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Death of Todd and Anderson, October, 1864
CURTIS’ heavy division, retreating before General Price all the way from Lexington to Independence, held the western bank of the Little Blue, and some heavy stone walls and fences beyond. Marmaduke and Shelby broke his hold from these, and pressed him rapidly back to and through Independence, the two Colorado regiments covering his rear stubbornly and well. Side by side McCoy and Todd had made several brilliant charges during the morning, and had driven before them with great dash and spirit every Colorado squadron halted to resist the continual marching forward of the Confederate cavalry.
Ere the pursuit ended for the day, half of the 2nd Colorado regiment drew up on the crest of a bold hill and made a gallant fight. Their major, Smith, a brave and dashing officer, was killed there, and there Todd fell. General Shelby, as was his wont, was well up with the advance, and leading recklessly the two companies of Todd and McCoy. Next to Shelby’s right rode Todd and upon his left was McCoy. Close to these and near to the front files were Colonels Nichols, Thrailkill, Ben Morrow, Ike Flannery and Jesse James.
The trot had deepened into a gallop, and all the crowd of skirmishers covering the head of the rushing column were at it, fierce and hot, when the 2nd Colorado swept the road with a furious volley,214 broke away from the strong position held by them and hurried on through the streets of Independence, followed by the untiring McCoy, as lank as a fox-hound and as eager.
That volley killed Todd. A Spencer rifle ball entered his neck in front, passed through and out near the spine, and paralyzed him. Dying as he fell, he was yet tenderly taken up and carried to the house of Mrs. Burns, in Independence. Articulating with great difficulty and leaving now and then almost incoherent messages to favorite comrade or friend, he lingered for two hours insensible to pain, and died at last as a Roman.
George Todd was a Scotchman born, his father holding an honorable position in the British navy. Destined also for the sea, it was the misfortune of the son to become engaged in a personal difficulty in his eighteenth year and kill the man with whom he quarreled. He fled to Canada, and from Canada to the United States. His father soon after resigned and followed him, and when the war began both were railroad contractors in North Missouri, standing well with everybody for business energy, capacity and integrity.
Todd made a name by exceeding desperation. His features presented nothing that could attract attention. There was no sign in visible characters of the powers that was in him. They were calm always, and in repose a little stern; but if anything that indicated215 “a look of destiny” was sought for, it was not to be found in the face of George Todd. His was simple and confiding, and a circumspect regard for his word made him a very true but sometimes a very blunt man. In his eyes the fittest person to command a Guerrilla was he who inspired the enemy before people began to say: “That man, George Todd, is a tiger. He fights always; he is not happy unless he is fighting. He will either be killed soon or he will do a great amount of killing.” It has just been seen that he was not to be killed until October, 1864—a three years’ lease of life for that desperate Guerrilla work never had a counterpart. By and by the Guerrillas themselves felt confidence in such a name, reliance in such an arm, favor for such a face. It was sufficient for Todd to order a march to be implicitly followed; to plan an expedition to have it immediately carried out; to indicate a spot on which to assemble to cause an organization sometimes widely scattered or dispersed to come together as the jaws of a steel trap.
Nature gave him the restlessness of a born cavalryman and the exterior and the power of voice necessary to the leader of desperate men. Coolness, and great activity were his main attributes as a commander. Always more ready to strike than to speak, if he talked at all it was only after a combat had been had, and then modestly. His conviction was the part he played, and he sustained with unflinching courage and216 unflagging energy that which he had set down for his hands to do.
A splendid pistol shot, fearless as a horseman, knowing nature well enough to choose desperate men and ambitious men, reticent, heroic beyond the conception of most conservative people, and covered with blood as he was to his brow, his fall was yet majestic, because it was accompanied by patriotism.
Before the evacuation of Independence, Todd was buried by his men in the cemetery there, and Poole succeeded to the command of his company, leading it splendidly.
The night they buried Todd, Ike Flannery, Dick Burns, Andy McGuire, Ben Morrow, Press Webb, Harrison Trow, Lafe Privin, George Shepherd, George Maddox, Allen Parmer, Dan Vaughn, Jess and Frank James and John Ross took a solemn oath by the open grave of the dead man to avenge his death, and for the following three days of incessant battle it was remarkable how desperately they fought—and how long.
Until General Price started southward from Mine Creek in full retreat, the Guerrillas under Poole remained with him, scouting and picketing, and fighting with the advance. After Mine Creek they returned to Bone Hill, in Jackson County, some going afterwards to Kentucky with Quantrell, and some to Texas with George Shepherd.
217 Henceforward the history of the Guerrillas of Missouri must be the history of detachments and isolated squads, fighting always, but fighting without coherency or other desire than to kill.
Anderson had joined Price at Boonville and the meeting was a memorable one. The bridles of the horses the men rode were adorned with scalps. One huge red-bearded Guerrilla—six feet and over, and girdled about the waist with an armory of revolvers—had dangling from every conceivable angle a profuse array of these ghastly trophies. Ben Price was shocked at such evidence of a warfare so utterly repugnant to a commander of his known generosity and forbearance, and he ordered sternly that they be thrown away at once. He questioned Anderson Long of Missouri, of the forces in the state, of the temper of the people, ............
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