Bushwacker Hildebrand Still Bugs Me
Published Sunday, June 23, 2002 / Southeast Missourian
Cape Girardeau, MO
My friend Dorothy called to say, "Jean, I have a new book I think you
would like to read."
I have a lot of friends named Dorothy. This one is Dorothy Miles who emigrated
from St. Francois County to Cape, as did I.
Knowing I had a stack of unread books on hand and not wanting to
duplicate," I said, "What is it, Dorothy?" "The Rebel From Shepherd
Mountain," she replied.
My lazy mind shifted to the "Shepherd of the Hills" country. I
probably made some remark about that locale being my favorite setting for any Missouri
"No, no," Dorothy corrected. It's "our" Shepherd Mountain.
Slowly my mind got into the right groove, and I realized that Dorothy was speaking about
the mountain just west of Pilot Knob and slightly north of Ironton, Mo., the mountain that
played a significant role in the Civil War as it was fought in Southeast Missouri.
Confederate forces, plus local sympathizers, fired down from the top of the mountain into
Fort Davidson, originally known as Fort Blood, where Union forces were stationed.
After making that clarification in historical Missouri sites, I struggled with
the word rebel. Was someone protesting about a ski slide that was once proposed for the
mountain, or were new subdivisions creeping up the beautiful mountainside?
With these named places, which were part of my early stomping grounds, I told
Dorothy I'd love to read the book.
Shortly thereafter I held the beautiful book in my hands. The cover picture is
that of a green summertime mountain. I like to think it is "our" Shepherd
Mountain, but it is not identified.
Written by Evault Boswell and autographed to Bud Laws, I began to feel a
closeness to the book, even before page one. Boswell and Laws are familiar family names
remembered from my youth. And on page one Elephant Rocks are mentioned. Elephant Rocks, a
park now, in retrospect seem to have been a part of my early back yard. After that named
location came the mention of every little town, village, river, creek, spring and swamp
from Big River Mills to a meeting place for rebels and bushwhackers on Crowley's Ridge in
Arkansas. Even all the river bluff caves are in my and Dorothy's mental directory.
When the name Sam Hildebrand jumped out at me from the printed page, a shiver
passed over my body. I'm still afraid of Sam.
The deeper I got into the book, the more I realized it was a Civil War story
and a biography of Hildebrand. The rebel is a fictitious character, a southern sympathizer
who lived on Shepherd Mountain.
Sam was dead long before I was born, but Mama, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa
continued to use his name as a tool to control the wanderings of my sisters and me.
"Be sure you are home and in the house before dark or Sam Hildebrand will get you.
He's a bushwhacker," was a constant admonition.
I had no notion what a bushwhacker was, but when told about some of the mean
things he had done, I was glad to be home after dark.
In spite of the egregious violence which was described on nearly every page, I
kept reading, nodding my head in agreement where Boswell placed all the little villages,
thick woods and bends in the river. I was on a vicarious nostalgic trip.
I have in my library a book entitled, "Sam Hildebrand Rides Again,"
and another one entitled, "Pilot Knob." I got them out to read again to see if I
could detect any discrepancies. There were none.
Here's a footnote that might be suitable to mention regarding my relationship
to Sam Hildebrand: I was christened in the Elvins, Mo., Methodist Church South. To the
rear of this church is a cemetery. Midway in it is where Sam is buried.
Jean Bell Mosley is an author and longtime resident of Cape Girardeau.