The End of Missouri Guerrilla, William Clarke Quantrill
What seemed to be a quiet, though rainy, day in May of 1865 suddenly turned deadly; as the ?bloody butcher of Lawrence?; William Clarke Quantrill, finally met the terror of Kentucky?s southern guerrillas; Edwin Terell. While no one will ever know the full, true story of what happened that day, this writer will attempt to shed some light on this seemingly small part of Spencer County history.
The son of a Unionist Ohio schoolteacher, William Clarke Quantrill at first taught school also. However; by 1858 he was in Utah, earning his living as a roving gambler. During part of 1859 and 1860, he again taught school, this time in Lawrence, Kansas. His past, and bent toward violence, soon caught up with Quantrill; hence he fled to Missouri to escape charges of murder and horse theft. When war came in 1861, the guerrilla life seemed just the right outlet for his particular talents. In 1863 Quantrill returned to Lawrence, Kansas with a new lesson to teach. Incensed over the death and/or injury of several of thier wives and kin in a jail collapse, Quantrill and 450 guerrillas burned most of Lawrence and murdered 183 men and boys. In late December 1864, with the war going against the South and almost all hope of retrieving Missouri gone, Quantrill moved on into Kentucky . It is unclear whether this was in hope of finding stronger resistance to the Union army; or, as one source states, to carry out the avowed purpose of killing Lincoln. Either way, William Clarke was to meet his Union counterpart in Kentucky, with deadly results.
Edwin ?Ed? Terrell, nominally a captain of the Shelby County Home guards, had heard from a blacksmith named Almsted Jacobs, that Quantrill and his men had gone to ground in neighboring Spencer County. As he had a ?license? from the government to kill Confederate guerrillas, he jumped at the chance to take on the ?Raiders?. Of course, the $50.00 a month he had been offered to track Quantrill was just added incentive. Ed?s record seems to show that he just liked killing, regardless of any government license or payment for doing so. Originally in the Confederate service, he joined the Home Guard after escaping prison, and thereby execution, for killing a superior officer of the Confederate Army. As a member of the Home Guard, Terrell was known as a fearless and skillful fighter. The facts show that he was also a bully and a thief; one who willfully murdered civilians, regardless of which side their sympathies lay with. He became distrusted, and even hated, among Union men. A captain of the U.S. Army even requested that Colonel Farleigh withdraw ?protection passes? from Terrell and his men after they left Lebanon, Ky. in July 1865. In fact Terrell was so disliked, his own sister is reported to have said, ? I shall never marry, until I have word of his (Terrell?s) death.? Far from being a ?national hero?, as he was portrayed in the press at the time of Quantrill?s death, Ed Terrell was actually no better than the men he sought to destroy that day.
May 10, 1865 began as a quiet day at the farm of James Heady Wakefield. Quantrill and several other of the raiders, lulled by the rain hitting the barn roof, were peacefully sleeping in the hayloft. The rest of the men were engaged in other trivial pursuits to while away the boredom of hiding from Union patrols. Some of these ?hard-bitten killers? were even having a mock fight with corncobs, as if they were a bunch of young boys. Since no trouble was expected, and no one wanted to be outside in the lousy weather, no sentries were in place to guard against surprise. Unknown to Quantrill and his men, another ?terror? was about to spring forth onto this peaceful scene.
The before mentioned corn cob fight was what saved most of the raiders from certain death or capture. John Ross was getting the worst of the fight at this point. Unable to withstand, much less answer, the volleys of cobs from his friends; Ross found discretion to be the better part of valor, and fled the barn. What Ross ran into turned out to be far worse than the cobs he was running from. Facing better than two dozen charging guerilla fighters, Ross spun around and ran back into the barn screaming, ?The Yankees are onto us!? This precipitated the only well known Civil War skirmish in Spencer County.
With the fight already triggered, no one was left with any choice. Qauntrill sprang from his nap in the hay and ordered the raiders to ?mount up, wheel about, and charge!? He then hurriedly tried to mount his horse, but the stirrup broke and threw him off balance. The horse, reacting with the mounts of the other raiders, charged out of the barn doorway into the lot, with Quantrill desperately trying to correct his awkward situation.. As Quantrill tried to pull himself upright in the saddle, at least three Yankees; Ben Kirkpatrick, Horace Allen, and John Langford took aim on him at the same time. All three men fired at roughly the same moment. Quantrill was struck by two of the three bullets from the Spencer carbines carried by the Union guerrillas. One of the bullets struck Quantrill in the hand, the death-dealing round entered near the left shoulder blade and lodged in the spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. Clark Hockensmith and Dick Glasscock both made desperate, yet vain bids to save Quantrill, and were both killed for their trouble. Brothers William and Henry Noland were also killed in the brief, running fight. The rest of Quantrill?s men made good their escape.
Although the wounded man identified himself as Captain Clark of the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, Terrell was certain he had fulfilled his mission of capturing Quantrill. Terrell had the wounded man carried to the home of James Wakefield. They stayed there until his wounds were cared for well enough to move Quantrill to Louisville by wagon. While he waited, Terrell robbed Quantrill of all he had, and stole most Wakefield?s valuables. The story is told that Mr. Wakefield ?added a jug of good whiskey to the bargain, just so I could be be rid of the Federal guerrilla." Once they arrived in Louisville, Quantrill was cared for at St Joseph Hospital. It is said that,before he died on June 6 at 27 years old , Quantrill made a full confession and converted to Catholicism.
After the fight at Wakefield, the surviving raiders scattered for a time. William Bassham, Thomas Evans (who was held in a Lexington prison until after the war, because he was suspected in the killing of a Union Lt. Cunningham.), Thomas B. Harris, and John Barnhill (these last two may be incorrect, record only states they were present when Quantrill was wounded.) surrendered near the barn, or at Smileytown about a mile from Wakefield?s farm; which one exactly is unclear since no date for their surrender is given. George Wigginton and John McCorkle surrendered later in May, 1865 at New Castle, Henry County, Ky. David Hilton and Isaac Hall even hid in a pond to escape capture by Terrell?s gang. Sometime before July 26, 1865, they rejoined the largest group of former Quantrill men under Capt.Henry Porter, and surrendered at Samuel?s Depot, Nelson County, Ky. In addition to Porter, this group was made up of David Hilton, Lee McMurtry, Alexander Franklin James, Randolph Venable, James Lilly, Andy McGuire, A. D. "Donnie" Pence, Bud Pence, William Hulse, Jim Younger, Payne Jones, Allen H. Palmer, Robert Hall, and John Harris. This was the final end to the ride of Quantrill?s raiders in the Bluegrass State.
Some of the names mentioned above may sound familiar; most of those for good reason. Alexander Franklin James was better known as Frank James, the brother of even more infamous Jesse James. Jim Younger was the brother of Cole Younger, and both brothers rode with Frank and Jesse James after the war. But not all the former raiders turned outlaw after the war, some went a totally different direction, like the Pence brothers. Donnie Pence was Sheriff of Nelson County, Ky. from 1871 until he died in 1896. His brother Bud served as deputy sheriff, and died in Nelson County before 1897. After the surrender, Ike Hall must have also liked the Nelson County area; he settled in Samuels Depot. While the Lilly and Palmer names are familiar here in Spencer County, the writer has yet to find any solid connection to those families still here.
A couple of other footnotes about Quantrill and Terrell deserve mention here. It seems there was some question at the time of capture about Quantrill?s identity. On May 15, 1865, George Prentice of The Louisville Daily Journal wrote, "It is said that Quantrell, so-called, who was shot through the body by Terrell's men and brought to this city (on May 13), isn't the Quantrell, the fiend-like ruffian who murdered the population of Lawerence, Kansas, but only a fellow - that has assumed his name..." Best knowledge at the time stated that it was the real William Clarke Quantrill that died in Louisville. Less than a year later, Terrell was ambushed and paralyzed by one of the bullets, just as Quantrill had been. Terrell was also taken to Louisville, where he died. Terrell?s fall from ?hero? in the national papers of May 1865 was great. Statements in May of 1866 were more like, ? About the only good thing he did in his life was wound Quantrill, who did die of the wounds also in Louisville?. Even Terrell?s May 27, 1866 obituary in the Louisville Journal not so eloquently stated: "No man ever more richly deserved a torturous death." Which leaves us with the question, ?Who really was the ?bad guy? in this story??
LATE ADDITION: A very interesting note to this story appeared in the Spencer Magnet 20 Feb. 2002, from Tom Watson's book "The Silent Riders, and descendants of Mr. Jacobs."
Almstead Jacobs, who actually led Terrell to Quantrill's hiding place was an African-American. According to the article, he was an accomplished blacksmith, and apparently a freedman, as he ran his own shop. Quantrill visited the shop on the way to Salt River, seeking safe passage from Kentucky. Mr. Jacobs did what he felt was his duty, and turned over the location of the guerrilla band. This writer fully agrees with Mr. Watson's words in speaking of the Wakefield incident, it is significant because a black man pointed the way (missing words?) scattered a hold out Confederate guerrilla force, an act so historically symbolic that it is easily recognized a such today, but during the time of its occurrence, went unnoticed.
All too often, history books ignore the role so many men, and women, of color played in the restoration of the Union. Had Mr. Jacobs been white, every account of Quantrill's end would have included his story.
You have my full permission to post. Uley T. Washburn, Jr.
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