Biographical Sketch written by J. Knox Cox:
At the election in Nov. 1860, Lincoln was elected. The southern democrats at once began to advocate a withdrawal from the Union, separation, secession, rebellion and so on, and the setting up of the Southern Confederacy. Before Lincoln had taken his seat in the year 1861, six of the southern states had seceded without waiting to see what Lincoln would do. On the 12th day of April, 1861, the confederates, under Gen. Beauregard, fired on Ft. Sumpter, the first gun of the war. This was to signal to arms everywhere, north and south.
The northern soldiers at once took possession of Mo. and the railroads and ferries along the Mo. River and had every crossing guarded so that it was a hard matter for those that wanted to join the Confederate army to do it, as there was no Confederate command or recruiting officer north of the Mo. River. Those that did go had to slip through in small squads or alone to avoid suspicion. There were more southern people in north Mo. than there were of those that favored the North. Every few months there would come out from Macon an order for everybody to come up and enroll either as loyal citizens or as southern sympathizers, and then the federal scouts were in the neighborhood, they would forage on the southern people.
When we went into Macon, we would often have to get a pass before we could get out, and occasionally they would send the soldiers through the country and take the leading and most influential citizens prisoners and keep them for several days, and sometimes kill a prominent man. This caused many of us to hide out in the day and sleep out at night. Many left the state and took refuge in Illinois, Iowa and other northern states. Some crossed the plains, others sought refuge in Canada.
My two older brothers Andrew and Spruce in the summer of 1863 joined a company of Confederates under command of Col. Poindextor, with the intention and hopes of crossing the Mo. River and making their way to the main rebel army, then with headquarters somewhere in south Mo., but about the time they got their company of 400 or 500 men together ready to make the dash, the federals were on their trail with two or three times their number and gave them chase for three days and nights, giving them no time to either eat or sleep, only while in the saddle, finally disbanding them.
Then everyone had to look out for himself, and after being out about two weeks they made their way back home and hid out in the brush and woods the remainder of the summer and until the leaves began to fall which destroyed their hiding places. This was a warning to them that winter was approaching. They now through the council and advice of some of their Union neighbors and friends, consented to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. government, of which a violation meant death. They, now in company with those Union friends who agreed to go on their bonds, went to Macon and surrendered, took the oath and came home.
As winter set in, both armies went into winter quarters and everything was then quiet and remained so all through the winter. Early in the Spring of 1854, brother Andy left home for California, crossing the plains with an ox team in company with many others whose main object was to escape the ravages of war. They arrived at their destination sometime in the late following fall. At the approach of Spring in 1864 hostilities were resumed fiercer than ever, and to such an extent that no southern sympathizer had any assurance or security of property, liberty or even life itself. And, again many of us were forced to take refuge wherever opportunity or circumstances could admit. Many of the southern sympathizers joined the federals for safety, but those that wouldn’t join the federal army and couldn’t get to the rebel army, rejoined to once more see the woods getting green, in order that they might once more have a home or hiding place under the leafy bowers of the giant oaks and elms of our native state Imperial Missouri.
Here I will quote a verse of one of our rebel war songs.
Winter is o’er and spring has come once more
The rebels rejoice that winter is o’er.
Oh! It is springtime the leaves are growing green
The rebels rejoice that they can not be seen.
Then away, away we will be
Near our dear old homes in our own country.
Where the oak and the elm and the big walnut tree
Are all growing green in Old Missouri.
In August 1864 times had got so squally that brother Spruce and I decided to take refuge over in Ill. And discussions at that time meant action, so we packed our grips and footed it out to Clarence, a distance 10 miles, boarded the train and in about 2 hours we were in Quincy, Ill. That was late in the afternoon, we put up at a hotel. The next day we went out about 4 miles into the country where I secured a job on the farm at $16 per month. Brother returned to Quincy where he fell in with a wagon train just then starting across the plains. He joined, landing in the late fall at Camp Collin in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. There they were snowbound until the next spring. This was my first trip farther than 15 miles from home in the 20 years of my life, for I was nearing my 20th birthday.
I stayed and finished out my month but could stand it no longer, and after drawing my wages, I went to Quincy, boarded the first west bound train landing in Clarence in the late afternoon, and after a ten mile walk, I landed under the cover of darkness under the old family roof, but found conditions no better than they were when I left home the month before. So again, I had to hie away to the brush for safety, but as the nights were getting frosty, it was not very pleasant sleeping in the woods, but luckily in a few days, I received a letter from my former employer in Ill. Offering me another job, if I would come immediately. I accepted his offer and returned at once. After staying another month, I, in company with several other Mo. refugees, decided to come home and stay at the risk of our lives. It was now Nov. and when we crossed the Mississippi river, shortly after noon, it was pouring down rain, and just before reaching Shelbina our train began to slow up and finally stopped.
There were several cars in the train loaded with federal soldiers and as soon as the train stopped, we heard a number of shots fired from the car windows, which continued for some time. On looking out of the car window, over the broad stretch of flat level prairie then covered with a sheet of water from the heavy rain that had just fallen, I saw a small squad of men about a quarter of a mile away, apparently with heavy burdens on their backs trudging their way southward. I could see the water splashing all around them from the bullets fired at them from the train, yet they never increased their speed or even turned their heads to look back.
After they got out of reach of the guns, the firing ceased. Presently, an army officer came through the train and ordered all the able-bodied men out of the car, he being the judge and making his own selections by pointing to each man wanted, and was very particular to get every man he thought might be a rebel. Those men we saw leaving were rebel soldiers and had tore up the RR track, derailed a train, looted a car, set it on fire, and made their escape. These men were ordered out of the car to replace the track which took about two hours; they got all my traveling companions, but overlooked me. But I volunteered my services anyway, being anxious to get to Clarence, the station where we were to get off, seeing that it was late and a ten mile walk to make before reaching home. And sure enough, when we did get to the station, it was pitch dark, cloudy and threatening rain. However, luckily, one of my traveling companions, and fellow refugee’s father lived only a few miles out in the country, so I put up there for the night, and then went home the next day. Things through the country had now become very quiet, as it was getting late in the fall, both armies, north and south were preparing for winter quarters.
This was a temporary relief to all of the southern sympathizers or rebels, as we were all called, and would continue until the spring campaign opened up. During the spring and summer campaigns of 1863 and 1864, there was a great deal of guerilla warfare carried on in Mo. which was more for robbing and revenge than for principal of patriotism. Some of the most conspicuous engaged in this mode of warfare were the younger brothers, 4 in number, Frank and Jessie James, Charles Quantrell, Bill Anderson who led the Centralia massacre, Jim Jackson, and many others loss noted, all of which worked hardships on all civil southern citizens who wanted to stay at home and attend to their own business, but often had to give up their lives as subjects of revenge to the federal authorities for things and deeds that they were bitterly opposed to and powerless to prevent.
One of the most horrid and diabolical deeds that occurred in Macon County during the war, was when 10 civil southern citizens were taken from the guard house in Macon and placed upon their own coffins, drove to the suburbs of the city, lined up before a company of soldiers, blindfolded and shot dead. This was done for revenge for an act founded on suspicion only. Oh! May there never again be a deed like this occur to be recorded against our far famed nation, the United States of America.