The Battle of Fredericktown
by R.C. Arnett

Published in the Democrat-News in Fredricktown, Mo



Sunday, Oct. 21, 1917 Just 56 years ago today, that the peaceful little inland town of Fredericktown, Mo.; when we freighted dry goods from Pilot Knob, the then terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad, and hauled our lead from this coun- ty to old Ste. Genevieve, on the Mississippi river, by team. Few of our old citizens are still living who will never forget the awakenings and the horrors of war. Most especially of the Civil War! When the people and even families, were, divided and arrayed against each other in deadly conflict, each feeling themselves in the right. Accord- ing to geographical locations, gave to each a divided loyalty. There were those of the town community who acknowledged allegiance to the Federal Gov- ernment and the Stars and Stripes; and a number who, on the other hand (who were just as honest and sincere), who cast their lots and fortunes with the Confederacy, to follow the Stars and Bars through five years of bloody conflict. But, thank God, that today there is neither the Blue or the Grey. But all Americans, whose blood runs red through their veins will don the khaki and fight as one man to protect American democra- cy and freedom.

It was in the latter part of Oc- tober, 1861 , that General Jeff Thompson, commanding the Confederate soldiers, made his raid on this town; and while here he captured a courier with a message from Col. Carland at Pilot Knob to Col. Ross at Cape Girardeau; Cash with 500 Fed- eral soldiers to meet at Freder- icktown at once, and capture General Thompson with his 3000 Confederates. So Thompson gave orders for a 10-days forced march, and left town on Sunday evening, Oct. 20, 1861. When about 15 or 20 miles south of town, Col. Lowe, who command- ed about 1100 infantry, com- posed of men mostly from this vicinity who became very much disgruntled and demanded of Gen Thompson that if they could not fight at their home, and for their wives and sweet- hearts, they did not care to fight at all. Gen. Thompson remark- ed that if it was fighting they wanted, under any conditions, he would be d- if he would not go back, and they could have their fill.

When the Confederates left town on Sunday afternoon, my mother, with my sister and my- self, started home after bidding good-bye to her son, brothers, nephews and relatives, and of course felt lonesome and de- spondent. So when we got as far down as East Main street, to the Mrs. Duchouquette house, where there were a number of the town belles, Misses Emma Duchouquette, Kate Valle, Mary McFarland, Mary Fox, Leza Guignon and several others, mother asked them to come and go with us, as it was so lone- some; and they accepted. So Monday morning (Oct. 21st) was a nice, cool, frosty, crisp morning, and everybody was up listening at the Federal troops crossing the bridge over the riv- er west of town, and about that time old Aunt Charlotte (the colored cook) came running in and said to my mother: Miss Li- za Mars Milton Fayett and Da- vid (my brothers and two un-




cles was here las' nite? Oh no, Charlotte, they are nearly into Arkansas by this time. No mam,"Miss Liza, ah knows how dey eats de cream off'en de milk, cose dey ain't no seprater can git any mo cream dan dem boys. I just know it was dem in de springhouse las nite. Just at that time we heard a bugle over the hill south of the house, and in a very short time Gen. Thompson and his staff came up the lane. And of course we all went out to meet them. Gen. Thompson, after talking a while, trying to answer all the girls' questions in relation to where this one, and that one, was, turned to my mother and asked if she knew of any white man he could trust to go into town and find out if Col. Ross had got- ten in yet from the Cape, as he knew that Col. Carland had ar- rived from Pilot Knob. Mother told him no, that there wasn't a white man left in the neighbor- hood. I spoke up and said, Why, Ma, I can go. I know Col. Ross. She gave me a jerk by the coat tail to hush. But Gen- eral Thompson saw her and said, Mrs. Arnett, I believe that boy (I was 12 years old) can get me the information I so much desire. As his intentions were to pounce in upon Col. Car- land before Col. Ross could get it. So he asked me a few ques- tions as to what I would tell the Col., etc., etc. So he said that boy can get me the desired in- formation I so much need, and if you will let him go it will be of much importance to me. My mother, being one of those red- hot Confederates, gave her con- sent. I hiked off in a run to do my part, and in a very short time I was facing the pickets at the Zek Sample residence (then the old John Valle barn) at the corner of R road and College avenue. And as I was going to school and had heard nothing of any rebels in the country, I went my way in peace, and when I wended my way up East Main street to the court house and looked down S. Main street and saw the soldiers lying on the sidewalks asleep with their guns stacked in bunches all along and some riding about through the town, I completely forget my; business, as I was so inter- ested in the uniforms, guns, horses, drums, horns, etc. I whiled away nearly all the fore- noon, and was standing by the big old tree just in front of the McKinney Restaurant, when my uncle, Wash Nifong, came along and tapped me on the shoulder and said, What in the world are you doing here? I said, Why, we are going to have a battle out at our house, as Gen. Thompson, Bro. Mild, Uncle Fayette and David Caruthers and Uncle Mark Anthony (Dr. Anthony's father) were all out at our house, and Gen. Thompson sent me to see if Col. Ross had gotten in yet. Why, he said, you little fool, you get home just as soon as you can and don't you tell that to anyone again, for if they find that out they will hang you. So, to say that I was scared, doesn't express it. And as I looked out the Jackson road, I could see the whole country glistening with bayonets. It was then about noon. - did not need any extra urging to go home. As I ran on down the street I came to the pickets who were sound asleep, and I never stopped to tell them that I was leaving them. And as I got nearly opposite the Coll Concrete Works, I saw two m en coming meeting me and a whole company after them shooting and yelling halt. One was killed just as he turned where Henry Hovis now lives and the other fell within ten feet of where I lay in the fence corner (for the




bullets were whizzing around me so thick and one had taken effect in my hand. I thought that I might take a little rest there in the edge of the branch.). As they came up and dismounted they saw me and one asked if I was the little boy that Gen. Thompson had sent to town this morning. And as I could not tell whether or not they were Southern soldiers, I was at a loss as to what to answer. As uncle Wash had told me if the Federals were to find it out they would hang me, I did not make any reply. But as the question was asked again, I put on a bold front and said yes. He turned and said to a man who had not dismounted, Lieut. Clutier, take this boy to Gen. Thompson's headquarters, so he reached down and caught me by the arm and threw me up behind him and were at our front door in a very short time. My mother had become so uneasy that she had come back to see if she could hear from me. As Gen. Thompson had ordered them all to get back behind the hills, as the battle would probably be fought there. And they had taken refuge at old uncle Billy Tripps (better known as the Calvin Revelle palce), where there were just 50 people who stayed there all night. Mother wanted me to get down and come with her, but the Lieut. said no, his orders were to take me to Thompson's headquarters. So mother loaded us both down with baskets filled with boiled hams and corn dodgers. And we went on with orders for me to hurry back. When we came to the spot where the Ben McGraw's house now stands, there was on of Gen. Thompson's 6 pound cannons stationed with a company of soldiers. We delivered our grub and was informed that Gen. Thompson was somewhere between there and town. It was but a very few minutes until we saw him coming down the hill on the Greenville road in full tilt, and in less time than one can tell it, Col. Ross had his men formed clear across my field east of the road and on down through Judge Spiver's field to the Slass lane, west of the road. There was a strip of woods between the Greenville and Bloomfield roads, where the Odd Fellows and Christian cemeterys now are, and Col. Ross's command had taken refuge along that road, while Gen. Thompson's were over on the other ridge in the timber, and Col. Lowe with 1100 infantry was placed in the valley between the two armies along the fence where my barn now stands. After fighting from hill to hill for an hour or more, Col. Ross thought to better his position by getting his command down in the valley (not knowing that it was occupied by Lowe), marched his army down through the corn to within 30 steps of the fence, when Lowe gave the signal to fire. You can imagine his surprise and his loss. But he fell back and reinforced and ordered an east flank with Major ---------, and a west flank by the brave Major John Smith Gavitt who came near capturing the whole of Col. Lowe's regiment, killed him and about 20 confederates as they retreated to the woods, and just over the hill at old Grandpa Johnson Casey's place, the Marble City Guard stopped in a thicket of brush on either side of the road, and as Major Gavitt at the head of his command, following up the retreat, came rushing in, the Con-




federates cross-fired and killed both Major Gavitt and Capt. Hineman, both falling against the same pannel of fence, and whose blood marked the spot on the fence for many years after the battle. After that the Fed- erals fell back and Gen. Thomp- son made his get-away without further casualties. Besides the loss of several Confederate strangulars who were captured. my brother, Milt, being one of them who had gotten separated from his command and came in- to the road about eight miles south of the big spring on Twelve Mile (where Ed Lanpher now ilves).

When the battle commenced I was ordered to go home, and I did not wait for the second or- der. And when I got back to the house mother and I made tracks for uncle Billy Trips', re- turning next morning to find ev- erything ransacked and demol- ished, garnered wheat destroyed, stock of all description taken or killed and left on the ground, smoke-house gutted, and fences all burnt. I am the only one of the family, white or black, left living, and know a very few who fought in the battle who are liv- ing today. My old friend and neighbor, Geo. L. Bruce, who was with Lowe, and Dr. L. E. Jen- kin, who was in the fight, are, I beileve, all that I can call to mind who are living here.

Thirty-five years after the bat- tle, Col. Ross, who is now de- ceased, who lived somewhere in Iowa, came back to Frederick- town to view the void battlefield, and finding that I still owned my part of the old farm, and on which the greatest part of the battle was fought, called me up to know if I would. not accom- pany him to visit the grounds, which I, of course, accepted with pleasure. And I must say that his memory in every detail, was the most complete, as he could tell me within five feet of where his cannon was located, and as we walked on down through the field to the valley he suddenly stopped and remarked that right about here stood a large apple tree, to which I owe my life, for, said he, just as I came down through the corn and got to that tree they fired on my brigade and the bark was literally torn off the tree, but I did not get a scratch. And I lost no time in getting back, as I thought sure I would not have a man left. He was within two steps of the old stump which was covered en- tirely over, as it was in a gulley which had been filled up. He picked.out some of the pieces to take home to his family as sou- venirs. Although he did not get a scratch, the tree succumbed to its death. I have never seen an account of this battle in his- tory, but it was always claimed that the Confederates lost 20 and the Federals 6. But there were eight dead officers in the court house that night that my brother was guarded there. I asked Col. Ross to tell me just how many Federals were killed and he said that the next morn- ing at roll-call he was short 375 men, killed, wounded and missing. I asked him where they were buried and he said part were buried at Pilot Knob and the others out northwest of town on the Big St. Franocis river. I asked him who was in command in the battle. He said that Col. Carland out-ranked him. But when he got in town, he found Col. Carland had been embibing a little too much, so he just assumed command and fought the battle.


University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law © 2010