ROCHEPORT -- Bill Anderson's guerrillas forced a small steamboat, the Esther Buffington, to come to shore with a hail of gunfire that killed the boat's captain and severely wounded a well-known Boone County abolitionist
The steamboat was used by the Missouri State Penitentiary and was on the return leg of a run to Boonville for a load of corn with a crew consisting mainly of convicts. The volley killed Thomas Waterman, a clerk at the penitentiary who was acting captain of the vessel. Pearce Buffington was wounded in the thigh, the bullet passing through his leg without hitting bone.
"It is impossible to conceive of a more brutal and unprovoked murder than this," the Jefferson City Missouri State Times reported. "The boat was totally unarmed and could have been captured without firing a shot. ... The behavior of the convicts is worthy of ... praise, and it is gratifying to know that the inmates of our penitentiary have too much self respect to turn to bushwhackers."
Some versions of the story have the steamboat at the Rocheport wharf, with Anderson's men firing as they charged, then using the boat for pleasure and business. "The guerrillas stoked up its boilers, and yelling and hooting churned up and down the Missouri, outrageously pleased at having a private navy," historian Richard Brownlee wrote in "Grey Ghosts of the Confederacy."
In the 1882 "History of Boone County," William Switzler wrote that the guerrillas were taken to the Cooper County side, where they "went into the interior and robbed many of the farmers of money, provisions and horses."
The Times, however, reported that the crew would not operate the boat despite threats from the guerrillas. "Every effort was made to induce them to cross the bushwhackers, but they refused."
From: 150 Years Ago: Guerrillas 'outrageously pleased' after capturing steamboat near Rocheport
By Rudi Keller email@example.com | 815-1709
Posted Aug 30, 2014 at 12:01 AM