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Re: Fight at Pisgah, 10 Sep 64
In Response To: Fight at Pisgah ()


I use the following sources for this skirmish:
--"O.R." series 1, vol. 41, part 1, pp. 760-1;
--Broadfoot, "Supplement to the 'O.R.', part 2, vol. 34, 4th Cav MSM, p. 34;
--Frederick Dyer, "A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion," vol. 2, p. 812;
--"Guerrillas Leaving Cooper County,""KC Daily Journal," Kansas City newspaper, 13 Sep 1864;
--James F. Thoma, "This Cruel Unnatural War," [CW history of Cooper County] publ. by author, 2003, p. 107 (Jim used "O.R." as his source).

Let me begin by saying what some of these sources say:

The "O.R." has two brief reports: one by BG Edbert B. Brown, Union cdr of the Central District, and one by MAJ George W. Kelly of the 4th Cav MSM. In the first BG Brown reports to his boss, MG Rosecrans, that LT Kerr [LT John T. Kerr of Co. A, 4th Cav MSM, stationed at Boonville] leading some of his men near Pisgah, Cooper County, had a skirmish the day before [10 Sep] with 60 guerrillas, kiling 4 and wounding several. "No loss on our side reported. The guerrillas were commanded by Taylor, a new man on south side of the river." Major Kelly said much the same thing except he gave the location of the fight as "some five miles northeast of Pisgah" and the time as "yesterday evening" [10 Sep]. The major also added that "our horses being fatigued was all that saved the entire band from being broken."

The Kansas City newspaper article doesn't apply directly but states "Gen. Brown telegraphs from Warrensburg, under date of September 9, that the guerrillas have left Cooper County, so all loyal citizens can return. Four companies have been organized under Order 107 in that vicinity." Evidently, BG Brown was mistaken on September 9 that the guerrilas had completely left Cooper County.

John, as you undoubtedly know, Pisgah was a small hamlet on the east-central edge of Cooper County very near the Moniteau County line.

Now, for the hard part. I strongly believe that LT Kerr and his two superiors is referring to Charles Fletcher "Fletch" Taylor as the guerrilla leader. I have trouble with this because Fletch Taylor was severely wounded only one month before [8 Aug 64] in Lafayette County whereupon his arm was amputated. Guerrilla memoirs including Taylor's clearly state that after a rather brief convalescence Captain Taylor resumed his role as guerrila sub-chief. I personally find it had to believe that Taylor could resume active operations only one month after the amputation of his arm, but I know of no other Taylor capable of leading a body of guerrillas in central Missouri in this time frame. Captain "Fletch" Taylor was a man of very strong will, so I cannot rule out that he was back leading his men as of 10 September. Sadly, Taylor's own memoir fails to mention this specific event.

Heretofore this summer "Fletch" Taylor DID operate primarily on the northern side of the Missouri River, as he was directly involved in leading the guerrilla side of the insurrection by "Paw Paw" militia in Platte County in July and operated on that side of the river for some days after until he attended an important council of war August 8 and later in the day was severely wounded.

Possibly, LT Kerr was mistaken as to the guerrila chief's identity. I would have to assume that Kerr and his troopers learned the guerrilla chief's name from one of the dying bushwhackers unless someone in the band mentioned it in passing to a citizen they encountered nearby. It was not uncommon for guerrillas of west-central MO to purposely mislead locals as to their leader's identity so as to confuse pursuing troopers. I have encountered other instances of something like this in west-central MO, and the Yanks in general had a poor grasp of which guerrilla leader was in charge of which band at any given time. Their intelligence in the field was just not always very good.

To me, the identity of the guerrilla chief near Pisgah September 10 is not clear, but may be Captain "Fletch" Taylor. It is possible that the outcome of this fight was that 4 southerners were killed and several wounded while the band took off to avoid further damage. It is also possible that LT Kerr exaggerated the body count and the outcome. I don't think we will ever know for sure. Incidentally, records of Company A in Broadfoot state that they only killed 2 of the Rebels, and added that two of their own horses were wounded in the shooting.

Part of the reason for the lack of good documentation of this skirmish is that General Price sent staff officers who held a council of war August 8 with several notable guerrilla leaders of west-central MO. We may presume the staff officers directed the guerrillas to create havoc in general in preparation for Price's Great Missouri Raid later in September. If so, they certainly did, for skirmishes like this took place at the rate of several a day in early September throughout this region.

I hope that helps.

Bruce Nichols

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Re: Fight at Pisgah, 10 Sep 64