Sept 5 1864 Missouri State Times / Columbia Tribune
ROCHEPORT -- James Lyons, pressed into service as a guide by Bill Anderson’s guerrillas, barely escaped with his life when he told the guerrilla leader -- already enraged by his gang’s inability to capture a steamboat -- that he was going home.
Anderson and “his thieving, murdering, misbegotten, God-forsaken, hell-deserving followers” had firm control of this Boone County river port, the Jefferson City Missouri State Times reported. They attempted to stop two steamboats this day, with one guerrilla, Harvey Rucker of Rocheport, wounded severely as he attempted to board.
The constant presence of the guerrillas had destroyed business in Rocheport and was driving families away, business manager William Crump wrote to his employer, Moses Barth, in Philadelphia. “There has been so much excitement in the vicinity of Rocheport that no person comes to town except for their mail or to the mill,” Crump wrote.
Lyons was promised he could leave as soon as he led the men into Rocheport, but Anderson’s men would not let him past the pickets. As he was passing Smith’s Hotel, one of the gang told Anderson that Lyons wanted to leave and was “deserting” them, according to Lyons’ version quoted in the 1882 “History of Boone County.”
He tried to explain, Lyons recalled. “Whereupon without any provocation whatever, he seized a chair that was nearby and struck me,” Lyons wrote. “I caught the chair and held it. He then drew his revolver and struck at me, which blow I managed also to ward off.”
A man named Benjamin Mead grabbed Anderson and told Lyons to run. When a guerrilla threatened to kill him if he did so, another man grabbed the guerrilla and again told Lyons to run. He didn’t have to be told again.
“I ran through the hall of the Hotel into the back yard ... and made directly for the river bank, which I knew would conceal me from any one in town, and in this way made my escape,” he wrote.
Anderson’s men first tried to stop a steamboat bound downstream, with varying accounts identifying it as either the Yellowstone or the New Sam Gaty. “One person on board the boat is particularly deserving of mention, that person is the chamber-maid,” the Missouri State Times reported. “When the firing commenced she walked out on the deck, and remained in plain view of the bushwhackers, as the bullets were flying thick and fast, and as Anderson on his black horse at the head of them was seen to fall. ... She clapped her hands and shouted, ‘good, good.’ ”
The Mars, a boat owned by Capt. Henry McPherson of Boonville, was coming upstream when the guerrillas attacked it. The boat stopped in the channel, with the guerrillas thinking it was surrendering. Rucker and Jim Anderson, brother of the gang’s leader, got in a skiff to board the boat. As he was climbing up, a guard with a shotgun fired at Rucker, wounding him severely in the arm and leg.
Rucker’s arm was amputated that afternoon.