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Blue Springs Fight in December, 1863
COLONEL PENNICK’S men came from Independence down to Blue Springs and burned houses, killed old men—too old to be in the service. They numbered two hundred, while Quantrell’s men numbered one hundred. On the road from Blue Springs to Independence they killed John Sanders and a man named Kimberland—both old men—and left them lying in the roadway. If neighbors had not offered their services the hogs would have eaten their bodies. They burned from two to twelve houses and left the families homeless.
The people of the neighborhood sent a runner to Quantrell. We mounted, struck a gallop and did not slow down until we charged the rear and went through them like fire through stubble, killing as we went. After the battle was over we counted seventy-five killed and an equal number wounded. Those who were not hit were so scared that we had no more trouble with them.
On our retreat Quantrell’s password was, “Bat them, boys, over the left eye.”
A good old citizen by the name of Uncle George Rider, hearing the firing and seeing us coming, got off his horse and laid down in the woods close to the road, face up, having a belly on him like a ten-gallon beer keg. Quantrell said to Dick Burns, “You go out and bat him164 over the left eye.” Burns went out to him and hollered back to Quantrell that “he has been dead a week; see how he is swelled up.” We had lots of fun afterwards about his belly saving him.
FOUR miles east of Wellington stood a large house occupied by some lewd women, notorious for their favors and their enticements. Poole knew the situation well, and suggested to Jarrette that a sufficient detour should be made to encompass the building. Arriving there about eleven o’clock at night, it appeared from the outside as if there were some kind of a frolic. Lights shone from many of the windows, music and the sound of dancing feet could be heard occasionally. Frank James crept to a back door and looked in and counted five women and eleven men. Some of the men were sitting on the laps of the women and some were so close to others that to risk a volley would be murderous. At no time without hitting a woman could they make sure of hitting a man. They waited an hour to gain a favorable opportunity, but waited in vain. Jarrette solved the problem.
He was dressed in Federal uniform, and after placing his men so as to cut off any escape from the house if the occupants once came outside, he rode boldly up to the fence in front of the premises and cried, “Hello!” A soldier came to the door with a gun in his hand and answered him. Jarrette continued, “Who are you that you come to this place in defiance of every order issued for a month? What business have you here tonight? Who gave you permission to come?166 Where are your passes? Come out here and let me read them.” Thinking Jarrette a provost captain scouting for runaways from the Lexington garrison, ten of the eleven militiamen started confidently for the fence, receiving, when half way, the crushing fire of twenty concealed Guerrillas. In a space four blankets might have covered the ten fell and died, only one of the lot discharging a weapon or making a pretense of resistance.
Frank James stooped to count them, and as he rose he remarked: “There are but ten here. Awhile ago there were eleven.” The building was entered, searched from top to bottom in every nook and corner, but no soldier. The women were questioned, one at a time, separately. They knew only that when the man at the fence called they all went out together.
Frank James, whose passive face had from the first expressed neither curiosity nor doubt, spoke up again and briefly: “Awhile ago I counted but five women, now there are six.” Save four sentinels on duty at either end of the main road, Guerrillas had gathered together in the lower large room of the dwelling house. The fire had burned low, and was fitful and flickering. Where there had been half a dozen candles there were now only two.
“Bring more,” said Poole, “and we will separate this wolf from the ewes.”
167 “Aye, if we have to strip the lot,” spoke up a coarse voice in the crowd.
“Silence,” cried Jarrette, laying a hand upon a pistol and turning to his men in the shadow, “not a woman shall be touched. We are wild beasts, yes, but we war on wild beasts.”
More light was brought, and with a candle in each hand Poole went from woman to woman, scanning the face of each long and se............
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