Chapter 5 - 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

[His house at Flat Woods attacked by Eighty Soldiers. - Wounded. - Miraculous Escape. -
Captain BOLIN. - Arrival in Green County, Arkansas]

   In April, 1862, after we had lived at Flat Woods during six months of perfect tranquility, that same irrepressible Vigilance Committee, or some men who had composed it, learned finally that I was living at Flat Woods.  Firman McILVAINE and Joe McGAHAN succeeded in getting eighty soldiers from Ironton to aid in my capture.   I had been hauling wood; as soon as I unloaded the wagon I stepped into the house, and the first thing I knew, the eighty soldiers and the vigilantes were within gunshot and coming under full charge.  I seized my gun and dashed through a gap in their lines that Heaven had again left open for my escape.  They commenced firing upon me as soon as I was out of the house.  The brush being very thick not far off, I saw that my only chance was to gain the woods, and that as soon as possible.  I ran through the garden and jumped over a picket fence - this stopped the cavalry for a moment.  I made through the brush; but out of the hundreds of bullets sent after me, one struck my leg below the knee and broke a bone.  I held up by the bushes as well as I could, to keep them from knowing that I was wounded.  While they had to stop to throw down a fence, I scrambled along about two hundred yards further, and crouched in a gully that happened to be half full of leaves; I quickly buried myself completely from sight.   The soldiers were all around in a short time and scoured the woods in every direction; then they went back and burned the house and everything we had, after which they left and I saw them no more.

    Sixteen of Captain BOLIN’s men on the day before had been seen to cross the gravel road; this probably, was why the federal soldiers did not remain longer.  Captain BOLIN was a brave rebel officer, whose headquarters were in Green county, Arkansas, and under whose command some of the most daring spirits who figured in the war, were led on to deeds of heroism scarcely ever equaled.

Deplorable Conditions

    Our condition was truly deplorable; there I lay in the gully covered up with leaves, with one leg rendered useless, without even the consolation of being allowed to groan; my family, too, were again without shelter; the soldiers had burned everything - clothes, bedding and provisions.

    As I lay in that gully, suffering with my wounds inflicted by United States soldiers, I declared war.  I determined to fight it out with them, and by the assistance of my faithful gun “Kill-devil,” to destroy as many of my blood-thirsty enemies as I possibly could.  To submit to further wrong from their hands would be an insult to the Being who gave me the power of   resistance.

    After the soldiers had left, my wife came in search of me, believing that I was wounded from the manner in which I seemed to run.   I told her to go back, that I was not hurt very bad, and that when she was satisfied that no one was watching around, to come at night and dress my leg.    She went, however, in search of some friend on whom we could rely for assistance. Fortunately, she came across Mr. PIGG, to whom she related the whole circumstance, and he came immediately to my relief.  He was a man of the right stripe; regardless of consequences, he did everything in his power to relieve my suffering, and to supply my family with bedding and provisions.  He removed us by night to a place of safety, and liberally gave us all we needed.  While I thus lay nursing my wound, my place of concealment was known only to a few men whom we could easily trust.

Loneliness and Reflection

    In my hours of loneliness I had much time for reflection.  The terrible strait in which I found myself, naturally led me to the mental inquiry: “Have I the brand of Cain, that the hands of men should be turned against me?  What have I done to merit the persecution so cruel and so persistent?”   I could not solve the questions; in the sight of a just God I felt that I did not merit such treatment.  Sometimes I half resolved to go into some other State on purpose to avoid the war; but I was constantly warned by my friends who were southern men, (the only men with whom I could hold communication at present,) that it would be unsafe to think of doing so, and that my only safety lay in my flight to the southern army.   The vigilance mob had nearly destroyed every vestige of sympathy or good feeling I had for the union people.  They had reported me, both to the civil and military authorities, as being a horse thief, and withal, a very dangerous man.

    On thinking the matter over I lost all hope of ever being able to reinstate myself in their favor and being permitted to enjoy the peaceful privileges of a quiet citizen.  The die was cast - for the sake of revenge, I pronounced myself a Rebel.

    I remained very quietly at my place of concealment while my wife doctored my wounded leg for a week before my friend had an opportunity of sending word to any of Captain BOLIN’s men to come to my relief.   As soon as my case was made known to them, however, a man was dispatched to see me for the purpose of learning all the particulars in the case.  He came and asked me a great many questions, but answered none.  When he arose to depart he only said, “alright - rest easy.”

    The next night I was placed in a light spring wagon among some boxes of drugs and medicines, was told that my wife and family would be taken to Bloomfield by Captain BOLIN in a short time, and protected until I could come after them.  A guard of two men accompanied us, and rode the whole night without speaking a word to any one.   Nearly the whole route was through the woods, and although the driver was very watchful and used every precaution against making a noise, yet in the darkness of the night I was tumbled about among the boxes pretty roughly.

Camping Out

     When daylight came we halted in a desolate looking country, inhabited only by wild animals of the forest.  We had traveled down on the western side of St. Francis River and were now camped near the most western bend of that river near the southern line of Madison County; we remained all day at that point, and I spent most of my time in sleeping.  When the sun had dipped behind the western hills we again commenced our journey.  Our course seemed to bear more to the eastward than it did the night before, and as we were then in a country not so badly infested with Federals, we traveled a good part of our time in narrow, crooked roads, but they were rough beyond all description, and I was extremely glad when about eight o’clock in the morning we halted for breakfast on the western bank of St. Francis River, about midway between Bloomfield, in Stoddard county and Crane creek, in Butler.

    While resting here a scouting party from General Jeff. THOMPSON’s camp came riding up.

    “Well boys! What have you in your wagon?”

    “Drugs and medicines for Captain BOLIN’s camp.”

    On hearing this they dismounted and kept up a lively conversation around the camp fire. Among their number was a jovial fellow who kept the rest all laughing.  I thought I knew the voice, and as I turned over to peep through a hole in the wagon bed, he heard me and sprang to his feet.

    “Who in thunderation have you in the wagon?”

    “Some fellow from St. Francois county, wounded and driven off by the Federals.”

    “The devil! Why that is my native country.   I’ll take a look at that fellow.  It’s Sam HILDEBRAND as I live!   How do you do, old rapscallion?”

    “Well, well, if I haven’t run across Tom HAILE, the dare-devil of the swamps!”

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Thomas Haile

   “ Old ‘drugs and medicines’ what are you doing down here? Trying to pass yourself off for a great medicinal root I suppose.   Do you feel tolerable better?  I’m afraid you are poison. Say, Sam, did you bring some good horses down with you?”

    The party soon prepared to start; the first man who attempted to mount came near being dashed to the ground in consequence of the rattling of a tin cup someone had tied to his spur.  Tom said it was a perfect shame to treat any man in that way; the man seemed to think so too, judging from the glance he cast at Tom.  But they mounted, dashed through a sheet of muddy water, then over a rocky point, and soon were far away amid the dim blue hills.

    We started on, and after traveling until about midnight, we reached the State line between Missouri and Arkansas. There we remained until morning; on starting agin we were in Green county, Arkansas, and sometime during the day we arrived safely at the Headquarters of Captain BOLIN, and I was welcomely received into the little community of families, who were here assembled for mutual protection - most of them were the families of Captain BOLIN’s men.  I received every attention from them that my necessities required, and as my wound seemed to be doing well, I felt for a time quite at home.