The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

Re: Alvin Cobb, Hook-handed Guerrilla

Unsourced entries with lots of leads to follow.....

That night we marched some fifteen or twenty miles east-
ward to Brown's Spring, where early the next forenoon we
were reinforced by the company of Captain L. M. Frost,
under command of Lieutenant John Bowles, a few days
before organized and recruited in Boone County, except
seven members from Randolph, and an hour or two later
by that of Captain Alvin Cobb, the most dreaded bush-
whacker, with the possible exception of Bill Anderson, in
North Missouri.

Here is the story of the murder of Col Benjamin Sharp that Union authorities were still looking to arrest Cobb for after the war. I guess Cobb never was "paroled"

Sharp and Cobb: A Violent End
West of St. Louis, due north of the Missouri River, was territory known as “Little Dixie” for its concentration of Confederate sympathizers. Some Unionists lived there as well, including lawyer Benjamin Sharp, once a student in the first class at the Virginia Military Institute. He married and in 1843 settled in Danville, Mo., close to members of his family; in 1854 he was elected to a seat in the Missouri Senate.

Among his neighbors in central Missouri was the Cobb family, including son Alvin Cobb, a notorious Rebel bushwhacker. Cobb and Sharp were acquainted, but they could hardly have been more different: While Sharp was an articulate politician, the one-armed Cobb was known as “a man of few words,” according to a Sharp descendant; while Sharp was an idealist and a courageous soldier, Cobb was a brutal renegade.

In July 1861 Col. Sharp and fellow soldier Lt. A. Jager were heading to Mexico, Mo., in a horse and buggy, with orders to raise a regiment for the Union cause. But they took a wrong turn, and as they circled round south of Martinsburg, Cobb’s men ambushed them, firing on the unsuspecting pair. Both were badly wounded but not killed outright.

An 1885 history of Montgomery County picks up the story. Cobb “told them they must die, and asked them if they wished to pray. Jager made no answer, but Sharp kneeled down and prayed God to ... grant that the armies of the Union might be successful, and the Union itself preserved to his posterity forever. Ben Sharp died as he had lived, brave as a lion, devoted to the Union cause. ... The prayer finished ... both men were shot kneeling; then they were taken off and buried.”

Today, a tall monument in a weedy cemetery south of Interstate 70 in Danville marks the resting place of Sharp. It was commissioned by the local Masonic Lodge, to which he belonged. The town of Danville was largely leveled a few years after Sharp’s death; in October 1864 most of it was burned by another group of Rebel guerrillas, who also killed several townspeople. One building left unharmed was the chapel of the Danville Female Academy, which Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation is now planning to restore.
Cobb was 1 armed from previous fight prior to Civil War.

John Mullen gave us an excellent program on "Fate and the Familiar Bushwhacker." John pointed out that one inescapable truth during the Civil War was that "You know the one who kills you." Lincoln knew John Wilkes Booth. During the battle of Fredericksburg one rebel turned over the body of a 17 year old Federal and saw it was his brother. A Union General by the name of Jefferson C. Davis shot and killed his superior, Major General William "Bull" Nelson in a hotel lobby because of the way Nelson had treated him. In the Battle of Galveston Bay Confederate Major A. M. Lea boarded a Union ship that the Confederates had just captured and found his own son among the wounded who later died in his arms.

This general principal held true in Montgomery County, Missouri where Benjamin Sharp, practiced law in Danville, Missouri and became a staunch Union Man. Alvin Cobb "a one-armed bushwhacker captain" who came from a good family that had moved to Montgomery County about 1825. Both the Sharp and Cobb families lived about 3 miles north of Danville not over 1/2 mile apart. On July 18, 1861, a band of confederate bushwhackers under Alvin Cobb, murdered Ben Sharp near Martinsburg.

When the war broke out Ben Sharp was an ardent Unionist, and in favor of coercing the Southern States back to their allegiance. He went to St. Louis, saw General Lyon and got authority to raise a regiment in North Missouri for Federal service. With a paper to this effect in his pocket he started home, and accompanied the Eighth Missouri battalion on the train from St. Charles to Montgomery City. Here he stopped and attended a funeral. He confided to a few intimate friends that he was on his way to Mexico. There under the protection of the Union forces, he would make a speech and begin the raising of a regiment of loyal Audrain, Callaway and Montgomery county men.

When Melter's company came to Montgomery City, Lieutenant Yager was sick and went on the train to Wellsville. At Wellsville, Ben Sharp agreed to accompany Yager to Mexico. They borrowed a buggy and hitched up Yager's horse and started by dirt road for Mexico. West of Wellsville, where the Mexico road turned to the North, the old road had been fenced up, and the new road turned about the fence and was somewhat obscure. Here Sharp and Yager, instead of turning north, kept on westward, taking the road to Williamsburg by way of Broadwater's Mill, on Whetstone creek.

Captain Daniel Bryan and his company of Montgomery county secessionists were lying in the woods among the Whetstone hills. They saw Sharp and Yager, but refused to fire upon them or attempt to take them prisoners. Near the mill they met a man who informed them that they were on the wrong road, and told them how they could turn back and enter the Mexico road at Martinsburg. They circled about toward the north-east and started for Martinsburg.

When Alvin Cobb heard that Bryan would not fire on Sharp and Yager, he gathered some six or eight men and struck across the country. They arrived at a point one half mile west of Martinsburg on the east side of James Martin's farm, where his outside fence came up to the road. There were some bushes and a slough making off to the South. Here Alvin Cobb, Frank Cobb and about six more men concealed themselves.

Sharp and Yager soon put in an appearance leisurely driving along and chatting pleasantly and familiarly, unconscious of their imminent peril. After they had driven past Martin's house and the village of Martinsburg was in sight Cobb roared "Fire!" With his left arm bearing his bridle-reign caught in his "hook," with his right Cobb fired his revolver fairly at Ben Sharp. Two or three double-barreled shotguns and as many revolvers poured in a volley and one revolver bullet and a full load of buckshot entered Sharp's body. One load of buckshot shattered Yager's arm and tore it nearly off. The horse attached to the buggy was badly frightened and sprang forward, unrestrained, in a dead run. Half the distance to town Yager tumbled to the road. The frantic horse which Sharp was unable to control, entered Martinsburg at full speed. It dashed the buggy against the corner of the railroad cattle pen, throwing Sharp out and destroying the wagon. The horse then sprang off and was not caught until the next day.

The bushwhackers stopped and took up Sharp's body and put it on a horse. Yager was taken to Mrs. Coyle's home where she began ministering to him as best she could. She was starting to cut off his arm with a pair of shears when Cobb and some of his men rode up and asked for "that d--d Dutch man," and rudely and brutally tore him from the ladies' arms and put him on a horse and bore him away. Cobb later told that he bore Sharp and Yager north of Martinsburg into Audrain county where he helped the prisoners to the ground and told them they must die, and asked if they wished to pray. Yager made no answer. Sharp kneeled down and prayed God to bless and protect his wife and children, to forgive his sins, to grant that the armies of the union might be successful, and that the Union itself preserved to his posterity forever. After the prayer both men were shot kneeling. They were then taken off and buried.

Capt."One Armed" Alvin Cobb

A little known Missouri Guerrilla
Montgomery County, Missouri The genealogical information is the results of my own research. Some information is documented and some is not. As with any information on line, you should verify it yourself before accepting it as fact. Corrections welcome - email: JRBAKERJR

Capt."One Armed" Alvin Cobb, Missouri Guerrilla and Confederate Soldier
Alvin Cobb was a pre-war secessionist in Montgomery County Missouri, farming in the Loutre Valley. He was called "one arm Alvin", because he had one arm, the other being lost in a pre-war hunting accident. He had a hook attached to his bad arm. Alvin began the war as the Captain of a company of Missouri State Guard Cavalry, under Dorsey's Command, fighting in conventional battles at Mount Zion, Moores Mill, and probably at the First Battle of Danville in 1861. Cobb's unit also served with Poindexter and Porter's Campaigns in Northern Missouri, fighting a number of bloody battles.
He reportedly rode into battle holding his reins with his hook, and a revolver in his hand. He carried three pistols and a short rifle. Alvin was a mountaineer, forty five years old, six feet tall, well formed, and weighing about one hundred eighty pounds. His hair hung down to his shoulders, and his face was covered with beard reaching to the waist. His eyes were grey and piercing. He presented an awesome sight to his foes on the battlefield.
Cobbs first action as a Guerrilla was probably the ambush of Major Sharp and Lt. Yager in Martinsburg, Missouri in July of 1861 and his excecution of the two prisoners. The Union forces in Montgomery and Callaway Counties went all out to get him. Patrols were sent to all parts of both counties and the result was the confiscation of property from anyone suspected of Southern ties.
After the Excecution of Sharp and Yager, according to the report of Colonel Fulkerson, his command followed a blood trail from Audrain County to Cobb's Farm in Cobbtown in the southern part of Montgomery County. This seems unlikely since Cobbs unit was not engaged by Sharp and Yager and there are no reports of Union troops engaging Confederate Cavalry during the time period. More likely information was given by Union sympathizers.Colonel Fulkerson contacted Mrs. Cobb at the Cobb farm and under questioning Mrs. Cobb confirmed that Alvin had returned home and admitted to killing Sharp and Yager and had even shown her documents taken from Sharps body, probably his authorization to raise a Union Regiment. In appreciation for Mrs. Cobbs confirmation of his suspicions, Colonel Fulkerson ordered the Cobb house and outbuildings burned, the grain, foodstuffs and live stock confiscated, along with wagons in which to haul the plunder.
By this time Alvin had gone to brush. He was making quite a name for himself as a Bushwhacker, excecuting unionist citizens, ambushing union patrols and harrassing the rail lines. In 1861 and 1862, Alvin Cobb cut a bloody swath through Central Missouri, especially the counties of Boone, Callaway and Howard. General Sterling Price ordered a harrasment campaign against the rail lines in Missouri. As a part of this Cobb and a cavalry force under Capt. Bill Meyers attacked Wellsville, Missouri, After setting fire to the depot and several rail cars, the raiders broke into the store of Mr. Kempinski where they tapped a barrel of whiskey and proceeded to clean out the store, They confiscated all of Kempinski's wagons and horses to move their recently aquired loot.
When it began to get too hot for him in Missouri, Alvin went to Indian Territory in 1864 and aligned himself and his small command with Stand Watie’s Cherokee Confederates. His wife joined him there briefly, but apparently she found the Territory not to her liking and rode back to Montgomery County on an Indian pony. Upon reaching home she filed for a divorce.
The Federal Army, under the diresrion of Secretary of War Stanton, kept looking for Alvin. Throughout 1866, they were trying to find him in Arkansas, Indian Territory, Texas and New Orleans. They came close in the Chocktaw Nation but he managed to slip away. They never caught him.
The Search For Alvin Cobb (pdf file)
He was in California living with three nephews in 1870 and was single. Then, in the 1870's, he went back back to Indian Territory.
Alvin married Frances (Carico) McCart, widow of Albert McCart in 1878 in Indian Territory. She had a number of McCart children, all born in Texas, and Alvin raised them. They went to Laramie, Wyoming before 1880, then to Oregon by 1882.Several of his Cobb relatives from Montgomery County lived there. Alvin and Frances divorced in Oregon, then later remarried there.
They went to Shasta Co., California and were there in 1900 together. He was 82 and she was 58. Her son, Charles M. McCart was with them.
She died 18 Feb 1914 in San Jose, Santa Clara, California She was listed as a widow on the 1910 census, so Alvin probably died in California between 1900 and 1910.

The Family

Generation 1
Samuel COBB b: 1761 in Sussex County, Delaware
Magdalene PEVELER b: 1775 Virginia

Generation 2
Samuel Cobb JR. b: 1792 in Mason County, Kentucky
Died 30 AUG 1881 in Montgomery County, Missouri

Marriage 1 Sarah SAYLOR b: about 1791 in Harrison Co. VA (W.V.)
Died: 1837 in Montgomery County, Missouri
Married: in Fleming County, Kentucky 27 OCT 1811.

1. Alvin S. COBB b: June 1818
2. Shelton John COBB b: 1819
3. Allen A. COBB TWIN b: 9-27-1824
4. Alfred COBB TWIN b: 9-27-1824
5. John COBB b: 1826
6. Jonathan COBB
7. Delila COBB
8. Cynthia COBB
9. Besty COBB
10. Ann COBB
11. Asa COBB
12. Isaac COBB b: 1836

Marriage 2 Senora TAYLOR b: 1793
Married in Montgomery Co., missouri

1. Octavia A. COBB b: 9-18-1838
2. Magdalean COBB b: 1840
3. Virginia COBB b: 1844
4. Prentiss COBB b: 5-27-1862

Generation 3
Alvin COBB was born June 1818 in Kentucky

Marriage 1 Lucy LOGAN b: 1812
1. Milton COBB b: 1843

Marriage 2 ca. 1878 Indian Territory
Frances (Carrico) McCart born 17 Feb 1842 Illinois, widow of Albert McCart (of Hunt Co., Texas).
Alvin raised her McCart children (there were many).
She died 18 Feb 1914 in San Jose, Santa Clara, California

Alvin's and Frances' known Children:

Martha COBB b. ca. 1879 INDIAN TERRITORY
Alvin Lafayette COBB b. 27 July 1882, in Willow, Oregon

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Alvin Cobb, Hook-handed Guerrilla
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