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Confederate Monument, Palmyra

This clipping taken from ‘The St. Louis Post-Dispatch” dated April 11,1896 concerns the execution of ten Confederate soldiers in retaliation for the death of one Federal soldier. The story was brought to light by the faculty of Drury College, Springfield, Missouri, in an endeavor to win an endowment of $25,000 offered by Mr. Evans of Massachusetts on condition that a modern parallel to the ancient story of Damon and Pythias be found. The name of the man whose life was said to have been saved was W. S. Humphrey, of Lewiston, Missouri.

Lewiston, Missouri. “Yours of March 19 to hand, and contents noted. In answer to your inquiry in regard to the shooting of ten men at Palmyra, Mo., I would say that Col. Joseph Porter, a Confederate, came to Palmyra and took one man, Alesmer, from there, and he never returned. I was a Confederate prisoner at Palmyra and out on bond, allowed the limits of the town, and when John McNeal, a Federal officer, came to Palmyra he issued an order that if this man Alesmer was not re­turned in ten days he would have ten Confederate soldiers shot. At the expira­tion of ten days he selected ten men of which number I was one. My wife and daughter came to see me in the evening and went to the home of a friend after they left the prison. Col. Strawn came to the prison and read our sentence to us, stating that we would be shot the next day at 10 a.m. My wife was told what had been done and that, if she could not do anything, there could not be anything done. The next morning she went to Gen. John McNeal’s office and pleaded with him to spare my life and told him that I was there on parole when Porter was there and refused to leave. But he would not agree to spare my life. My little daughter went to him and got on her knees and pleaded with him to spare her papa’s life. He said: “Poor child,” and wrote a note and gave it to Mr. Read, who had charge of the prison, and told him to take it to Col. Strawn. Said note read as follows:

Co1.Strawn: If the fact can be established that Humphrey was here on parole when Porter was here and refused to leave, reprieve him and do not put anyone in his place.” When Strawn read the note he swore that it should be filed and Read said, “For God’s sake, take some man that has no family.” He selected Hiram Smith about 20 years old. Strawn came to the prison about two hours before they were shot and read the contents to the above named Smith. The above are the facts in the case. (Signed) W. T. Humphrey.”

There is a follow up story about the erection of a monument to the soldiers that Were shot. The monument was erected at Palmyra, Mo.

“Palmyra News (Missouri) 26 Feb. 1907. The Confederate monument dedicated to the memory of the ten men who were shot at Palmyra during the war is being erected in the court house yard today and it is expected that the workmen will finish before night. The monument is a thing of beauty, being over fourteen feet high and of solid granite. A statue of a life size soldier adorns the pedestal and on the west side of the base is inscribed: “Erected by the Palmyra Confederate Monument Association and its friends, February 25, 1907.”

On the south appears only the date, October 18, 1862. On the east or front appears the following inscription: “Erected to the memory of Capt. Thomas Sidenor, Willis T. Baker, Thomas Humston, Morgan Beider, John McPheeters, Hiriam T. Smith, Herbert Hudson, John M. Wade, Frances N. Lear, and Eleazer Lake.” Those were the names of the men who were shot. The monument was erected by Keokuk, Iowa contractors and cost about $1500. It is expected that the unveiling will take place in the next two weeks and noted speakers will make addresses.