Return to Letters from Soldiers from the War in the West

Return to Civil War Page 2

Return to Civil War Page 1


8th Missouri Voluntary Infantry

[It isn't certain who Alexander is and with which military unit he was attached. Allison Hern and the Aleshires mentioned in the letter were in the 8th Missouri Voluntary Infantry and so possibly was Alexander. It seems likely the letter was sent to the Journal because of past ties to Gallia County. These aggressive recruiting tactics of the Confederate Army were common to many areas of the South where there was significant Union sympathy. There were areas in West Virginia near Gallia County where this took place also. N. Elvick]

Springfield, Mo., May 23, 1863

Mr. Harper:
     Southwest Missouri is at this time overflowing with refugees from Arkansas; the outrageous treatment to which they are subjected, is driving them from their homes and property by thousands. If a shadow of suspicion is entertained of a man being a Union man, he is stripped of everything that rebel greed may suggest, and then if he escapes with his life he considers himself highly favored.—Sometimes they will ride up to a house, call out the man of the house and demand his property or his life, and after he gives up everything, they will very deliberately blow out his brains, and leave him for his frightened and grief-stricken family to bury. Last summer they were enforcing the conscript act on every man between the ages of 18 and 35 with few, very few exceptions, and the greater part of the men in our neighborhood secretly determined not to submit, but if they were conscripted, they would all skedaddle out to Uncle Sam. Among the number were Chas. Preston, William Elliott, and Allison Hern, Jr., from old Gallia. There were about fifty of these Government boys that managed to make their way out, the most of them are in the army now; they were obliged to hide in caves and thickets from these contemptible rebels, and then sneak out like horse-thieves or murderers.
     Such, Mr. Harper, is the way Union men were treated who happened to be living in the South when the rebellion broke out. If the hundreds and hundreds of Union men in the state of Arkansas to-day, were permitted to come out, there would be such an overwhelming shout go up as would almost jar the foundation of the earth. But there are men there who are too old for the conscript, and also too old if they should be entirely broken up, to ever be able to get another start in the world. Some of these men are suspicioned [sic], and others again they think to be their firmest friends who are doing everything in their power to aid the Federal cause. These men are running a great risk, for it is just as if they were working over a powder mine, and they do not entertain the least idea when it will explode. But they are doing a great deal of good there, and will continue to do so until they are found out, and their career stopped by the rotten secesh; but if they kill them and burn their property, they cannot kill their influence.
     The Colonels of this district are covering themselves with the gratitude of the poor refugees, if nothing more; they are continually sending down Federal scouts to bring out the families of the oppressed Union men of Northern Arkansas. Allison Hern, of Gallipolis, brought the first scout that came down for the purpose of bringing out the Union families, but few of them had wagons in which to move; he took out his own family and one or two others, and in a few weeks the Federals came down with orders to press [sieze] secesh wagons for them, and there were about seventy-five families came out in one train; they were guarded out by about a hundred and fifty of Geiger's men; they just cleaned out every secesh wagon in reach, and then many of the families got out with nothing but their clothing. They no doubt felt it to be very hard that they should lose their horses and wagons, but they did not think of that when they were stealing them from the Union men. Capt. J. W. Hern and family, and Jacob Thomas and family came out with that scout; they were both Gallia men. Scouts are going down now continually, sometimes they bring out one and two hundred families at one time. It seems as if the Union people of Northern Arkansas are siezed with a panic to get away from the scene of so much horror, and now while they have an opportunity, they are fast leaving everything they own rather than stay. I think it is a burning shame that the Union men, the bone and sinew of that country, should leave all that they have toiled so hard for, and the secesh, like exultant devils as they seem, should flock in and feast and glut themselves on what was abandoned, by their more noble but more unfortunate neighbors.
     But I weary your patience, Mr. Harper, and must close for this time. You who have always enjoyed the liberty of free speech and free action when you felt inclined to murmur at the expense and weight of the war, just think what the loyal men of the South have had and still have to suffer, and ask yourselves if you had not ought to be thankful to Almighty Heaven for casting your lives in such pleasant places instead of in the sunny South. Before I close I must tell you about an old gentleman whom I met as I came out, by the name of Aleshire, who lives in Webster county in this State; he is from Gallia, and a relative of Mr. R. Aleshire, of Gallipolis; he has but three boys and they are all in the service. While there we saw a little boy about thirteen years old going about with a nicely fitting suit of Federal uniform on; we mentioned that he surely could not be a soldier! "Oh, yes" said the old man, and a glow of paternal pride overspread his countenance; "he is a Gallia boy and they will fight for their country wherever you find them." I could not but reflect how much and eloquently he spoke for the leading men of Gallia in those few words. The boy belonged to the 8th Missouri Regiment, and was home at that time on furlough. Mr. A. is from Arkansas, and he too has suffered.
     More anon.

The Gallipolis Journal
June 11, 1863

Transcribed by Eva Swain Hughes