Monroe County War Stories

While preparing his book “With Porter in North Missouri”, Civil War veteran, historian and author Joseph A. Mudd reviewed county histories and newspaper articles and corresponded with several Confederate veterans. I have extracted the Monroe County stories so that readers may understand the lives and activities of these First Northeast Missouri Cavalry veterans.  


“I was plowing tobacco on Friday, July 25, 1862, when my father came home from Paris with the news that the Governor had ordered everybody between the ages of eighteen and forty-five to join the militia and, as I was nineteen, my mother said she would rather I would go with the rebs. That settled it. I left home next day and fell in with fifty or more men that night. Sunday night we left camp at Bradley’s Old Mill site on Salt River, and Monday night we joined Colonel Porter at Brace’s old camp on the Elk Fork of Salt River. From there we went to Newark, Knox County, arriving on the morning of Friday, August 1. Here there were two hundred Federals camped.  

Colonel Porter divided his force, sending between four hundred and five hundred men around to attack from the north. These were put under command of Joe Thompson, who had been sent by Colonel Porter two days before to capture Paris, which he did without trouble. Colonel Porter with the remainder of the force attacked Newark on the south, but by some means the other detachment failed to show up. We dismounted and charged up a slant of about two hundred and fifty yards. In this charge my brother, R.D.W. Austin and Raymond Shearer were killed, and Aleck Smith was wounded – all from this locality.  

A young man named Major with fifteen or twenty mounted men charged and lost one killed, Thomas Noonan. The Federals took refuge in a brick school house and it took three hours’ fighting to dislodge them. They refused our invitation to surrender and Colonel Porter loaded a wagon with hay and had it pushed up against the house when up went the white flag.”

- Source quoted: Andrew J. Austin of Goss, Monroe Co 


“When we went to press last Thursday evening (July 31), Colonel McNeil, with some three hundred and fifty or four hundred men and three pieces of artillery, was in this place, having arrived her early in the morning after a forced march of several successive days and nights’ travel in search of Colonel Porter. The horses and men looked jaded and fatigued. Learning that Colonel Porter was encamped at some point ten or twelve miles east of this place, about eight o’clock he mad a start for the aforesaid camp, but before getting out of town the alarm was given that Porter was coming, and preparations were at once made for his reception. But the alarm proved a false one and quiet was restored. 

Toward evening Colonel McNeil received reliable information that Porter had broken up camp and with some two thousand men had started, at two o’clock, in a northerly direction – and immediately after supper he resumed the pursuit. The next (Friday) evening Major Caldwell with a portion of his own command, part of Colonel Smart’s brigade of Pike County, part of Colonel Guitar’s regiment and some of Merrill Horse, numbering in all about one thousand men, arrived at this place, and the next morning struck north to the support of Colonel McNeil, the two commands forming a junction at some point below Shelbyville. Colonel Porter struck directly for Newark, where a company of Major Benjamin’s command, some seventy-five strong, under Captain Lear, was stationed. He detailed a part of his command to take this company in; they were encamped outside of the town and he ordered a company of infantry to get in their rear to prevent their escape to the brush, and a company of cavalry to get between them and the town and prevent them taking shelter in the houses; but these two divisions, it is said, failed to act in concert, and the cavalry charging directly upon the camp received the full charge of the company; the latter then made good their retreat to a large brick church, when Colonel Porter immediately demanded their surrender, stating his force and his ability to take them and his desire to save any unnecessary loss of life. The demand was acceded to and Captain Lear and his men delivered up their arms – whereupon Colonel Porter addressed them a few kind words, restored to the officers their sidearms and then paroled them.  

In this action Colonel Porter had eight killed and thirteen wounded, and the Federals four killed and seven wounded, two of the latter having since died. It is also reported that several of Colonel Porter’s men were mortally wounded. The most of the killed and wounded on his part were citizens of the county. Among those killed on the spot were W.T. Noonan, Richard Austin, John Harrison and a young Mr. Shearer. When last heard from, Colonel Porter was encamped on the Fabius, some ten or twelve miles beyond Newark, and the Federal forces were close enough at hand to drive in Porter’s pickets – both seemingly awaiting for reinforcements before coming to battle. Colonel Porter’s force was variously estimated at three thousand to four thousand, and the Federal force about two thousand. A bloody battle in that quarter seems imminent.” 

- Source quoted: Paris Mercury, August 8, 1862 


“… The day after the battle of Moore’s Mill we organized at Glenn’s Mill on the Middle Fork of Salt River, east of Paris, by electing Ben Ely, now of Monroe County, captain; William Martin, first lieutenant, and myself third lieutenant; Stephen D. Ely, orderly sergeant; David Ely and T.J. Pettitt, corporals…” 

- Source quoted: R.K. Phillips, of Perry, Ralls Co 


“By this time we were stirring up trouble among the Federals and a large force with cannons was sent after us. They came up with us just east of Kirksville. Porter desired to fight them in the town, so we were ordered to go beyond the town on the west, hitch our horses and come back to the eastern edge. About twenty of our company occupied a newly built house on the northeast outskirts in plain view of the enemy. We could see their every maneuver.  

When the battle begun it was furious, but most of the fighting was done at long range, the enemy standing off and using their cannons. Our house was shot to pieces and when a bomb burst in it we left. Some went one way and some another; I went west. As we left that house it seemed to me the air was as full of minie balls as it could hold. I don’t see how they missed me; but they did. I believe I had with me all the time a guiding hand that protected me.  

I think Porter had three thousand men a Kirksville. I don’t know what our loss was; I saw several men killed at the house we occupied. Neither do I know the loss of the other side. The battle lasted several hours. When we retreated they came into town and captured some of our men who did not get the word to retreat. One of the prisoners they shot was my neighbor, Rube Thomas, who lived three or four miles from my home.” 

- Source quoted: Andrew J. Austin of Goss, Monroe Co 


“From Kirksville we went toward the southwest and then turned eastward, and on Friday, the 8th, we fought another battle at Painter’s Creek. A force of several thousand men attacked us. Colonel Porter ordered us to go back a mile, hitch our horses and return to the creek. There was timber a hundred yards wide on the creek. We fought from one o’clock till about night and we drove them from the field. We had one man killed and one or two wounded. We turned back the same way we had come. The next day, after reinforcements had come to Macon City, they sent out a large force after us. They came up while we were cooking breakfast.  

Colonel Porter ordered us to move. We were then on the west side of the Chariton River and it was up to the saddle skirts, so the wagons had to go around some ten or fifteen miles to a bridge. In order to give them time, Porter had us dismount and form a line to check the enemy. About the time the Feds would get ready to fight we would be up and gone. Then the Colonel would line us up again and give them another check until he knew the wagons had had plenty of time. Then we had orders to go and we left the enemy. 

When we crossed the Chariton, Colonel Porter had some large trees cut so the enemy could not get out with their cannon. He then stationed Captain Jim Porter with one hundred men to give the Federals a gentle surprise – and Jim Porter was the man to do it. When they came to cross, the river was swift and high. They rode right in and were letting their horses drink and were having a good time in the thought that the rebs were gone. Their good time lasted a very short time. 

They were stretched clear across, a hundred or more. Our men raised up and killed or drowned nearly every one of them. We took one prisoner, a man about sixty years old. We went east for twenty or thirty miles and late that evening Colonel Porter stopped out in the prairie and told us that it would be necessary for us to disband. Each company was directed to go back to its own county and told that it would be called at an opportune time. We came to Monroe and were not with Porter again until the Palmyra fight.” 

- Source quoted: Andrew J. Austin of Goss, Monroe Co 


“Thursday, the next day after the battle (note: of Kirksville), quite a number of ‘oath-breakers,’ as they were called, were tried by a Federal drumhead court-martial, convened by McNeil, in Kirksville, and fifteen of them were convicted of violation of their paroles, and sentenced to be shot. McNeil approved the proceedings and the order, and the poor fellows were executed the same day. Their names, as can best be learned now, were: William Bates, R.M. Galbreath, Lewis Rollins, William Wilson, Columbus Harris, Reuben Thomas or Thompson, Thomas Webb and Reuben Green, of Monroe County…” 

- Source quoted: History of Shelby County, page 757 


Of his Palmyra prison experience: “Provost- Marshal Strachan (of Palmyra, Marion Co office) thought he had me pretty well worn out, and writing to my father asked him to influence me to take the oath, give bond and go home, or he would have to send me to Alton, Illinois, the following Monday morning. My father got Uncle Bob Threlkeld and Judge Foster to come to Palmyra and see what they could do. They got me out that night on parole, to report next morning at eight o’clock. Andrew Allsman (note: of Marion Co PM office) was in the office when I went in and remained there during my entire examination. Strachan put a great many questions to me which I answered. Allsman told Strachan that he very readily recognized me, and that I had done some terrible deeds, all of which I denied. It was hard to bear, but circumstances were such that I had to make the best of it.  

I told Strachan before I took the oath that I would never go into the militia. I had been home two months when the order came for every man to go into the militia. I got on my horse and went to Porter, taking forty men with me, and we were sworn into the Confederate service for three years or during the war. When Porter went to Palmyra he burned all of Strachan’s papers, my oath and bond with the rest, which was good for me. He took Allsman with him. At Whaleys Mill he released Allsman and furnished him with a horse to ride back to Palmyra. I think Allsman’s bones lie in a cave between Whaley’s Mill and Palmyra.” 

- Source: J. B. Threlkeld of Shelbina, Shelby Co 


The number of prisoners, citizen and Confederate, killed in Missouri during the war by the Federal militia reached many hundreds, but no case of single or wholesale slaughter created so great an inquiry or so general reprobation as the killing of Willis Baker, Thomas Humston, Morgan Bixler, John Y. McPheeters and Hiram Smith, of Lewis County, Herbert Hudson, John M. Wade and Marion Lair, of Ralls County, Thomas Sidenor, of Monroe County, and Eleazer Lake, of Scotland County, by order of General John McNeil, at Palmyra, Saturday, October 18, 1862. 

A notice was served on Colonel Porter by publication in the local papers and by a copy placed in the hands of Mrs. Porter which read thus:  

Palmyra, Mo. October 8, 1862

Joseph C. Porter 

Sir:- Andrew Allsman, an aged citizen of Palmyra, and a non-combatant, having been carried from his home by a band of persons unlawfully arrayed against the peace and good order of the State of Missouri, and which band was under your control; this is to notify you that unless said Andrew Allsman is returned unharmed to his family within then days from date ten men who have belonged to you band, and unlawfully sworn by you to carry arms against the Government of the United States, and who are now in custody, will be shot as a meet reward for their crimes, among which is the illegal restraining of said Allsman of his liberty, and if not returned, presumably aiding in his murder. Your prompt attention to this will save much suffering. 

Yours etc.,

W.R. Strachan

Provost-Marshal General District N.E. Missouri

Per order of Brigadier-General Command McNeil’s Column. 

The dread day came without light on the fate of Allsman… The fortitude of the ten victims in the face of death robbed Strachan of half his pleasure in the deed… Of all the men, Captain Tom Sidenor aroused the greatest interest. Young, handsome, cultivated, of high parentage, he had given his best to the cause of the South and the din of battle was sweet music to his ear. “Aim here,” he said, placing his hand over his heart, and his executioners, merciful to him, did his bidding, but many of the soldiers purposely aimed high; their repugnance and horror preventing them from realizing that obedience to orders was not only a duty but a mercy. 

… The editor of the Palmyra Courier whose hatred of everything Confederate or Southern was bounded only by the scope of his vigorous intellect, gave a minute description of the tragedy. Heretofore he had gloried in all the lesser “severities,” but now, no word of approval for this tragedy, and scarcely a word of condemnation for its victims: “He (Captain Sidenor) was now elegantly attired in a suit of black broadcloth with white vest. A luxurious growth of beautiful hair rolled down upon his shoulders which, with his fine personal appearance, could not but bring to mind the handsome but vicious Absolom…” 


Comrade A.J. Austin, Goss, Monroe County, sends names of Porters’s men: Isaac Greening and Joseph Smith, Florida; Joseph Adams and Reuben Tillett, Paris; Robert Bush, Santa Fe; James Adams, Holliday; Thomas Tewell, Clapper, all of Monroe County… 

Mrs. James A McAtee, Hunnewell, Shelby County… says her two brothers, Raymond and Thomas Shearer, of Monroe County, were with Porter and that Raymond was killed at Newark. 

Comrade B.O. Wood writes…S.J. Armstrong, of Paris…John Lyon, Stoutsville, Monroe County… 

The survivors of Porter’s men here named have given me valuable information used in the preparation of this narrative: … A.J. Austin, Goss, Monroe Co… George Madison Botkins, Madison, Monroe Co… Charles A. crump, Santa Fe, Monroe Co… J.D. Dowell, Paris, Monroe Co… H.M. Goss, Florida, Monroe Co… Ben Green, Santa Fe, Monroe Co… Ezekiel Bryan McGee, Paris, Monroe Co… J.W. Young, Stoutsville, Monroe Co