Chapter 8 - 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

[Vigilance mob drives his mother from home. - Three companies of troops sent to Big River. -
Captain FLANCHE murders Washington HILDEBRAND and LANDUSKY. - Captain
ESROGER murders John ROAN. - Capt. ADOLPH burns the HILDEBRAND homestead and
murders Henry HILDEBRAND.]

    I shall now give a brief account of the fresh enormities committed against the HILDEBRAND family.  The same vindictive policy inaugurated by the Vigilance mob was still pursued by them until they succeeded, by misrepresentation, in obtaining the assistance of the State and Federal troops for the accomplishment of their designs.

    A Dutch company, stationed at North Big River Bridge, under Capt. ESROGER; a Dutch company stationed at Cadet, under Capt. ADOLPH, and a French company at the Iron Mountain, under Capt. FLANCHE, were all sent to Big River to crush out the HILDEBRNAD family.

    Emboldened by their success in obtaining troops, the Vigilance mob marched boldly up to the HILDEBRAND homestead and notified my mother, who they found reading her Bible, that she must immediately leave the county, for it was their intention to burn her house and destroy all her property.

    My mother was a true Christian; she was kind and affectionate to everybody; her hand was always ready to relieve the distressed, and smooth the pillow for the afflicted; the last sight seen upon earth by eyes swimming in death has often been the pitying face of my mother, as she hovered over the bed of sickness.

Appeal For Respect

    I appeal to all her neighbors - I appeal to everybody who knew her - to say whether my mother ever had a superior in this respect.

    When ordered to leave her cherished home, to leave the house built by her departed husband, to leave the quiet homestead where she had brought up a large family, and where every object was rendered dear by a thousand sweet associations that clung to her memory, she turned her mind inwardly, but found nothing there to reproach her; then to her God she silently committed herself.

She hastily took her Bible and one bed from the house - but nothing more.  She had arrangements made to have her bed taken to the house of her brother, Harvey McKEE, living on Dry Creek, in Jefferson county, distant about thirty-five miles.  Then, taking her family Bible in her arms, she burst into a flood of tears, walked slowly out of the little gate, and left her home forever!

    I will here state that I was the only one of the HILDEBRAND family who espoused the Rebel cause.  After the murder of my brother Frank, I had but three brothers left: William, Washington and Henry.  William joined the Union army and fought until the close of the war; Washington took no part in the war, neither directly or indirectly.  Never, perhaps, was there a more peaceable, quiet and law-abiding citizen than he was; he never spoke a word that could be construed into a sympathy for the Southern cause, and I defy any man to produce the least evidence against his loyalty, either in word or act.  While the war was raging, he paid no attention to it whatever, but was busily engaged in lead mining in the St. Joseph Lead Mines, three miles from Big River Mills, and about six miles from the old homestead.  In partnership with him was a young man by the name of LANDUSKY, a kind, industrious, inoffensive man, whose loyalty had never once been doubted.  My sister Mary was his affianced bride, but her death prevented the marriage.

    My brother Henry was a mere boy, only thirteen years of age.  Of course he was too young to have any political principles; he was never accused of being a Rebel; no accusation of any kind had ever been made against him; he was peaceable and quiet, and, like a good boy, he was living with his mother, and doing the best he could toward supporting her.  True, he was very young to have the charge of such a farm, but he was a remarkable boy.  Turning a deaf ear to all the rumors and excitements around him, he industriously applied himself to the accomplishment of one object, that of taking care of his mother.

    On the 6th day of July, 1862, while my brother Washington and Mr. LANDUSKY were working in a drift underground, Capt. FLANCHE and his company of cavalry called a halt at the mine, and ordered them to come up; which they did immediately.

    No questions were asked them, and no explanations were given.  FLANCHE merely ordered them to walk off a few steps toward a tree, which they did; he then gave the word “fire!” and the whole company fired at them, literally tearing them to pieces!

    I would ask the enlightened world if there ever was committed a more diabolical deed?  If, in all the annals of cruelty, or in the world’s wide history, a murder more cold-blooded and cruel could be found?

    A citizen who happened to be present ventured to ask in astonishment why this was done, to which FLANCHE merely replied, as he rode off, “they bees the friends of Sam HILDEBRASS!”

    It was now Capt. ESROGER’s time to commit some deed of atrocity, to place himself on an equality with Capt. FLANCHE; so after a moment’s reflection, he concluded that the murder of my uncle, John ROAN, would be sufficient to place his brutality beyond all question.

John ROAN’s Honesty

    John ROAN was a man about fifty years of age, was proverbial for his honesty, always paid his debts, and kept himself entirely aloof from either side during the war, but against his loyalty nothing had ever been produced, or even attempted.

    One of his sons was in the Union army, and another was a Rebel.

    Being my uncle, and the father of Allen ROAN, however, was a sufficient pretext for the display of military brutality.

    His house was situated about three miles from St. Joseph Lead Mines and about the same distance from the HILDEBRAND estate.

    On the 10th day of July, Capt. ESROGER and his company rode up to his house, and the old man came out onto the porch, with his white locks streaming in the wind, but never once did he dream of treachery.  ESROGER told him that he “vos one tam prisoner,” and detailed six men to guard him and to march along slowly until they should get behind.

    They did so until they got about a mile from his house; there they made him step off six paces, and while his eyes were turned towards Heaven, and his hands were slightly raised in the attitude of prayer, the fatal word “fire” was given, and he fell to the earth a mangled corpse.

    There was still another actor in this bloody tragedy, who had to tax his ingenuity to the utmost to select a part in which to out do, if possible, the acts of atrocity committed by the others.  This was Capt. ADOLPH.

    On the 23rd day of July, Capt. ADOLPH and his company with an intermixture of the Vigilance mob, went to my mother’s house - the HILDEBRAND homestead - for the purpose of burning it up.  The house was two stories high, built of nice cut stone, and all finished within, making it altogether one of the best houses in the county.

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Hildebrand Home

    The soldiers proceeded to break down the picket fence, and to pitch it into the house for kindling.  They refused to let anything be taken out of the house, being determined to burn up the furniture, clothing, bedding, provisions, and everything else connected with it.

    All things being now ready, the house was set on fire within, and the flames spread rapidly from room to room then through the upper floor, and finally out through the roof.  The house, with all the outer buildings was soon wrapped in a sheet of fire.

    My little brother Henry and an orphan boy about fourteen years of age, whom my mother had hired to assist Henry in cultivating the farm, were present at the conflagration and stood looking on in mute astonishment.  ESROGER ordered brother Henry to leave, but whether he knew it was their intention to shoot him after getting him a short distance from the house, as was their custom, it is impossible for me to say.  Probably feeling an inward consciousness of never having committed an act to which they would persist in making him go; so he remained and silently gazed at the (Note: This sentence ends here)

    When ordered again to leave, he seemed to be stupefied with wonder at the enormity of the scene before him.  Franklin MURPHY being present told him it was best to leave; so he mounted his horse and started, but before he got two hundred yards from the house, he was shot and he dropped dead from the horse.   Thus perished the poor innocent boy, who could not be induced to believe that the men were base enough to kill him, innocent and inoffensive as he was.  But alas! how greatly was he mistaken in them!

    They next burned the large frame barn, also the different cribs and stables on the premises; then taking the orphan boy as a prisoner they left.

    Some neighbors, a few days afterwards found the body of my little brother and buried him. 

    This was the crowning act of Federal barbarity toward me and the HILDEBRAND family, instigated by the low cunning of the infamous Vigilance mob.     I make no apology to mankind for my acts of retaliation; I make no whining appeal to the world for sympathy.  I sought revenge and I found it; the key of hell was not suffered to rust in the lock while I was on the war path.

    I pity the poor miserable, sniveling creature who would tamely have submitted to it all.

    Such a man would be so low in the scale of human conception; so far beneath the lowest grade of humanity, that the head even of an Indian would grow dizzy in looking down upon him.