Posted May 29, 2004

 

The Fight at Jackson Fairgrounds:

Confederate Victory Against the Odds

by

©2003 Kirby Ross

with an Introduction by James E. McGhee, ©2003

The Fight at Jackson Fairgrounds: Confederate Victory Against the Odds

© Kirby Ross

Author's Note & Introduction
Ch 1 - Lindsay Murdoch

Ch 6 - Playing a Squally Game of Marbles

Ch 2 - Chasing Phantoms

Ch 7 - Aftermath

Ch 3 - Closing In

Ch 8 - Mopping Up

Ch 4 - Hell Breaks Loose Epilogue

Ch 5 - To the Death

Bibliography

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Chapter Four

HELL BREAKS LOOSE

Quickly the spell was broken and total bedlam broke out.  Scaling the fence around the McGuire farm field, Jeffers and his men pushed on south, except for Tom Wheeler, who was sent back to warn Jenkins and Medley and have them meet at the Fairground if they could make it.  Running desperately, Wheeler did not find his two comrades and was not inclined to knock on every door in town.  Instead he left word along the street asking that a warning be passed on should the boys be seen.  Apparently of the opinion that he could not make it back to Jeffers, Wheeler dashed into Turnbaugh’s Hotel and looked for a hiding place.1

At the same time, John Craig and Button McGuire, fresh from their visit into the countryside, came sauntering into town on their horses

 The True Life Wild West Memoir of a Bush-Popping Cow Waddy

By Charley Hester, Edited by Kirby Ross

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and saw the drama that was rapidly unfolding.  There was still a bit of time—the Union troops closest to the Confederates numbered just six men.  Catching their attention Craig and McGuire turned to the west and lit out at full speed.  The half-dozen Federals, preferring to take on two mounted men as opposed to sixteen on foot, moved in rapid pursuit of the Rebel horsemen, rushing dangerously close past Jeffers’ squad who let them pass unmolested.  Now was not the time to start a fight.2 

With a deadly horse race breaking out between the mounted troopers, the beleaguered Rebels reached a fork in the road near the Fulenwider place.  Parting ways, McGuire angled to the right while Craig continued straight ahead.  With the Bluecoats quickly arriving at the same road intersection, they also split up.3 

Lieutenant McGuire, a 42-year-old Virginia expatriate, was a hard man by all accounts.  Riding down Fulenwider Lane until he ran out of road, he was faced with the choice of hiding, surrendering, or fighting to the death.  His temperament did not lend itself to the first two options.  Taking his rifle in hand, he prepared for the arrival of the Federals.4 

John Craig was in no better shape as he headed west towards Fredericktown.  This was a toll-road and at the pace Craig was riding a fence with a closed tollgate would soon be appearing ahead.  As Craig desperately tried to work out a plan in his mind, he spotted the gate speeding towards him.5 

Within minutes the six Federal troops and two Confederates would spill blood.  Only four men would exit the field of battle unscathed.

___________________Col. Jeffers

At the edge of town Jeffers and his men raced across the McGuire field and on past the Jackson Academy where startled headmaster Reverend J.C. Maples counted sixteen souls running for their lives.  The Rebels continued south past the grandstands of the Fairground and on into the woods along the west branch of Hubble Creek.  Once there, Jeffers found a large poplar tree that had fallen along the road and directed his men to conceal themselves in the brush and trees around it.  Deciding to make a stand rather than have his men disperse and hunted piecemeal through the woods, Captain Jeffers barked out orders that no man was to discharge his weapon until he fired his own first.  With that, a hush descended upon the group as they silently blended into the forest.6

___________________

In town, Medley and Jenkins emerged onto the streets and walked to the public square.  Unwittingly they had stumbled onto the scene right after the Federal advance rushed by in pursuit of Craig and McGuire but before the main force appeared.  Immediately feeling uneasy in light of the deathly stillness that had descended upon the town as well as the total absence of people on the streets, Lute and Dick walked on.  A bit bewildered, the youths walked on over to Schumuke’s Sadler Shop to pick up a bridle-bit that had been promised to Jenkins.  Once there they received the news that the Feds were on the way and that Jeffers had left word to meet him down at the Fairground.7

Being brave lads and not wishing to give the locals the impression that anything as minor as an enemy raiding party might frighten them, they began walking towards the rendezvous.  “We were too proud to run,” Jenkins confessed 45 years later.8 

As they sauntered to the edge of the village they saw not a person until young Mollie Brown rushed out of her mother’s house and screamed “Lute, run!  Look yonder!”  In following her gesture he saw a lane full of Federals bearing down on him.  Not wishing to appear cowardly to the girl, Jenkins stated simply “we don’t run, Mollie,” and proceeded on.  He did later admit that while he continued walking, he had no compunction against at least making it a lively bit of walking until he was out of Mollie’s sight, after which he and Medley took off with such dispatch that “we struck just the high places on the road to the Fair Grounds, and we were there none to soon.”9

Proceeding as instructed, they caught no sight of their hidden comrades.  Their attention was quickly drawn to horses’ hooves approaching them from behind.  Checking it out, they saw “Old Man Bock” coming down from the mill in town, bouncing on a bag of cornmeal while attempting to have his mount race as fast as he could in his awkward predicament.  In short order the boys saw one reason why Bock might be hurrying.  Popping over a rise right behind him, three men in blue uniforms were bearing down on him at top speed, guns in hand.10

At about this same time, the students at Jackson Academy were greatly startled as little Frank McGuire’s slave attendant burst into the school exclaiming that the town was filling with soldiers and that all of the local Rebel boys were about to be killed.  Aunt Katy then went on to excitedly ask Headmistress Maple, the Reverend’s wife, to keep the children in the building so no harm would come to them.11 

The students, having sighted Jeffers and his men dashing by just a few minutes before, then Jenkins and Medley hitting the high points in the road, had their own thoughts on the matter and immediately exploded at the news of the raid.  Before Mrs. Maple could do anything about it the school cleared out with a mass exodus of screaming boys and girls running through doorways and shooting out windows, all anxious to either get home or have a good look at the marauding troops.  Seconds later, the Federals swarmed all around the school house while the three U.S. troopers subsequently seen by Jenkins bearing down on Bock and his sack of corn-meal raced on past the Academy at full gallop. On their way by, these three Federals were aided by a figure in the west window of the schoolhouse motioning down towards the Fairground.12

Following the signal, 21-year-old Lieutenant George W. Hummel led August Voshage and Henry Welge down the road.  The lieutenant, described as being a “reckless and daring man,” may have also been a bit tipsy.  Finding himself in trouble for intoxication at least twice during the course of his military career, Hummel was ultimately drummed out of the service for gross drunkenness as well as for consorting with prostitutes and contracting a disgraceful disease.13

Brave he was, though, and south he headed at breakneck speed after an unknown number of Confederates.  Hummel’s three-man force quickly came upon Mr. Bock heading down from the mill.  Ordering him to halt and receiving no response except to cause him to run faster, Hummel took a couple of shots in his direction.  Very quickly the cavalrymen overtook Bock after which August Voshage, a resident of Jackson before joining the 11th Battalion, recognized his old acquaintance.  Vouching for the man, Voshage was ignored and was ordered to hold him prisoner while Hummel and Welge forged ahead.14

While they had yet to pinpoint the location of Jenkins and Medley, the three Federals had not gone unnoticed themselves.  With Hummel and Welge closing in, the two Confederates moved for position amongst a few poplar trees around the grandstands. With this movement, Old Man Bock spotted them and pointed them out to Voshage.  Once again Reb and Yank were eyeing one another.  For all of Hummel’s recklessness, the spirited young Confederates were no less so themselves and broke the impasse by shooting.  Now having bullets hurled in his direction, Voshage ignored orders and let Bock go as he was re-joined by the other two Federals.  Contemplating his options, Lieutenant Hummel suggested going down after the Rebels.  The two privates quickly entered their vote and suggested it would probably be better if they went and got a few more men before they did so.  Hummel calmly trotted down the road to take another look, and with bullets whizzing around him, concluded that might not be such a bad idea after all.  Back to Jackson Academy they rode.15 

With Hummel’s departure, Jeffers called out from the nearby woods one hundred yards down the road and ordered Jenkins and Medley into position with the rest of his troops.  The boys, content they had found their comrades, happily complied with the command and became part of the scenery with the rest of the Confederates.16 

___________________

While the focus of the rapidly developing drama was up Fulenwider Lane, around the schoolhouse, and on down at the Fairground, the town was not to be ignored by the Union troops as a couple of squads entered it.  Conducting a house-to-house search they came across no enemy combatants. The only thing they saw of note was a young man lying in bed in Turnbaugh’s Hotel.  Stepping up to him, the Militiamen could tell from his delirious moaning and groaning that he was very sick and not somebody that they would want to linger around for long.  After they left the room, Tom Wheeler—one and the same Tom Wheeler that had raced back into town to warn Jenkins and Medley—breathed a sigh of relief and remained in his “sick bed” for the remainder of the visit by the U.S. troops.  The fever sweat the Union troops had seen on him likely did not have to be faked.17

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Endnotes


1 Maple; Bennett; Jenkins

2 Jenkins; Craig family Bible memoir

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Maple; Bennett

7 Jenkins

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11Maple

12 Maple; Voshage

13 General William S. Rosecrans’ Special Order No. 15, 8 June 1864, Missouri State Archives, Folder 126/2, Box 93, Locale 25A/2/2

14Voshage

15 Voshage; Jenkins

16Jenkins

17 Ibid.

 

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