Major James Wilson, Union Soldiers Killed Near Beaufort - The Missourian: Features People

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Major James Wilson, Union Soldiers Killed Near Beaufort

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Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:27 pm, Thu Jun 20, 2013.

In October 1864 this could have been the headlines of the local newspapers in Franklin County and St. Louis.

According to records, Major Wilson and a large number of Union soldiers were captured at the Battle of Pilot Knob, Mo., on Sept. 27, 1864. The Confederates marched them from Pilot Knob to an area on Old State Road just east of the current day location of Highway 185.

On the morning of Oct. 3, 1864, a Confederate colonel also believed to be an inspector general called the prisoners into formation.

Major Wilson and five other soldiers were separated from the formation and put under double guard because they were identified as being with the 3rd State Militia Calvary.

Order was given to Lieutenant Colonel Crisp of Coffee's Confederate Regiment to wait with the prisoners for the arrival of Colonel Tim Reeves, 15th Missouri Cavalry CSA, who would take command of the prisoners.

Colonel Reeves and Major Wilson were fighting a personal war against each other. Upon the arrival of Colonel Reeves, the prisoners were taken into the valley near St. John's Creek and shot by a firing squad.

Colonel Reeves believed the 3rd Calvary was responsible for the massacre of civilians and Confederate soldiers while they were on patrol in southeast Missouri.

The bodies were found three weeks later by a young man hunting persimmons. Henry A. Kleinebecker, a justice of the peace and postmaster of Beaufort was notified.

Mr. Kleinebecker and neighbors tried to examine the bodies and identify them through personal effects and then buried the bodies where they were found.

During this three-week period, Colonel Amos Maupin was searching for the bodies. Colonel Maupin was notified the bodies were found. The graves were located on Oct. 25, 1864.

The bodies were exhumed and re-examined and reburied where they were found. In retaliation for Major Wilson's and his men's death, General Rosecrans, Commanding Department of Missouri Union Forces, issued an order to take a Confederate major and six enlisted men and hold them prisoners until the death of Major Wilson was confirmed.

After receiving the confirmation, the prisoners were taken from Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis and orders were given for their execution. They were shot by a Union firing squad from the 10th Kansas Infantry, near Lafayette Park and buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.

The Confederate soldiers executed were: Asa J. Ladd, George Nichols, Harvey H. Blackburn, George T. Busch, Charles W. Minnkin and James W. Gates. The soldiers were not involved with Major Wilson or his men's death. They were captured at random and held for retaliation.

The Civil War was a very cruel war filled with absurdities. fathers fought sons and brothers fought brothers. Even Major Wilson who had a long service record in Union Armies had a brother John Wilson who served in the Confederate Missouri State Guard. The Wilson family had confederate sympathies.

Major Wilson's wife took their children, left him and went back to her home in Virginia because he joined the Union Army.

The mystery begins . . . where is the final resting place of the soldiers? Several U.S. military telegraphs have been found regarding this matter in the national archives.

The first telegraph dated Oct. 26, 1864, gives the order to recover the remains and transport them to Washington, Mo., where all but Major Wilson's body was to be buried. Major Wilson's body was to be escorted to St. Louis, Mo.

A telegraph was sent back from Lieutenant J. D. Jacoby from the Quartermasters Corps to General Ewing stating there was not enough time to remove all the remains and he would only be bringing Major Wilson's body to Washington.

Through other telegraphs and sources it was determined that Major Wilson's remains were taken to St. Louis where his remains laid in state at the courthouse in downtown St. Louis.

He was buried Nov. 1, 1864, in Lincoln County, Mo. On Aug. 2, 1870, a monument was erected in the Troy City Cemetery by the Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (named after Major James Wilson) honoring Major Wilson and his men.

By reviewing the testimony taken in the case from the Provost Marshalls records that were located in the Western Manuscripts Collection in Columbia, Mo., and reviewing military records from the state and national archives, the identity of the other five soldiers were discovered.

They were: William W. Gourley, Corporal with Company I, 3rd State Militia Calvary. He joined at the age of 22 on April 8, 1862, in Louisiana, Mo. He was born in Pike County, Mo.

William Christopher Grotts, Private, Company I, 3rd State Militia Calvary. He joined at age 22 on April 5, 1862, in Louisiana, Mo., and was born in Navoo, Ill.

John Halibaugh, also spelled Halebaugh, Private Company K, 3rd State Militia. He joined at the age of 18 on Jan. 15, 1864, in Pilot Knob Mo. He was born in Lawrence County, Ark. He was the son of David Halibaugh and his mother received his pension at Hoxie, Ark.

William Scaggs, Private, Company I, 3rd State Militia Calvary. He joined at the age of 23 in Fredericktown, Mo. He was born in Madison County, Mo. His father, Samuel Scaggs, received his pension. Also found to be spelled Skaggs.

John W. Shew, Private, Company I, 3rd State Militia Calvary, was 21 when he enlisted at Louisiana, Mo., on April 3, 1862. He was born at Collinsville, Ky. His mother received his pension.

The Veterans Hall of Honor is committed to include all veterans that were born, lived or buried in Franklin County. The committee is committed to locate the graves of the five soldiers and provide a marker they deserve after 146 years if they are buried in the county.

Questions that the Committee needs help in answering are:

Were the remains ever brought to Washington, Mo., for burial? Information to date shows they were not.

Were they left buried where they were found and originally interned in the field next to St. John's Creek?

Another theory is they were buried in an unmarked grave in the open area in the center of the St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Beaufort, Mo.. The cemetery is located near where the killings occurred.

Tales abound in the area today of Civil War civilians or soldiers buried in the unmarked area.

Henry Kleinebecker, the justice of the peace, discussed earlier in the article, is buried next to the open area. In reading Kiel Notes, Confederate soldiers shot and killed Frederick Kleinebecker in October 1864, a probable close relative of Henry.

No grave marker can be found for Frederick. Most of the parishioners of the church were of German descent and would have probably been Pro-Northern. The soldiers could be buried at this location and it is likely that no record were kept for fear of retaliation by Pro-Southern sympathizers in the area.

The Hall of Honor Committee would appreciate any help the public could provide regarding the soldiers. The committee is particularly interested in copies of letters, diaries, or written or oral history.

Families of Henry and Frederick Kleinebecker, Michael Zwickey, Edward Landon, Joseph Adams or L. Caldwell may have information that would help as they went to the scene after the bodies were found.

Russell H. Holtgrieve was the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church from 1861 to 1865. Any church records from that time period could help locate information.

It is also interesting to note that Amos Maupin was the sheriff of Franklin County from 1858 to 1860. Others who had family in Franklin County and involved in the burial of the soldiers were Captain Frans Dinger and Lieutenant J. D. Jacoby.

If you have any information that would help the Veterans Hall of Honor Committee recognize and honor the fallen soldiers, it would be very much appreciated.

Please contact Terry Wilson at 636-583-6360 during the day or 636-239-0317 in the evenings. His e-mail address is towilson@franklinmo.net or the mailing address is Terry Wilson, 400 E. Locust St., Room 206, Union, MO 63084.

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