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

By Charley Hester, Edited by Kirby Ross

available for pre-order at Amazon.com

Also by this author:

James O. Broadhead: Ardent Unionist, Unrepentant Slaveholder by Kirby Ross

Chapter Seven

 AFTERMATH

For Jeffers, it was now time to take stock of the afternoon’s happenings and to start initiating damage control to try to avoid a massive response that could overwhelm the area and result in the burning of Jackson (which would not have been uncommon under the circumstances).  While Jeffers’ leadership was solid during the skirmishing, his decisions in the aftermath of the fighting were no less so.

First, he and his men approached the prone bodies of Hummel and Brawner.  As they saw Brawner up close there must have been a gasp or two in horror—Brawner had been a Methodist preacher in Jackson before the war.  A war of brother against brother was bad enough, but now it had devolved into a war of shepherd against flock.1

Having been shot through the body, the Reverend was the more seriously wounded of the two men.  While Hummel’s horse had been killed by the shotgun blast, Hummel had escaped its effects with relatively minor wounds with one pellet entering his leg and three others grazing his body.2

Standing over the wounded Union lieutenant who was trapped under his large horse, one Confederate felt a bit playful—“ess kill ‘im,” he said.  Hummel, hearing about the fate of the two men—Miller and McIntee—taken captive by the Rebels after Jeffers and Kitchen had occupied Dallas just a few days earlier, took the words very seriously.  Becoming very excited he pleaded desperately for his life.  Upon being let in on the joke and told that he was in no danger, Hummel responded by saying he had heard that Jeffers offered no quarter to his prisoners.  Instead, the dead horse was ordered taken off Hummel and his wound treated.  With this taking place, William Brawner was removed from the road and a chunk of wood was placed under his head.3

John Craig and Button McGuire were still unaccounted for and had last been seen fleeing for their lives west of town.  Jeffers took Luther Jenkins and a couple of other men with him and started down the road, not knowing what they would find but expecting the worst.  Soon they came upon Craig who made quite a sight carrying his own pistol and shotgun as well as three captured rifles and maybe another pistol or two along with a saddle and bridle. Seeing that all was well with him, Jeffers relieved him of his load and Craig went and retrieved his horse from the thicket after which the group returned to the Fairground.  Once there and in the midst of holding a council of war, Button McGuire showed up safe and sound to their great relief.  Not one Rebel had so much as a hair on his head harmed in the course of all of the shooting.4

In the meantime, a mass of local citizens descended upon the battleground.  Young and old alike appeared, including a number of schoolchildren that had not wandered far away during the mêlée.  Even little Frank McGuire ran down, still excited at the Federal’s rush into town, the hail of gunfire, and the retreat of the raiders headlong back through town and on towards Cape Girardeau.  The scene below the grandstands etched itself deeply into the impressionable eight year-old’s mind—a seriously wounded and agonized William Brawner lying in the afternoon’s spring breeze under a white walnut tree, head resting on a scrap of wood, with George Hummel nearby in the road, his big cavalry boot full of blood while a beautiful iron gray horse lay dead next to him.5

The locals tried to decide how to best handle the injured Unionists.  County Jailer James Smith, a veteran of the Mexican War and experienced in the ways of making stretchers to carry the wounded, had the men cut poles with their pocket knives.  This having been done, the blankets were taken from the dead horse, wrapped around the poles and then sewn into place with tree bark.  Upon completing the task Brawner was carried into town and put in a room at the Turnbaugh Hotel.6 

Completing the job of gathering the wounded still on the fields of battle, William Proffer was brought in from the site of his gunfight in the paw-paws and was taken to the McGuire Hotel.  No sign was found of the other two troops shot by John Craig, both of whom had been less seriously wounded and had apparently rounded up the two surviving Federal horses and made their way back to Cape Girardeau.  (So impressed was Jeffers with John Craig’s performance under fire that he made Craig his senior enlisted man—sergeant major—when the formation of his new regiment was later completed.)

___________________

Every care was given to the wounded Federals as local physicians were called to the hotels.  Quality was not lacking as Jackson resident, Dr. James McFarland, former division surgeon-general for the Swamp Fox, took up the treatment of the injured men.  Brawner’s grave wound was treated and dressed while Proffer’s thigh was set and his bullet hole sutured shut. As this was transpiring, Lieutenant Hummel, being a more valuable prize than the wounded enlisted men, was walked towards Jeffers’ camp at the Bethel Church a little over a mile away.  Captain Sam Lewis of Jeffers’ command had fallen into the hands of Union troops some time previously and was being held at Cape Girardeau.  An exchange could now be made to get him back.7   

Knowing he was going to be releasing Hummel and knowing that a Federal garrison that feared an imminent attack would be less likely to bother Jackson for the time being, Jeffers astutely decided to magnify the words that Captain Flentge was already carrying back to Cape Girardeau.  Jeffers “accidentally” let Hummel overhear a conversation as to hundreds of troops he had in the area, as well as a large force that Kitchen had southeast of town between Jackson and the Cape (as noted, Jeffers in actuality had less than two dozen men and Kitchen had marched south a week before).  In the course of the conversation Hummel also heard Jeffers say that these forces were going to attack Cape Girardeau en masse the next night.  Captain Lindsay Murdoch was already very apprehensive about an assault on the city.  Having this first hand intelligence might just keep him at bay for a day or two.8 

Halfway to Bethel, Edward Jenkins, Luther’s father, overtook the Rebel band.  After a short discussion it was decided to parole Hummel into the care of the senior Jenkins.  With his release Lieutenant Hummel promised that he would treat any prisoners of Jeffers’ command he came into contact with in the future as well as he was now being treated.  He also gave his solemn oath that he would do all in his power to prevent any retaliation against the town.9   

Hummel climbed onto the back of Mr. Jenkins’ horse and was taken to the Jackson Academy where he spent the night.  That evening Dr. McFarland paid a call on him and performed a minor operation to take the buckshot out of his leg.  The next morning Edward Jenkins returned, this time with his buggy.  The Federal lieutenant climbed aboard and was taken back to the Cape where he would keep his word and relate his tale of fair treatment at the hands of not only the townspeople, but also the soldiers of Jeffers’ unit.10

Lieutenant Hummel also reported having overheard Jeffers’ plans to attack Cape Girardeau that night.  With little time to prepare, the post was sent into a frenzy of activity as the reserves were called out and the combined forces of Home Guard Militia and State Militia were put on high alert.  The troops stayed up that night, waiting for an attack that never came.  And for two more nights afterward.  As it turned out, Jeffers’ ruse on Lindsay Murdoch and his garrison was swallowed hook, line, and sinker as they remained holed up in Cape Girardeau for three days.11

Lindsay Murdoch would have a laugh of his own at Jeffers’ expense.  The man that Hummel was traded for, Captain Sam Lewis, was released pursuant to the exchange but turned out to like life out of harm’s way more than he liked it in the line of fire.  He declined to return to Jeffers’ command.12

As for the town, Jackson was spared from any retribution for its support of Jeffers.  In fact, in days to come it served for a time as the headquarters for the Federal unit after recruiting for the 11th Battalion was completed and it became the 12th Missouri State Militia Regiment.

Despite the efforts of the citizens of Jackson, William Brawner’s wound proved to be too severe.  Lingering for a few days, Brawner died.  Final services were conducted locally after which his remains were returned to his family in neighboring Bollinger County.13

Hip-shot William Proffer was listed by the 11th M.S.M. Cavalry Battalion as missing in action in the aftermath of the Jackson skirmish.  Since he had ended up deep in the brush and the Federals had removed themselves from the scene in such haste, his comrades had no knowledge of what had happened to him until some time later.  In any event his recovery was a successful one—successful enough that he was able to be present four months later at another shooting contest between his regiment and Jeffers’ Confederates.  Ironically, once again one of Jeffers’ men would make a target out of Proffer and once again Proffer would turn up missing in action.14

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ENDNOTES


1 Bennett; Jenkins; Maple

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.; Craig family Bible memoir

4 Ibid.

5Bennett

6 Bennett; Jenkins; Maple

7 Maple; Jenkins; Bennett; O.R., Ser. 1, Vol. 8, 362, 364-365; O.R., Ser. 2, Vol. 1, 175.  Dr. McFarland had served for six months in 1861 in the 1st Division, Missouri State Guard, under Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson.  As surgeon-general, McFarland’s rank had been lieutenant colonel.

8 Ibid.

9Maple; Jenkins; Bennett

10Jenkins

11Nevin; O.R., Ser. 1, Vol. 8, 364-365

12Jenkins; Bennett

13Maple

14Ibid.; O.R., Ser. 1, Vol. 8, 364-365; O.R., Series 1, Vol. 13, 258-259; 12th M.S.M. Cavalry Muster Rolls, Missouri State Archives, Box 67 FD 343

 

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