His mission was to scout westward from Waynesville in search of information about a man named Benjamin Moore who had been reported killed or captured by Rebel forces.
The first day’s travel was quiet and the patrol members camped for the night at a point some 15 miles south of Waynesville. About 3 a.m. the next morning the duty guard reported to Lt. Twyford that someone was trying to sneak up on the camp. Twyford and several others ran to the place where the guard had heard the noise.
The noise was repeated and the guard shouted a challenge to Halt! The unknown persons in the dark answered with a volley of gunfire. Twyford’s men returned fire for a moment and the men in the brush were heard to flee.
At dawn Twyford concluded his command was no longer in danger. Since the guard who first reported the bushwhackers approach had been struck in the chest by a bullet Twyford sent him back to the Waynesville fort with an escort of seven men.
With his group reduced to just seven men Lt. Twyford continued on another ten miles and arrived at a farm owned by Hiram King. During the trip Twyford’s men saw no sign of rebels or any fresh horse tracks.
In talking with Hiram King, Lt. Twyford learned that Benjamin Moore had been captured by rebel forces but had escaped or had been released on parole.
With his mission now complete Lt. Twyford decided that since it was noon the group might as well feed horses and men so he ordered a noon camp.
While dinner was cooking Lt. Twyford suddenly noted the approach of some 20-25 bushwhackers at a charge. Although the rebels had achieved complete surprise Lt. Twyford’s men were able to stop the first charge with rifle fire. The bushwhackers then spread out and completely surrounded the farm.
Cut off from escape Twyford looked for a defense. In building his farm Hiram King had constructed two log cabins for his family’s use. A large main cabin and a smaller one next to it with a five foot separation between the buildings. Some three hundred feet to the rear of the cabins he had also built a blacksmith shop and barn.
Twyford ordered his men to take cover in the small family cabin. Inside the cabin they found Hiram King and his entire family. By this time the bushwhackers were pouring a steady rain of bullets into the building. Twyford’s men and the King family were now trapped.
Hiram King pleaded with Twyford to leave before his home was destroyed. Twyford responded by prying up the wooden floor and forcing the King family into the crawl space under the house where they would be safe from the gunfire.
As the afternoon passed the Rebels made several charges on horseback but were driven off. Then they tried to charge on foot and were again driven back. The Rebel commander evidently concluded that as long as Twyford’s men had the solid protection of the log cabin he would lose the fight. So the Rebels set fire to the main cabin.
With the cabins only five feet apart, flame from the roof of the main cabin soon jumped over to the roof of the small cabin. With his fort burning down just over his head Twyford estimated their chances for a quick dash to the blacksmith shop to the rear and “concluded to ask for terms of surrender. Saw from their number it was useless to contend against them.”
Twyford’s men ran out the white flag. As they faced the immediate prospect of capture Twyford and his men who were veterans of several other battles in the Pulaski County area against the bushwhackers feared the worst.
In his battle report Lt. Twyford stated; “We burned all the papers that would give any of our names or identify us in any way; changed our names, company and regiment for the reason that the bushwhackers had often sworn and circulated the report in the country if Frank Mason, Michael Williams and Lt. Twyford should fall into their hands, they would burn or shoot them full of holes; We thought it best to assume fictitious names.”
With the white flag waving and the house still burning Lt. Twyford and the Rebel second in command a Captain Bristoe discussed the terms of surrender. After Captain Bristoe gave his word of honor that Twyford and his men would be treated as prisoners of war, the Union unit surrendered at 3 p.m.
Although the Rebel force consisted mainly of enrolled Confederate Troops under the command of a Col. Love, there were a large number of bushwhackers riding with the unit. The bushwhackers wanted to shoot the prisoners but Col. Love refused to let them.
After surrender Twyford’s men were stripped of weapons and uniform. They were given old clothing to wear and “Col. Love would not allow any unbecoming language used to us.” Love’s command plus prisoners then marched toward Waynesville and camped for the night some twelve miles west of Waynesville.
During this camp the bushwhackers continued to question Twyford’s men “very closely.” At 10 a.m. the camp broke up; some 75 bushwhackers left Love’s command. Love’s men marched toward Lebanon, Missouri until 3 p.m. that same day. When they stopped to feed and rest the horses Col. Love told Lt. Twyford that he would release the Union unit on parole.
Col. Love then released Twyford’s men with a small escort of Rebel troops and sent them toward Lebanon. Col. Love discovered the band of bushwhackers had followed his unit all day and fearing for the safety of Twyford’s unit he ordered them returned to camp.
In camp the bushwhackers swore to Col. Love that the prisoners would never reach Waynesville alive. However Col. Love had other plans; he placed the bushwhackers under arrest and had them guarded while he sent Twyford’s unit toward Lebanon with a large escort.
Despite all of Col. Love’s efforts a small number of bushwhackers followed the prisoners all the way to Lebanon. Twyford’s men reached the Union army post at Lebanon after dark on October 28, 1863.
In his final report Lt. Twyford quoted Col. Love’s statement that he lost five men killed and four men wounded along with seven horses killed or wounded the first night and the two Union horses shot.
Other than the embarrassment of capture Lt. Twyford’s unit was very lucky throughout the scout. History did not record the reaction of Hiram King as he watched his home burn to the ground.
-By J.B. King