In March Quantrell planned to attack Independence. We met at David George’s and went from there toward Independence as far as Little Blue church, where Allen Parmer, who afterward married Susie James, the sister of Frank and Jesse, told the captain that instead of there being 300 Jayhawkers in Independence, there were 600. The odds were too strong, and we swung around to the southwest.
Thirteen soldiers who guarded the bridge at the Big Blue found their number unlucky. The bridge was burned and we dined that day at the home of Alex. Majors, of Russell, Majors & Waddell, the freighters, and rested for the night at Maj. Tale’s house, near New Santa Fe, where there was fighting for sure before morning.
A militia command, 300 strong, came out to capture us, but they did not risk an attack until nearly midnight.
Capt. Quantrell, John Jarrette, and I were sleeping together when the alarm was given, the sentry’s challenge, “Who are you?”followed by a pistol shot.
We were up on the instant.
So stealthy had been their approach that they had cut the sentry off from us before alarming him, and he fled into the timber in a shower of lead.
There was a heavy knock on the outer door, and a deep voice shouted: “Make a light.”
Quantrell, listening within, fired through the panel. The visitor fell.
While we barricaded the windows with bedding, the captain polled his men. “Boys,” he said, “we’re in a tight place. We can’t stay here and I do not mean to surrender. All who want to follow me out can say so; all who prefer to give up without a rush can also say so. I will do the best I can for them.”
Four voted to surrender, and went out to the besieging party, leaving seventeen.
Quantrell, James Little, Hoy, Stephen Shores and myself held the upper story, Jarrette, George Shepherd, Toler and others the lower.
Anxious to see who their prisoners were, the militiamen exposed themselves imprudently, and it cost them six.
Would they permit Major Tate’s family to escape? Yes. They were only too glad, for with the family out, the ell, which was not commanded by our fire, offered a tempting mark for the incendiary.
Hardly had the Tales left than the flames began to climb the ell.
There was another parley. Could we have twenty minutes? Ten? Five?
Back came the answer:
“You have one minute. If at its expiration you have not surrendered, not a single man among you shall escape alive.”
“Thank you,” said I; “catching comes before hanging.”
“Count six then and be d—d to you!” shouted back George Shepherd, who was doing the dickering, and Quantrell said quietly,“Shotguns to the front.”
There were six of these, and behind them came those with revolvers only. Then Quantrell opened the door and leaped out. Close behind him were Jarrette, Shepherd, Toler, Little, Hoy and myself, and behind us the revolvers.
In less time than it takes to tell it, the rush was over. We had lost five, Hoy being knocked down with a musket and taken prisoner, while they had eighteen killed and twenty-nine wounded. We did not stop till we got to the timber, but there was really no pursuit. The audacity of the thing had given the troops a taste of something new.
They kept Hoy at Leavenworth for several months and then hanged him. This was the inevitable end of a “guerrilla” when taken prisoner.