The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

Capture of Sedalia

Its Late Defence and Capture
Sedalia, October 26, 1864
Editors Missouri Democrat:
In yours of the 24th incl., are remarks over the signature of “Waldo” in reference to the capture of Sedalia by the Confederates, under command of General Jeff Thompson.
“Waldo” was not here, as I infer, nor has any correct idea of the place, nor of its inability to resist a larger and overpowering army, composed of old soldiers, well supplied with small arms and artillery. “Waldo” states the number of rebels to be one thousand, when it is generally stated to have been fifteen hundred, with a reserve a short distance from town of an additional one thousand or fifteen hundred. He also states that the garrison here was composed of eight hundred well armed men and in excellent entrenchments.
The formidable garrison here, of which he speaks, was considerably less than 500 men-poorly equipped-all just called in from their homes, or refugees who had fled their firesides to escape the bushwhackers; and a majority of these entirely undrilled in military affairs, and perfectly inoffensive when on horseback, who were expected to do the duty of regular cavalrymen. The “excellent entrenchments” of which he speaks were a very few ditches, at different points around the town, dug to the depth of about a foot, and perhaps were about half as wide again; and the earth thrown out from these slight and short ditches formed the “immense fortifications,” behind which the citizens were to resist Jeff Thompson's formidable army. Some of these “immense breastworks” had ten or a dozen, or perhaps twenty, men in them.
It had been understood from the first, that the preparations which had been made were for the purpose of resisting bushwhackers, who were in the neighborhood in large numbers, robbing and murdering to an alarming extent, and I have often heard it remarked that this citizen force could and would keep bushwhackers out, but could not possibly make successful resistance against Price's army; and that it was the duty of the citizen guard to retreat, in case the rebel army came against the place, and save the horses and what arms they had from falling into their hands.
When Price's army came in heavy force and threw shot and shell into this frail plank town-not a stone nor a brick structure in it-they did retreat, as they should have done under the circumstances, and by thus doing saved, not only the lives of women, children and non-combatants, and the burning of the town; but saved all the horses, I believe, and what arms they could carry off. I would not detract from the bravery of any one, and I think that body of men as brave as any under similar circumstances. And it is true that those “immense fortifications” were not generally occupied by the Citizen Guard, and resistance was not made, nor could be, only at two or perhaps three of them. I am not sure that resistance was made in more than one of them, and that was by a little squad under command of Mr. Frank McCabe; they did resist, and they did execution, yet they were speedily surrounded, and of course surrendered.
It may be possible that the men of whom he speaks as having “determined to make a show of resistance,” were with Mr. McCabe.
As regards Colonel John D. Crawford and Lieutenant Colonel John D(?). Parker, who were in command, it is conceded that they had done all that could have been done under the circumstances.
Their labors and watchfulness during the two weeks previous were arduous; and they deserve commendation, inasmuch as they, with the other citizens, prevented the sacking and burning of the town by the bushwhackers.
What I have said above, no doubt, will be appreciated by those knowing the facts, and now I will add what will, perhaps, not be appreciated by some.
We had feared that, when the rebel army should come in, great excesses would be committed, and perhaps the town razed to the ground; yet General Jeff Thompson made apparently every exertion to preserve order in his command after getting possession of the place, and I have heard of no one case of personal abuse from his men-true they took from the stores, livery stables and citizens generally, a large amount of property.
After Thompson's command left the town, it was feared that a party might linger behind and do much damage. Such fears were partially realized. At about ten o'clock at night the water tank was fired, and a party went to the depot to fire it, when the ladies from Captain Henry's hotel (the Parker House) followed the men to the building, and prevailed upon them to desist. Thanks to those ladies for their influence and good sense. The burning of the depot would have been the destruction of the town.