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The Underground Rebels of St. Louis County.


September 1862

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, September 1, 1862.


Discovery of Col. Boone’s Headquarters—Interesting Visit of a Spy—Nocturnal Excursion of Col. McConnell with a Hundred Men—Disappearance of Boone & Co-Conspirators in the City, Arrests, &c.

Major Livingston, who is Police Chief at the office of the District Provost Marshal General, last week received intelligence that a camp of armed rebels was secretly forming in the vicinity of the residence of a Mrs. Sappington, about ten miles distant from the city, between the Manchester rock road and the Olive street plank road.  It was on good grounds suspected that the rebel Colonel John Boone was in that vicinity, and with other rebel officers was in the habit of visiting Mrs. Sappington’s house.  This is the same Col. Boone who was in the rebel company surprised some weeks ago in Jefferson county, and forty of whom were captured by Lieut. Schnell.  (It is not, however, the noted jail-breaker, Hampton L. Boone.)  To get more satisfactory information, Major Livingston instructed one of his corps to disguise himself, assume the character of a rebel bearer of dispatches, and seek an interview with Col. Boone.

This ingenious scheme was excellently carried out, and was successful.  The spy appeared at the residence of Mrs. Sappington, and found strange gentlemen were present.  He announced himself as a bearer of special dispatches, and insisted upon a speedy interview with Col. Boone.  Mrs. Sappington vigorously assured him that the person he took for Colonel Boone was only a Mr. Johnson of the neighborhood.  The spy still averred that he must see the Colonel, that “it was all right,” &c., until a gentleman believed to be Boone’s adjutant, said he was satisfied the man was a true messenger and no impostor, and should be introduced to Col. Boone.  Mrs. Sappington then explained that she had taken the pretended courier for Captain Carpenter of the Jesse Scouts, and therefore had denied Boone’s presence.  Finding her mistake, she begged the messenger’s pardon, and was glad to see him.  He was therefore conducted to an inner room, introduced to Col. John Boone, whom he found writing at a table.

To him he said that with great difficulty and at imminent risk he had brought important dispatches from General McBride, but had been compelled to secrete and leave them in St. Louis for the present, for the reason that he was suspected and watched, and could not get out of the city without being searched.  Boone was reticent and inquisitorial, but seemed, at length, impressed that his visitor was truthful, yet deemed it not prudent to become communicative with him.

The house was soon surrounded by a party who suspected the visitor to be a spy, and desired particular information respecting him.  He was compelled to take an enormous oath of allegiance to the Southern Confederacy, before being permitted to depart.  At length he returned to St. Louis, arriving at 4 P. M. Friday, and satisfied Col. McConnell that the rebel camp was in the vicinity suspected, and that at least Col. Boone, and probably some of his staff, might be taken by a surprise march.

Col. McConnell applied to Gen. Schofield for authority to take a hundred men and move by night to the locality.  Leave was of course granted.  A party of 40 cavalry and 50 infantry, with Maj. Livingston and his “spy,” U. S. Police Chief Tunnicliff and several of his corps, all under Col. McConnell, left Camp Gamble at 12 o’clock Friday night, to search for Col. Boone and company.

When within three miles of Mrs. Sappington’s house, at two o’clock in the morning, the country residences in all directions were seen to exhibit lighted windows, for the evident purpose of informing the rebel band than an enemy was at hand.  The advance guard halted at and surrounded Mrs. Sappington’s at about 3 A. M., but found in the house only the proprietress and her family, the latter consisting of two ladies, several negroes, and three hired hands engaged for threshing grain.  Squads were dispatched in all directions and the country was scoured for miles, without the discovery of a camp or the vestige of one.  Reliable information was received that Colonel Boone and staff of four officers, had for days previous been in the habit of visiting Mrs. Sappington’s at about 8 P. M., taking supper and remaining till 10 P. M., when they would depart and disappear in the woods.  They returned at an early hour each morning, breakfasted, and again left, each time going in about the same direction.

Col. McConnell and a portion of the force returned to St. Louis, leaving the most of the cavalry to continue the sea[r]ch for some traces of the hiding rebels, or if they were fleeing, to find and follow their trail.  Up to last night we had heard nothing to the success of those left behind.

With the first information of the rebel Colonel’s whereabouts was received, other facts were learned, of a nature leading to an order for the arrest of Mr. Absalom Blakesly, a well known merchant tailor on Fourth street.  He was believed to be in intercourse with Boone, and Boone with him.  The order also required the arrest of all persons who should be at or should visit his premises.  Blakely was made a prisoner and a guard remained around his residence.  Thither at length came two way-worn passengers who were at once arrested and conducted to the office of the District Provost Marshal General.  By this time Major Livingston’s “spy” had returned, and on the entrance of the prisoners he instantly recognized one of them as a man he had seen a few hours before at Mrs. Sappington’s.  The man gave his name as Alphonse Dupree, and was soon able in turn to recognize the pretended “dispatch bearer.”  Dupree frankly avowed that Boone and the rebel officers had been at Mrs. Sappington’s, and that their camp had been located at a safe distance and locality in that region.  The other captive was named Samuel D. Hendell.

At Blakely’s house was found certain correspondence extensively implicating certain persons in the city and county.  Arrests were subsequently made of Alfred L. Lowry, B. W. Mead, Wm. Bevin, Mr. Doroughty, Geo. W. Wayne, Jas. Barclay, Thomas Churchill, and J. Bascom.  These persons were taken before the Assistant Provost Marshal General and variously disposed of.  Doroughty, Wade and Barclay were discharged, and the others paroled to appear for further examination.

Blakesly is charged with aiding the rebels, and especially with having furnished five of them with pistols at $20 each.

Still more interesting and more satisfactory developments are expected soon to follow.  It is hoped that Boone, who escaped capture some weeks ago, getting off with a flesh wound in the cheek, will soon be placed where it will be out of his power to work mischief.