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Re: Sue Munday Womacks
In Response To: Re: Sue Munday ()

Sue Munday Womacks:

In late February 1916, Sue Mundy Womacks sat down with Fred Harris, a reporter from the Kansas City Post, to give her recollection of the stirring events on the Kansas-Missouri border during the Civil War some fifty years earlier. She had been a child at the time, not more than ten years of age. Yet she remembered distinctly the rap of a rifle butt on the door of her married sister's home on a farm in Jackson County, Missouri, where she and her orphaned sister and brother were living. It was the Kansas Union troops, which she variously referred to as the "Federals" or the dread "Red Legs," so named because of the red stripes down the legs of their uniforms. On this particular day in late July 1863, the Union troops came to her sister's house and arrested all the women and girls present, allegedly for smuggling arms and ammunition for the guerrillas, a charge that Womacks hotly denied in the 1916 interview. They were taken to Kansas City and placed in a hotel, as Kansas City had no suitable prison for women at the time; about a week later, they were moved to a building that had been hastily converted into a makeshift women's prison. This building collapsed shortly thereafter, killing four of the women inside and seriously wounding several others. Kansas City Post, February 27, 1916.

Sue Mundy Womacks was not the only female involved in the Kansas City jail disaster to leave an account of women's role in the guerrilla war on the western border. Elizabeth Harris Deal, who was Eliza Harris in 1863, published a recollection in the same issue of the Kansas City Post in 1916. She was the younger sister of Nannie Harris, another of the women in the Kansas City jail when it collapsed in early August 1863. According to her account, her sister, Nannie, was arrested with their cousin, Charity McCorkle Kerr, while on a trip to Kansas City to have a wagonload of wheat ground into flour. Like Womacks, Deal claimed that the women were charged with "smuggling arms and ammunition" for the bushwhackers, a charge she likewise vehemently denied. She surmised that her sister and cousin were actually arrested because they had encountered their uncle, Harry Younger, a notorious guerrilla, on the road into Kansas City. Shortly thereafter a group of ten mounted "Red Legs" rode by, and the women heard shots and wondered if their uncle had been wounded. "We never knew what the [real] charge was against my sister and Charity," Deal concluded, "but I guess those horsemen were afraid they knew who killed Harry Younger." Nannie Harris would die in the collapse of the prison, another apparently innocent victim guilty only, according to her sister, of being related to men in the bush—an innocent bystander, or perhaps an inconvenient witness, as Eliza Deal recounted, of Kansas Union soldier violence. Kansas City Star, November 19, 1911. As Harry Younger was killed in 1862, this explanation for why the women were arrested in the summer of 1863 appears highly unlikely. See Charles F. Harris, "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison in Kansas City," Missouri Historical Review 89, no. 3 (April 1995): 297. For another, similar account by Mrs. Flora Stevens, also a sister of one of the other imprisoned women, see Kansas City Star, May 2, 1912.

As Womacks went on to explain in her interview in the Post, it was not just the Mundys who were arrested that day in her sister's house; it was also Mary, Josie, and Jennie Anderson, sisters of the already notorious Bill Anderson, Quantrill's captain. Indeed, the "Federals" were very busy in the last week of July, arresting nearly a dozen of the sisters and wives of the region's leading guerrillas, not just the Mundys and the Andersons but also Nannie Harris, Charity McCorkle Kerr, Armenia Crawford Selvey, and Susan Crawford Van Dever, all of whom were related to other notorious men in the bush, among them the Youngers, the Crawfords, and the McCorkles.

see: Whites, L. (2011). Forty Shirts and a Wagonload of Wheat: Women, the Domestic Supply Line, and the Civil War on the Western Border. The Journal of the Civil War Era 1(1), 56-78.

So it appears that there was a push to arrest a large number of women associated with area guerrillas that were rounded up not necessarily caught in the act of smuggling but because they were accused of "aiding and abetting". These first person stories though 30 to 40 years after the fact make me believe there has been historical conflation about who and why ended up in the jail. Sue Munday Womacks certainly claims to be taken from home and would have bee about 10 years old at the time. So I am not sure about a "sister of Jim Wyatt" and the wagon story smacks of the tale of Nannie Harris and her cousin Charity McCorkle Kerr.

Messages In This Thread

Quantrill's man, Jim Wyatt
Re: Quantrill's man, Jim Wyatt
KC Jail Collapse, Starr Connection?
Re: Sue Munday
Re: Sue Munday Womacks
Sue Munday wasn't 10, she was 16
Re: Sue Munday wasn't 10, she was 16
Re: Sue Munday wasn't 10, she was 16