Chapter 13 - Sam Hildebrand's Confession


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

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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


[The Militia mob robs the HILDEBRAND estate. - Trip with ten men. - Attacks a Government train with an escort of twenty men. - Killed two and put the others to flight.]

    Directly after the termination of my last trip, certain events transpired in St. Francois County of which it is necessary that the readers should be informed. I have already stated that the infamous Vigilance mob finally came to a head by the organization of its worst material into a militia company with James CRAIG for captain and Joe McGAHAN for first Lieutenant. As CRAIG could neither read not write, and did not know his alphabet from a spotted mule, the lieutenant was actually the head and front of the marauders. Their design in assuming the form and style of a militia company was merely for the purpose of legalizing their acts of plunder. They did not pretend to take the field against the Rebels, or to strike a single blow in defense of the State or anything else. While drawing their pay from the government, they spent their time hunting hogs, sheep, and cattle belonging to other people.

HILDEBRAND Estate Divided

    Having killed all my brothers but one (and he was in the Union army where they could not reach him), they proceeded to divide the property of the HILDEBRAND estate among themselves. Mother, though decidedly a Union woman originally, they had long since driven off to Jefferson County, with nothing but her bed and Bible. The homestead had been burned, yet there was an abundance of stock belonging to the estate, and a large field of standing corn.

    They collected the stock and gathered the corn, and then proceeded to divide it among themselves. In this division they disagreed very much; a question arose whether an officer was entitled to any more than a private, and a few of them went home declaring that they would not have anything if they could not get their share.

    At the very time this valorous militia company had stacked their muskets against the fence and were chasing mother’s sheep and pigs around through the dog fennel, I was capturing a government train and getting my supplies in an honorable manner.

    About the first of November, 1862, having learned that the Federals were in the habit of hauling their army supplies to Bloomfield from Cape Girardeau on the Mississippi River, Capt. BOLIN and myself determined to lay in our supplies from the same source.

    We took ten men and started with about ten days’ rations. Arriving on a stream called White Water, which, with Castor Creek, forms the Eastern fork of St. Francis River, we concealed ourselves in an unfrequented part of the woods. It was necessary that we should be thoroughly posted in regard to the expected time of the arrival of the train, and the probable strength of the escort.

    I undertook this delicate mission disguised as a country farmer, in search of a stray mule. Without my gun I made my way on foot to the vicinity of a mill and there concealed myself near a road to await the arrival of some one going to mill. Presently a man came along with a cart and oxen, but I let him pass, fearing that my questions might arouse his suspicions.

    I remained there nearly an hour for some boy to pass; at length I saw one at a distance coming slowly along, riding on his sack and whistling little fragments of "John Brown." I stepped into the road before he got near me and walked along until I met him. I asked about my mule, but of course he knew nothing about him. I told him that I had concluded to hunt no further, but that I was anxious to return to Bloomfield if I could only meet with a conveyance for I was tired of walking so much. He told me that the government wagons would pass there on the following day and perhaps I could get a ride. I told him that I would be afraid to do that for the Rebels might capture me; he said that there was no danger of that, for twenty soldiers always went with the wagons.

    I returned to my comrades with all the information we wanted, and we soon settled all our preliminary arrangements for the attack. After dark we took the road along which we knew they were to pass; we selected a place called the Round Pond, and secreted ourselves in a clump of heavy timber through which the soldiers could not see, in order that they might imagine the woods full of Rebels.

    Night passed and the morning hours wore away, when at length we saw two government wagons coming, and in the sunlight sure enough twenty bayonets were gleaming.

    We suddenly broke from the woods with a great shout, and dashed in among them with all the noise we could make. We fired a few shots, killing two and causing the remainder to break for the woods in every direction. The sole object of our trip being to get supplies of clothing, ammunition, etc., we felt no disposition to hunt them down, but let them continue their flight without any pursuers.

    We unhitched the horses and packed them with such things as we needed; after which we burned the wagons and everything else we could not take with us.

    On starting back we went through Mingo Swamp and made our way safely to St. Francis River, which we found out of its banks. With a great deal of difficulty we succeeded in swimming the river with our train, but with the loss of one man named BANKS, who unfortunately was drowned. Becoming entangled in a drift of grape vines and brush, he drowned before we could render him any assistance.