The Military Record of Major James S. Wilson JULY 2005
1854 The passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act sows the seeds of civil
war on the Missouri Kansas border. In 1854 and 1855 several
thousand pro slavery Missourians will cross into Kansas to
illegally participate in the Kansas elections. Missourians will loot
the U.S. Arsenal at Liberty for arms, and John Brown will appear
on the scene, before 1860. Murderous clashes of small groups will
occur through the late 1850's.
1860- 1861 The Missouri State Militia is the only formal military force in
Missouri. Men on both sides of the secession question join mixed
units, to get training for the coming war.
Aug 1860 Missouri, elects Clairborn Jackson governor. Unknown to the
general population, he favors secession.
Oct 1860 James wife, Margaret, furious with him, has taken their
two sons, Henry, and Oscar, and is home in
Strasburg, Virginia. James whereabouts is not known.
They will not meet again. 1860 Census C. Peterson says the
breakup is over "a difference in political sentiments"
James and family were not at home in Lincoln county when
the census was taken in June.
James is reported to be melancholic the rest of his life over the
breakup. James father is also furious. James's four
brothers-in-law, all enlist in the rebel army. His father in law
will be put in a Union prison as a bushwhacker. Even his wife's
grandfather serves in the rebel army in Virginia. James is
cut off from all family ties, except for his sister Sophia Wilson
Rinaman, who lives on a farm adjoining his home place. James
relationship with his older brother Stephen, who is living in
Washington, D.C., is unknown.
5 Jan 1861 The Missouri Senate introduces bills to arm the militia, and call
a state convention.
18 Feb 1861 People in Missouri vote against secession, by a margin of 80,000
votes. The bill to arm the militia dies. Blair has been converting
his German "Wide Awake" organization to armed Home Guards.
He buys arms with eastern money.
4 Mar 1861 Delegates are elected to consider "Missouri's relationship to the
9 Mar 1861 Their meeting results in a finding "that at that time there
was no reason for Missouri to leave the Union".
March 1861 Captain Lyon and a company of regulars from Kansas
arrive in St Louis. South Carolina secedes from the Union.
Missouri's Governor Clairborne Jackson establishes a State
Guard Brigade in each congressional district,
under Br Generals. He tells the North and South to
"Stay out of Missouri and leave us alone." Captain Lyon
and Frank Blair create the "Home Guard" of strong Union men.
It's strength came from the Germans, who in the political
campaign had been called "Wide Awakes".
Mar Apr 1861 During this period, it is believed that James is training
at Ninevah, now Olney, 7 miles NW of home, with a
group of Union men, in a Home Guard unit. C. Peterson says that
James "took an active part in establishing law and order in his
vicinity and at once enlisted with other Unionists in a local
company for home protection.
His brother John is training with the rebels at
Millwood, in a State Guard unit, 4 miles NNE of home.
He shares a muzzle loading, percussion cap musket, and a
bed, with his brother during training. (Family tales)
This Home Guard Unit may have been associated with Warren
County, rather than Lincoln County, as they were primarily
Germans and are believed to have been the earliest Home Guard
units in the area.
12 Apr 1861 The Civil War begins at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
15 Apr 1861 President Lincoln asks for four regiments of three month
volunteers for Missouri.
17 Apr 1861 Gov. Clairborne Jackson refuses to supply the men.
Instead he has the U.S. Arsenal in Clay County broken into,
and the arms distributed to local State Guard units.
He asks Jefferson Davis for cannon so he can capture the
arsenal at St Louis.
22 Apr 1861 2,000 Union men muster in at Missouri arsenals. Gov Jackson
orders the State Guard into summer encampments.
May 1861 Governor Jackson meets with Captain Lyon, of the federal
army in St Louis. Captain Lyon orders the State Guard units
disbanded, or Federal troops will drive them off Missouri soil.
3 May 1861 800 State Guards report to Camp Jackson, near St Louis.
Cannon supplied by Jefferson Davis have arrived.
7 May 1861 4,500 Union men have mustered in at St Louis.
10 May 1861 Captain Lyons of Kansas, replaces Gen Harney as commander
of the Union forces in St Louis. Capt Lyons orders Gen. Frost's
State Guard command in St Louis taken. Camp Jackson, a State
Guard training camp at Lindell's Grove near St Louis
is attacked by Captain Lyons of the U.S. Arsenal
in St Louis with 3,000 troops. They surround the camp and it
surrenders without a shot.. The militia are captured, but a riot
breaks out with southern sympathizers, 28 people
are killed in what was called "The Battle of St Louis",
and the civil war begins in Mo. The state legislature authorizes
the formation of the pro south Missouri State Guard. Lincoln
and Warren counties are in the 2nd Division of the Missouri
11 May 1861 James S. Wilson enlists for three months, as a Private in
one of the three month militias, Home Guards, serving the Union.
Five regiments of St Louis citizens are mustered into
the Reserve Corp (3 month) on the 7th, 8th and 11th of May.
The 5th Regiment, men mustered on the 11th. These units had
been St Louis Home Guard units. James location for this time
period is not known. If he was in St Louis he could have been
one of the 5th Regiment men. The 5th regiment mustered
out on 31 Aug 1862.
James probably joined the Pike Co. Home Guard Unit, which
formed May-July, went into service in July, and disbanded
on 1 Sept. There were eight garrisons of this unit including
one at Auburn, in Lincoln County. They covered Pike, Lincoln,
and Montgomery Counties. Large units were at Louisiana,
Bowling Green, and Ashley. Ashley is just north of the Northwest
corner of Lincoln County, in Pike County.
He is not however, listed on the muster rolls of this unit. Pike
County was considered one of the most reliable Federal enclaves
in the state. James Broadhead, from Pike Co. was on the St Louis
Committee of Safety, which ran the war in Missouri, for the
Federals, for the first six months of 1861, and organized and
armed the Home Guard.
Bayles Independent Company of Infantry was also organized in
St Louis on 11 May 1861. It was used to guard the lines of
communication between Rolla and Springfield. The unit
mustered out August 11 1861. It can not be ruled out that James
enlisted in this unit. The records of Bayles Co. and the Fifth
Regiment of Reserves have been checked for a James S. Wilson,
without result. He may have enlisted as just James Wilson.
28 May 1861 James is 27 years old. Federal Calvary from Illinois, Iowa, and
Wisconsin have been rushed into Missouri to occupy the county
seats, and help the newly formed Missouri Militia.
11 June 1861 General Lyon, recently promoted from Captain, accompanied by
Frank Blair, tells Gov Jackson and Gen Price to their faces,
that he will move federal troops about Missouri as he pleases. He
receives approval to arm 5,000 Union men as Home Guards.
Governor Jackson proposes to disarm the State Guard, if the
Federals will disarm the Home Guard. General Lyon refuses.
12 June 1861 Gov Jackson calls out the Missouri State Guard and asks for
50,000 volunteers. Jackson and Price head for Arkansas,
and the Legislature scatters. Lt John Q. Burbridge, of the
Louisiana Home Guard absconded in broad daylight with what
few rifles the Home Guard had and moved down into Lincoln
15 June 1861 Lt Burbridge is at Millwood recruiting men. He then moves
on to Louisville. About 500 men join him, and they all move
on to Jefferson City. The men are formed into the 2nd
Missouri Infantry. John Wilson will join this unit 9 Dec. 1861
at Sac River, St Louis County.
21 June 1861 Brig General Harris of the 2nd Division of the Missouri State
Guard starts in Paris, Mo. then moves to the Salt River Knobs,
organizing his rebs. He picks up 300 and moves out.
3 July 1861 Mj. Gen J. C. Fremont is given the command of Union Forces
in Mo. by Lincoln.
5 July 1861 The battle of Carthage, Missouri occurs. 4000 State Guards take
on 1,000 Union men. None of our relatives are likely to have
20 July 1861 The state convention which had considered the question of
Missouri's relation to the Union reconvenes, and declares the
Governors and Lt Governors offices vacant, and abolishes the
legislature. It appoints a governor and sets itself up as a
provisional government. A oath of allegiance is required
of all officials and voters.
30 Aug 1861 Mj. Gen Fremont issues a unauthorized emancipation
proclamation , freeing Mo. slaves, declaring martial law, and
confiscating the property of southern sympathizers.
Sept 1861 The Pike County Home Guard disbands.
13-20 Sept 1861 Battle of Lexington, Missouri. Apparently the first real fight
for the rebs from Lincoln and Warren Counties, Mo. 12,000
Missouri State Guards, take on 3,500 Union troops. John Wilson
and William Colwell are probably there.
23 Sept 1861 James Wilson enlists in a three month militia unit in
Mexico, Mo. His rank may have been 1st Sgt.
He may have gone into Fagg's Regt. of Six Month's Militia,
a Pike Co. unit. This unit musters out after just 5 months of
service, in Feb 1862.
Oct 1861 James first meets Col Frederick Morsey, of Warrenton, a man
he will serve under during the first part of the war.
31 Oct 1861 Gov Jackson calls the remnants of the legislator into session in
Neosho to pass a ordinance of secession. A quorum is not
present, but the ordinance is passed anyway.
2 Nov 1861 Lincoln rescinds Fremont's orders and replaces Fremont
with Gen Grant.
28 Nov 1861 Missouri is accepted as the 12th Confederate State.
23 Dec 1861 James Wilson musters in as a private in Capt. Wommack's
Mounted Mo. State Militia, at Troy, Mo.
He will be paid 40 cents a day, for his
service and his horse. He is described as just under six foot,
with gray eyes and a dark complexion. This unit is
headquartered at Warrenton, Warren Co. Mo. He will initially
be put in Co B. This unit is known for a short time as
Col Morsey's Mounted Rifles. It will later be reorganized
as Co G, 10th Missouri State Militia Cavalry.
Record 2039, 3rd Mo S.M. Cav. (2nd org).
There is a second official Record, 1450,
of the 3rd Regt S.M. Vols. Co. G, that says James
was enlisted on this date by Capt Rush at Millwood. He is
mustered in on the same date at Mexico, Mo. I believe that the
men Capt Rush recruited were turned over to Capt Womack,
resulting in the double record. A total of 10 Czechs (Bohemians)
from Lincoln County also enlist and will serve in Co. G. Two
more will enlist later. Major Wilson will later say "If you want a
good guard and a good soldier, try to get a Czech". From "The
Life of the first Czechs in Troy, Missouri."
1 Jan 1862 Company G has marched from Troy to Mexico, Mo. where they
will be stationed. Some contract measles and pneumonia. They
10 Jan 1862 The muster in roll of Capt John M. Reeds, Co G, 10th MSM,
at Troy, shows James Wilson as private. Officers are being
elected, and Capt Reed, becomes Lt Reed. Richard Wommack
is Captain. Their station will be Mexico, Mo.
15 Feb 1862 James Wilson is promoted to First Sergeant, of Co B. Co B will
immediately become Co G. Personnel horses are valued from
$20 to $85. James has a good one, valued at $80. His service
term is for the period of the war. The unit is at Warrenton. Units
of the 5th Mo. Cav. is also stationed there. Within a few weeks
James is sent to Pike Co. to recruit union men for new companies
which are being formed. He will recruit the men that will
eventually form Co C of the 3rd MSM on this mission.
2 Mar 1862 Co G is stationed at New Salem, Mo.
2-15 Mar 1862 Squads from Co G are operating in Lincoln Co.
9 Mar 1862 Troy is occupied by 400 rebels.
10 Mar 1862 Federal troops are on the way to Troy from Warrenton
and St Charles.
Apr 1862 Gen. Scholfield has recruited 14,000 Union men into
the Missouri State Militia.
24 Apr 1862 Capt Wommack resigns as Captain of Company G.
Apr. – June Co G is at Warrenton.
5 May 1862 The 10th Calvary is organized at Louisiana, Pike County,
Missouri. There are 5 companies recruited at Louisiana, and 3
recruited by Lt Col Morsey at Warrenton. James is in one of
the Warrenton Companies. The Regiment is commanded by Col
Edwin Smart, and has 740 men. James Wilson is awarded
the Captains Commission in Company G of
the 10th Regiment, Mo. State Militia, Calvary,
when the unit is being organized.
He was elected to the post by the men of the unit.
The date is reported as 3 May, in some records.
The 10th Regiment will later become the 3rd Regiment.
The unit is in Warrenton, from April till June,
and continues training, in instruction camp, "Camp Alice".
8 May 1862 General Orders No. 18: The 10th Regiment of Cavalry,
including Company G, Capt. James Wilson, are "ordered to be
30 June 1862 Lt Reed is now serving under Captain James Wilson.
Jun/Jul 1862 Co G is patrolling the North Mo. RR in Montgomery Co.
13 July 1862 Porter's rebels capture Memphis, in Scotland County,
on the Iowa border. All Union troops in the Northeastern
district are put in the field.
20 July 1862 Companies E, G, and H break up a recruiting camp
at Danville, Montgomery, County. Co G is later stationed in
22 July 1862 General Order # 19, orders all able bodied men subject to
military service are to report for Union service. The random
seizure of guns from the general population is ordered.
27/28 July 1862 Porter's rebel forces are moving from Boone Co. to the NE.
28 July 1862 Porter's forces are attacked at Moore's Mill. Some units of the
10th MSM including Co G are in the fight.
30 July 1862 Co G and other units of the 10th MSM Cav. under Lt Col Morsey
leave Warrenton for Paris, Mo. to deal with Porters raid.
Two Companies of Col Smarts regiment are garrisoning
Clarksville. These appear to have been Companies A and B.
1 Aug 1862 Co's C,D,E,F,G, and I of Col Smarts Brigade arrive in Paris.
2 Aug 1862 The regiment moves on to Newark.
3 Aug 1862 Lt Col Morsey's force, including Co G, of the 10th Calvary MSM,
is ordered to Schuyler and Scotland Counties, north of
Kirksville to outflank Porter.
4 Aug 1862 Elements of the 10th MSM including Co G, skirmish with
Porter's forces at Edina.
5 Aug 1862 The 10th MSM makes a forced march to Memphis, where they
skirmish with the rebels.
6 Aug 1862 4 a.m. The 10th MSM heads for Kirksville.
6 Aug 1862 McNeill's Union forces attack Porter's rebel forces occupying
the town of Kirksville. They eventually rout the enemy.
6 Aug 1862 11 a.m. Lt Col Morsey brings Co G, and other forces to
Kirksville. Co D, and Co I, [The Red Rovers] get into the fight.
12 Aug 1862 The force catches Porter's forces on the Chariton river and
routs them again. General Order # 9 is issued, allowing
Union forces in the field to take subsistence supplies
from the rebel population.
16 Aug 1862 Regimental Headquarters for the 10th MSM Cav are established
at Mexico, Mo.
17 Aug 1862 The 10th MSM Cavalry, and the Enrolled Militia, and part
of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry, are made responsible
for Callaway, Audrain, Pike, and Montgomery County.
Sept 1862 Co G, and other units are operating in Monroe Co.
14 Sept 1862 All State Guard units operating in the state of Missouri are
turned over to the Confederate Army.
4 Oct 1862 A patrol led by Capt Wilson is ambushed, in Monroe Co., two
horses are killed. Captain Wilson orders an attack routing the
rebels. The units headquarters are at Florida, Mo.
6 Oct 1862 Major R. G. Woodson, of the 10th MSM, attempts to resign.
James will serve with him through many trials.
16 Oct 1862 Elements of the 10th MSM under Mj. Woodson attack 150 rebels
on Auxvasse Creek in Calloway Co.
31 Oct 1862 Capt Wilson present for duty.
Oct/Nov 1862 Capt Wilson and Co G are stationed at Paris, Mo., Monroe Co.
The headquarters units are also at Paris.
Nov 1862 Col Smarts men capture three rebels and shoot them.
20 Nov 1862 Nine companies of the 10th MSM Cav., Col Edwin Smart,
Commanding, are stationed at Paris, Mo.
Fall 1862 The men of the 10th MSM Cavalry, stationed at Mexico are
having trouble with snipers picking off the men assigned to
outposts. There is a lot of disease in camp. A lot of men desert.
12 Dec 1862 The Regiment leaves Mexico, Mo, and heads for Rolla, Mo.
by way of Jefferson City.
21 Dec 1862 The Regiment and Co G have arrived at Rolla, Mo.
25 Dec 1862 The Regiment moves out for Pilot Knob, Mo.
29 Dec 1862 The Regiment and Co G arrive at Pilot Knob, Mo.
They establish winter quarters.
31 Dec 1862 Capt Wilson present for duty.
The Union has 52,056 men under arms in Missouri, in
69 Regiments, 3 Battalions, and 58 Independent Companies.
2 Feb 1863 The 10th Mo State Militia Calvary are combined with the 3rd
Mo. State Militia [Old] and other units. The new unit is called the
3rd Mo. State Militia Calvary[New]. Co G is at Ironton, Mo.
5 Mar 1863 The Regiment moves to Patterson, Mo.
9 Mar 1863 Capt Wilson is at Pilot Knob. He has been recommended
to serve on a General Court Martial Board in St Louis.
Spring 1863 James is called as a witness at Captain Leeper's court martial,
in St Louis.
25 Mar/2 Apr Co G, led by Capt Wilson, and Co H are on a scout into Ark.
28 Mar 1863 Co G and H disperses a rebel camp at Buck Skull, Ark.
30 Mar 1863 Co G and H return to Patterson Mo.
Apr 1863 Marmaduke invades from Arkansas, for the second time.
Co G and other units are stationed at Patterson, Mo.
20 Apr 1863 Marmaduke and 3,000 rebels attack Patterson, at noon.
Maj. Woodson, commanding, Co B, and Co G, 3rd MSM,
is told to blunt the attack so the rest of the regiment
can organize a retreat. Co G is led by Capt Wilson.
Their force totals about 100 men. The attack is successfully
delayed, and the retreat begins, with 450 union men
from Co E and I, forming a rear guard, fighting off
the rebels. They have "five shooter" carbines, which evens
up the odds. In a running battle which lasts several
hours, they are flanked and encircled three times. The Union
troops cut their way out each time. This action causes the
regiment to be labeled "notorious" for their fighting ability by the
rebels. The Union commander describes the fighting as
"fierce in the extreme". The Union troops burned all the
supplies they could not carry, and all 15 houses in Patterson as
they left. The fight has lasted till sundown.
21 Apr 1863 Co G is at Pilot Knob. The 3rd MSM is attached to
Gen Vandiver's Division.
22 Apr 1863 Co G is at Fredricktown. The force will attack Marmaduke's rear
near Jackson in a night attack. The force chases Marmaduke for
several days, until he is forced back into Arkansas at Chalk Bluff.
30 Apr 1863 Capt Wilson's regiment is stationed in Ironton.
1 May 1863 Marmaduke returns to Arkansas.
1 June 1863 Capt Wilson's regiment is stationed at Patterson.
8 June 1863 Capt James Wilson is recommended for promotion to Major.
20 June 1863 Capt Robert McElroy is offered the promotion to Major. He
declines it on this date. James is then offered it and he accepts.
Capt McElroy will name a son, James Wilson McElroy.
28 June 1863 Capt Wilson is stationed at Pilot Knob.
6 July 1863 James files for divorce from his wife Margaret. The grounds are
that she absented herself from him over two years ago. She is at
her father's home in Strasburg, Virginia, with their sons. Since
James joined the army in May 1861, his last meeting with her,
would have been earlier than that. He is ordered by the court to
publish notice that he is seeking a divorce in the Troy Tribune by
the court, so that Margaret can reply to the petition if she wishes.
p. 398, Book F, Sept 1859 –Jan 1864, Circuit court Record,
Lincoln County, Mo.
11 July 1863 Capt James Wilson is promoted to Major.
17 Aug 1863 Units from Pilot Knob raid into Arkansas. Lt Col Woodson
leads 600 men of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Mo State Militia on the
raid. Major James Wilson commanding the 3rd..
22 Aug 1863 Br Gen M. Jeff Thompson, Col William Righter, and 100
enlisted men, C.S.A., are captured at a staff meeting in
Pocahontas, Ark. by Lt Col Woodson's units. Col Righter's
capture results in Capt Tim Reeves being promoted to Col,
commander of the 15th Mo Calvary C.S.A.
26 Aug 1863 Units from Pilot Knob return from raid on Pocahontas, Ark.
6 Sept 1863 Mj. James Wilson is stationed at Pilot Knob. At some point
he will hire a black man, Lewis Martin, as a valet, and begin
staying at one of the Pilot Knob Hotels. One was the Reid Hotel.
26 Sept 1863 The Circuit Court of Lincoln County, Mo finds that adequate
notice of James divorce petition, has been printed by the Troy
Tribune. The court indicates that if Margaret doesn't respond
by the next term of court and show cause to the contrary, the
divorce will be granted. p. 438, Book F, Sept 1859 – Jan 1864,
Circuit Court Records, Lincoln County, Mo.
29 Sept 1863 Mj. Wilson and Capt Leeper lead detachments of 200 and
150 men respectively from Pilot Knob, on separate raids to the
Arkansas border. Numerous watermills, and homes along the
Eleven Point River, and the colony at Irish Wilderness
will burn before the raid is over. The units involved
have not be identified. Captain Leeper's group will
skirmish with Col Tim Reeves.
30 Sept 1863 Mj. Wilson is at Centerville, Mo. He splits his forces,
sending Capt. Herring with 70 men on a alternate
route to Alton, Mo. where they will regroup.
1 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson starts from Henpeck Creek. He sends 60 men
under Capt Milks on a third route to Alton, Mo.
2 Oct 1863 Starting from camp on the headwaters of Pike Creek,
Mj. Wilson proceeds to Falling Springs, where he detaches
Capt McFadden with 30 men on another route into Alton.
Mj. Wilson arrives at Alton. His group has captured 4
3 Oct 1863 Three scouting groups are sent out from Alton.
5 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson takes 140 men and starts for Arkansas.
7 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson leads his men to Evening Shade,
Arkansas, and in a surprise attack captures 1 Captain,
3 Lieutenants, and 31 privates, with their horses and arms.
He destroys the camp. There are no Union casualties.
9 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson leads his group back to Alton, Mo.
10 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson files his action report from Alton, Mo.
11 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson has the companies under his command stationed
at the following locations. Co A and L, Patterson, Co B
thru H, Pilot Knob, Co I, Fredricktown, Co K, occupying
post at Arcadia, Co M, Centerville.
18 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson starts the men toward Pilot Knob.
After the Union troops leave, the Alton courthouse is burned.
One report states that a small group of Union troops fired the
courthouse, and perhaps a couple other buildings, after the
main group had moved on. Anticipating trouble the
courthouse records have been stored in a cave and are safe.
On 19 April 1867 three men will be indicted by Oregon County,
for burning the Alton courthouse, on 18 Oct 1863. They
appear to have been rebels.
20 Oct 1863 Having met reinforcements with provisions, Mj. Wilson returns
21 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson sends prisoners and refugees back to Pilot Knob, then
leads the remainder of his men, 120 troops, to Thomasville Mo.
22 Oct 1863 There is a election scheduled in Alton.
Mj. Wilson looks unsuccessfully for the arsonists.
25 Oct 1863 There is an election scheduled for Doniphan. The Alton and
Doniphan elections were apparently for local and state officials.
Only loyal citizens were allowed to run for office, and to vote.
Candidates and voters were required to take "The Iron Clad
Oath" of allegiance to the Union. The troops were present to
ensure that happened. All wives of bushwhackers were to be
brought in, and told their husbands must surrender, or their
houses and stock will be destroyed, and the families
will be shipped downriver to Napoleon, Ark. and put in
prison. Ordered by Br Gen Clinton Fisk.
26 Oct 1863 Mj. Wilson brings his men back to Pilot Knob. The 28 day
scout resulted in the following rebel losses. Killed - 1 Capt., 4
men. Wounded - 2 men. Captured - 1 Capt, 3 Lts., 76 men,
70 horses, and equipment. Union losses – 1 man captured and
paroled – Joseph Shram Co. G., 1 wounded in left arm –
Martin D. Gray, 3rd Mo. St. M.
22 Dec 1863 Company C, 102 men of Mj. Wilson's command is captured at
Centerville, by rebels led by Capt Jessie Pratt, Co N,
of the 15th Mo Calvary Reg. C.S.A. Capt Pratt takes the
prisoners south to be turned over to Col Tim Reeves.
They burn the courthouse and jail before leaving.
23 Dec 1863 Mj. Wilson is given orders to "follow Reeves to hell" and at
least get the prisoners back.
10 am He takes 250 men and begins pursuing the rebels who captured
9 pm He arrives at Patterson.
24 Dec 1863 Starting at daylight , he reaches Long's at 9 pm, having
covered 35 miles.
25 Dec 1863
3 am On the road toward Doniphan. Begins capturing
Reeves pickets. Forces the last one captured to lead him to
3 pm Mj. Wilson finds the rebels, at Pulliam's farm, about 17
miles SW of Doniphan, Mo. They are engaged in cutting up the
tents they had captured from Co C to make coats and pants.
Mj. Wilson forms his men into two battle lines. His orders were,
"Go in with a yell boys, and charge em like hell".
He charges with his whole force. The enemy fires,
then runs, with the exception of 35. These are killed or wounded.
The Union prisoners "knew what was up" and took cover.
Reeves had just ridden into camp, and immediately remounted and
escaped with about 30 others. The unmounted guerillas scatter
in all directions. Killed 33, wounded 2.
Total captured 150, including 13 officers, all equipage
and ammunition, and 125 horses. He frees the men
of Co C who were being held prisoner. Col Reeves had selected
seven of the prisoners, who had been on one of Captain Leeper's
raids, for execution. They were to be executed in retaliation for
the execution of an officer and 6 enlisted men by men of the 3rd
MSM. Union casualties are reported as 1 killed
and 8 wounded by the Asst Adj. General. These may be men of
Co C, because Mj. Wilson says his troops had no casualties.
The rebel commander Col Tim Reeves escapes. Battleground
Hollow is another name for this action.
Civilians known to be present, include paroled and mustered out
rebels. One family tale, which is not substantiated, says
62 women and children were killed. This family tale,
published by a man with ancestors from Ripley County,
unsubstantiated by documentary proof, has been
repudiated by the South Central Missouri and North Central
Roundtable of Civil War Historians. They have concluded that a
massacre of women and children did not happen. Wayne County
Journal, 26 Sept 2002, and the Poplar Bluff Daily American
Republic, Aug / Sept 2002. Although a large number of
rebels were captured, none have written of the fight. Interviews
with some of these prisoners, taken when they entered Gratiot
prison in St Louis, do exist, and none talk about any civilians
being hurt in the fight.
Three of the men under Wilson's command wrote about the fight.
Neither mention civilians being killed. One was written by S.A.
Sombles, Co. G, 3rd MSM, and published in the National Tribune
4 Feb 1915. He says "In this charge there were about 15 of Reeves
men killed, and it was reported that Mj. Wilson had them shot after
they surrendered, which charge was absolutely false, as the writer
stood guard over the prisoners that night and would have known if
any of them had been killed." A second report came from William
C. Billmyer, Co. C. 3rd Mo (S.M.) Cav. in a letter to the editor of
the National Tribune. He was at Centerville with Co C, but was out
on a scout, with 5 other privates, under Corpl James Scroggins
when the rest of the Company was captured by Reeves. They
observed Centerville was in guerilla hands when they came back,
and headed for Pilot Knob. They got there in time to head back
with Mj Wilson's rescue force. "Mj Wilson we found was ready to
start after the guerillas, so we went along. We captured their
pickets 10 miles from their camp and made them tell where the next
post was. We took them in and captured their last picket post, only
half a mile from the camp. The guerillas had made big preparations
for a good time that Christmas-had two barrels of whiskey. But we
"spilt the beans" for them. We charged the camp immediately with
the result that 43 of their men were killed and three mortally
wounded. The three later died before we got them to a house about
half a mile away. There was not a shot fired after Maj. Wilson
gave the word to stop. Maj. Wilson gave orders to not mistreat the
prisoners, and we did not. Neither did we take anything from them.
We landed the whole bunch in the guardhouse at Pilot Knob-some
125 of them."
25 Dec 1863 evening Encamped at Pulliam's farm.
26 Dec 1863 Starts for Pilot Knob. Reeves reportedly returns to the battlefield
to bury the dead. A conflicting report says the dead were taken
29 Dec 1863 4 pm Arrives in Pilot Knob.
31 Dec 1863 The prisoners from Pulliam's farm are en route to St Louis
on the Iron Mountain Rail Road. There are also reports of this
action in the "Daily Missouri Republican (St Louis), and the
Daily Morning Republican (St Louis) From Dec 29th, 1863,
through 1 Jan 1864.
13 Jan 1864 Mj. James Wilson is stationed at Pilot Knob. This is
regimental headquarters, and Mj. Wilson commands. Companies
are stationed at Patterson, Centerville, Fredericktown,
Potosi, and Farmington.
14 Jan 1864 Mj. Wilson is recommended for promotion to Lt Colonel.
His commander Col. Woodson considers his actions in the
fight at Pullium's farm, on 25 Dec. to be "brilliant in the
extreme" There is a medical officer, a surgeon, Major H. M.
Matthews with political connections, having spent a lot of the
war in St Louis, and more time in grade competing for
the promotion. He has been assigned as a line officer
with the 3rd MSM.
22 Jan 1864 Mj. Wilson writes a letter to his commander Col Woodson,
stating his dislike of the plan to recruit veterans from the
3rd MSM for a Volunteer Regiment.
25 Jan 1864 Col. Woodson is in trouble with his superiors, arguing over
their right to reassign some of his men, and their demand that he
take a company of mutineers. He has forwarded a letter James
wrote supporting his position. He attempts to withdraw it. It
appears to have had a major influence on James chance for
promotion as it is critical of some of the generals in St Louis.
17 Feb 1864 Mj. Matthews formally protests the move to promote James
to Lt Col.
1 Mar 1864 The protest was successful. Lt Col Matthews assumes command
of the Regiment. Matthews, with little command experience,
will later be given 1/3 of the regiment, including Co G,
and sent to Central Mo. James will command
the other 2/3 of the regiment. A bad decision will get 6 of James
friends in Co G killed and Matthews will be censured. He will
be court-martialed in Jan. 1865, lose his command, and finish
the war as a surgeon. Men of the 3rd MSM, assigned to
Matthews, who know James, will attempt to take a double
barreled shotgun away from James dad, in Lincoln County. He
threatens to kill a couple of them and they leave him alone.
Early March 1864 Mj. Wilson returns to Troy on a short furlough. He
apparently stays with his sister, Sophia Rinaman. He is
accompanied to the railroad station, probably in Warrenton, by
his nephew, Joseph Rinaman. He says "If you ever hear of me
being taken prisoner by the guerilla Tim Reeves you may count
me as dead. I know I shall never get away from him alive. I have
broken up his recruiting operations three times."
James divorce petition is also brought up during the March term
of the Lincoln County Circuit Court. It is continued. p. 36, Book
G, Mar 1864 – April 1869. This may have been the reason for his
16 Mar 1864 2 pm Mj. Wilson leads 100 men, some from Co K, and two
small cannon out on scout to the Arkansas line.
Encamps 3 miles N of Buford's ford on the Black River.
17 Mar 1864 Passes through Barnesville, encamps on Hen Peck Creek.
18 Mar 1864 Encamps 3 miles N of Eleven Points River. Sends out a scout
party, from Co. D which runs into trouble. A private is killed
and a Sgt is wounded.
19 Mar 1864 Proceeds through Alton and encamps on Fredrick's Fork.
20 Mar 1864 On the road to Pocahontas, Ark. Advance guard charges a rebel
recruiting party, killing 9, and capturing the rest. Kills another
rebel later in the day. Encamps at McElroy's, 10 miles from
21 Mar 1864 Moves through Pocahontas, and on west, to camp on the
Eleven Point River.
22 Mar 1864 5 pm Encounters Capt Peyton's Co. Charges and kills 11.
chases the remainder through the hills. Encamps.
23 Mar 1864 Passes through Van Buren and Patterson, Mo.
25 Mar 1864 Evening- Arrives at Pilot Knob. The scout covered more than
300 miles, killing 21, and capturing 11 men and 12 horses.
April 1864 Mj. Wilson is commanding a Battalion at Patterson, Mo.
Scouts from the regiment are being sent to the border and into
Arkansas on a continuous basis.
4 April 1864 Asst Adjutant General O. D. Greene is offered command of
the 3rd MSM as a Colonel. He does not muster in.
6 June 1864 Mj. Wilson is at Patterson, Mo. dealing with the election
of a new Captain for Co L.
Early June Lt Col Matthews is detached from the regiment. He is given
the 2nd Battalion and sent to North Missouri Mj. Wilson is
placed in command, with Headquarters at Patterson.
30 June- 31 Aug 1864 Maj. James Wilson is listed as Commanding
the 3rd sub district of St Louis, stationed at Ironton.
He is listed as being absent during this period, as he moves
around his command. His troops consist of
Co's. A, C, D, H, I, and K of the 3rd Regt, totaling 347 men.
Six companies of the 47th Mo. State Inf., one Company of
the 50th, Co H, of the 1st Mo Inf. and Battery H,
of the 2nd Mo. Light Artillery are assigned to him.
11 July 1864 Mj. Wilson is at Pilot Knob for the election of a
new Captain for Co K.
12 July 1864 Mj. Wilson telegraphs from Patterson that one of his units has
killed 3 men and brought in 2 prisoners.
17 July 1864 Mj. Wilson is in Patterson. Col. Tyler is commanding at
18 July 1864 Mj. Wilson and the 1st Battalion, of the 3rd MSM, 250 men,
with 2, -12 pound mountain howitzers, are on their way to
Bloomfield, Mo. Forces under Shelby, Reeves, and
Johnson are reported near Pocahontas, Ark.
26 July 1864 Mj. Wilson joins forces with Lt Col Burris and his men of the
10th Kansas Volunteers at Bloomfield. Lt Col Burris will
command the force. The force splits and heads for Scatterville,
Ark. using different routes.
28 July 1864 Evening The forces arrive at Scatterville, Ark. They route a
rebel recruiting party and skirmish with Bolin's guerrillas.
They killed a Lt., captured a Capt, and some horses, and arms.
Then they burned the town.
29 July 1864 On the move to Brown's Ferry.
30 July 1864 Moved south through Clarkson and Kennett, Mo.
31 July 1864 Passed through Huntersville, Mo.
1 Aug 1864 Marching along Big Lake. Surprised a party of bushwhackers and
thieves. Recovered stolen Negroes and horses, and burned 5
2 Aug 1864 The force moves through 20 miles of swamp. Late afternoon Arrive at Osceola, Ark. The force fights two
companies of Shelby's command, killing 7, and taking 25
prisoners. Captured a considerable number of arms and horses.
Another name for one of these engagement is the fight
at Little River, Ark. The rebel units include elements of the 2nd
Mo Regt, and the 1st and 6th Mo Vol. Cavalry.
3 Aug 1864 Marched north to Chicasawba Settlement, crossed Pemiscott
Bayou. Afternoon A scouting party kills two Rebs.
Evening A foraging party kills one of Conyers' bushwhackers.
The force camps at Cowskin Settlement.
4 Aug 1864 Daylight On the march. Rebel pickets are found. One killed.
The rest are chased 6 miles across Dogskin Swamp.
Two miles south of Elk Chute, Mo., in Pemiscot Co, the force
takes on the 2nd Mo Calvary, and Darnelle's guerrillas. They
drive them back to Elk Chute, then into the water. The rebels
have 30 killed, wounded 30 to 40, and 28 prisoners are taken.
5 Aug 1864 Marched to Gayoso. Two rebels killed, two captured.
6 Aug 1864 The force reaches New Madrid, Mo. From 28 July on,
Mj. Wilson has been commanding his 3rd MSM troops as part
of the force. The details of just what part they took in each
action are unavailable.
7 Aug 1864 The combined force separately and together have swept
5 SE Mo. Counties and 2 NE Ark. Counties. Results:
53 rebels including 4 officers killed, 40 wounded, and 57
prisoners. 230 horse and mules, and 20 colored people
were brought in. Many of the prisoners were taken
at Osceola, Ark.
12 Aug 1864 Mj. Wilson is at Patterson for an election of officers in Co L.
13 Aug 1864 Mj. Wilson relieves Col Tyler, and becomes commander
of the Third Sub District, stationed at Pilot Knob. Lt Col
Matthews resumes command of the Regiment, and is stationed
at Sturgeon, Mo.
21 Aug 1864 Mj. Wilson is sending 25 men to occupy Potosi, and 40 to
scout in that direction. Engineers are looking at the
defenses at Pilot Knob. They think Fort Davidson could
hold against a sudden raid. Some improvements are being made.
24 Aug 1864 Bg. Gen Ewing is suggesting that Mj. Wilson keep the
troops spread out and the garrisons at Pilot Knob and Patterson
reduced as low as possible.
25 Aug 1864 Mj. Wilson sends a squad to Cadet Station, Mo. Scouts are out
in St Francis and Washington Counties. Webster has been raided
and scouts have been sent in that direction. The defensive survey
of Pilot Knob suggested three forts. The Fort at Arcadia has been
built, and Fort Davidson is being improved. Work on the Fort on
Rock Mountain has been stopped. It has been decided that
only Fort Davidson will be defended, due to the small number
of troops available, and that the fort cannot be held against
a large attacking force. Mj. Wilson has the brush and timber
cleared from the nearby lower slopes of Shepherd's and Pilot
27 Aug 1864 Mineral Point, Mo. reports 6,000 rebels are in the area.
Bg. Gen Ewing orders Mj. Wilson to get out more scouting
parties, and to prepare to defend Pilot Knob. Scouts are sent
toward Mineral Point.
30 Aug 1864 Gen Price, with Marmaduke's and Fagan's Divisions leaves
Princeton, Arkansas, headed north to Dardanelle, on the
31 Aug 1864 Bg. Gen Ewing requests one battery of the 2nd Mo. Art.
be sent to Pilot Knob. His request is refused on 1 Sept.
Fort Davidson has 4- 32 pounders, and 3- 24 pounder howitzers.
1 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson reports two bands of guerrillas. He explains that
many reports are the result of his men passing themselves for
rebels, while out scouting.
Sept 1864 During the summer the hotel owner, Lemuel Kittrell, in Doniphan,
Mo. poisons some of the men of the 3rd MSM. During the 1st
week of Sept. paroled men of the 54th Ill. are treated badly in
Doniphan. They are refused shelter and the hotel owner Kittrell
set his dogs on them. Their commander asks the 3rd MSM
to burn the town if they ever got the chance. Gen Jeff
Thompson C.S.A. has been exchanged and is back in Ark.
2 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson reports Freeman's Brigade, 2000 strong, is at
Evening Shade, Ark. The 2nd Sub District reports
Shelby has 6,000 men at Jacksonport, and along the Mo/Ark line.
3 Sept 1864 Shelby has reportedly sent 3,000 men toward Cape Giraudeau,
1,000 toward Bloomfield, and 1,000 toward New Madrid
4 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson is ordered to reduce the Patterson garrison to one
Company, and to send four or five companies, and the section of
howitzers to Cape Giraudeau.
6 Sept 1864 Gen Price and his army cross the Arkansas River at Dardanelle,
11 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson reports 1,500 rebels at Doniphan. An attack on
Patterson is expected.
13 Sept 1864 noon 40 to 50 rebels attack 15 men of Co. A, 3rd MSM
at Caledonia, Mo. The attack is repulsed with minor
Midnight The military stores and telegraph at Iron Mountain are
destroyed. Mj. Wilson sends all his mounted troops in pursuit.
15 Sept 1864 Gen Price joins forces with Shelby's division at Powhatan, Ark.
16 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson is warned that Price and a large force of cavalry
are on the way North. They are expected to go
west of Pilot Knob, with only diversionary attacks expected
on the 3rd MSM positions. A similar message to Mj.
Wilson, sent on 13 Sept. did not arrive. He is ordered
to send a scouting party from Patterson south through Doniphan.
Gen Price and 12,000 men are at Pocahontas, Ark.
17 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson orders Co K of the 3rd MSM to go south until
they locate the head of Price's invading column,
then they are to return and report.
18 Sept 1864 Price with 12,000 rebel cavalry is reported north of the
Arkansas river, and about to move into Missouri.
19 Sept 1864
10 am 100 men, Co K 3rd MSM, and other men they have picked up
on the way, meet the advance of Price's army at Doniphan, and
drive them south. On the way back they burn all of the town,
including the hotel, leaving just one house standing.
The lady of the house, although a reb, has fed them and
begs for her house. They agree. As the rebs move into town
they see one house standing, figure it belongs to a Union
family, and burn it down. This operation by men of James
command will so incense the rebel army, that they will execute
captured men of the 3rd MSM almost ever day, as they
march north. Two weeks later, James will be one of their
3:30 pm Mj. General Sterling Price, with 12,000 men reach Doniphan.
Price decides to attack Pilot Knob, rather than moving
on to St Louis, his primary objective.
19 Sept 1864 Headquarters 3d Sub-Dist of St Louis, Pilot Knob Mo.
Capt Powers of the 47 Mo Infantry is given permission to send 8
of his men "out in the country on the Saint Francis River, for
the purpose of getting their horses" By Order of Mj James
Wilson. This order appears to have been written by his Adjutant
General. Joseph Hellman.
20 Sept 1864 Mj. Wilson reports that the scout from Patterson, about 60 men,
was surrounded at Ponder's Mill, on Black River, by Gen
Shelby's men. After charging the rebels three times,
they escape with a loss of 10 men. He also reports on the
strength and movement of the rebels in his sub district. He
thinks the force in Doniphan is 2,000 men under Shelby. He has
one report that 8,000 men may be on the way to Pilot Knob.
The post at Patterson telegraphs him that Shelby and
5,000 men are in SE Mo.
21 Sept 1864 Marmaduke's Division of rebels is at Popular Bluff, Mo.
Shelby's Division is 12 miles from Patterson.
5 pm Battery H of the 2nd Mo Light Artillery leaves St Louis
by train for Pilot Knob.
22 Sept 1864
Morning Battery H reaches Pilot Knob.
Noon Shelby reaches Patterson and captures some of the small
Union force. The telegraph is captured before word
can be sent to Pilot Knob.
Night The whole command stands to horse, expecting an
attack by Price.
23 Sept 1864 Mj. James Wilson receives a report that Shelby
with 8,000 men was 20 miles from Fredricktown,
on the 22nd. He does not believe the report.
His 3rd MSM force consists of Co's. A, C, D, H, I, and K.
He has small scout parties on all roads leading to Pilot Knob.
General Ewing has ordered Mj. Wilson to withdraw the
outposts from Patterson, Centerville, Fredericktown,
and Farmington, and to concentrate all the forces at Pilot Knob.
Price is in fact concentrating his forces at Fredericktown.
Lt Col H. Matthews, who won the promotion fight,
has disobeyed orders and split his forces near Rocheport,
resulting in the death of 6 of Mj. Wilson's friends, and former
soldiers in Co G of the 3rd MSM. Co G was ambushed in the
fight at Gosline's Lane, by Bloody Bill Anderson. In 3 days, 13
men have died that James knew well. Mj. James Wilson's
divorce from Margaret is final. p. 87, Book G, Mar 1864,
Apr 1869, Circuit Court Records, Lincoln County, Mo. The
telegraph is believed to still be operational at Pilot Knob. It is
not known whether James is informed the divorce is final before
the battle at Pilot Knob, but considering his disregard for his life
during that fight and after his capture, it appears that he did know.
2 pm The survivors of the fight at Patterson arrive at Pilot Knob. 800
rebels are in Patterson.
at retreat Mj. Wilson orders Battery H to be ready for action at a
at tattoo Battery H is ready for action. They will stay in a high state
of readiness on the 24th and 25th.
Night The entire command stands to arms, near the courthouse
in Ironton, for the night.
24 Sept 1864 5,000 rebels are on the move at Jackson, Mo. Bg. Gen Ewing
orders Mj. Wilson to increase the guards on the bridges
that are likely to be attacked. Shelby is reported at
Fredericktown with 300 rebels. Br Gen Ewing leaves
St Louis with a brigade, heading south on the railroad to
shore up the defenses. Gen Ewing's orders from Mj. General
Rosencrans, are to have Mj. Wilson endeavor to hold Pilot Knob
against any mere detachment of the enemy, but to evacuate it if
Price's main army should move against it.
Gen Price arrives in Fredericktown.
6 pm Mj. James Wilson sends 65 men to scout Patterson, and
learn the position of the rebels.
24-25 Sept 1864 Mj. James Wilson has been criticized as being lethargic
and careless as the Rebel army approaches. I suspect that
he's depressed over the divorce, and the fact that he hasn't
seen his two sons in three years, and that 6 of his
friends in Co G from Lincoln Co. have been killed through
Lt Col H. Matthews incompetence on the 23rd.
The orders have been changed, and are now to defend Pilot
Knob as long as possible, to give the Union time to gather
troops and prepare defenses further north.
25 Sept 1864 Br Gen Ewing arrives by train at Mineral Point, with
400 men. Mj. Wilson reports that rebels occupy Farmington, 20
miles away with reportedly 200 to 300 men.
Br Gen Ewing is moving on to Irondale to secure stores,
and open a telegraph office. Mj. Wilson told to push his
cavalry out with more nerve. Br Gen Ewing thinks the
rebels are headed for Cape Girardeau. He's dithering about
whether to take his 400 infantry on to Pilot Knob,
or DeSoto. Marmaduke is reported moving toward
Fredericktown 18 miles away, with 3,000 men.
10 am The men scouting Patterson are back, with rumors of
Marmaduke's and Prices moves toward Fredericktown.
1 pm The rebels are reported in strong force advancing on the
Fredericktown road. The report proves false.
3pm A deserter say Price has 16,000 men and is headed for
Night Mj. Wilson orders Capt Powers to go south with a few men
and "ascertain if Price is actually in command in person".
Capt Powers asks "Shall I go as far as is prudent". James's
reply is "Yes and a little further" Capt Powers get within 7 or 8
miles of Prices headquarters, but doesn't get the information.
9:45 pm Gen Smith assures Gen Rosencrans that Ewing is safe
at Pilot Knob.
midnight Mj. Wilson has patrols out on the Fredricktown, Patterson,
and Centerville roads. 130 men have been sent on a scout
toward Farmington. The patrol toward Fredricktown only goes
six or eight mile before returning. Of the 700 cavalry in the
sub district only 250 have horses. The rest are fighting
dismounted because the Army appraiser didn't show up to
buy the soldiers private horses. The soldiers have sold them
on the open market. They were supposed to have been
supplied with U.S. Army horses by Sept.
In a dispatch dated 6 Oct 1864, Gen Rosecrans reveals that
the Mo State Militia Calvary have not been supplied with
horses all summer, crippling the effort to run down
Gen. Price. Only 1/2 to 2/3 are effectively mounted. Gen Price
is busy drawing up orders to attack Pilot Knob.
26 Sept 1864 10 am Gen Ewing and 5 Companies of the 14th Iowa Infantry
board the train for Pilot Knob.
Gen Rosecrans advises Gen Smith at Mineral Point to evacuate
Gen Ewing and Pilot Knob, and fall back toward St. Louis.
Gen Ewing is asking for 1,000 stand of arms, and equipment for
74 horses at Pilot Knob. It has become obvious the rebels are
concentrating at Fredericktown. Gen. Marmaduke has joined
forces with Gen Price there. The telegraph lines have been
cut between Jackson and Fredericktown and Ironton, Mo.
morning a small force of rebels are advancing on Arcadia, 2 miles
SW of Ironton.
forenoon A 3rd MSM cavalry unit repulses a squad of rebels at Farmington
capturing one. He says Gen Price will attack Pilot Knob,
that evening or the next morning. Gen Price orders Fagan's
Division to head west on the road to Arcadia, and Ironton.
noon The last train to reach Pilot Knob arrives bringing Gen Ewing.
Gen Ewing makes Mj. James Wilson his second in command.
Col. Fletcher, who will assume command of the infantry,
is with Ewing. Co's. B, C, D, E, and H of the 14th Iowa Inf.
get off, and march to Fort Davidson. They add 200 men
to the force. Gen Ewing sends 50 men toward Fredricktown.
They will meet the rebel advance guard near the
Shut In Gap, 15 miles away and be forced back into Ironton,
where they make a stand, about 3 pm. Major Wilson is criticized
by later writers for not having a picket post in the Shut In Gap.
1 pm The small union picket post just east of the Shut In gap is surprised
and almost cut off. One man makes it to Ironton to alert the troops.
Union forces number 1,450, and include elements
of the 2nd M S M Cavalry, and the 47th, and 50 Mo Infantry.
Also present are 50 members of a local black militia unit.
The rebel force numbers 10,000 to 12,000 men,
although some 4,000 do not possess arms.
The rebels will use some wooden cannonballs early in the fight.
Gen Ewing reports at least 100 rebels are attacking Ironton.
2.30 pm Gen Ewing reports there are at least 200 or 300 rebels attacking
Ironton. The men from the scout to Farmington are back.
Mj. Wilson is given orders to drive the enemy, if possible,
back through the Shut Ins Gap. He takes 300 troopers and one
section of the light artillery battery and
drives the rebels out of Ironton, forcing them back to the
Shut Ins Gap. One report states "the guns were popping down in
Ironton, like popcorn in a hot skillet, Co E of the 47th and the 3rd
MSM boys were having a hot time down there." The 14th Iowa
takes two of the Battery H guns and heads for Ironton.
3.30 pm Co I of the 3rd MSM is fighting a dismounted attack
against a fence line held by the rebels. A participant reports
"One-half of the skirmishers advanced, fired, and then dropped
to the ground to reload. Then the other half did the same,
all being dismounted. The line advanced until we reached
the timbered border of the field and drove out the enemy.
The skirmishers received their horses from their holders and joined
in the charge from that point to the 'Shut-In' on the road to
Fredericktown. Here the enemy had their dismounted men posted
upon the timbered hillside along the road. Their fire was terrific."
5 pm Mj. Wilson leads a charge into the Gap and is shot off his horse.
Mj. Wilson was wounded in the head, he
jumped up with the blood streaming down his face,
mounted his horse and ordered the column to fall back.
A running fight with a large force of rebel cavalry develops
and continues over a 3 mile stretch until dark,
when a rainstorm stops the fight.
6 pm Gen Ewing is now convinced he is up against more than 5,000
men. Mj. Wilson, commanding at the front reports the rebels
massing a large force in his front, 2 miles from the Fort.
Ewing asks for a regiment of reinforcements. James stops at
the Guild home, has a cup of tea and gets his wound dressed. He
writes a dispatch to his men.
7 pm Mj. Wilson, and elements of the 3rd MSM, and the 14th Iowa
occupy a defensive position 4 miles below Ironton.
Capt Campbell of the 14th Iowa, finds Mj. Wilson, head
bandaged, sitting near a rail fence. Asked how he was, he said
"he had been wounded along the right temple by a musket ball, and
had a terrible headache." Campbell asked what he thought of their
situation. He replied "that it looked dark and dangerous for them"
They agreed that Price's whole army was coming into the valley.
The sight of hundreds of campfires tells them the main force has
arrived. They go to a vacant house to the rear and write
a note to Gen Ewing, giving him the facts and asking
permission to fall back to Ironton. Gen Ewing offers to send down
two pieces of artillery in reply.
10 pm Gen Ewing's aide arrives at Mj. Wilson's position and takes a look
at the situation. He says he will report the situation
to Gen Ewing.
11 pm Gen Ewing's aide returns with orders to fall back to Ironton.
Mj. Wilson moves his exposed forces back into Ironton.
Co C of the 3rd MSM spends the night standing to horse in
midnight The enemy encampment in the Arcadia valley is extensive.
They have moved up in force. Everything not needed in
the fort and all rolling stock is readied to be sent up the railroad.
It begins to rain.
27 Sept 1864 3 am The section of artillery is ordered to the front again.
dawn Mj. Wilson is in command of the forces defending
the approaches to Fort Davidson. James has had a
splitting headache all night. There are 7,000 rebels
in the Arcadia Valley. The fight begins immediately.
Mj. Wilson and his command begin the day in line of battle
east of Ironton, slowly falling back. The rebs are yelling
they are going to "come in and swing us up."
They are supported by two cannon of the 2nd Mo. Battery.
The fight is soon around the Ironton courthouse. Mj. Wilson
orders the cannon back to the fort, He orders the infantry to
retreat to the Ironton Gap, and covers them with his cavalry.
He said "Capt, double quick your men up that alley and I will
close up in the rear." Then he rode off to lead the cavalry.
Wilson's dismounted cavalry, were slowly retiring northward
toward the gap, firing with rifles, carbines and pistols at every
rebel that ventured onto the open plain north of Ironton. "They
were contesting every inch of ground, and they were pressing him
hotly, but it was only a matter of time, before they were driven
from the lower Arcadia valley".
8 am Under orders from Gen Ewing and Mj. Wilson, the quartermaster
and commissary stores start north by train. The empty
commissary wagons also move out north.
9 am The Union forces have retreated to the Ironton Gap, 1/2 mile
from Fort Davidson. The forts big guns cover his front. The Union
infantry move to the east end of Shepherd's Mountain. This opens
a clear gap for the cannon in the fort to fire through.
9:15am The cannon in the fort open fire on the rebels approaching the
Ironton gap. Mj. Wilson and his dismounted cavalry hold the
area around the old brewery, the "Halfway House" until 10 am.
Capt Campbell on Shepherd's Mountain, could see Mj. Wilson and
his men at the foot of Pilot Knob Mountain. "his men were
fighting desperately on foot at close range, some using their
revolvers." Rebel artillery fire then forces them to take
cover on the south side of Pilot Knob Mountain.
11 am The telegraph wires have been cut to Pilot Knob.
Mj. Wilson and his troops are able to hold the Ironton Gap
until noon, against overwhelming odds. The rebels want
to parlay under a white flag with Mj. Wilson. Ewing orders
him to ignore it, and renew the fight at once, which he does.
The Union forces from Iowa are driven off the summit of
Shepherd's Mountain, back into the fort.
noon Mj. Wilson retreats over Pilot Knob into the Fort. The cavalry
go to the rear of the fort, where they tie the horses and get
ammunition. One side of Wilson's face and his jacket are
still covered with dried blood from yesterdays fight. General
Ewing and Mj. Wilson discuss Pilot Knob Mountain.
Ewing says skirmishing with dismounted cavalry on
the mountain won't do any good. Wilson says "He can't do
anything with his cavalry in the fort, and that he wants to go out
and fight the rebels." Ewing allows him to go. They go out
dismounted to the foot of Pilot Knob Mountain. Wilson takes
about 100 men of the 3rd MSM to the base of Pilot Knob
Mountain and deploys them behind the Iron Mountain
Railroad near the iron furnace. Capt John A. Rice and a company
of the 2nd MSM Cav are also under Wilson's command. The
Ironton Gap is retaken by the Union forces after the rebels
take major losses from cannon fire from the fort. The
Rebels prepare for a final assault against Fort Davidson by
encircling movements, and putting artillery in Shepherd's
Mountain. Union gunners disable some of the rebel cannon.
Ewing is reported to have refused two rebel demands to
surrender. Firing on the white flags may have been his
way of doing this.
1 pm Union forces from Iowa are ordered back up on the south slope
of Shepherd's Mountain. Mj. Wilson rides back to the fort for
further orders. Gen Ewing sends him to the railroad depot to await
reinforcements. His wound has been hemorrhaging and the sides
of his face and coat are covered with blood. He looked so bad that
when he left the fort, the gate guard thought he had been relieved,
and was being sent to Desoto to join Gen Smith.
Captain Dinger and his company of the 47th infantry
report to Mj. Wilson at the railroad station at Pilot Knob.
The men of the 47th infantry have been in the army just
eleven days and have never heard a shot fired in anger.
Mj. Wilson sends Co K of the 3rd MSM into Pilot Knob,
to try to hold the town. Mj. Wilson orders
Lt Shattuck, Co I of the 3rd MSM to "form your company
down on the Ironton road, to resist attack on the fort".
"He appeared to know the charge was coming.
Had I (Lt Shattuck) not been under orders I should certainly
have tried to prevent him from going straight into the
masses of Confederates on Pilot Knob. He had his holsters
containing two revolvers in his right hand. Someone spoke of his
saber being in the way". He replied "I would carry it seven years
to have it save my life once" "As I saw his form for the last time
rising on the railroad grade I felt certain he was going to death or
capture. I expected to be ordered to go back with him, and I would
have gone without a word. I believe that among all the millions
who served under the banner of the Union, there was not a more
courageous, skillful, or efficient officer, nor a more unassuming
officer and gentleman than Major James S. Wilson.
Mj. Wilson adds the remaining 25 dismounted cavalry
to Dingers force. Mj. Wilson orders the troops
to form a skirmish line just west of the iron works and start
up Pilot Knob Mountain. They are spaced 20 to 30
2 pm Ewing fires cannon at a white flag on Shephard's Mountain. One
report says this was the rebel signal to begin the attack. The rebel
assault begins. Two rebel cannon open fire from the
summit of Shephard's Mountain. A Battalion of the 14th Iowa is
driven off Shepherd's Mountain, into the rifle pits at the fort. 1,700
rebel troops, McCray's Brigade, including the 15th Missouri
Cavalry commanded by Col. Timothy Reeves, on Pilot Knob
Mountain also move down towards Mj. Wilson's men.
Major Wilson is alerted to the move by Union cannon firing
over his head at targets higher on the mountain. They get about
half way up, the mountain when they
meet the rebels. Capt John A. Rice sees them and reports to
Wilson that there are 2,000 men crawling on their hands and
knees toward the line. Wilson orders him back to his men, and the
fight is on. Sgt Steakley says "It was a terrible undergrowth
in which we were in line, and as we were armed with pistols
we could not do much except stay there until run out by the
enemy. I used a Colt revolving rifle until it choked, when I
threw it away. By this time the enemy was close to us and a
good eight inch navy pistol acted very well."
Many of the troops break and run, some making it back to the
Fort. Some make it to the iron works building, and defend it by
firing from the windows. This group eventually successfully
retreats to the fort. Mj. Wilson is west of this group and refuses
three direct orders to retreat.
2:30 pm Mj. Wilson is in Miner's Gulch and is quoted as telling the last
man to bring him a retreat order "be damned if he'd fall back on
the fort, but would stay in his gulch and whip the whole Rebel
army". James and Capt Dinger, with Dingers untried and
inexperienced men, are in a hollow of the road leading to the
pinnacle of Pilot Knob Mountain. He is reported to have
three pistols and his saber. He has been in the front lines,
wounded and under fire for most of the last 24 hours.
He sounds as if he's now taking this attack as a personnel affront.
The nearly surrounded troops fire off 14 rounds,
then fall back slowly to the foot of the mountain, firing as they
retreat. Mj. Wilson is firing his three revolvers at the advancing
Captain Dingers report of the action agrees with the other
fragments which have been found. "Mj. Wilson ordered us to
go up higher on the hill, about 300 yards from where I was, and
then ordered his 25 men still higher as skirmishers. He remained
with me and my company. We were attacked by the enemy on all
sides, and we took position in the hollow of the road leading to the
pinnacle of the knob. We fired about 14 rounds but finding the
return fire to strong for us, I ordered the men to fall back slowly to
the foot of the hill and to keep firing as they did so. Mj. Wilson
had three revolvers which he kept firing all the time at the
advancing enemy". At the foot of the mountain they fire off 4
more rounds. Capt Dinger orders his men to fall back behind the.
steam mill. Fifteen obey, but the rest scatter. Thirty of Capt
Dinger's men make it back to the rifle pits at the fort. Mj. Wilson,
Captain Dinger, and 5 men are cut off at the steam mill and taken
prisoner. The capture is near the iron furnace at the foot of the
mountain by Fagan's Division. Mj. Wilson, and two of his
3rd MSM men are started under escort toward Arcadia.
They had not gone far when the demoralized troops of Fagan's
Division swept down the valley in a frantic stampede, which
Wilson's guards joined. Mj. Wilson and his men turned back
toward the fort, but was met by Lt Col Bull and his Arkansas unit,
which was in full retreat. Lt Col Bull recaptured Wilson and his
men, and took them to the prisoner corral, the fort, at Arcadia.
Sgt. Burk and part of the men do succeed in escaping,
and make their way to the Mississippi River. Cabell reported after
the war that he had captured a major and ten men.
The rebels have Fort Davidson almost completely surrounded,
their charges reach into the surrounding ditches, but the
fort holds. Mj. Wilson's servant a, black man, is seen
riding the Majors horse, in a mass of fleeing people that
include Confederate soldiers. An eyewitness reports that they
"knocked the nigger off Wilson's horse and took it from him"
It sounds like Jame's valet may have been holding the horse at the
foot of Pilot Knob Mountain, while Mj. Wilson and his men
were fighting dismounted on its slopes. James decision to
fight with Capt Dinger and his inexperienced men, rather than
with his battle tested men of the 3rd MSM, was undoubtedly
made to bolster up the new recruits. It led to his defeat and
5:58 pm sunset The attack on the fort is over. Mj. Wilson and his
men are prisoners in Arcadia. The Union fort in Arcadia
is used as a prisoner stockade.
27 Sept 1864 night The rebels report to Br Gen Shelby that they have taken
Arcadia and Ironton, but the attack on Fort Davidson was
repulsed. They ask Shelby to be in position for a morning attack.
midnight Ewing has the officers vote on whether to surrender or evacuate.
The vote starts with the lowest rank and moves up. Ewing votes to
surrender. He loses by one vote. Ewing begins preparations to
evacuate the fort. The Potosi road appears open.
He recaptures the town of Pilot Knob, and scatters rebel
stragglers so he will be unobserved.
28 Sept 1864 2 am A Union advance guard leaves the fort.
3 am Gen Ewing evacuates the fort, sets a fuse to blow up the
powder magazine an hour before dawn and retreats toward
Rolla, Mo, with 2,000 men and citizens, 200 horses and a battery
of 6 guns.
28 Sept 1864 daylight The rebels report the capture of the Fort.
James has been made to walk through the reb camp.
He is jeered and harassed. There is one report that
he is stripped of his jacket, vest, stockings, and boots.
If this happened , the items were soon returned to him.
Most of the men are stripped of their shoes and
some clothing. The rebels have lost 1,500 men. The Union
losses are 206.
afternoon James and his captured men have been moved to the
prisoner stockade at Pilot Knob. Mj. Wilson's head wound is
dressed by Dr Carpenter, the Union doctor,
in the prisoner corral at Pilot Knob.
Its been tied up with a white handkerchief, and has bled
considerably. He also has a very sore middle finger
caused by his swinging his heavy pistol around his head
to rally his men to action during the fighting. Dr Carpenter
reports that he was wounded on the face and head. He reports
that James is barefoot and coatless. When James is executed
days later he is wearing his uniform coat, so someone got it
back to him. James tells Carpenter that "several of his old
enemies had seen him, and threatened him with death, and that
he thoroughly believed that they would kill him" Dr Carpenter
hunts up rebel Col Gunter, an old friend, and tells him what
Mj. Wilson has said. Col Gunter said that there was not the
slightest grounds for the majors fears. Carpenter repeats this to
James. Rebel Gen Jeff Thompson stops to chat.
Asks James if he remembers him.
James does, as he had once captured him.
Gen Thompson gives James a blanket and says
the tables have turned. Capt Dinger is also among the prisoners.
The prisoners are put in one of the horse corrals for the night.
29 Sept 1864 dawn The prisoners are given spoiled shoulder meat and rotten
sausage to eat, that has been thrown away by the merchants. The
prisoners begin their march north. They will walk
over 60 miles north to near Union , Mo. James is in good spirits,
laughing at Prices ragged men and poor horses, and wondering if
Price expected to stay in Missouri with such an army. James
rank should have gotten him a horse. The rebels ignore that
convention until General Jeff Thompson finds him something
to ride. The General tells the commander of the escort to treat
30 Sept 1864 1 a.m. The prisoners have reached Potosi. Some 5 or 6 miles
north of town, at a large spring, the prisoners are turned
over to Gen Price's headquarters guard.
The prisoners are abused, starved, and generally mistreated.
They are given meal full of bran, but no water and no fire,
so they can't cook it. They steal cabbage leaves and corn
from the horse feed Several of James men suggest escaping.
during the march. James seems resigned to whatever fate
had in store for him, and wasn't interested.
General Shelby camps at Captain Leeper's, a former officer
of the 3rd MSM, house one night, and takes all usable forage and
supplies. He finds the following order from Mj. Wilson.
"Take 80 men, dress them in butternut, march to the White River,
and find out the intention of the rebels under Shelby. On your
return burn every mill, building, grain stack, and hay rick on the
road. And you know I don't like to be troubled with prisoners"
Ex governor Thomas C. Reynolds, living in Mexico, Mo.
was reported to have this order and other materials. It has not
been further noted.
1 Oct 1864 The Members of the Order of American Knights of the State of
Missouri are told that General Price and 20,000 veteran soldiers
are in the state. All able bodied men are called upon to render
military service, under General Price. They claim to have 30,000
1 Oct 1864 dawn The prisoners are force marched on north. Capt Dinger,
who is very fat, and worn out, reveals he is a Mason to one of the
officers, and gets to ride in the ambulance wagon.
2 Oct 1864 The prisoners are marched beyond Union, Mo. and are
put in a chain guard camp on upper St Johns Creek, near Gen
Price's headquarters tent.
3 Oct 1864 The 450 prisoners, soldiers and captured private citizens are
assembled and given a oath on parole. Sol Kitchens and Col Tim
Reeves then go through the ranks looking for men from Captain's
Hurbel's, (Hummel), Montgomery's, Rice's, and Cochran's
units. They also want men who were in the fight at
Doniphan. The men lie as best they can, although beaten when
the answers don't please. Before Mj. Wilson is identified
he slips Capt Fritz Dinger his pocketbook and Peter Rinaman's
address. He knows what's coming. He has previously stated
"If I am captured, count me as gone, because I have broken up
Reeve's recruiting operations three times." He says "Captain, I
have fallen into bad hands, and do not think I will see you again.
If I do not, give this pocketbook to the address I now give you,
viz. Peter Rinaman, Millwood, Lincoln county, Missouri."
Captain Dinger shakes hands with him, and returns to his place.
Six privates supposedly from his command are picked out
of the group. One private, thinking the parole
process was starting, lies, and says he's one of Wilson's men.
Mj. Wilson asks the Inspector General, who is conducting this
operation, "Sir, what are the charges against us?" He receives no
answer. The field officer of the day turns the seven men over to
Col. Tim Reeves.
9-10 A.M. Major James Wilson and the six privates, are marched away
under double guard. Five of the privates are from Co I, 3rd MSM.
Reports of the execution vary. One says three
men are assigned to march each prisoner off
and execute him. Two of the men are said to escape
their executioners although one is wounded
in the shoulder. Mj. Wilson and four privates are executed.
Mj. Wilson is the first of the prisoners to be shot, by order
of Col. Tim Reeves of the 15th Mo. Calvary, C.S.A.
on the Patterson farm, near Union, Franklin Co. Mo.
Other sources say it was the Jeffries farm. Other accounts of the
execution report that all prisoners were killed by a single volley.
Col T. J. Oliphant a rebel, claims to have witnessed the execution.
He says Col Reeves stopped the prisoners and told Mj. Wilson
"that he had been ordered by General Price to take them
out and shoot them. Major Wilson's last words, looking Reeves
straight in the eyes were "You do not mean to say you
are going to shoot us without a trial?"
Reeves replied "You have been tried and such are
my orders." The prisoners are moved a little further then
surrounded. A volley kills all but a 16 year old boy. A second
volley is ordered to kill him. Oliphants report seems to be the
most credible. Since entering Mo. on 19 Sept. the
rebels have executed 35 prisoners, almost all of the 3rd MSM.
The executions will continue each day they are
in Mo. The execution site is near the present day
junction of St. John's Creek, and Bolte Ford Road.
5 Oct 1864 The first reports come in from paroled soldiers that Mj. Wilson
has been executed. Lt Col Maupin of the 47th Mo. Vol.
conducts two searches of the area where the executions
occurred. The bodies are not found.
6 Oct 1864 The Commanding General, St Louis, orders the Provost
Marshall to send a rebel major and six privates in irons to the
military prison in Alton, Ill. to be held in solitary confinement,
until the fate of Mj. Wilson and his men are known. These men
are to receive the same treatment Mj. Wilson and his men
13 Oct 1864 Joseph Rinaman, James nephew, knowing his Uncle is missing
in action, and probably dead, volunteers in the U.S. Army.
14 Oct 1864 Soon to be governor, Thomas Fletcher makes the following
statement about James. "They took him prisoner and I am
informed turned him over to Tim Reeves to do with as he
pleased. Reeves command had been decimated many times
by Major Wilson". St Louis Democrat, 14 Oct 1864, p4.
20 Oct 1864 Br Gen Thomas Ewing writes his official report of the
battle of Pilot Knob and the retreat to Rolla. He includes
the following "I owe it to the cherished memory of Mj. Wilson
to add in conclusion an honorable mention of his name, not only
because of the nerve and skill with which for two days preceding
the assault, he embarrassed and delayed the overwhelming
forces of the enemy, but also because of his long and
useful service in this district unblemished by a fault."
22 Oct 1864 A false report is received that Mj. Wilson is a prisoner.
23 Oct 1864 The bodies of Major Wilson and five privates are found in a
hollow on the Patterson farm, 15 miles SW of Washington, Mo.
The site is on the Old State Road near Jeffrey's farm.
The hogs have been at them, and identification is difficult.
A inquest is held by the local Justice of the Peace.
Major Wilson's body had official and private papers on it.
One of the envelopes has written on it the last order given to
Mj. Wilson by Gen Ewing. It said "The infantry at the furnace
are under your command; take them off when necessary"
Mj. Wilson had been shot three times. The bodies are laid on
flooring hauled to the scene, and fenced with walnut logs to keep
the hogs away.
24 Oct 1864 Capt R. W. Elliott, 7th Mo. Cav. Vol. writes letters to James
sister Sophia, and to his father James S. Wilson informing
them of James death. An escort of men from the 3rd MSM
are sent from St Louis to recover the bodies.
25 Oct 1864 General Rosencrans orders the execution of 6 rebel privates
and one major in retaliation.
The Provost Marshall General orders that the first rebel major
captured is to be sent to him. He plans under orders to shoot
instantly a equivalent number of rebels. If they can't capture one,
he wants one out of the prisons, that belonged to the rebel forces
in Mo. Since rebel majors are in short supply, Br Gen Ewing
recommends shooting 8 privates of Prices command, in
retaliation for Wilson's murder. The bodies of Mj. Wilson
and the others are examined by Lt Col Maupin and recovered
in their temporary graves.
26 Oct 1864 General Order No 51 announces the death of Mj. Wilson.
It states "He was an officer of rare intelligence, zeal ,courage, and
judgment, and his soldierly virtues were adorned by a purity,
unselfishness, and integrity of character which won the love
respect and trust alike of his subordinates and superiors.
When the war broke out he entered the service a private,
and by that act of devotion to the government severed almost
all ties that bound him to family and home.
Comrades! Cherish the memory of his resplendent virtues, follow
his patriotic example, and justly avenge his fiendish murder.
By Order of Br Gen Thomas Ewing.
26 Oct 1864 Gen Ewing receives a Military telegraph from Warrenton.
"Has Mj. Wilson's body arrived at St Louis? I respectfully
ask that all private letters signed Helen be returned to me"
J. (McVey?) Col. James had served at Camp Annie, at
Warrenton from Jan 1862 through July 1862, under Col Frederick
Morsey. Morsey was in charge of contacting James family in
regard to burial arrangements. He recommended James be buried
in St Louis with military honors. He said he had known James
since Oct 1861, and that was what James would have wanted.
Col Morsey had a daughter named Helen, age 23. She is the
only adult unmarried Helen in Warren County in the 1860 census,
so she is almost certainly the Helen that has been writing James.
James had just turned 30.
27 Oct 1864 Major Wilson's body is moved by wagon to Washington,
Mo, and then taken to St Louis, by the mail train,
on the Pacific Railroad. His body is escorted
to the Courthouse by 30 men of Co C, 7th Mo.
His body in a silver mounted rosewood coffin,
lies in state, under guard, in the Rotunda of the
court house for several days.
28 Oct 1864 Special Orders 279 are issued, ordering and naming six rebel
enlisted men be shot in retaliation for the murders of Mj. Wilson
and his men. The execution is to take place on 29 Oct
between 2 and 4 p.m.
28 Oct 1864 Lt Col Henry Matthews, who got his promotion at Mj. Wilson's
expense, demands that Special orders No 279 be immediately
fulfilled, and he requests the honor of commanding the firing
squad that will execute prisoners in retaliation for the shooting
of Mj. Wilson and his men. He further asks that he be allowed to
shoot eight prisoners he holds, in retaliation for the deaths of eight
Union troops in his sector. Neither request is granted.
28 Oct 1864 The family of Mj. Wilson requests that the body be sent home
for interment. Telegraph message from Troy.
29 Oct 1864 On this day the Provost Marshall, orders the execution of six
rebel privates. Six privates are taken out of Gratiot Military
prison in St Louis and shot at Fort No 4 in Lafayette park,
before a crowd of 3,000 persons. The firing squad is made up of
men of the 10th Kansas, and the 41st Missouri.
5:10 pm The Provost Marshall requests that either Mj. P. R. Carrington, or
Mj. William Cook, rebels, "be sent to him for execution."
He desires to carry out his orders as soon as possible.
31 Oct 1864 3 p.m. Major Wilson's body, escorted by four companies of the
7th Regt E.M.M. is taken from the St Louis Court House, where
it has been lying in state, to the depot of the North Missouri
Rail Road, for transport to Troy. There was no rail service in
Troy so the casket had to put in a wagon , at Warrenton,
for the trip.
1 Nov 1864 Major Wilson's body is interred in the Troy Cemetery.
The monument to Major Wilson was later placed on what the
cemetery plat shows as a cemetery walkway rather than on a
burial lot. Research has not been able to determine who bought
Jame's burial plot.
Rebel Majors Enoch Wolf, and H Carlton draw straws to see who
will be sent to St Louis from Independence for the retaliatory
execution. Mj. Wolf loses.
2 Nov 1864 Peter Rinaman receives a letter, asking him to come to St Louis
for James effects, as per James wishes.
6 Nov 1864 Mj. Wolf and 32 men of Co. G, 3rd MSM arrive in St Louis.
7 Nov 1864 Special Order No 287, Headquarters Dept. of the Mo., Office of
the Provost Marshall General. Abundant testimony on file in this
office establishes the fact beyond a doubt, that Mj. James
Wilson, 3rd Cavalry M.S.M., while a prisoner of war in the hands
of the enemy, was atrociously murdered by the authority and with
the consent of the rebel commander. In compliance with Special
Order No. 277, par. 12, dated Headquarters Dept. of Mo.,
October 6, 1864, and in retaliation for the murder
of Mj. Wilson, the following rebel officer Mj. Enoch O. Wolf,
Fords Battalion, C.S.A. must be shot to death with musketry
within the limits of the City of St. Louis, on Friday the
11th day of November 1864, between the hours of 9 and 11.
Lt Col Gust. Heinrichs, Superintendent of the prisons,
is charged with the execution of this order.
8 Nov 1864 Mj. Enoch O. Wolf, of Prices army, is taken from prison to an
anvil and a 32 pound ball and chain riveted to his ankle.
He is an appropriate candidate, as he is reputed to have summarily
executed a federal prisoner early in 1864. His sentence reads, "In
retaliation for Major Wilson, Maj. Enoch O. Wolf of Lt Col B.
Ford's battalion, Col T. R. Freeman's brigade, General
Marmaduke's division, Gen Price's army, shall be shot to death
with musketry on Friday next between the hours of 9 and 11
o'clock". He appeals to Gen Rosecrans to ask Gen Price
to turn over Col Tim Reeves for execution.
He asks as a soldier, gentleman, officer, and Mason.
A chaplain is assigned who is a Mason. He calls his
Masonic lodge together and they telegraph Lincoln.
10 Nov 1864 President Abraham Lincoln asks Gen Rosecrans for the details
of Mj. Wilson's execution, and the executions of the rebel
11 Nov 1864 Mj. Gen Rosecrans replies with a strong defense of his actions.
He adds that Mrs Enoch Wolf is now in St Louis, being in
Missouri with the expectation that Price would win, and that
she would winter there. President Abraham Lincoln
intervenes and stays the execution, just hours before it is
scheduled. He telegraphs "Shoot no more men." It has been
reported that later, a rebel private was executed, to even the score.
18 Nov 1864 Joseph Rinaman is mustered into Co E, 49th Reg. of Inf.
Mo. Vol. as a private, in Mexico, Mo.
21 Nov 1864 The Wilson Monument Association holds its first meeting.
Thomas C. Fletcher, governor-elect of Missouri was elected
chairman and president of the organization.
22 Nov 1864 The minutes of the 21 Nov meeting are published. A group of
former comrades meet at the St Louis Courthouse to
raise money to buy a monument to Mj. James Wilson.
They commission Mr. Hinchey to produce a lithograph of the
Battle of Pilot Knob. The proceeds from selling it are to be used to
buy the monument. The "Wilson's Monument Association" has as
officers and members Gen Gray, Col's Fletcher, Murphy, Stone,
Matthews, Capt Cheever, Hon. H. T. Blow, Mr. C. Irwin, Mayor
Thomas and Mr. S. D. Barlow. A message from Gen Ewing is
read, "I hope you will be successful in your efforts to give public
honor to the name of my dear friend and companion in arms,
whose splendid virtues should live in the hearts of his countrymen
as long as the principles he honored and died for are cherished in
$100 is raised by subscriptions of $25 each at this meeting.
St Louis Republican
23 Nov 1864 Col. F. Morsey, 59th E.M.M. writes the St Louis Rebuplican,
sending $25 for the Wilson monument. He says "Wilson joined
my command in Dec 1861, as a private, he was soon appointed
1st Sgt, and in Mar 1862 he was elected Captain. He was with
me in marches all over the state after Porter, Poindexter,
Henderson, Reeves and Marmaduke, from June 1862 till July 3
1863." This is paraphrased, and the statement includes other
comments about Wilson's service. The letter is published on
29 Nov. 1864.
28 Nov 1864 The Union League of America, Rosecrans Council No 2, meets
in Chillicothe to address the proposal to erect a monument to
Wilson. They call for sister Councils in the state to support
the project. They ask that the names of the six men executed
with Wilson be included on the monument.
21 Jan 1865 Jame's belongings are sold at a estate sale.
Feb 1865 Lt Col Henry Matthews is court-martialed and removed from
6 Feb 1865 The hotel owner in Pilot Knob requests that Jame's estate settle
his bill for boarding James and his servant.
23 Feb 1865 Timothy Cummings of Lincoln Co. is appointed guardian of
25 Apr 1865 Lewis Martin, Jame's servant, files suit for $100 in back pay.
29 Apr 1865 Br Gen Jeff Thomson C.S.A. under a flag of truce is offered
terms of surrender, in Chalk Bluff, Ark.
11 May 1865 Br Gen Jeff Thompson accepts the surrender terms. Dates
and places are agreed to, as to where the rebels will assemble
to be paroled.
19 May 1865 Sophia Wilson Rinaman writes Capt Dinger, at Ironton, asking
for details of her brother James capture and execution.
20 May 1865 Union troops leave St Louis to accept the surrenders at
Wittsburg, Ark on 25 May, and at Jacksonport Ark. on 5 June.
The only person the Union declined to parole was Col Tim
Reeves. He is arrested and transported to St Louis for execution.
Within a few months he is released without explanation.
Reeves is soon back in SE Missouri resuming his career as a
25 May 1865 Troy, Mo. Editors "Missouri Democrat". On Sunday last, in
company with some returned soldiers from the army, I visited the
grave of Major Wilson, late of the 3rd M.S.M. cavalry. I was
very much surprised and grieved at the spectacle I there beheld.
His grave is in the suburbs of this place. It has nothing to mark
his last resting place but two old rusty boards, one at the head, the
other at the foot of the grave. What has become of the hundreds
of dollars subscribed to the Wilson monument fund?
St Louis Democrat, 29 May 1865, p.2
30 May 1865 Capt Dinger answers Sophia Wilson Rinaman's request
for details, and whether James had any final message for her.
He closes with "Madam you lost your brother. He was a
brave man, and a good soldier, and a Patriot, and will long
live in the memory of the people and the nation."
1866 Col. Timothy Reeves establishes the Oak Grove Baptist church
seven miles north of Pocahontas Arkansas, as a result of a brush
arbor revival. He finds it necessary to retake the pulpit with six
shooters in each hand, as some people in the audience aren't
happy he's there. "A History of the Current River Baptist
Association", Tedford, 1947
5 Oct 1866 Troy Herald—A election is about to be held. The following
excerpts were reprinted from the Mo. Democrat. The item was
reported to have been written in the SW corner of Lincoln Co.
"They want to slaughter sheep on the birthday of Booth and
celebrate Lincoln's assassination.--They rejoice over the brutal
murder of our much lamented Major Wilson who was captured
at Pilot Knob.--They also threaten to go to the polls on election
day with their shotguns and shoot the brains out of the first Black
Republican, that says anything, against their voting".
11 April 1867 A pension of $25/month is approved for Jame's sons.
The payments are to last until 4 May 1874.
1869 The St Louis newspapers report that the monument for Major
James Wilson's grave is about finished.
2 Aug 1870 Former comrades and relatives gather at the Troy Cemetery to
dedicate a monument to Major Wilson. It is placed on a
cemetery walkway. The grave may be elsewhere. The group is
addressed by Mr. H. G. Ferguson of Louisiana, and Capt
Robertson of Carroll Co. An attempt is
made to hire a brass band, but they refuse to
participate. Lincoln Co Herald 4 Aug 1870
The monument carries the inscription,
"Preserve, What He Gave His Life To Defend,
26 Aug 1890 Jame's ex wife, files for a widows pension from the U.S.
government. It is rejected on the grounds that the divorce
was final before he was killed.
Dr Cyrus Peterson, in his "Biography of James S. Wilson" summarizes the two and a half years James served as an officer in the following words, "he was known as one of the most active and efficient officers doing service in his adopted state in keeping outlaw organizations from plying their nefarious avocations of murder and robbery upon the defenseless law abiding citizens. Much of his service extended far into the State of Arkansas, in pursuing and punishing bands of miscreants who preyed upon the lives and industry of the citizens of Missouri, and his name was a terror to all evil doers in southeast Missouri. His reputation as a military officer for bravery, justice, and good judgment was such that he was made commander of a military sub-district with headquarters at Pilot Knob where his presence did much toward preserving life and property over a large area of the state. It would be impossible to enumerate the numerous skirmishes and battles in which he participated, but out of all, he came with honor and distinction".
Dr Joseph Mudd, a Confederate veteran who fought with Porter in Northeast Missouri, provides a unique assessment of James. After authoring "With Porter in North Missouri" he investigated the execution of Major James Wilson.
His research occurred during the period 1866 to 1906, and resulted in the following statement. "In spite of persistent effort, extending over many years and involving in the last few months, much correspondence, I have been unable to determine whether the execution of Major James Wilson was a murder or an act of retaliation ". In a final statement he says "this execution ended the career of the best Federal soldier Lincoln County produced; a man of courage, resolution and the strictest integrity". Quite a nice tribute from the other side!
James execution, with six privates, may have been an act of retaliation for the execution of an officer and six privates of Reeves command. The execution of Reeves men occurred prior to Dec 1863, by the 3rd MSM. The individuals involved on both sides have not been identified. Reeves refers to this event, as he plans to kill a captured officer and six enlisted men at Pulliam's Farm, in Dec 1863, as does Griffin Frost in a book published in 1867. One of the raids by the 3rd MSM during Sept and Oct 1863, led by Capt Leeper, and Mj. Wilson probably produced the incident which infuriated Reeves. Capt Leeper tangled with Reeves on his raid. James fortells his death, by saying to Joseph Rinaman on his last furlough, "that if Reeves caught him he was a dead man. He had disrupted Reeves recruiting to many times." After getting back to his post, men of the 3rd MSM burned Reeves home town of Doniphan, on orders from St Louis. From that day on, Reeves tried to execute any men of the 3rd MSM that fell into his hands. Executions happened daily. With the shooting of the group James was in the total reached 35. They will continue as Price marches through Missouri. Rebel General M. Jeff Thompson, said after the war, that the executions were in retaliation for the burning of Doniphan. James was captured and allowed to be executed by the rebel high command, at the hands of Col. Tim Reeves. I believe this is probably closer to the truth than any of the several other explanations that have been put forth by others.
James wrote poetry as a young man. The following fragment contains his
thoughts on death.
"Dost think when in the tomb I lie,
And life's last sigh is o'er,
That like a summer's flower I'll be,
Forgotten when no more"
This fragment apparently written to his wife to be, is rather prophetic.
"When the winds of misfortune are sighing,
And sorrows fall thickly on thee,
Hopes blasted around thee are lying,
Like leaves that have fallen from the tree,
Thy day of prosperity over,
The friends thou hast loved far away,
Myself o'er the wide earth a rover,
From home and its joys to stray,
Oh then in the day of my sadness,
When sorrow thy portion shall be,
Remember the moments of gladness,
You've spent in communion with me"
This log has been reconstructed primarily from records of the United States, and Confederate Armies. Additional sources include stories from the James S. Wilson Sr. family, newspaper articles, letters written by participants in the events, and pre 1900 histories. The motivational comments about Mj. James S Wilson's actions are the sole responsibility of the author. Mrs. Patsy Creech provided the original basic data set. Mr. Lou Wehmer, a seeker of truth, and a member of the Ripley County Missouri Historical Society, and Mr. Kirby Ross who had many relatives who served in the 3rd MSM, provided immeasurable help, in finding obscure sources and documents, from many repositories. Independent Historical Consultant, Dorris Keeven Franke, provided much needed help on events in Warren County during the Civil war. This event log could not have been constructed without their assistance and encouragement. Willard S. Bacon, 120 Beechwood Circle, Manchester Tn 37355, 931 728 7973, firstname.lastname@example.org or baconwillard @netscape.net.
Copyright 2000, by Willard S. Bacon, All rights reserved.