The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

Brief Account of Crabtree Research

Today's Facebook post from the Miller County Historical Society page: We're often asked "Who was General Crabtree?" by people researching the Civil War era in Miller County. This is not a retelling of the accounts of his activities. Those accounts can be reviewed at:…/index3.html. Multiple sources state that he was a Confederate recruiter. The reason he was sent to the southern Cole/northern Miller County area may lie in the events of July 1861. There was a meeting at the end of July to replace the elected governor, state officials, and state legislators all ousted when federal forces captured Jefferson City in June. On July 21 Mulligan's Irish Brigade from Chicago arrived by train in Jefferson City. Two companies of the Irish Brigade, two companies of Home Guard, and a company of Cavalry left Jefferson City for Hickory Hill and Pleasant Mount on July 25th. Newspapers across the nation reported that on July 28th this detachment "attacked and routed a force of 350 rebels at Hickory Hill." They took prisoner "Captain Miller of Pleasant Mount and Captain Eli Crisp of Hickory Hill along with about 20-25 others and marched them to Jefferson City. A large amount of stores and a number of valuable horses were captured. Colonel Mulligan is pressing forward in rapid pursuit to Spring Garden, at which point, information has been received there are five hundred rebels entrenched in a church." The published attention given to the Hickory Hill area possibly encouraged Confederate leaders to send a recruiter.
Louis/Lewis Pinkney Crabtree arrived in mid-Missouri by September 1861 and was appointed Lieutenant of the Clark Township State Guard in southern Cole County. By the end of the month Crabtree "was ready to deliver recruits to the Confederacy by dashing for Thomasville, but needed wagons, supplies, and provisions for the trip." Thomasville, near the Eleven Point River, was an enlistment center for Confederate forces. Crabtree "ordered out in every direction all squads of men to hit every place opposed to the South, then regroup on Clinkingbeard Creek."
Stealing, banditry, and destruction followed through mid-October. Crabtree returned the next year to take another group of recruits to Thomasville, then remained in this area until his death in 1864. Census records indicate he was from Kentucky, but no link has been established to a specific family line. On March 6, 1862, Louis Pinkney Crabtree married Mariah/Mary Ross Burris. She was the oldest of seven children born to William and Mary Upchurch Burris from Tennessee. The family came to Missouri about 1859.
Her father, William Burris, was arrested and taken to Jefferson City in July 1862. He was ordered released upon taking the oath of allegiance and posting one thousand dollars bond. William Burris stated he was residing at St. Thomas and "in Cole and Miller Counties." His surety for the bond was provided by George B. Winston, long-time friend of Fountain McKenzie. McKenzie was the first Captain of the Clark Township State Guard and a fellow Mexican-American War veteran. He was killed at the Battle of Carthage. William's second daughter, Sally Dial Burris, died on August 7, a month before her 17th birthday. On August 10 the Jefferson City Provost Marshal was ordered to take William Burris back into custody and to forfeit his bond.
August 17, 1862, saw Crabtree and his men on the upper reaches of the Little Tavern Creek, near present day Henley, "stirred with movement, for having filled with recruits, preparations were being made for departure. Past midnight on the morning of the 18th these men commenced dashing south through Jim Henry Township." John Bond, a Lieutenant of the Clark Township State Guard, testified that he went with the men to Thomasville. Mary's father and two of her brothers may have been part of this group of recruits. Her father, William, and brother, Stephen Morgan Burris, were killed in December at the Battle of Prairie Grove in Arkansas.
On Christmas Eve 1862 Mariah Burris Crabtree gave birth to their son, Louis Pinkney Crabtree, Jr. Her husband was operating out of the caves along the Big Tavern Creek. The events of 1864, including: sending the Bond girls to Gratiot Prison, the skirmish near the Tellman farm, the execution of John Wilcox, the executions at Curtman Island, and the shooting of Crabtree have been detailed elsewhere. According to the Burris family, Crabtree's final burial site was in a small family plot beside Sally Dial Burris and Anna Bardell Upchurch on private property in southern Cole County.
The surviving members of the William Burris family left central Missouri about 1869. In 1880 Mary Burris Crabtree was living in Gray Summit in Franklin County with her son Louis, her mother, and her brother, Craven Burris. Louis was 17 and working for the railroad. Both widows passed away in the 1890's. In 1881 Craven married Annie Upchurch. He later returned to Miller County and lived in Eldon with his son, Charles "Curley" Burris, a Rock Island Railroad engineer.
There was no place more complicated and dangerous than Missouri during the Civil War.
Source documentation was omitted due to the length of the post. Please comment below if interested in the documentation for a specific statement.