Guerrilla Warfare in Missouri Continued Until the Very End of the Civil War

While the State of Missouri was the site of a few conventional battles between Union and Confederate armies, there were by far more raids, attacks, and other actions conducted by smaller groups of guerilla and irregular Confederate troops.  William Clarke Quantrill, and “Bloody” Bill Anderson were two of the more famous, or infamous, guerilla leaders in Missouri and eastern Kansas, where similar fighting occurred.  Often, raids were conducted by just a handful of men.  Even though this type of action was on a smaller scale, it was among the most brutal fighting of the war, with civilians killed and homes and farms destroyed.  Missouri was sharply divided and Union retaliation to the Confederate depredations was often draconian.

By late winter and spring of 1865, the Trans-Mississippi region had become a relative backwater in the war, cut off from the east by the Union controlled Mississippi River  and the decisive battles in Virginia and the Carolinas occurring at that time.  Nonetheless, some fighting still occurred in the region and guerilla actions in Missouri continued until the end of the war, tying up Federal resources and soldiers.

The Lost Cause by Henry Mosler

Here are some Union Army reports with examples of these late in the war actions.   This first one is from Brigadier General Egbert B. Brown, commanding the District of Rolla, Missouri:

ROLLA, MO., January 16, 1865–4.40 p.m.

Brig. Gen. Egbert B. Brown

I have the honor to report that Capt. William Monks, Sixteenth Missouri Cavalry, had several skirmishes with Yeates’ band of guerrillas in Texas County on the 9th, 10th, and 11th instant, in which he killed 9 and wounded 1. The wounded guerrilla escaped. Captain Monks’ men must be good marksmen, as it is seldom so large a proportion of hits prove fatal.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Maj. J. W. BARNES,
Assistant Adjutant-General.
Captain Henry N. Cook of the 9th Missouri State Militia Cavalry filed this report on a skirmish near Columbia, Missouri:

ROCHEPORT, February 12, 1865.

LIEUTENANT: About 1.30 o’clock this morning, with eighteen men, I attacked Jim Carter’s camp. We killed three men and crippled all the rest. I think they had ten Arkansas men in camp. We got all their horses, clothing, and a number of pistols. The camp was within six or seven miles of Columbia, due north. In accomplishing this I regret to say that Sergt. Thomas J. Hern, of my company, was killed the first shot that was fired. Private Tuder was severely wounded. We walked a mile with our boots off and completely surprised them.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain Company F, Ninth Cavalry Missouri State Militia.

Lieutenant CLARKE, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

The names of the killed are Jim Carter, William Cavanaugh, Tompkins Robinson.

Captain Walter D. Hubbard of the 13th Missouri Infantry filed this report on guerilla activity near Salem, Missouri:

Salem, Mo., March 24, 1865.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that the stockade or fort built at Stephenson’s Mill, sixteen miles southwest of this post, on Current River, was burned on the 22d instant, by three bushwhackers, who, after making general threats of death and destruction against any person who should report them, and ordering the miller to have a quantity of meal ground for 250 rebels by 12 o’clock yesterday, proceeded westward from the mill and have not since been heard of. I received this report on the night of the 22d, and started Lieutenant Thornton with twenty men early yesterday morning to make a scout to the mill, and thence some distance down Current River, with a view of ascertaining where these bushwhackers came from and whether any bands may be expected in from that direction. I have not heard from the lieutenant, and am satisfied that there were but three bushwhackers in that section. There have been no troops stationed at the mill for about three weeks past, as I understand. Captain Jones, commanding one of the citizen guard companies of this county in a neighborhood southwest of this post, reports that a scouting party sent out by him has just returned and report things quiet and no sign of bushwhackers in his section. Inclosed find John P. Graham’s communication reporting the burning of the stockade or fort.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry Vols., Commanding Post.
Capt. J. H. STEGER,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


MARCH 15 [22], 1865.
Capt. W. D. HUBBARD,
Commanding Post, Salem, Mo.:

CAPTAIN: There were three bushwhackers came to N. Stephenson’s Mill at 12 o’clock and burned the fort and gave orders to have meal enough for 250 men by to-morrow at just 12 o’clock. One of the men we knew. We know they are bushwhackers, and when they left they went west. There is a chance for murder behind. I told them I would report, and they said if I did they would kill me. This report is true.


Captain John Noyes of the 7th Kansas Cavalry filed this report on an unsuccessful pursuit of a band of guerillas near Farmington, Missouri a few days before the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox:

Farmington, Mo., April 4, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to report the following information: Yesterday about 9 o’clock a report was brought to me by citizens that Hilderbrand and his gang, numbering eight men in all, were at Hered’s place, near Big River Mills, at daylight and took breakfast. On receiving this report I immediately sent out two details, one under Sergeant Hood, the other under Sergeant Cable, to intercept them. Sergeant Hood proceeded on the Potosi road about four miles, when he struck their trail on the Iron road. They were evidently making their way toward Dent’s Station, Iron Mountain Railroad, but hearing of my men being in pursuit changed their course and struck south. Sergeant Hood followed the trail as best he could, now and then getting off the track as they traveled no plain roads, but took through thick woods and by-paths. They had about fourteen led horses, according to citizens’ reports. About two miles from this place they ran in and took out an old black man, and killed him about seven miles from town. They crossed the Pilot Knob plank road about five miles from here, and took six horses from teams on the road. My two details united about noon and followed the trail as far as Burnham’s Mills, on the Blairsville road. The horses being so fatigued, having traveled some forty miles, Sergeant Hood thought it advisable not to pursue farther. I afterward learned that they passed on the west side of the Saint Francis River and probably about seven miles east of Pilot Knob, so on through what is called Flat Woods. I sent information by Captain Sanders yesterday to you, that you might telegraph to Fredricktown.

I have the honor to be, yours, respectfully,

Captain, Seventh Kansas Cavalry, Commanding Company B.

Lieutenant-Colonel HILLYER,
Commanding Third Sub-District, Pilot Knob, Mo.

Guerilla Warfare by Alfred Bierstadt

Later in April, with Lee surrendered and Joseph Johnston in negotiations to surrender his forces to William T. Sherman in North Carolina, this skirmish occurred near Spring Valley, Missouri:

Rolla, Mo., April 27, 1865.
LIEUTENANT: In obedience to instructions from the colonel commanding district, I have the honor to make the following report:
On the morning of the 21st instant I left camp with my company, with five days’ rations for men; marched to Licking, Mo.; arrived there on the 22d instant. On the morning of the 23d I left with sixty-four men and marched south thirty miles and encamped in Spring Valley. About midnight a party of bushwhackers attempted to get in my camp, but were observed by the guards and fired upon. I sent a party on foot in the direction in which they fled and succeeded in killing two of the party. On the morning of the 24th instant I tracked the same party, I supposed, and followed them to Current River. There they separated. I captured two men, who were equipped and claimed to belong to the Confederate Army, Captain Orchard’s company. They tried to escape and were killed by my men in the attempt. Encamped on Current River. On the 25th I marched in the direction of Thomasville some twenty miles. Finding that my horses were getting barefooted, and not being prepared to reshoe them, I returned to Current River. Killed 3 men that day; they were running from me; were mounted; 2 of their horses were killed, 1 captured; encamped on Sinking Creek. On the 26th instant I sent a sergeant and ten men in the advance toward Black River. Two guerrillas ran from a house; one escaped and the other was killed. Some of my horses were getting lame, so I marched in direction of Rolla by the way of Meramec River. Arrived at Rolla on the evening of the 27th instant. I captured 5 horses and saddles, but was unable to bring 4, 2 being killed and 2 broke loose; 1 I have in my possession.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain Company M, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry.
Lieut. H. W. WERTH,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, District of Rolla.

By the time this skirmish occurred near Columbia, Missouri on May 24th,  all Confederate armies east of the Mississippi River had surrendered.

Post Fayette, May 25, 1865.

I have the honor to report to you that Sergt. Robert Digges, with a detachment of my company, had a fight with eleven bushwhackers,. supposed to be under Jim Anderson, yesterday morning at 7.30 o’clock. The bushwhackers were at the house of Elias Thompson, in this county, about six miles from Rocheport. We killed 4 bushwhackers and captured 4 horses and equipments, several pistols, overcoats, &c. Sergeant Digges is satisfied that there were several wounded who escaped. Our loss was Private Ben. Reeves, severely wounded in the shoulder; we also had two horses killed. The names of the bushwhackers killed, as obtained from a rebel deserter just from Price’s army, are Theodore Cassell, of Jackson County; —— Kelly, of Saint Louis (right arm off); John Chapman, of Clay, and Thomas Maupin, of Callaway. The last named has the forefinger off his right hand. I inclose you two letters taken off the body of Cassell. Sergeant Digges was on the trail of Jim Jackson the evening before. He started it in Boone County, and was following it up when he heard of Anderson’s gang. We heard of Jackson yesterday at 10 a.m., with six other men near Boonsborough, in this county, going west. One citizen reports that Rider was along, and another reports that he recognized a man by the name of Finley with them. Finley was bushwhacking in this county last summer. I regret very much that there could not be a scout sent up after these last-mentioned bushwhackers. All my men who had serviceable horses were out, either with Sergeant Digges, with myself, who went out as soon as the fight was reported to me by a citizen, or with Lieutenant Davis, who had started from here the night before with forty men, under orders from Colonel Denny to proceed to Brunswick. I have been informed that Captain Meredith, with his command and a detachment of the Ninth Missouri State Militia, under Lieutenant Thompson, are out in the Boon’s Lick country after Jackson. Lieutenant Davis returned this evening from Brunswick. I hope that it will not be deemed necessary again to have my men ordered so far from home, especially when I have my hands full in my own county. The affair of yesterday is the third fight that my men have had with the bushwhackers. The first two came off in Boone County. Lieutenant Davis had a fight with Jim Jackson at the house of the Widow Cornelius, in Boone County, a week or ten days [ago]. Only his advance guard of seven men were engaged. The rebels fought desperately, but ran off before the main body of our men came up. No casualties on either side. Lieutenant Davis was on the trail of four or six men who had crossed the Missouri River at the mouth of the La Mine when he came across the trail of Jackson. Jackson had five men with him. I do not think, general, that there are any bushwhackers who stay habitually in this county. Jim Jackson and his gang make their home in Blackfoot, in Boone, and make a raid occasionally into this county. I believe that Holtzclaw is with Jackson. In every instance, except the last of yesterday, where we have got after bush-whackers we have followed them into or came across them in Boone. The gang we fought yesterday had just arrived in this county the day before. I hope the warm welcome they received will admonish them to stay away.

I am, general, your most obedient servant,

Comdg. Howard County Company Volunteer Missouri Militia,
Organized under General Orders, No. 3.

P. S.–I have just received information from a reliable source that another dead bushwhacker has been found near the place where the fight took place yesterday, making five killed, and also a dead horse.

Yours, &c.,
W. W. H.

Brig. Gen. I. V. PRATT,
Comdg. First District, Missouri Militia, Macon, Mo.

On May 26th, agreement was reached for the surrender of remaining Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi.  The official surrender was signed in Galveston, Texas on June 2nd.


Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James McPherson

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume XLVIII, Part 1.

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