When Merrill's Horse Came to Town

When Merrill's Horse Came to Town

Missouri History Not Found In


From the Paris Mercury

A dispatch from Priceton, MO., telling of the death of H. S. Wilkinson, 85, (he died Feb. 27 in Rockport; his home was in Ridgeway), recalls a familiar Paris Civil War story. Wilkinson was the last trooper of "Merrill's Horse"---the Second Missouri cavalry---which was much in evidence in this section of Missouri. Merrill's Horse first came to Paris, a rebel hotbed, in the summer of 1861. They rode black horses, had bright new uniforms, and were a fine body of soldiers. They rode up the old Hannibal road---500 of them---turned south of emerging at the fairground hill, and came up East Caldwell street. The clatter of their sabers brought all the women out to see them---the war was then young---and as they passed, Miss Mildred Donan, daughter of a Christian preacher, and sister of the famous Pete Donan, stood in a doorway at the home of the father of the editor of the Mercury, long since demolished, and sang "Dixie." It was a lovely summer morning, she had a beautiful voice, and every trooper turned and saluted her, including Captain Merrill himself. Her defiant song followed them up the street, she sang until the last man had ridden by, but they were gallant men, and only laughed. A year later it would have cost the lives of Miss Donan and all in that household. The first baby was due there and the next day Capt. Merrill and two orderlies "quartered" themselves there for dinner. They were shown the baby clothes and were interested, having families of their own at home. Miss Donan afterwards became the protecting angel of "the boys in the bush," starting South or home on a visit. She married Rev. Reavis of St. Louis and lived to be an old woman, rebellious and spirited to the last. A son, Don Reavis, became famous in Missouri journalism by his work on Pulitzer's Post-Dispatch. The generation who were alive when Mildred Donan sang "Dixie" to Capt. Merrill and 500 Union troopers are all dead. It was a habit to recall all of the cruel things of a fraticidal strife, but none of its gallantries---such as this.

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