Chapter 11 - Sam Hildebrand's Confession


Legend of St. Francois County
Reprinted from the County Advertiser by Farmington News Printing Company
September 26, 1979

sam_hildebrand.jpg (11901 bytes)

Confessions of Sam HILDEBRAND

TYPIST’S NOTE: I have not altered the manuscript at all, including all spelling and punctuation.  The ONLY change I have made is to capitalize all surnames. - BethK


[Another trip to Missouri. - Fight near Fredericktown. - Horse shot from under him. - Killed four Soldiers. - Went into their camp at Fredericktown and stole four horses. - Flight toward the South. - Robbed "Old Crusty." - Return to Arkansas.]

    While I was recruiting at our headquarters in Green County, Arkansas, Capt. BOLIN and most of his men returned to rest themselves for a while. Of course our time passed off agreeably, for we all had so much to say, and so much to listen to, that the mind was actively engaged at all the time, rendering it impossible for time to drag heavily.

    Having thoroughly rested myself, on the 25th day of August I selected three men, and we started on a trip to St. Francois County, Missouri. Nothing unusual occurred until we arrived in Madison County. On getting within about eight miles of Fredericktown, daylight overtook us, and we stopped at an old friend’s house for breakfast, who had always treated us kindly, for I had stopped with him several times on my previous trips. He stated to us that there were no troops in Fredericktown. Upon receiving this information, from a source, as we supposed, so reliable, we felt quite free, and resolved to make our journey on that day to my old home on Big River. So, after getting our breakfast and feeding our horses, we made our way quietly to our usual place of crossing the gravel road leading from the Pilot Knob to Fredericktown, when we were suddenly fired on from the brush by about fifty soldiers. Fortunately for us, we had not kept the usually traveled path that crossed the road at the place where the soldiers were stationed in ambush; consequently, we were about two hundred yards from them, and none of us were hurt, though my horse was shot from under me; the ball that pierced his chest, passing through my pantaloons, slightly burning my knee.

Still Lame From Wounds

    At the word from me my three men whirled into the brush, and we retreated back in the direction from which we came, my men on horses and myself on foot. I was still lame from the effects of the wound received at Flat Woods, but we made good time, and effected our escape. On getting about a mile, I ordered my men to hitch their horses in a thicket, and we would hold the place if they undertook to follow us. After waiting for some time and not hearing from them, we concluded to make our way cautiously back to where we had been fired upon, and try to get a shot. We crept slowly up, and saw six or seven men near the place, but we could not get close enough from the side we were on; so we made our way in the direction of Pilot Knob about a mile, crossed the gravel road behind a hill, and came up on the opposite side.

    We got in sight of them just in time to see a party ride up, leading our three horses; at this, I concluded to try one of them at long range, seeing distinctly from our position that we could get no closer without exposing ourselves too much. I pulled off old "Kill-devil" at one of them who wore shoulder-straps; at the crack of the gun the gentleman got a very hard fall, which, I am fearful, killed him. At this they concluded to follow us into our native woods, for which they paid very dearly.

    They made a dash on us, which caused us to scatter in different directions, to divide their party up into several squads. Each of us took a course through the woods in the roughest places we could find, which rendered it very difficult for them to follow. I stopped at every place, such as fallen timber, steep banks and high rocks, to get a pop at them, and would be off again in a different direction. Sometimes I was in front, sometimes at one side, and frequently in the rear. I was pleased to see them have so much pluck, for it afforded old "Kill-devil" an opportunity to howl from every knob and dense thicket in the wild woods until one o’clock in the evening, when they gave up the chase and quit the unequal fight.

    On meeting my men, at dark, on the top of a certain high hill designated by me in the morning, I had four new notches in the stock of old "Kill-devil," indicating by that rough record that four more of my enemies had gone to that land where the righteous would cease from troubling them or making them afraid. Two of my men had killed a man apiece, and the other had made what we call in fishing "a water haul." I suppose, however, that he took himself into some secure corner to meditate on the uncertainty of all human affairs until the danger was over.

    The Federals, on the next day, started in search of us with three or four hundred men; but their numbers being so great, we did not make war upon them that day. At night it rained very hard, and whilst it was raining we went into Fredericktown; finding all things quiet about camp, we managed to steal a horse apiece from them, but did not get the saddles and bridles, as we were in a hurry. We got about thirty miles on our way back to Arkansas before morning - each of my men riding bare-back, with only a halter for a bridle. I stopped, however, at the old gentleman’s where we had got breakfast, for the purpose of having a small settlement with him, as he had deceived us in regard to the soldiers at Fredericktown, and, as we believed, had reported us, for we noticed that his son, a lad about fifteen years old, had rode off while we were eating our breakfast on that morning. I stopped, but the old man was not at home, so I took an old saddle and bridle from him, and went on to Arkansas, leaving the Federals to hunt for us, which we were told they kept up about ten days.

Before reaching Arkansas, however, for the purpose of laying in our winter’s supplies, we diverged about twenty miles from our usual course to pay our respects to an old Union man living at the crossroads, who had caused the expulsion of two families from the neighborhood by reporting on them.

He still had the remnants of what had once been a full country store. No Federal soldiers happened to be near the premises at the time, so we rode up to his house about sunset, and while I left one man at his door to prevent any one from leaving the house, we went with the old crusty fellow to the store. He was not disposed to be accommodating, but we bought everything that we could put upon our horses and upon a mule that we borrowed of him, and, after telling him to charge it to Uncle Sam, with the Big River mob for security, we left, and before morning were out of the reach of danger. On reaching camp, we relieved the needy, not forgetting the two families that "Old Crusty" had driven from his neighborhood.