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The Trip North in 1863
ON the return from Texas in the spring of 1863, Quantrell’s journey in detail would read like a romance. The whole band, numbering thirty, were clad in Federal uniforms, Quantrell wearing that of a captain. Whenever questioned, the answer was, “A Federal scout on special service.” Such had been the severity of the winter, and such the almost dead calm in military quarters, that all ordinary vigilance seemed to have relaxed and even ordinary prudence forgotten.
South of Spring River a day’s march, ten militia came upon Quantrell’s camp and invited themselves to supper. They were fed, but they were also killed. Quantrell himself was the host. He poured out the coffee, supplied attentively every little want, insisted that those whose appetites were first appeased should eat more, and then shot at his table the two nearest to him and saw the others fall beneath the revolvers of his men, with scarcely so much as a change of color in his face.
North of Spring River there was a dramatic episode. Perhaps in those days every country had its tyrants. Most generally revolutions breed monsters.
On the way to Missouri, they fell in with Marmaduke, who was commanding a bunch of Bushwhackers122 in St. Claire County, Missouri. He also had been wintering in Texas, and they camped one night near us. Marmaduke was telling Quantrell about an old Federal captain named Obediah Smith—what a devil he was and how he was treating the Southern people. Quantrell laughed and asked:
“Why don’t you kill him?”
Marmaduke said he was too sharp and cunning for him.
Quantrell said, “If you will detail one or two of your men to come with me and show me where he lives, I will kill him with his own gun.”
It being agreed upon, the next morning Marmaduke called on Oliver Burch to pilot Quantrell to where Smith lived. The following morning all marched up to within about a mile or so of where Captain Smith lived. Quantrell called his men together, chose Wash Haller, Dick Burns, Ben Morrow, Dick Kenney, Frank James and myself of his own command, and Oliver Burch of Marmaduke’s command. They rode up to Captain Smith’s house, all dressed in Federal uniforms, and called at the gate, “Hello.” Smith came walking out and Quantrell saluted him and told him he was a scout for the Federals from Colonel Penick’s army. Smith saw them in the same uniform as himself and did not once think of their betraying him. They talked for a few minutes when Quantrell said:
123 “Captain, that is a fine gun you have there; why don’t you furnish us scouts with a gun like that.”
“This is a fine gun,” replied Smith, “it has killed lots of d——d bushwhackers.”
Quantrell said, “Captain, would you mind letting me see that gun?”
Taking it from him, Quantrell began to look it over, and turning to his pals, said, “Ain’t that a dandy?”
They all answered, “Yes, wish I had one.”
Quantrell kept fooling with the gun and, catching Captain Smith’s eye off him, fired it at him, shooting him through the heart and killing him instantly. Killing Smith was getting rid of one of the worst men in Cedar County.
That day about ten o’clock, three militiamen came to the column and were killed. A mile from where dinner was procured, five more came out. These also were killed. In the dusk of the evening two more were killed, and where we bivouacked, one was killed. The day’s work counted eleven in the aggregate, and nothing of an exertion to find a single soldier made, at that.
Evil tidings were abroad, however—evil things that took wings and flew as birds. Some said from the first that Quantrell’s men were not union men and some swore that no matter what kind of clothing they wore, those inside of said clothing were wolves. Shot evenly; that is to say, by experienced hands, in124 the head, the corpses of the first discovered ten awakened from their sleep the garrison along the Spring River. Smith’s execution stirred them to aggression, and the group of dead militiamen crossed continually upon the roadside, while it enraged it also horrified every cantonment or camp. Two hundred cavalrymen got quickly to horse and poured up from the rear after Quantrell. It was not difficult to keep on his track. Here a corpse and there a corpse, here a heap and there a heap—blue always, and blue continually—what manner of a wild beast had been sent out from the unknown to prey upon the militia?
At the Osage River the Federal pursuit, gathering volume and intensity as it advanced, struck Quantrell hard and brought him to an engagement south of the river. Too much haste, however, cost him dearly. The advance, being the smaller, had outridden the main army and was unsupported and isolated when attacked. Quantrell turned upon it savagely and crushed it at a blow. Out of sixty-six troopers he killed twenty. In those days there were no wounded. Before the main body came up he was over the Osage and away, and riding fast to encompass the immense prairie between the river and Johnstown. When scarcely over it, a flanking column made a dash at him coming from the west, killed Blunt’s horse and drove Quantrell to timber. Night fell and he rode out of sight and out of hearing. When he drew rein again it was at the125 farm of Judge Russell Hicks on the Sni, in Jackson County. The next morning at David George’s he disbanded for ten days, sending messengers out in all directions to announce his arrival and make known the rendezvous.
The ten days allotted by Quantrell for concentration purposes had not yet expired, but many of the reckless spirits, rapacious for air and exercise, could not be kept still. Poole, Ross and Greenwood made a dash for the German settlement of Lafayette County, and left some marks there that are not yet obliterated. Albert Cunningham, glorying in the prowess of a splendid manhood, and victor in a dozen combats against desperate odds, fell before the spring came, in an insignificant skirmish on the Harrisonville and Pleasant Hill road.
In the lull of military movements in Jackson County, Cass was to see the inauguration of the heavy Guerrilla work of 1863. Three miles west of Pleasant Springs, Younger and his comrade............
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