Chapter 20 - 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


[Trip to Hamburg with fifteen men. - Hung a Dutchman and shot another. - Attacked some Federals in Hamburg, but got gloriously whipped. - Retreated to Coon Island. - Returned to St. Francis River. - Killed OLLER at Flat Woods. - Robbed BEAN’s store at Irondale.]

    About the middle of August 1863, at the solicitation of two brave boys who had kindly assisted me on several trips to St. Francois County, and expected my assistance in return, I started to a small place called Hamburg, with fifteen men under my command.

    We wished to take in three or four Dutchmen who had given the relatives of my two men a great deal of trouble, causing them to be robbed, and in some instances imprisoned.

    We crossed into Butler county, and then into Stoddard; passing south and east of Bloomfield, we crossed Little River above Buffington and entered Scott County. By traveling together in the night we created no disturbance until we got near the point to which we were aiming.

    About ten o’clock in the forenoon we rode up and surrounded the house of one of the men whom we were after. He recognized us as Union soldiers and came out without being called. He commenced addressing us in Dutch, but I told him that we did not belong to that persuasion; he then began speaking broken English and still advancing toward us. When in the act of extending his hand toward one of my men who was nearest to him, he suddenly discovered his unfortunate mistake, and called to his wife who was yet in the house. The whole family came out, placed themselves in a group near us and implored us in broken English to spare their father. To the bottom of my heart I cursed the man who first invented war; but as war on one side and mercy on the other would only lead to death, we marched our Dutchman off about a mile and hung him to a lean tree. About one hour afterwards we came to the house of another of those cunning informers; he broke out at a back door and ran so fast that we all had to fire before we brought him down.

    We now pushed on to get a couple more who lived at Hamburg, but on entering the place were met by a volley of musket shots which made our ears ring. One of my men was killed on the spot, at which we charged the enemy, seeing that their numbers were only about twelve. They took refuge behind an old dilapidated frame house; and while I placed some of my men in positions to command both ends of the building, others marched up to the front of the house and set it on fire.

    By this time the shooting had attracted the attention of other Federals in the vicinity, who came to the rescue, and before we were aware of their presence we were nearly surrounded. We made a dash to clear their lines, and in the attempt four of my men were badly wounded, but none of them killed.

    I began to think that I had met with more than our match, for as we retreated they followed us in a solid phalanx. Our horses were put to the utmost of their speed, our wounded were left behind, the chase after us was gloriously exciting; we probably gained a little after we had gone about two miles, but they did not by any means give up the chase, for we were not allowed to enjoy anything that had the least resemblance to peace and tranquility, until we had gained Little River and swam across to Coon Island. We lost nearly everything we had except our horses and they were badly injured; some of my men lost their guns, and others lost every bit of fight that they formerly had in them. The Federals made no attempt to cross the river, but left us to brood over the sad result of our rash and inconsiderate adventure. The whole matter looked to me a great deal like a defeat, and I must confess that I viewed it rather in that light, but if it had been the Army of the Potomac they would have called it "a strategic movement - merely a change of base."

    We lost one man killed and four wounded, prisoners whom we supposed would be shot. In justice to General STEELE, however, I can proudly say that in this case he did us more than justice by retaining our men as prisoners of war and treating them well. Their wounds were healed, and in three months they were exchanged and returned to our Green County Confederacy.

    On leaving Coon Island we struck the St. Francis River at Twelve Mile Creek, and remained there several days recruiting our horses. Not wishing to be idle, I concluded that while my men and horses were resting, I would take a trip on foot to Flat Woods and pay my respects to George F. OLLER, who was so intent on bushwhacking me that he spent most of his time in the woods watching for my appearance on my accustomed routes.

    Aside from his many boisterous threats against me he was in the habit of marking out "Old Sam," as he called me, on trees and shooting at the figure at various distances. His vindictive spirit was not manifested against me alone, but even against the children of Southern sympathizers. At one time he went to St. Francis River where some Southern boys were in the habit of bathing, and at the high rock from which they were fond of plunging, he drove some cedar stakes and sharpened the upper ends which were just under the water.

    Fortunately when the boys next went there to bathe the water had fallen a few inches, and the ends of the stakes exposed so that the boys discovered them before making the fatal leap. OLLER of course did all this for patriotic motive of subjugating the South; but the result was that the little boys were saved and the country lost.

    On arriving in the neighborhood I learned from a very kind German lady whom I happened to meet and who mistook me for a Federal, that the hunt for me was still going on.

    I learned also that OLLER’s zeal for the good of the Union cause was not in the least abated by his many failures to hit my figure which he had cut on a large oak hear his house, nor by his failure to kill the innocent children whom he was afraid would be Rebels at some future time.

    At night I went and inspected his premises, and before daylight I took my position; but the day passed off and he didn’t make his appearance. When night came I repaired to the house of a friend, obtained two days’ rations, returned to my ambush, and slept until the first peep of day. I was again doomed to disappointment; but on the third day, late in the evening, as I lay brooding over the many failures I had made to inflict justice upon those who were seeking my blood, Mr OLLER made his appearance.

    He walked slowly up to the premises with his gun on his shoulder. On getting to a pig pen he got over the fence and commenced marking a pig. I shot him through and hastily left the place; on gaining the top of a small hill a few hundred yards off I heard the pig squealing, for Mr. OLLER had fallen across it, and it was not able to extricate itself from the trap.

    On getting back to my men I selected five of them to go with me, and permitted the rest to return to Arkansas.

irondale.jpg (23935 bytes)

    And soon as it was dark I started with my five men for Irondale, on the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad. Just after dark on one evening in the early part of September, we entered the town. We saw no soldiers in the streets, and no one else, except Dr. POSTON, a citizen of the place. We compelled him to knock at the door of BEAN’s store and ask for admittance; when this was done we entered without any trouble, took all the goods we could conveniently pack, and returned to Arkansas by the way of Black River.