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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 269: Capture of a 'Notorious Bushwhacker'

Friday, June 17, 2011

During the Civil War in Kansas and Missouri, Confederate guerrillas or "bushwhackers," if one is of the northern persuasion, were normally not captured or taken prisoner. They were usually killed on the spot.

There were, however, exceptions to this, and such an exception occurred in southwest Missouri in McDonald County during the winter of 1862 and 1863.

It was at this time, while a detachment of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry was on patrol in McDonald County, that it captured a local notorious bushwhacker by the name of "Fay Price." Price was a bit of an escape artist, because he escaped from the blue bellied billy yanks as he was being escorted to Fort Scott, only to be recaptured by the same "blue badger boys" from Wisconsin a few weeks later.

This time there was no escape as he was furnished with "leg irons" and wrist shackles (handcuffs) on his second escorted trip to Fort Scott.

The following description of Capt. Fay Price and his incarceration in Fort Scott is by wagon boss and mule mechanic R.M. Peck. This description is part of "Peck's" column that was published in the Aug. 4, 1904, edition of National Tribune newspaper in Washington, D.C.

"To return to my story. After staying at home (in Leavenworth City, Kan.) awhile, I went to Fort Scott and struck (asked) Hugh Kirdendall for a job. I took a job driving a post team (for the Quartermaster Department) for him, until something better would open up. As the transportation business remained very dull, I continued driving a post team through the winter of 1862 and 1863.

As I forgot to state it previously, I will here mention that a wagon boss's pay was $65 a month, assistant $45, and a teamster $25, rations included.

At this time Fort Scott was garrisoned by the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, which regiment, in addition to the garrison and provost-guard duties, also did the escorting of forage trains along the Missouri border and trains that were engaged in hauling supplies to forts Gibson and Smith in the Indian Nation. Maj. B.S. Henning was in command of the regiment and the post of Fort Scott.

During the early part of the war the rebels, who had not yet got well acquainted with the northern soldiers, used to boastfully declare that the Union Army was made up of "cowardly abolitionist Yankees and lop-eared Dutch (German volunteers in the Union Army), and that "one Southern man could whip six of them," and all such stuff.

By the close of the war these same fire-eating southerners had very materially changed their opinions of the fighting qualities of the northern soldiers who had whipped into them a wholesome respect for the D___M Yankees and the lop-eared Dutch.

During this winter (62 --63), there was brought into Fort Scott as a prisoner by some of the soldiers of the 3rd Wisconsin Cav., a rebel bushwhacker who had been captured by them while on a foraging trip over into Missouri. He called himself "Capt." Price and his gang had consisted of about a dozen of those murderous miscreants in the production of which Missouri seemed to excel.

I think this Price was one of the most infamous rebels that I met during the war. While a prisoner he could not refrain from abusing and insulting every Union man --officer, soldier or citizen, with whom he came in contact, and this he had been allowed to do with impunity so long -- because he was a helpless prisoner -- that he seemed to think that the "____ N-loving Yankees" --as he delighted to call his enemies -- were too cowardly to resent his insults.

Finally he got so abusive to his guards that the officer found it necessary to gag him and swing him up by the thumbs or give him a dunking, occasionally, to cool him down.

(There were no rules of the Geneva Convention as to the treatment of prisoners during the Civil War.)

He tauntingly boasted of the number of "cowardly Yankees" he had killed, and that any good Southern man was a match for six of the "infernal Yankee abolitionists" and how he had delighted to charge in among a lot of the "infernal Lincoln hirelings" and shoot them down like dogs, and so forth and so on ad nauseum.

All his talk was upon this style. He seemed to imagine himself a hero, while everyone else appeared to think he was either a fool or a lunatic.

He was a young man of about 25, and shortly after he was brought in as a prisoner, his wife, a giddy, romantic, young woman -- a fairly good mate for such a brainless braggart -- came to Fort Scott, in order to be near him. She was not a prisoner or put under any restraint of her freedom, but her movements were closely watched, lest she should be sending information to the enemy.

It would have been strange, indeed, if the constant stream of vituperation (abusive language) pouring from the fellow upon his guards and all others who in any way sympathized with the Northern cause, had not provoked a feeling of retaliation!"

Retaliation against Capt. Price was not long in coming, and it was of his own doing, and it was more than a feeling. This will be the subject of next week's column, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches