down were buried separately about fifty feet from the trench, under some blackjack trees. Henry, a colored soldier, who had been my brother's cook and camp-keeper, piloted me out to my brother's grave. My heart for a time seemed like stone; not a tear, not a sigh, but as I stood looking down at that mound of fresh earth I realized that "war is hell" long before I ever heard that General Sherman said it was.
My brother was in temporary command at Baxter Springs at the time he was killed, and the circumstances of his killing were among the most cowardly, brutal, and treacherous incidents in the annals of a so-called civilized warfare. The little garrison was composed of the most of C Company and a portion of L Company of the Third Wisconsin cavalry and A Company of the First regiment of negro troops that were raised west of the Missouri river.
Baxter was established as a way or change station between Fort Scott, Kansas, and Fort Gibson, I. T. It lies in the extreme southeast part of Kansas. Here the dispatch bearers and messenger riders changed horses between points.
My brother had certain trees blazed on the brush and timbered side of the garrison, and stakes set with little flags on them on the prairie side, which took in about eight or ten acres of ground. He had issued an order against firing guns inside these lines unless so ordered. About the time this order was made, a Union lady came in from the Shoal creek country and told my brother that Quantrill was gathering his guerrillas together in the hills of southern Jasper for the purpose of striking another hard blow. This time he would capture General Blunt and destroy his escort while the General was _en route_ from Fort Scott, Kansas, to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he was to make his headquarters. This lady said that it was Quantrill's intention to first capture Baxter Springs the day Blunt would arrive. They were to get possession of Baxter before Blunt arrived and attend to him when he came.
My brother at once sent a message to Fort Scott, notifying the authorities of the intent. He also sent a messenger to Carthage, Mo., asking for immediate reinforcements. The messenger that started to Scott was never seen or heard from, and it is only fair to presume that he was captured and taken to some lonely spot and killed. The messenger to Carthage got through, but the next day after my brother was killed the word came back, "No troops to spare."
The fates were at work. The very day this horrible massacre occurred the Neosho river was nearly out of its banks on account of unusually heavy rains to the west. Johnny Fry, a messenger rider, on his way from Fort Gibson to Fort Scott with an important message, was being pursued by Cy Gordon and five Creek Indians. He was some 300 yards in advance of them when he came to the river, and as his horse was taking him ashore on the north side of the stream Gordon and his Creeks had dismounted and were shooting at him from the south bank. He came on into Baxter unharmed, related the incident to my brother and several others, and said in closing that he had gotten his pistols wet when he swam the river, and wanted to shoot them empty, clean and reload them, before going on to Fort Scott. My brother said: "All right, Johnny; after dinner we will go outside the lines and fire them off. We will shoot at a mark; I'll take my own along, for I want to clean them up too."
They took a Third Wisconsin man along to tally. Blunt was not expected for several days, according to the information this little garrison had received.
The Third Wisconsin man stuck the five-spot of diamonds on a black oak tree just outside the lines and nearly in sight of the water at the Spring river ford. The ground was paced off and the firing at target had proceeded until my brother had one shot left and Johnny two, when like a clap of thunder from a clear sky the guerrillas rode up out of the Spring river ford carrying _our flag_ and dressed in our uniforms, stripped from the bodies of Union soldiers they had killed along the border. By this time they were sixty paces from the three men and moving on in column of fours. The tally man, standing where he had a view of the whole line, noticed that only about half of them were dressed in our uniform, and Johnny Frey's suspicions being aroused he said "Run, boys, for your lives; they are guerrillas!" "No," said my brother, "that's the militia from Carthage."
But the Third Wisconsin man took his pistol from its scabbard and threw it on the ground in front of him and begged for his life, and _they_ spared it. He told us afterward that they seemed to ignore his presence; but halted, fired a left-oblique volley of about twenty shots at Johnny and my brother. The shots brought both men to the ground. Johnny rose on his knees with both hands gripped to his pistol, and fired. As he did so he fell back, dead. My brother, getting to his feet, fired his last shot, when he too fell forward on his face.
About fifty of these devils incarnate clustered around their bodies. Turning my brother over face upwards one of them called to another that was farther back in the line, saying, "Come here, Storey! Here is your man, by God! We've got him." This fellow came up, dismounted, and drawing a heavy bowie-knife whacked my brother a blow over the front part of the skull, cutting a gash about five inches long.
The Third Wisconsin man had been herded inside this group around these quivering bodies. He saw them rifle Johnny's pockets and take my brother's uniform; then he was ordered to go to the rear and mount one of the extra horses.
Their firing had alarmed the camp, and as they charged up along the northern side of it they were met with a spirited irregular fire from the darkies, and as they swung around the western angle the Third Wisconsin boys took a turn at them and they passed on out of range on the open prairie and marched up the trail, our flag at the head of column in fours dressed as Union soldiers. Is it any wonder that Blunt's advance thought they were the troops from Baxter coming out to give them a fraternal reception?
Blunt had nooned that day at Brushy, four miles from Baxter, and coming down the trail riding in an ambulance and his big gray horse tied behind barebacked, everybody unsuspecting, the Third Wisconsin band getting ready to play a patriotic tune, nearly all of the men that Blunt had being raw recruits, not knowing nor thinking of harm. Is it any wonder, I repeat, that Quantrill made the shambles he did in such an amazing short time? And does it not seem strange that Jack Splain would be lying on the ground badly wounded and Quantrill placing a pistol to his face telling him that when he got to hell he should tell them that Quantrill was the last man he saw, and fired in his face, and that Splain lived to tell it at Grand Army reunions? Was she not a heroine when Mrs. McNary picked up her dead husband's gun that day and killed a bushwhacker at Baxter Springs?
Gen. Blunt's escort was demoralized; but he mounted his horse and with ten men fairly cut his way through the guerrillas and got safely to the garrison, where he established his headquarters in my brother's tent. When my brother's body was brought in for burial it was found he had received twenty-seven bullets in his body. He had gained a notoriety along the border. Among other things he had killed a guerrilla near Westport who carried a dead list, and among the names not yet crossed out were those of Captain Hoyt, Chief of the Red Legs; John Jones, sheriff of Johnson county, Kansas; Doctor Beech, of Olathe, Kansas; and R. E. Cook, my brother. Unfortunately, this list was published at the time, together with the details of the fight between the Border Ruffians and my brother. So he was a particular mark for vengeance and revenge. When it was also known that he was an officer of "nigger" troops, and being recognized when the guerrillas rode onto them, they wreaked their vengeance with revenge.
As I sat by the camp-fire listening to the story of the finding of the body of that brave, generous, kind-hearted and loyal boy, it was then that my pent-up grief came home to me. Those in the garrison were not willing to take chances, that first evening after the attack, to look on the timbered side for dead or wounded friends. So the next morning a strong party went out; they found Johnny's body where it fell, and it was rigid. And, remarkable to say, my brother's body was not yet rigid. He was found in a clump of hazel brush sixty yards from where he had fallen. And the mute evidence of the trails he had made through the blood-stained grass, to where he was found and both hands with broken hazel brush gripped in them, seemed to indicate to those who found the body that life had not been extinct until near morning. Johnny Fry had six wounds, all mortal. But when the soldiers washed my brother's body after bringing him to the garrison, preparatory to dressing him for burial, they found, besides the knife wound, twenty-seven bullet wounds.
Reader, would you call that _war_? No; it was _murder_, pure and simple.
I could not go home and tell this story to my dear little old Irish mother, whose God was the Lord; but I did, if anything, worse. When my brother was killed he was wearing a soft white hat which fitted his head rather tightly, and when the guerrilla turned him face upward and called to Storey, his hat was still on and nearly in the position in which he wore it. So when this fiend delivered the knife-stroke, he cut through the hat a gash nearly six inches long, running from near the center of the crown diagonally across the forehead on the left side.
On the morning of the 10th day of October, I was called to General Blunt's tent, where he informed me he would give me a furlough to take home the effects of my brother. He also gave me an order on the quartermaster at Fort Scott for my brother's horse, that had carried the first messenger to Scott after the disaster.
As I was packing up the things I wished to take home, he handed me a package of papers that had been taken from my brother's desk. At the time, I had the hat alluded to in my hands to put in the box I was packing. He noticed the hat, and said: "Let me see that hat."
I laid it in his hands and he asked me why I wanted to take it. I said, "General, the man that struck that cruel lick is named Storey, and if he is not killed in this war the civil law will hang him when peace is restored. And that hat will be a good witness, and I may want it."
"Y-e-s," he said in a drawling way; "that's all right."
I was not yet eighteen years old, and did not really foresee the effect it would have on my mother. When she gazed on the grewsome sight of that blood-stained and gashed hat, she stood mutely looking for a moment; then placing both hands over her heart uttered a deep sigh and was staggering backwards, when I caught her in my arms and led her to a lounge in another room. She survived the ordeal and passed on in 1891 to that Beulah Land she loved so well to sing about, and her last words were, "I will soon be drinking at the fountain."
It has been said that all is fair in love and war; and that the end justifies the means. I have an abiding respect for the Confederate soldier who did his duty in the light in which he saw it at that time. Yes, I have an admiration for him. He was an American, and did he not fight on with a dogged perseverance even after the backbone of rebellion broke at Gettysburg, a victim of a hopeless and mistaken course, staying with his forlorn hope to the end, and as a rule accepting the results? Yes; all true soldiers have a profound respect for the enemy that will meet him in the open, his true colors and garb in evidence, the honest tell-tale of who and what he is. This is not only true in a military sense, but it is true in a moral and political sense. But fiends incarnate, who respect neither moral, civil, nor military law, should be hunted like cougars. But, be it said to the credit of the Confederacy, these border freebooters had no legal status. Such was the position of Quantrill and his followers. Go to Aubrey, Olathe, Shawneetown, Lawrence, Centralia, Mo., Rossville, Ark., and the hundreds of lonely ravines and hollows along the Missouri border, where death reaped a greater harvest in the period of four years from '61 to '65 by murder in guerrilla warfare than any like area since time began.
The first camp-fires of the slaveholders' rebellion were kindled on Kansas soil, five years before P. G. T. Beauregard fired the shot on Fort Sumter that was heard around the world, and saddened every home in our land. The horde of Border Ruffians that had bent every energy from 1856 and 1857 to fasten the system of human slavery in Kansas Territory having dismally failed, after leaving a trail of blood and carnage behind them, "silently folded their tents" and recrossed the border. But when actual hostilities came in 1861 on a national scale, the spirit of revenge came to the front and Kansas must suffer. Men of desperate character from Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana came out, and up to join the Missourians to help them even up with Kansans for their failure to make Kansas a Slave State.
And what a field for operations! At that time the border on both sides of the line was sparsely settled, from Kansas City to the Indian Territory and to the Arkansas line, thus affording many quiet hiding-places between depredations committed.
After being home a few days I returned to Fort Scott, to learn that my company had marched to Fort Smith, Ark. I was placed in a stragglers' camp to await the time that Colonel Tom Moonlight was to take us down the western border of Arkansas to Fort Smith. He mounted us on a fresh supply of horses that were going down to fill vacancies. There were nearly one hundred of us, artillerymen, cavalrymen and infantrymen, going to join our respective commands. Moonlight was given a free lance. The only condition was to keep on and near the left flank of a large transportation train bound for Fort Smith, Ark. It is needless to say that on the trip down the border and over the Boston Mountains several old scores were evened up. We arrived at Fort Smith in late December, and on January 1, 1864, my regiment was reunited, except H Company, and kept so until the close of the war. Its history is briefly written in marches, counter-marches, foraging expeditions, the Shreveport campaign and fighting guerrillas—all this was the order of the times.
We were mustered out of service at Little Rock, Ark., June 30th, 1865, and finally discharged, paid off, and disbanded at Lawrence, Kansas, July 20th.
I was not twenty years old, without a scar or scratch, but brought from cypress and alligator swamps of the south a case of malarial fever that tenaciously stayed in my system for four months. I believe I could make a safe two-to-one bet that no mortal on earth ever drank as much boneset tea during that time as I did. My mother, backed by every old lady in the neighborhood, insisted that it was the only remedy to get the bile off my stomach and the ague out of my system.