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More about the Cole Camp Affair.


July/August 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, July 6, 1861.

More about the Cole Camp Affair.



BENTON COUNTY, Mo., June 25, 1861.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

According to promise made you when I left St. Louis, I avail myself of the first opportunity of communicating any facts occurring in our vicinity. When I reached home I found my men anxiously waiting, and in much danger from the numerous guerilla parties scouting through the country, disarming men and endeavoring to press the young men into the service of the State under Jackson. The danger of impressments, and still greater danger of violence to the persons and property of loyal citizens made it apparent, in fact necessary, that those who stood most in danger should go into encampment, with such arms and equipments as were at hand. Accordingly, on the 18th inst., I ordered the men to remain and go into drill preparatory to receiving government arms. The arms on hand amounted to between three and six hundred rifles, shot guns, &c., and a small amount of ammunition, say one dozen rounds. From the time of going into camp, citizens continued to come into camp for protection, until some ten or twelve hundred were assembled, most of whom were sworn into the service. We were beset with spies on every hand, several of whom were arrested and discharged upon taking an oath not to bear arms, or in any way give support to the enemies of the general government. Nevertheless, by strategy, on the morning of the 19th inst., at half past three o’clock, the rebels under command of Capt. O’Kane, of Warsaw Greys, amounting to some six or eight hundred, made an attack upon the men in the barn in which my quarters were located, having first killed my picket guard, stationed seven miles from camp, flanking second and third pickets and approaching outer sentinels some half mile from camp, with the American flag flying, representing themselves to be a company of Union men who were driven from Hickory county and wished to join my forces in camp, for protection and service. Obtaining the password from the first sentry, killing him with a bowie knife, they then passed all posts, six in number, with password until their arrival at the barn, when the glimmering dawn of day discovered to the sentry at the barn the true character of the parties who had so adroitly approached the camp. He discharged his gun and ran, giving the first alarm to the sleeping men, who instantly rose to their feet and seized their guns, receiving the fire of the rebels as they rose. Notwithstanding the surprise, the men behaved coolly as the circumstances would admit. The men of Capt. Elsner’s command doing effective work at the west door of the barn, in connection with Capt. Carl Brill. Capt. Curren at the first fire drove the rebels from the east door of the barn, who joined the main body on the west side. Capt. Curren, assisted by Lieutenants Rand and Tucker, also assisted by Capt. Odell, and a small number of men (most of his men being on guard duty) reformed, and gave the rebels a warm reception. At this time, Capt. Miller, of the Home Guard, arrived with his men in good order from the barn in which they were quartered a quarter mile distant south, exposed to the full force of the fire of the rebels. He refused to fire at the rebels on account of their having seized upon the flag flying at my quarteres, and carried it backward and forward before their men—until they received the first fire, by which Capt. Miller and three sons were wounded, when they discovered their mistake and fired into the rebels, doing much mischief. Captains Munty, Papa and Groather, in command of Home Guards, being poorly armed, did what they could until their ammunition failed, when it became necessary for the officers to order a retreat, skirmishing as they found they had ammunition and opportunity to do so. The first action lasted about thirty minutes, and the skirmishing for some three hours later. The result of the battle was fifteen killed and twenty-five wounded, nine of whom have since died. The rebels carried off thirty-five killed and mortally wounded, leaving eleven on the field or near it, capturing twenty-three prisoners, taking their arms, our wagon and harness, and a few horses and mules belonging to persons in camp, and two citizens who resided at the camp. Among those killed of the federal forces, were Capt. Carl Brill and Lieut. Kaustiner, under Capt. Odell. The most important among those of the rebel forces killed, were J. H. Leach, editor of Southwest Democrat, A. B. Whipple, attorney, and nephew of Judge Ballon, Lieut. Howser, post master, a Mr. Gill, artist, Allen G. Kemper, of Cole Camp, also, Deputy Sheriff Keown, of Warsaw.

Among the incidents noticeable, were two volleys discharged, by order, at me, neither of which did any material damage. The treatment of the dead, dying, and wounded, was brutal in the extreme. The treatment of the prisoners was equally brutal, striking them, knocking them down with the breech of their guns, refusing them subsistence, etc., etc.

I was among those who last left the camp, and left in company with Private Asa Knapp, and resorted to a place of safety within hearing of all that passed. The rebels left as precipitously as they came, and when gone Mr. Knapp and myself returned to the camp to learn the fate of the wounded—found them cheerful, patient and resolute, not a groan or a murmur was uttered. Those of their friends who were in attendance seemed to be willing to resume their places, and demand redress for the wrongs received. Among those who had lost husbands, lovers and brothers, I saw no tears, heard no regrets, but on the contrary expressed a desire to have an opportunity to avenge the blood spilled for their sakes. The most brutal act of the rebels was the killing of John Tyree, Esq., an old, respectable and wealthy inhabitant, one of the first settlers of Benton county, a Virginian by birth, a slaveholder, whose wife is own cousin to the immortal Henry Clay, who often declared that she would part with her last servant to obtain the means to support the cause of the general government. Judge Tyree was ruthlessly torn from his bed, and his negro man compelled to tie him, when his body was riddled with bullets.

Yours truly,

A. H. W. Cook
Mo. St. Vol., Commanding at Camp Lyon.

[This statement is verified by the officers under Capt. Cook, and we have no doubt is correct.]