Battlefield Dispatches No. 312: 'A wild Irishman'

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today, Friday the 13th, has a reputation for being an unlucky day on which ill fortune or bad things happen and one shouldn't walk under ladders or cross the path of a black cat, especially one named "Lucifer." However, what does this have to do with the subject of this column? Absolutely nothing except that 150 years ago plus one day, April 14, 1864, was the fatal and last living day of a notorious "wild Irishman" by the of name of Daniel Henly. Henly was a Confederate guerrilla and leader of a gang that terrorized loyal "Union" folks in St. Clair and Vernon counties, Mo., who was killed and possibly met his maker at Montevallo in southern Vernon County. The following after-action report describe the killing and death of the notorious "wild Irishman" and is located on Pages 53 and 54 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Headquarters District of Central Missouri,

Jefferson City, Mo., April 24, 1862.

Colonel: In the absence, per order of the Brigadier General commanding, I have the honor to report as follows:

On the morning of the 13th inst. Lieut. Col. C. E. Moss, 1st Iowa Cavalry, with two companies of the 1st Iowa Cavalry, D&K, 100 strong and state militia 150 strong commanded by Capt. Gravely, moved from Osceola for Montevallo, Vernon County for the purpose of breaking up guerrillas, 300 strong, supposed to have collected at a point on Cedar and Horse Creeks 12 miles from Montevallo.

After crossing the Sac River, 15 miles above its confluence with the Osage, the advance guard skirmished with Jayhawkers (civilian outlaws), who fired upon them from a house, wounding Pvt. John Hunter, Company K, 1st Iowa Cavalry. Loss of rebels one killed and four wounded. After thoroughly scouring the thickets and woods for four miles around, the command moved to Beckstown, taking on the way 14 prisoners; thence to Clintonville, 10 miles from Montevallo, where the State Militia went into camp. The Iowa Cavalry moving forward to Centerville, within five miles of Montevallo and encamped for the night, with the exception of a detail of 28 men, under Lt. Barnes, Co. K and Lt. Col. Moss who pushed on into Montevallo, having learned that a company of United States troops had left that place only two days previous and that there were no organized rebels within 12 miles of that place.

Capt. Bryan, in command of Centerville, was to come up early in the morning. Lt. Col. Moss reached Montevallo at 7 p.m. and quartered his men in about the yard of the hotel, giving special orders to sleep on their arms close together and be prepared for any attack that might be made. Guards were stationed and the command retired for the night, sleeping mostly in a log house attached to the hotel, the front kitchen and the stable loft.

About 4:30 in the morning, the detachment was aroused by an approaching body of men, said to be 50 strong, who demanded an immediate and unconditional surrender, accompanied with a threat to burn the houses over their heads in case of refusal. This was answered by a shot, which opened the engagement. Shots from the upper story of the house told with marked effect upon the attacking party, which was repulsed and took shelter behind a store 50 yards distant. Col. Moss then ordered the men to fall into line outside and charge upon the enemy, who thereupon dispersed precipitately (very quickly).

Several rebels were killed in this contest and seven were wounded, three mortally. Among the latter was the notorious "wild Irishman," alias Daniel Henly, leader of a desperate gang, the terror of St. Clair and Vernon counties. Our loss was two killed and four wounded. The conduct of the troops on this occasion was deserving of high praise. Exposed to a murderous fire, not a man flinched. Lt. Barnes and the citizen guide Andrew J. Pugh are especially mentioned for their cool gallantry and determined courage, which was doubtless fully equaled by the Lieutenant Colonel commanding. Two privates of Company K having left the house against orders, were taken prisoners and their horses and arms (weapons) captured.

Soon after daylight, Capt. Bryan came up with the balance of the command, including the Missouri State Militia. Lt. Barnes was sent on a scout (patrol) to Nevada City, to return the same evening. He soon came in sight of 15 of the guerrillas and pursued them to Nevada without being able to overhaul them. Capt. Bryan was also sent scouting in the opposite direction to return that evening. He soon came upon a portion of the band, killed two, wounded two, captured one and recovered the two men of Company K who had been taken prisoners the night previous.

Being advised that a body of 60 men, besides two companies from Cedar Creek, were preparing to attack the command that evening at Montevallo, Col. Moss ordered the hotel where the former attack had been organized and all intervening old buildings and brush burned as a measure of safety. The buildings burned were of little or no value and were used by the guerrillas for defenses. No attack was, however, made.

Tuesday the command moved into Cedar County and camped near Cedar Creek, nine miles from Stockton. Bands of armed men, numbering 15 or 20 each, were also seen several times during the day moving toward Stockton and White Hare in Cedar County. Wednesday morning, Cedar Creek was rendered impassible by heavy rains, and in view of the wounded men, the command returned to Osceola. The principle force reaching there Thursday afternoon in a terrible thunderstorm, which tore trees and rocks and rendering several streams two hours after the passage of the command.

Captains Bryan and Gravely and Lt. Shriver are complimented for their efficiency. Twenty-two prisoners were brought in, mostly taken with arms in their hands.

Lt. Col. Moss seems to have behaved with energy and spirit and as Col. Warren, of the same regiment, is moving from Butler to the same point, I hope soon to report "dead" the "balance" of the "wild Irishmen."

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lucien J. Barnes

Captain and Assistant Adjutant General"

Now then, it is not known if the balance of the wild Irishmen were ever captured or killed. And of course, the war went on!