I was only seventeen when Col. Mockbee gave a dancing party for his daughter at his home in Harrisonville which was to terminate seriously for some of us who were there.
The colonel was a Southerner, and his daughter had the Southern spirit, too. Probably this was the reason that inspired the young Missouri militiamen who were stationed at Harrisonville to intrude on the colonel’s party. Among them was Captain Irvin Walley, who, even though a married man, was particularly obnoxious in forcing his attentions on the young women. My sister refused to dance with him, and he picked a quarrel with me.
“Where is Quantrell?” he asked me, with a sneer.
“I don’t know,” I answered.
“You are a liar,” he continued, and as he went down in a heap on the floor, he drew his pistol, but friends came between us, and at their solicitation I went home and informed my father of what had taken place. He told me to go down to the farm in Jackson county, and to keep away from the conflict that Walley was evidently determined to force. Next morning I started. That night Walley and a band of his scouts came to my father’s house and demanded that he surrender me, on the ground that I was a spy, and in communication with Quantrell. Father denounced it as a lie.
Though a slave-owner, father had never been in sympathy with secession, believing, as it turned out, that it meant the death of slavery. He was for the Union, in spite of his natural inclinations to sympathy with the South.
A demand that I surrender was conveyed to my father by Col. Neugent, who was in charge of the militia at Harrisonville, again charging that I was a spy. I never doubted that his action was due to the enmity of Walley. My parents wanted me to go away to school. I would have liked to have stayed and fought it out, and although I consented to go away, it was too late, and I was left no choice as to fighting it out. Watch was being kept for me at every railroad station, and the only school I could reach was the school of war close at home.
Armed with a shot-gun and revolver, I went out into the night and was a wanderer.
Instant death to all persons bearing arms in Missouri was the edict that went forth Aug. 30 of that year from Gen. John C. Fremont’s headquarters at St. Louis, and he declared that all slaves belonging to persons in arms against the United States were free. President Lincoln promptly overruled this, but it had added to the bitterness in Missouri where many men who owned slaves were as yet opposed to secession.
It was “hide and run for it” with me after that. That winter my brother-in-law, John Jarrette, and myself, joined Capt. Quantrell’s company. Jarrette was orderly sergeant. He never knew fear, and the forty that then made up the company were as brave men as ever drew breath.
We were not long quiet. Burris had a detachment raiding in the neighborhood of Independence. We struck their camp at sunset. We were thirty-two; they eighty-four; but we were sure shots and one volley broke their ranks in utter confusion. Five fell at the first fire, and seven more died in the chase, the others regaining Independence, where the presence of the rest of the regiment saved them. That day my persistent pistol practice showed its worth when one of the militiamen fell, 71 yards away, actual measure. That was Nov. 10, 1861.
All that winter Independence was the scene of a bloody warfare. One day early in February Capt. Quantrell and David Pool, Bill Gregg and George Shepherd, George Todd and myself, charged in pairs down three of the streets to the court house, other members of the company coming through other streets. We had eleven hurt, but we got away with ammunition and other supplies that were badly needed. Seven militiamen died that day.
Another charge, at daybreak of Feb. 21, resulted badly. Instead of the one company we expected to find, there were four. Although we killed seventeen, we lost one, young George, who fell so close to the guns of the foe that we had considerable difficulty in getting him away for burial. Then we disbanded for a time. Capt. Quantrell believed that it was harder to trail one man than a company, and every little while the company would break up, to rally again at a moment’s notice.