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Tales from the Front: Scalawags and Yankee Sympathizers

Posted on Friday, November 25, 2016 at 12:52 pm

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11-25-ScalawagsHere it is now October 1864 and trouble is a brewing along the El Camino Royal.  For much of the war little has happened in this part of Texas but now scalawags, red ribbon supporters and Yankee Sympathizers were working their way west from Beaumont and Houston along the El Camino Royal into Waller and Brazos Counties.  Up to this point they were held at bay by the Texas Rangers and county marshals who treated them as the brigands and petty chicken thieves that they were.  But now they were becoming more brazen.  Most of the Texas Rangers opted to join the Cleburne Division and were now gallantly fighting for the cause on the eastern battle fields.  The county sheriffs could do only so much and well the home guard was ill equipped to move quickly enough to catch these ever more aggressive scalawags.

This day, the 8th day of October the year of our Lord 1864, will be recorded as a particularly onerous day.  A band of malcontents and scalawags attacked the Steward plantation house near Independence, Texas, apparently after watching it for some time as apparently they knew that Col John Meredith was away defending Richmond and most of the slaves had since run off.  The story as told by the Right Honorable Reverend Johnathan D. Mc Natt was horrific.  He had been in the vicinity visiting widow Lutrral whose husband had fallen at the Battle of Two Pines when he heard gun shots coming from the direction of the Steward Plantation.  Upon arriving some hours later to the smoldering ruins of the barn and the plantation house he was taken aback by what they saw.  The dead body of Col John Lightfoot formally of the Army of Texas and an honored veteran of the battle of San Jacinto was sprawled upon the grass in front of what remained of the house.  Missy Meredith lay weeping and crumpled under a large pecan tree not far away holding something in her arms gently rocking in rhythm with the gentle breeze as it filtered through the trees.  The reverend approached cautiously as she held a colt 44 in her lap still smoking from having been discharged.  She flinched as she heard the reverend call her name and gripped the colt even tighter.  But the sound of his gentle voice caused her to turn her head toward him so as to see that she had been unchivalrously beaten and was weeping.  Her dress was torn at the shoulder and she was missing one shoe.  In horror Reverend Mc Natt stooped to offer comfort as she leaned into him to receive his care.  After a time, she calmed enough with the administration of a slight amount of brandy to tell her story.  Still clutching the sacred picture of her husband in its silver frame she told of unspeakable horrors as the malefactors wroth upon her that horrific day.

As by her words it was concluded that 10 to 20 evil doers had waited until mid-day and moved in unison upon the house from several directions.  There was little defense to be offered as only Missy and Col. Lightfoot were in the building.  Col Lightfoot being of the advanced years of 56 could not move fast enough to dissuade all of the hooligans.  He was able to get off two shots from his 44, killing one of the malcontents before he was cut down by the advancing mob.  After that they ransacked the building stealing everything of value or whatever could be eaten.  Missy resisted when they tried to take the silver frame with her beloved husband’s photo in it.  One of the damnable cutthroats, who appeared to be the leader, had unceremoniously slapped her sending her reeling to the ground near Col Lightfoot’s lifeless body.  Upon recovering from the fall she gathered up the 44 and proceeded to dispatch the evil door sending the assemblage of cowards scattering in all directions.  She managed to wing a second one as he mounted his horse and continued to fire until all chambers were empty as the ruffians ran for their lives in a clatter of stolen silver that dangled from their saddles.
What a shameful thing.  What a horridness unprovoked and cowardly attack.  What manner of a man would lay a hand upon a white lady?  Shame and scandal were capaciously weak words to describe this day’s skullduggery.  Rev. Mc Natt upon returning to the Montgomery Township that evening raised the alarm.  In short order riders were sent to the county seat and the local militia was assembled fixed upon administering swift justice upon these scalawags.  The home guard had done their best to sustain order and justice in the county while most of the young men of the county were away at the war.  But they were poorly armed and under provisioned as everything of military value had been taken to the front long ago.  However, they did manage to gather a small battery of three old cannon with which to administer justice.  Col. Michael Sproat was in command as he managed to assemble the crew for an 1818 Spanish 4 pounder of dubious history, Capt. Mike Wilson brought a three-pound gun from Conroe named the Rolling Thunder and Capt. Boyd added a small one-pound piece euphemistically called “Doc Why Not Smokum” that had been once part of a swivel gun battery from an Mexican Costal Swoop.  Two of these guns were deemed of insufficient range or load to be useful on a modern battlefield but in a local scrap they might do good work if they could get close enough.

It took nearly a week before the guns and sufficient ammunition and provisions could be assembled to make chase.  In the interim the desperados had attacked the gun shop of the right honorable Master Steve Roberts that lay somewhat exposed at the cross roads of the El Camino Royal and the Montgomery Trace.  For some unknown reason they did not kill Master Roberts but they did abscond with 6 fine rifles, one shotgun and 4 hand pieces.  Now all they lacked was sufficient powder and cap to truly become a threat to the entire county.  But now our assemblage was upon their trail.  Comanche Joe was brought in from Waco to track the evildoers.  Who apparently were not very intent upon covering their tracks?  Weather by error or by gross stupidly or more likely due the several large kegs of brandy stolen from the Steward Plantation they were exceedingly carless with their travels.  Their trail was not hard to follow as their track of their heavily laden wagons cut deep ruts into Montgomery Trace.

We caught them at Clear Creek Pond.  Having arrived at the fall of dusk we were able to set our three guns on the high ground overlooking their encampment.  They posted no pickets and only one half asleep guard stood guard slumped against a tree near where they had picked their horses.  The half a dozen others were lain helter skelter around a dwindling fire sleeping of the brandy.  M.Sgt. J.R. of the 7th Texas Infantry had been on furlough from Atlanta and had been called into service by the home guards as he had recent tactical experience.  He gathered his crew several days before and laid out a plan for the taking of the scallywags.   Corporal David Butchee also on leave was to serve as the squad corporal.  Squirrel shooters and crack shots Privates David Main, Rusty McLaughlin, Howard Rose & Glen Camp were to be placed at the four corners of the attack to ensure that any of the brigands who attempted to escape were met with hot lead.  All four of the august gentlemen were long in tooth and veterans of the Texas War of Independence from Mexico and proud members of the TEXAS Army.  And they were exceedingly eager to engage these shameful bluecoats.

Miss Amanda Pocock as a founding member of the county sanitation committee volunteered to serve so as to bring medical aid if be needed.  She and two dozen angry local farmers and merchants made up the remainder of the crew under the command of Sargent Meyers.  All had their blood up and were fixed upon obliterating these shameful excuses of men.  Because clearly they were not soldiers and had no honor.  Once the guns were set and the brush cleared from in front of the cannon the order was given to deploy in the strictest silence.  Just before sun up the order was given with great relish, “Fire by Volley!!”  With it a shower of hot lead and cannon ball rained down upon the still sleeping blue coats.  Utter chaos erupted in their camp as shells set wagons afire and horses bolted in panicked disarray through the camp.  The first volley sent half the assemblage to their maker as the remainder struggled to reach their weapons to return fire.  The second command was issued, “Independent Fire!!”  As the riotous noise of the volley faded away it was replaced with an erratic fire that sent chards of dirt and stone rickosheaing across the pasture, into the pond and into the trees beyond.  Shortly the remainder of the scalawags were cut down as a white flag was waved from beneath a large fallen tree.  The order was given to cease fire and a parley was arranged.  The flag was carried by Captain Jacob who although already wounded in the arm sought to save his life and that of anyone who still remained alive.  The Texas Army advanced upon the camp in good order and systematically checked each of the 14 who lay motionless on the ground.  When Capt. Jacob gave the order to rise only one man was left to do so having survived the surprise attack by cowering under a wagon and refusing to fire upon his attackers.  It was private Matthews who stumbled forward with hands raised when ordered to move into the flickering light of the burning wagon.

Both were ordered to march to the rise at the north end of the pond and to about face.  When it became apparent that they were to be shot Private Matthews started speechifying and caterwauling about the articles of war and how they had the right to be sent to the prisoner of war camp at Liendo.  As the firing squad formed and the order was given to aim both the private and the captain both took to their heals in a mad scramble to make the crest of the hill before hot lead cut them down.  It was not to be so as both fell some ten feet before the crest and the private rolled completely back to the vicinity from where he started.  The Captain was mortally wounded and lay in a heap where he fell.  Our Col. walked toward him and dispatched him with one quick shot of his colt while Pvt. Main bayonetted the private to ensure that he met his master at the gates of hades where he was surely bound.

It had been a good night’s march and a good day’s work ending the reign of terror inflicted on Brazos and Montgomery County by these Yankee Scalawags.  Although it had been gruesome it was necessary as they had no honor and were known to have committed all manner of deprivations.  They were utterly unredeemable Yankee scallywags dispatched in good military fashion.  This had been a dark day, but justice had been well served.

This report written and filed at the hand of Corporal Michael Bunch having witnessed such events.

YOS
Corporal Michael Bunch
34 Texas Dismounted

I hope you enjoyed this fanciful tale and will have the opportunity to attend next year’s Texian Heritage Festival held at Fernland Historical Park, 780 Culpepper Street, Montgomery, Texas it is planned to be held on the third Saturday in October 21st 2017 from 10 am – 5pm.  Please contact Ms. Kathy Boyd at kathy@texianheritage.org for additional information and travel of details or go to http://texianheritage.org/ website for additional information.   Please send mail correspondence to Ms. Kathy Boyd, 16296 Bethel Road, Montgomery, TX 77356.  We hope to see you there next year.

-By Michael Bunch