The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

Re: Morgan County Guerrillas
In Response To: Re: Morgan County Guerrillas ()

Chris and Jim,
You are actually describing Private Nelson Knight Chapman, prewar a Kentucky-born 23-year-old, cooper or barrel maker in the Tipton area of west Moniteau County of the household of 40-year-old, Kentucky-born poor farmer William Chapman, quoting the 1860 census of Moniteau County. Why Chapman was known as "William Chapman" when he recruited for the Confederacy in the big push before Price's raid in the summer of 1864 is a mystery. Perhaps he used the different name to protect his family living nearby, or perhaps he wished to fool future researchers and historians.
N. K. Chapman was a private in LTC John A. Schabel's Missouri Cavalry Battalion which was under General Shelby's command in north Arkansas during summer 1864. Not to confuse folks, N. K. Chapman was a member of Captain William Chapman's Company G of Schnabel's BN. Was Captain Wm. Chapman, N. K. Chapman's dad? Don't know, but somehow, Private N. K. Chapman recruited for the Confederacy in the summer of 1864 in Morgan County, not far from his prewar home in or near Tipton. At that time, rural Missouri wherever southern men lived was literally awash with local Confederate recruiters of every stripe and rank busily signing up local southern men for the big push when General Price would return to the state (which, indeed, General Price actually did in September and October 1864).

What we have next are Union military records affixed to N. K. Chapman's military records that say that Private Chapman evidently assisted by a Puckett (or some such name) brought secret Rebel mail home to southern families in this area from their kinfolk and friends in Schabel's battalion, then down along the Missouri/Arkansas border. The local Union authorities detected Chapman, Puckett, and the illicit bag of mail were in Morgan County, but local southerners in Morgan County hid and sheltered the two soldiers and kept them from Union clutches. Somehow, being sheltered turned into accusations of being spies and committing unspecified murders and burning homes of northerners, evidently in the Morgan County area, most probably in Moreau Township of northeast Morgan County, which had some unspecified similar activity in the summer of 1864. Source for the above is a newspaper article in the St. Louis "Daily Missouri Democrat" of 1 November 1864, and some reference in a biography of N. K. Chapman in the 1883 history of Henry County.

Evidently, Chapman and perhaps Puckett at some point left Morgan County and returned evidently to Schnabel's battalion and may have taken part in Price's great Missouri raid.

Next, according to the Union record affixed to N. K. Chapman's service record, Private Chapman was returning home at the end of the war on 6 May 1865 when Union troops in Greene County near Springfield apprehended Chapman and checked his record to see if there were outstanding Federal warrants against him. This is very similar to the case of Private Charles Brownlee, prewar an attorney of Tipton, who was arrested traveling home near Springfield this same date, and, of course, that arrest led to Brownlee's execution a few days later on two-year-old military tribunal verdict calling for his execution as a leader of guerrillas in Cooper, Moniteau, and Morgan Counties back in 1863. Indeed, the Union records did have the house burnings, some murders, and the bag of secret mail from the Rebel army to the folks back home, which the Federals translated into a charge of spying, which usually ends in an execution. Therefore, Chapman's movement was restricted by ball and chain, and during a wagon ride to a place of execution Chapman somehow managed to escape. If you were to guess that sympathetic Union soldiers assisted the Tipton barrel maker to escape rather than face an execution on flimsy grounds, I would have to agree with you, but we will keep our opinions to ourselves, won't we?

The next part if from the 1883 history of Henry County. Subsequent to all this, Nelson Knight Chapman settled in the little town of Windsor, northeast corner of Henry County, and made himself a very useful citizen there over the next many years. He opened a wagon shop, in 1878 passed the bar exam and became an attorney, and eventually became Windsor city attorney in 1883, at the time of the writing of the county history.

That is all I have on Private Nelson Knight Chapman, alias "Bill Chapman" the secret Rebel mail carrier of Morgan County. I have nothing whatever on his companion Puckett, Packett, or whatever his name is. Let's just say, in light of what happened to Private Charles Brownlee in similar circumstances from the same place and being captured the same day at the same place, and Brownlee's ultimate execution at the end of hostilities of this long, bitter war, we may consider Nelson Knight Chapman a very fortunate individual indeed. Very fortunate.

Chris and John, this is one of those documented stories I held onto just hoping someday somebody would ask me about it. Gentleman, I think I owe you both a debt of gratitude and possibly some money. Would you accept Confederate currency? I still have two $10 notes (facsimile) printed during the Centennial by the Topps Baseball Card company which I bought for the bubble gum back in 1963 in Texas.

Bruce Nichols

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Morgan County Guerrillas
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