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Legend of St. Francois County
SAM HILDEBRANDíS CONFESSION
Reprinted from the County Advertiser by Farmington News Printing Company
September 26, 1979
Confessions of Sam HILDEBRAND
TYPISTíS 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
[Trip with three men. - Captured a Spy and shot him. - Shot SCAGGS. - At night charged a Federal camp of one hundred men. - Killed nine men. - Had one man wounded. - Came near shooting James CRAIG. - Robbed BEANís store and returned to Arkansas.]
††† My family still remained in Cook settlement, in St. Francois County, Mo., and as they were in the enemyís country, I did not think it prudent to pay them a visit, knowing that it would only bring ruin upon them if the fact of my visit should ever become known to the Unionists in that county. But I determined by some means or other to effect their escape to Arkansas as soon as it would be prudent to make the attempt. Capt. BOLIN and his men had promised me their cooperation if called upon for that purpose; but I was well aware that our whole force would be insufficient for the accomplishment of the object, if attempted by force of arms, for two or three thousand men could be brought against me in less than twenty-four hours.
††† To keep myself well posted in regard to the strength of the enemy along the route, I selected three of QUANTRILís men, and in the latter part of September, started on another raid into Missouri. On arriving at the St. Francis River we found it swimming, but made no halt on that account, having by this time become inured to all kinds of hardships and dangers.
††† On the second day after we started we left the main road and diverged several miles to our right, for the purpose of traveling in day time. On getting within sight of a house we discovered some one run into the yard, and immediately afterwards we saw a little boy running toward a barn. The movement being a little suspicious, we dashed forward and were soon on each side of the barn. We discovered a man through a crack, and demanded his surrender; he came to the door and threw up his hands. On taking him back into the barn, we discovered his bundle to contain a complete Federal uniform, and when we noticed that the citizenís dress which he had on was much too small for him, we at once pronounced him a Federal spy. We found a letter in his pocket, written by a man by the name of SCAGGS, to the authorities at Fredericktown, containing names of his rebel neighbors, whom he was desirous of having burned out. One of the men on the list I happened to know, and by that means I knew that SCAGGS lived about seven miles from there. We took the spy half a mile and shot him, then, changing our course, we started on the hunt for SCAGGS, whose residence, however, we did not find until after dark. Dressed in Federal uniform, we rode up to the gate and called him out. On arresting him we took him to the house of a friend, who told us that SCAGGS had already made two widows in that neighborhood by reporting their husbands. We took him with us until daylight appeared, hung him to a limb in the woods, and made our way toward Castor creek, in Madison County.
Charged Federal Camp
††† The next night, on crossing Castor Creek, we discovered a camp of Federals; judging them to be about twenty or thirty strong, we concluded to charge them for a few minutes; but on getting into their camp we found that there were three or four times as many as we expected; so we charged on through as quickly as possible, still two of our horses were killed and one of my men was slightly wounded in the fleshy part of his thigh. After getting through their camp, we captured the four pickets who were placed in a lane on the opposite side. As we came from the wrong direction, they mistook us for their own men, until we had taken them in. My two men who had lost their horses, now mounted those taken from the pickets. As soon as the pickets told us that they were LEEPERís men, we shot them and hurried on.
††† On our return, at another time, we were told by the citizens that we killed five and wounded several more in our charge through their camp; making nine men killed, including the pickets.
††† My wounded man could not be kept in Missouri with any degree of safety, and according to the usage of the petty tyrants who commanded the little squads of Federals, it would have been death to any man under whose roof the wounded man might have taken refuge; the man, without any questions asked, would have been shot, his house and property burned, and his wife and children turned out into the world, houseless, forlorn and destitute. To avoid the infliction of such a calamity upon any of our friends, my wounded man was under the necessity of making his way alone back into Arkansas.
††† My other two men and myself traveled the remainder of the night in the direction of my old home in St. Francois County. I learned that a prolonged effort was made in the following day to trail us up to our camp in the woods; but a rain having fallen about daylight, our tracks were entirely destroyed. On the following night we made our way to the house of a friend, near the ruins of my once happy home. Here I remained, resting myself and scouting over the country on foot, two whole days and nights, trying to shoot some of the miscreants who had belonged to the old mob, but they kept themselves so closely huddled that I had no chance at them.
††† On the second day, however, while lying near the road, James CRAIG, captain of the mob - which by this time had assumed the name of Militia - with two men whom I did not recognize, came along, riding very fast. I got a bead on CRAIG, but my gun did not fire; and I will say here, that this was the only time during the war that old "Kill-devil" deceived me.
††† On returning to my friend near my old home, he stated to me that our horses, which we had concealed in a nook in one of the bluffs of Big River, had been discovered by some boys who were hunting, and that they had gone to report to the militia. Upon receiving this intelligence, we started at once to our horses, found them alright, and, not being satisfied with the results of our trip, we concluded to obtain some supplies from our good Union friends before leaving. We got in Flat River about the middle of the afternoon, and rode up to a store kept by the sons of John BEAN, one of whom belonged to the Vigilance mob - but he was not there.
††† The boys had sense enough to make no demonstration, so, without damaging anything whatever, I took such things as we needed, in part payment for my property which the mob had destroyed.
††† The boys looked a little displeased; they considered us bad customers and did not even take the trouble to book the articles against us.
††† The militia, having received the report of the boys, mustered their whole force and, on the following day, struck our trail and overtook us between Pilot Knob and Fredericktown; they followed us about ten miles, but only got sight of us occasionally on the tops of hills we had to pass over. Night came, and we neither saw nor heard them any more. We traveled all night and about daylight we rode up to the house of a man named SLATER, in the southern part of Wayne County, Missouri, for whom we had been watching for some time. He had made himself very busy ever since the beginning of the war by reporting Southern men. He succeeded in having several of them imprisoned, and their families impoverished. We found him at home; his manhood wilted like a cabbage leaf; we took him about a mile from home and shot him.
††† We then pursued our way home to Green County, Arkansas, and divided our spoils amongst the destitute families driven there by the ruthless hands of Northern sympathizers.†††
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