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Re: "general Crabtree"
In Response To: Re: "general Crabtree" ()

Doc,
Here are my three sources attesting to the mortal wounding and death of "General Crabtree."

--Richard Anweiler, "The Scourge of Central Missouri," "Missouri Life," vol. 9, number 6, November 1981, pp. 43-46;
--Clyde Lee Jenkins, "Judge Jenkins' History of Miller County," pub. 1971 evidently by the judge himself perhaps in Tuscumbia, Miller County, pp. 452-3;
(headline not obtained), "Central City and Brunswicker," newspaper, Brunswick, Chariton County, 16 October 1862.

Antweiler's 1981 article states that Herman Scheuler, Adolph Loethen, a Mr. Bax, and others who lived along the Osage River in a place called the "Teal Bottoms" set out after "General Crabtree" who had robbed their homesteads of some valuables, including Schueler's prized wedding suit. The author indicated some of these men operated a ferry across the Osage at this place and that some of them were in the Union home guard. However, their little posse was their own plan to take back their purloined possessions. At night the small posse caught up to Crabtree and a few of his men in a barn and fired upon the southerners who escaped. The posse found blood in the barn, but didn't know more at that time. The following day, the posse tracked Crabtree and his escort to a cave on or near the Osage River where an angry woman yelled at them that they had killed her husband. The posse were incredulous, and continued tracking where a short disance away in a hollow they encountered Crabtree's escort, who under threat of death, took the posse to Crabtree's grave under a brushpile they claimed was Crabtree they buried the day before. The skeptical posse dug up the corpse and discovered Crabtee's men had buried him in Scheuler's wedding suit. Scheuler refused to take back the suit, and they reburied Crabtree--suit and all. Antweiler did not give a date or even month and year for these events.

The Brunswick newspaper article of 16 October 1862 reads "Captain Crabtree, somewhat notorious in this section as a guide to parties of recruits going to the Souther army, died a few days since from a wound received in an attempt to capture him by a party of Enrolled Militia. He was shot, at or near his residence, two weeks ago, but succeeded in making his escape, and was not found for several days. With him, we understand, was taken a number of letters to persons in this county [Chariton] from their friends in the rebel army."

Judge Miller placed this story with incidents that took place about the time of General Sterling Price's raid in 1864, and used many of the same details that Antweiler gave in his 1981 article, giving us Mr. Bax' full name as Ben Bax. This trio the following day took some other men and tracked Crabtree to his cave in the north bluff of the Osage River "opposite the site of the later day Hoecker," where Crabtree's woman accused the men of having killed her husband. Jenkins omitted any details but wrote that the three men somehow located Crabtree's grave where his escort buried him "some distance south of the residence of the late Arthur Smith, in Cole County." And, like the Antweiler story told about exhuming the body to discover it was wearing Herman Schueler's wedding suit.

There was never a notice in the "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies of the War of the Rebellion" that Crabtree was killed, or in any other place that I could find. If the pursuers reported Crabtree's death to their superiors, it was not well regarded because it went no further. In 1864, when some of Crabtree's cadre resumed the warpath in Miller and Cole Counties, the Union leadership just naturally assumed Crabtree had returned and named him as the leader of this guerrilla band throughout the summer of 1864 in their reports.

I suppose it is possible that the posse was hoodwinked into believing that another dead Rebel was Crabtree, and went their way fully believing they had killed the man. This could also help explain why the Union leadership assumed the Miller and Cole County guerrilla band was led by Crabtree, even though it was actually lead in 1864 by Wiley Schumate. I corresponded with Schumate's descendants in the Sherman and Denison area of Texas a few years ago, and they assured me Wiley led the band in 1864, survived the war, operated a store there postwar, and even showed me a dim picture of him and his gravestone. They indicated to me that Wiley was a former member of Pindall's Missouri Sharpshooters.

However, it is also very possible that these EMM did indeed kill Crabtree himself.

Whatever, Doc, it is highly possible that the real "General Crabtree" had previous military experience, perhaps in the Mexican War, because he seemed to have great credibility as a recruiter and enough moxy to call himself a general and get by with such a claim.

Does that help clear up this mystery, or is the trail muddier than ever?
Bruce Nichols

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