Courtois Hills of the Ozarks

Courtois Hills of the Ozarks
The sub-regions of the Ozarks (from Rafferty, The Ozarks: land and li

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Story of John C. Kerr Of Piedmont, Missouri as dictated to Mr. H. C. Wilkerson

Peterson Papers


Story of John C. Kerr
Of Piedmont, Missouri

            I was born in Montgomery Co. Ala. April 18th 1846. My father Wm E. Kerr removed to Randolph Co. Ark. about 1847. He lived there 2 years. Then removed to Ripley Co. MO. where he was living 8 miles north of Doniphan until the “war of the sixties” broke out. He enlisted in the Confederate Army and was made a Lieutenant in [       ] Co in Col. Whites Regt. And was wounded at Helena Ark. in July 1863, and soon died of his wound. We lived at the mouth of Big Barren 14 miles north of Doniphan on Current River.

            Some of the time during the war I worked for Jasper Ponder at mouth of Buffalo. I well remember the burning of Doniphan by the Federal soldiers in Sept. 1864, I was not there, at the time, but I know the courthouse, stores and in fact the whole business part of the town was burned at that time. The Confederates, Gen. Shelby’s men fell back across the bridge, and then so demolished it that the pursuing Federals couldn’t cross on the bridge, and if they crossed atall, I never heard of it. They went down Current River 3 miles below Doniphan on the east side, and attempted to burn Lem Kitterell’s mill, set it on fire, but were driven back by Shelby’s men who saved the mill from burning.

            The Federals then retreated nearly east from Doniphan, about 12 or 14 miles to the Vandiver farm, and camped for the night. I know little or nothing about the fight there next morning, only that there were 2 Federals soldiers eating breakfast in the house, and they told the Vandiver people they could have all they could remove from the house while they, the soldiers, were eating. Then young Dick Vandiver, who hadn’t been at home for 3 years, rode up with other Confederate soldiers, and as the two Federals came out, young Vandiver and his men shot them both dead in his father’s front yard. He then leaped the fence and jerked one of the dead Federals overcoats off, and his sister came out and begged him to go no further in stripping them.  They were then left by these men with their boots and other clothing on their persons. I know nothing about the killing of Lt. Brawner, or the wounded left there.  I only learned of the 2 that were killed there at the Vandiver place.

            I started from home at the mouth of Big Barren on Sept. 18th “64” , (so I am told by the day I arrived in Patterson, Wayne Co. MO) I drove an ox wagon, and had about 50 lbs of cotton to Mr. Hicks’ and to get salt already bought in Fredericktown in Madison Co. MO. I was accompanied by two widow women, Mrs. Waller, and Mrs. Burras, and we were heading for Mrs. Burras’ daughters at her father-in-law’s, Mr. Hicks’ living about 4 miles S.W. of Fredericktown.

            We arrived on the hill near Patterson at about 12 to 1 o’clock P.M. Sept. 21st 1864, and were halted there by a Capt. McMurtrey, who came galloping down the high knob hill on which the old fort stood to my left and he ordered me to drive my wagon up to the fort which I did. His men began to load my wagon with various of camp equipage, among which was a box that I thought would weigh about 400 lbs., but I didn’t know what was in it, and a box with papers or books, perhaps both. I was then ordered to drive back down the hill to the road, and then on north down the hill to Patterson. I was then halted there near a building (which was after the war occupied by Mr. R.E. Bucklin as a general Merchandise store.) and here they brought out they said 30 double barreled shot guns and put them on my already loaded wagon and tied them there with ropes. A guard of 20 [    ] men were put with me, 10 in the rear of my wagon and 10 in advance. Capt. McMurtrey then ordered me to deliver my load at the Court house in Ironton, Iron Co. MO. soon as possible. I then drove over a short distance to Mr. Patterson’s spring and got water, and while there, a government wagon with 6 mule team drove up in a great hurry, by the side of my wagon and they then relieved me of the 30 shot guns and put them in the government wagon, and then they drove away very rapidly on the Ironton or Pilot Knob road, with a cavalry escort of only a few men. As they drove away under whip I saw them no more.

            I then took the Ironton road with raining often, and being on the road then 3 days our progress was very slow. And besides I was not then a very willing driver. Darkness came on us before we passed through the “Stony Battery” but I was ordered to drive to Brunot some 10 miles North of Patterson. At last we came to the old military bridge across Big Creek and after we crossed Big Creek a very short distance we met a government wagon with 6 mules and a guard of horsemen. I thought some 9 or 10 men. Since the war I have learned the commander of this squad was Sgt. E.A. Wilkerson Co. H, 47th MO. With whom I am now very well acquainted. I remember we met where the road had been displaced on the hillside.

            Some nearly 2 miles from Big Creek we came to “Bailey’s Station” or as it then was Brunot. Here we found quite a little force of Cavalry camped, and my escort halted here with the Cavalry and went into camp, but ordered me to drive about a ½ mile further on to Mr. William’s spring and camp for the night. (This spring is now on the south side of where the town of Brunot was laid out in 1867) I think there were about 50 cavalry at “Bailey’s Station” They had a government wagon of 4 or 6 mules; I don’t now distinctly remember which.

            I think it was abou8t 3 o’clock AM the next morning. The 22nd of Sept. The cavalry and wagon, and also my escort passed my camp going north and I saw my escort no more. They appeared to be in quite a hurry to reach Ironton.

            I remained then in camp until about 11 o’clock that day and then Mr. Williams, a good looking and kind old man came towards my camp and told me that it was no use for him to say what his politic were, but he would advise me under the circumstances to hitch up and be driving or at least be on the road as more soldiers would soon be passing, it would be best for them to find me on the road or at least, if not driving for Ironton. I took his advice and at once drove on north, but I assure you I drove very slowly, as I had been “pressed into service” and that not by “my side” and then not going in the direction I desired.

            Some six or seven miles from my camp at Bruno I was t rudging along with thick woods on either side of the road, between the farms of Moses Collins and Mr. William White, I was overtaken by a Federal bugler.  His horse was fagged badly, but he was urging him forward and yet held to his bugle.  As he came up, I asked him, what’s up?  He said: “Hell’s to pay back down yonder,” I then asked what’s the matter?  He said: as he urged his horse on, “O, there is a rebel for every tree within five miles of Patterson!”  And on he went.  I think it was then about 2 hrs by sun in the evening. 

            Something near 6 miles further on I came to Mr. William White’s house and while we were getting water at his well, there road up I think about 20 Federal cavalry.  And I showed them water.  Among them, I noticed an orderly sergeant, but I don’t know his name.  I know I saw him at Patterson as I came up.  Some of the men wore blouses, and some of them were in their shirt sleeves.  If there was a commissioned with them, I didn’t notice him.  I thought one man rode like he had been wounded or hurt some way.  I then asked them, what I had better do with my load.  Stating how my escort had left me near Bruno that morning before daylight.  One said: “Well corporal do you have to say about it?”  The corporal then said: “ have got nothing at tall do with this now,” and then they proceeded on toward Ironton.  They also said: “Hell’s to pay down about Patterson.”  I then drove on and soon crossed Crane pond creek, just below Marsh’s mill and camped for the night as it was about an hour by sun.  My camp was at the lower end of Mr. Marsh’s field or lot with a board fence and his house about two hundred yards further on.\
            Early next morning, Sept 23, I told my companions, the two widow women, that I was going to unload the stuff in my wagon, that I didn’t intend to haul it any farther toward Ironton, as I had started to Fredericktown and I was going there.  Then by daylight my wagon was unloaded, I drove up close along side the board fence and dropped the things over the side in Mr. Marsh’s field.  The heavy box was to much for my strength and Mr. White’s son came along and I got him to assist me, in giving the box so I could dump it over the fence.  And it came down with a loud thud. 

            I then turned back for Bruno very briskly, as I was free of the load and then being free to go where I chose.  I reached Bruno in much less time than by going up to Mr. Marsh’s.  Soon as I approached Bruno, I saw Gen. Shelby’s picket an you may be sure I felt good.  I gave them “the countersign” (I think the sign of the Kt’s of the G of C HCW.) and soon I was among Gen. Shelby’s brigade, feeling very much at home there. 

            I then reported the camp equipage I unloaded in Mr. Marsh’s field.  I never knew what Gen Shelby done in the matter, only that the commander 25-30 men at once to secure it.  They knew I wanted salt and they had already rolled out a barrel and bursted it open and told me to help myself.  And one of the widow women, Mrs. Waller, wanted me to take the salt, the property of Mr. Horace P Bailey, but I refused to touch it, to the displeasure of Mrs. Waller.  I suppose it was well for me that I didn’t take any of the salt, because after the Price raid was over, I was reported to the Federals for taking the salt by Mrs. Waller and I had to flee to Arkansas for safety as Capt. William T. Leeper was on the hunt for me.  And I suppose if caught by him would have been shot.  Gen. Shelby’s forces soon turned for Farmington and so did I as that was the direction I desired to travel. 

            Then the night of Sept 23rd I reached the old Ellis Kemp farm, across on the east side of the St. Francis River, some seven or eight miles from Bruno, on the Bruno and Fredericktown road.  And put up for the night.  Mrs. Kemp was then a widow as her husband was killed the summer of 1862 by Capt. Jennings and his men.  There were then Confederate soldiers stopped there over night also.  Capt Durks and I think two privates, they kept there horses tied already saddled near the house.  As it stood, probably 50-60 yards, back from the road.  All seemed to go quietly until about “chicken crow” about moon rise, then we saw I think about 20 Federal soldiers come riding in at the yard gate and on up to the house and surrounded it I think.  It seems the Confederate horses being hitched there with saddles on rather attracted the attention of the Federals.  They called them to come out and we downstairs could hear Capt Durks and his men stirring around upstairs, putting on their arms.  We heard Capt Durks say, well boys, we must stay with them or something of the kind.  Capt Durks walked out onto the upper story of the piazzas and the inquiring began of who are you?  Capt Durks said we are confederates.  Then the reply came we are Federal soldiers.  Then came the demand from them to surrender.  But Capt Durks and his men and the Federals at once opened fire on each other.  We could hear the Federal lead striking the house upstairs where the Confederates were.  I think I heard threats of burning the house by the federals.  The firing lasted long enough for Capt. Durks to empty two revolvers.  And about that time he received a ball through his right elbow.  The two men were reloading their firearms and the Federals took to the side or the end of the house where there were no windows and they fled and we heard no more of them.  Then when all was again quiet Capt Durks and his two men came downstairs and they bound up his wound as best as they could.  Then Capt. Durks pointed out to the front yard and said, there is a gun lying out there and a hat and around there by that tree is another gun.  You can have them.  But we never interrupted them, they lay there until after daylight.  Then Capt. Durks and his men mounted and rode for Gen. Shelby’s camp some two or three miles further on the road over two hills on Twelve Mile Creek.  Capt. Durks arm was dressed by the widow Lincoln on Trace creek some six or seven miles from the Kemp farm on the Trace creek on the Fredericktown road, which leads through the settlement called the Creek Nation, Gen Shelby’s route to Fredericktown. (the Federals engaged in this night fight at the Ellis Kemp house where commanded by Sgt. James R. Sullivan of Co. G 47th Mo inf. Volunteers.  Sent on this perilous scout to find where the rebels where and other information.  Among the most important was Is  Sterling Price in command of the raid in person?  So said Capt P.L. Powers repeatedly.  Sgt Sullivan related in person of the writer.  That while fighting the rebels upstairs in the Kemp house {they not knowing how many were in the house, they heard the “long roll” sounding on the Wilson and Bellman farms next above on the St Francis River.  And parties of Cavalry could be plainly heard dashing in different directions and he and his men kept in the large field off the roads.  If any of Sgt. Sullivan’s men were mounted, the writer has now forgotten it.   But he is quite sure that none were mounted the Kemp house.  H.C. Wilkinson } I think Capt Durks and his men remained at the Kemp house about a half hour after the Federals were gone  before they road away. 

            On the morning Sept 24th 1864, we drove on towards Fredericktown, traveling the Trace creek or Creek Nation road.  That night we reached Mr. William London’s in the Creek Nation, and within about a mile of Mr. Hick’s where I aimed to go.  In the morning of Sept 25 I drove for home, without getting any salt, as I did not reach Fredericktown by some four or five miles.  I drove southward for Greenville road and came on to Twelve mile creek at some of the numerous Grahams farms on Twelve Mile and stopped overnight.  Then the morning of the 26th I took the south end of the Greenville and Fredericktown road   Passing down Cedar creek, by Coldwater in Wayne county and that night we stopped at the farm of old Thomas Ward about 6-7 miles north of Greenville.  Morning of the 27th of Sept. I left the Greenville and Fredericktown road and drove across the St Francis river going in a SW direction and the night of th3 27th, we stopped on Otter creek at the residence of Rev. Jesse Wallace a Baptist preacher.  Then who should ride up but Gen Jeff Thompson and some six or seven men.  He had been exchanged for as he was captured in Pocahontas the summer of 1863 by MO troops.  He at once recognized me and spoke very kindly to me.  He was then on his way to Gen Sterling Price’s army.  Of course driving along the road we didn’t hear the Pilot Knob fought on that day, Sept 27th 1864.

            Morning of the 28th of September we drove on our way some and that night reached Little Black and camped in the woods.  Then on Sept 29th 1864 we reached home, but without salt.  I shall add that when the drive was made for me by Capt. Leeper I made a hair breadth escape in getting away.  That was the same time that Capt. Leeper took Capt. Bradley and Robert  McMillan prisoners at their homes on Buffalo Creek in Ripley County and marched them to Marble creek Iron County some 8-9 miles South of Ironton and shot them with four other men and left them by the road side. 

Signed John C. Kerr
By request

Mr. H.C. Wilkerson has written up my story and now read and approved by me JCK.

No comments:

Post a Comment