The Bloomfield Gang and Private John Purdy
By Tom Watson
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The late Emma Wilson Brown said that old John Purdy could be heard before he was seen on the streets of Bloomfield, tapping his cane and bellowing with his strong voice.
It wasn't unusual for him to stop on a corner and let loose with a Rebel yell.
Sometimes when the discussion of Bloomfield-area history comes up, the name John Purdy enters the conversation. Purdy's name has been mentioned in this column before, but his career has not been discussed that much. The last time I wrote about him, it was pointed out that Purdy was with Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan of the Confederate Army during the Civil War and was one of several from the area who became known as "The Bloomfield Gang."
These notes are in my files and are from the papers of the late Emma Wilson Brown of Bloomfield.
"The Bloomfield Gang that went out to join Gen. John H. Morgan at the beginning of the Civil War became publicly noticed celebrities, not only for their intrepid participation in the daring raids led by their gallant and fearless leader, but for their chivalry and matchless comradeship.
Much has been written and more said about the free and liberal use of horses from the stable of people of the southern states, but these little acts were considered the prerogative foibles of war and involved no sequence of conscience.
In the early summer when the "Gang" left the Houchens place, camped or rather stopped, as we had no camping outfit, first night at Shelby Farm where we discussed the troubles we were liable to make when any of the blue coats might get in our way.
With the shotguns and such blunderbusses as we could scrape up, we thought only of the sacrilege of Yankee graves in the southern soil. Most of the boys were tired and went to sleep by midnight. When all at once, we seemed surrounded by a thousand or two of this Yankee mob. Some of the boys managed to get hold of their guns and gave the besiegers a sprinkle of squirrel and bird shot, while the others seemed resolved upon a getaway, but in the darkness of the night, none knew the safest direction.
Anyhow, we made such a noise that the besiegers made no second attack and we "stood not upon the order of going, but went at once." Passing through Cumberland Gap, we joined our command at Alexandria, Tenn.
Historians have attempted to trace the 'hither and yon' movements of the enemy, annoying strategists whom we followed 'O'er moor and fin' through sleepless nights to give the enemy a surprise when he was thought to be miles away. Anything and everything owned or 'acquired' by each and every one of this gang were public property, even with our captors so long as its usage was in a gentlemanly way. Boxes of eats from loved ones at home, the tobacco that was supplied as we well as the 'pickups' that were necessary to our sometime half-starved condition, all common property as long as it would last.
Our cause was lost and with it many a flower of budding manhood in the ranks of southern chivalry, but the bond of sentiment that united the sacred purposes and whetted the keenest blades of courage stand out in history next to those who fought for our earliest independence.
I'll head the list of this 'Bloomfield Gang' with Alexander McMakin Hinkle, than whom a nobler character ever lived in war or peace. We all looked up to him as the moralist of the gang. Him General Morgan loved, because to him were given cool courage with those ever-ready untiring traits that go to make a model soldier.
He lives to rear a large and paragon family and died on his farm near Bloomfield at a ripe old age. S.F. Wilkinson became an influential citizen and died near Bloomfield. Boone Mayfield became a farmer and trader and died near Bloomfield. SL Davis lived out his days and died in Bloomfield. Joe Smith died at Pewee Valley, Ky. Alex MCI and Jim MCI both died in Louisville. Jim Glasscock went to Michigan, became a doctor and died there.
William Stone was last heard from in California. Gus Lewis was killed in southern Kentucky, William McClaskey was last heard from in Texas, Tulsa Blanton was last heard from in Texas. William Donodoe died in Bardstown, Ky. George Brown became a prosperous farmer and died near Bloomfield. He was the father of Judge Wallace Brown. Isaac Wilson died in Frankfort while representing his county in the legislature and was buried in Bloomfield. John Ed McClaskey recently died (1926) in the house where he was born and was buried in Big Spring Cemetery near Bloomfield.
Lee McMakin, one of the two only surviving, lives on his farm near Chaplin. John H. Purdy, your humble correspondent, is still 'doing about' at his native stomping ground, Bloomfield.
I cannot conclude without mentioning Bob Murphy, a little Negro, well marked by the badge of his race (Whatever that means, but sounds racist to me_TW) Bob enlisted as the valet of his master's son, John Murphy, but served the whole gang, was captured and escaped prison, found his way back home where he died of a mature age. Bob's experience would make a volume.
General Morgan was the gamest and shrewdest of officers and with all a most perfect gentleman, even mindful of the smallest details that contributed to the comfort of his command."
This was written in 1927 by John Purdy.
It was copied May 16, 1974 from material belonging to Joe Mason Brown. John Purdy was postmaster in Bloomfield as was his son, Ben Purdy. And also from Emma Wilson Brown's papers:
"John H. Purdy, a member of Duke's Regiment, related this story to Edgar O. Snider and confirmed by a William Neale, both of Bloomfield, Ky.
He told of General Morgan's visit to the old Minor House during his encampment at Camp Charity in September of 1861. Dr. Gore entertained the general on several occasions and orders were dispatched to Camp Charity from the Minor House. He told of local people giving large stores of food to Morgan's men and that many volunteers who left with General Morgan.
Mr. Purdy later joined Morgan at Alexander, Tenn. with a group he referred to as 'The Bloomfield Gang,' naming many of the men in his group in his accounts and letters of his service with Duke's Regiment, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry."
He signed all his letters: John H. Purdy, Company C, 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Duke's Regiment, Morgan's Brigade."
Dr. Moore's Book
Historical Pathways has been notified by the Nelson County Genealogical Roundtable that Bob Moore's wonderful book on Northeast Nelson County can be obtained through them.
"Bloomfield, Chaplin and Fairfield: A History and Genealogy of Northeastern Nelson County, Kentucky" can be ordered by sending $27 plus $3 for postage to: "Bloomfield, Chaplin and Fairfield: A History and Genealogy of Northeast Nelson County" Book, Nelson County Genealogical Roundtable, P.O. Box 409, Bardstown, Ky., 40004.
The NCGR reports that Dr. Moore left ownership and publication rights to all of his books and articles to them. The NCGR asked me if I would donate the remaining issues of The Salt River Arcadian to them. I signed a receipt and they loaded them into trucks. The plan was to package and sell the Arcadian issues to help support the NCGR. They asked for exclusive rights to sell the Arcadians and/or republish the articles in a book they may compile and I agreed to such first re-publication rights, because nobody else asked.
The Arcadian was my monthly newspaper from 1988 through the spring of 1993 and it represented a dream. I will never agree to give away The Salt River Arcadian because I can't. It represented work by many people, but if it helps the NCGR continue its good works, then so be it. History cannot be owned, but must be shared for the enlightenment and enjoyment of everyone.
As usual, Tom Watson asks that you contact him if you have photos, diaries, ledgers, letters or anything historical that he might write-up for Historic Pathways. You may write to: Tom Watson, 5225 Little Union Road, Taylorsville, Ky., 40071. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone (502) 252-9991.
In particular, if anyone has any photos or additional information about the 'Boomfield Gang," please get in touch with Tom.
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