By Bill Heusinkveld - correspondent
When I wrote my articles about the Civil War, I described the battle campaigns of the several Iowa regiments but hardy mentioned the fighting and skirmishes between the abolitionists of southern Iowa versus the slave owners and secessionists of northern Missouri. However the Civil War was often conflict of brother against brother. There were settlers on both sides of the Iowa-Missouri line whose loyalty lay with the opposite side.
The slave state of Missouri, having achieved statehood 25 years before Iowa, harbored a strong hatred against the stalwart pioneers settling in the free state of Iowa. There were also some strong sympathies for the southern cause among former slave owners now living in southern Iowa. Tension was highest near the border, in Appanoose, Davis, Van Buren and Lee Counties. Davis had a very large element of southern supporters.
As the long and bitter war progressed, it became apparent that the north was winning the war. The South had lost Vicksburg and the Union had gained control of much of the South. General Sherman was on his famous march to the sea, depriving the South of food and destroying their morale. It became a war of attrition and the Confederates were desperate for manpower, munitions and food. The end was almost in sight. This frustration for the guerilla bandits in Missouri may have triggered the rage and exceptional cruelty displayed in the vicious Confederate raid into Davis County in the fall of 1864 just when the Davis County Fair was in full swing.
A monument was erected south of Bloomfield in 2005 to commemorate the raid. It reads as follows: “Site of Confederate Invasion of Iowa. This monument marks the northern-most point of incursion into Iowa by Confederate Forces. On October 12, 1864, Lieutenant James “Bill” Jackson led twelve heavily armed Missouri Partisan Rangers dressed in Union uniforms in a raid through Davis County, Iowa resulting in the murder of three local citizens.” The monument was placed atop a hill 5 miles south of Bloomfield at the corner of Lilac Ave. and 265th St. The location was called “Shooters Roost” and was on the route taken by the raiders.
My information about the raid comes from several sources One was a 9-page paper that O.R. Parks picked up on a visit to the Wapello Co. Museum in Ottumwa. The paper was written by Lieutenant Colonel Sam A. Moore as a report to N.B. Baker, Adjutant General of Iowa, describing the guerrilla raid. More recently I acquired a book “The Confederate Invasion of Iowa” written by Russell Corder of Unionville, Iowa.
The raid took place in mid-October, about a half year before General Lee’s surrender at Appamatox Courthouse. Twelve young men, dressed in Federal uniforms, mounted on splendid horses, and armed with from two to seven revolvers each, entered Davis Co. near its southeast corner in the early morning with two prisoners, young men whom they had captured in Clark Co., in the Northeast corner of Missouri.
Riding in the direction of Bloomfield, the raiders first stopped at the house of John Brumley, who assumed they were Union soldiers on leave. They searched his house and smashed his rifle. They continued to the house of Mr. Gustin where some of them dismounted, entered the house and robbed him of a gun, which they broke. They took about $160 in money and a favorite watch, which had been a gift from his father when dying.
Another portion of the gang proceeded to William Downing’s, broke his gun, took his pocket money and took him prisoner. They went from house after house taking whatever money they could find and breaking every gun in the house. They took horses for themselves if they appeared to be good horses. They threatened to kill any who had served in the Union Army. Their movements rapid as the wind, the main column halting rarely and but for a few moments. Every prisoner taken was counted as one of the gang. Sometimes they split up into two groups. The first homes robbed were those of Thomas Miller, John Neckadier, Chris Waggle and Henry Blough. By then, they had turned due west and were about three miles south of Pulaski.
Three of the gang went to the house of William Power, a wealthy farmer with two sons in the Union army. One son Wallace was home on leave because of illness. Mr. Power and Wallace were shocking corn near the road. Wallace, thinking they were Union soldiers, walked to the gate to meet them. The raiders drew their revolvers and ordered Wallace to take off his pants. He was unarmed, so drew off his “soldier pants’ and handed them over. Meanwhile, Mr. Power dodged behind an outbuilding, broke and ran. They fired at him but missed.
They now proposed to kill the young man in the mother’s presence unless his father was brought back. A younger brother ran down to the field and told Mr. Power that the men threatened to kill Wallace unless he returned, so he came back. They took Mr. Power’s gun and broke it and compelled father and son to mount the same horse as prisoners without saddle of blanket. They did not have time to search the house for his money.
The brigands next went to the houses of David Baughman, Perry Brown, William Millsap, Charles Rease, Daniel Swartzendrover, Jacob King and Jeremiah Miller. They threatened to shoot any who resisted in any way.
The distance to the county seat of Bloomfield was some 16 miles when the raiders first started their depredation. The rapidity of their movements, the terror left in their path and the vague uncertainty of their numbers so startled and unnerved even the brave men that a considerable time elapsed before the news reached Bloomfield. Oh for the luxury of a cell phone! Next week I will relate the progress of the raid westward through the county as it escalated into murder and how the militia organized themselves to repel the determined guerrillas.