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The Capture of Farmington.


September 1864

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, September 28, 1864.


Full Details—A Gallant Defense—The Garrison Burned Out—Depredations of the Rebs—Their anxious Hunt for a Darkie—Stores Sacked—Story of a Dying Rebel—Wholesale Conscription.

[Special Correspondent of the Missouri Democrat.]

IRONDALE, Monday, Sept. 26, 4 P. M.

The refugees from the town of Farmington, the county seat of St. Francois, sixteen miles from here, give me the following particulars of the capture of that place:

On Saturday afternoon, about four o’clock, the rebels made their appearance in the outskirts of the town, which was garrisoned by a squad numbering some dozen soldiers, of Colonel Fletcher’s regiment, the 47th Missouri, the squad being under command of Lieutenant Wilber, of company I. The little garrison made a gallant defense, fighting from the Court House, and succeeded in driving the rebels out of town. The citizen refugees are loud in their praise of the bravery of the boys of the 47th.

On Sunday morning at nine o’clock, the rebels again made their appearance in larger force than before, and surrounded the Court House, where the Union soldiers were garrisoned. Our men went into the upper story, and the rebels, despairing of making them surrender without a hard struggle, built a fire in the lower story of the building, when our men, seeing no alternative but surrender or burning alive, chose the former.

After having obtained possession of the town, the rebels continued to flock in large numbers, showing that they were in heavy force close to the place. They went first to the residence of Judge Carter, the judge of the circuit court, and took him prisoner, announcing to him that he could consider himself a conscript for the Confederate army, but by a shrewd artifice he escaped from their clutches. They took from him a pistol and several articles of clothing, and attempted to capture a horse which was in the pasture, but the Judge says the horse knew more than the rebels, for they couldn’t get the animal in their possession; though by some strategy that would do credit to [illegible] McClellan, they have probably done so by this time.

A darkey having fled to the Judge’s home, the rebels demanded that the Judge produce him; but the latter was ignorant of the affair, and the rebs busted around the house for him for some time, and finally gave up the search. The darkey had at first been concealed under the floor of the house, and afterwards in an outhouse. He eluded the vigilance of a whole platoon of Confederates, and is now safe on this side of Jordan.

Every dry goods store in the town—all of them being owned by Union men—were sacked, and the entire place stripped of everything that was of value to the rebs. The Caseys, father and son, lost heavily—between four and five thousand dollars. The rebels at one time had Mr. Ellis P. Casey, the county treasurer, in their hands, as a conscript, but he being sick and weak, they let him go; after first, however, having forcing him to open his safe and deliver up to them the county funds in his hands, amounting to some $400, besides some private money, making in all about a thousand dollars taken from him.

John Brock, seventeen years of age, was shot in the head by the rebels while attempting to get out of town, and killed instantly.

Jesse Elvins, a soldier of the 47th regiment, was severely wounded while defending the town.

One of the rebels was mortally wounded, and while dying, stated that Sterling Price was at Fredericktown with 13,000 men.

As near as could be ascertained, the notorious Captain Dick Bews had command of the force which captured Farmington.

Among the conscripted in Farmington was Ed Sebastian, a son of Judge Sebastian, young Meredith, and other leading citizens. The rebs announced that they had orders to conscript every male between the ages of sixteen and fifty. No distinction is made between Union men and secesh.

Mr. Evans had recently completed a mill at the expense of $15,000—this the rebs took possession of, and sent word to Mr. E., who was concealed outside of the town, that if he did not come in and run it for them, they would burn it to the ground.

The following officers of St. Francois county are now at this place, having come across the country afoot: Circuit Judge, William Carter; Sheriff, Thos. C. McMullen; Treasurer, Ellis F. Casey; County Clerk, Wm. B. Taylor, and Deputy County Clerk, Marshall Arnold. They have left their families in Farmington, and have come away with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

The number of the rebels at Farmington has been estimated here to-day by refugees, at ten thousand; but of course you will receive this information as I receive it, with the proper allowances. The rebels are covering their movements pretty well by feints and by scouts sent out through the country. There would seem to be good evidence that they are in force north of Fredericktown to the number of at least five thousand—how much more must be all conjecture.

General Ewing went down to Pilot Knob this morning, and has not yet returned.

Colonel Fletcher is here on his way to report to General Ewing the result of his visit to Cape Girardeau. The Colonel is alive and alert, and the comparison suggests itself very pertinently between his occupation at this time and that of his competitor. Tom Price would have him leave his regiment here to fight bushwhackers and Sterling Price, and sneak off to the hustings, so as to help him, the aforesaid Tom, (the [illegible] Price of the two,) get up respectable audiences. Pardon this episode, but it seemed [illegible]. The same animadversions I make here are very common just at this juncture with the soldiers and Union refugees here, the latter of whom gather around Colonel Tom Fletcher for protection and advice.

All here is involved in doubt and uncertainty at this writing. An attack on this point is considered not improbable at any moment.

If the rebels are, as is reported, working their way to Tyler’s Mills, they evidently intend to strike the Big River Bridge. The force in the vicinity of Farmington consists, as near as can be ascertained, entirely of Shelby’s men. The statement of the dying rebel, of Price being at Fredericktown, is not credited.

A detachment of five men from the 3d cavalry, M. S. M., went out this morning toward Farmington, and about five miles this side of that place, encountered some twenty rebel cavalry in the brush, and had a spirited skirmish with them. Corporal John S. McConkey, in command of the squad, was severely wounded and was left at a house on the roadside. He fell off his horse several times, and though his comrades tried hard to bring him with them, he was so weak that it was impossible. This was a gallant expedition, and the boys fought so well that I give the names of the men composing the detachment: J. J. Buchanan, David M. Diggs, William Stillman and George Givens—all of company A. Corporal McConkey, when the boys left him, refused the offer of one of his comrades to remain with him, and said, “Boys, tell them I died like a soldier.”