forty-eight of the most daring of his old band, accompanied Shepherd as
far south as White River, Arkansas. He left them there to go to his old
home in Maryland. He passed all Federal camps, had no trouble staying in
Federal camps, eating with Federal soldiers, playing Federal himself until
he reached Upton Station, in Hart County, Kentucky, where he crossed the
Louisiana & Nashville Railroad, still representing himself and his men
as Federal soldiers.
Near Marion County he entered the
Lebanon and Campbellville turnpike at Rolling Fork and traveled north to
New Market, thence east to Bradford, and from Bradford towards
Hustonville, camping for the night preceding the entrance into this place
at Major Dray's, on Rolling Fork. Thirty Federal soldiers were at garrison
at Hustonville, possessed of as many horses in splendid condition, and
these Quantrell determined to appropriate. No opposition was made to his
entrance into the town. No one imagined him to be other than a Union
officer on a scout.
He dismounted quietly at a hotel in
the place and entered at once into a pleasant conversation with the
commander of the post. Authorized by their chieftain, however, to remount
themselves as speedily as possible and as thoroughly as possible, the
Guerrillas spread quickly over the town in search for horses,
appropriating first what could be found in the public stables and later on
those that were still needed to supply the deficiency, from private
As Quantrell conversed with the commander, a
federal private made haste to inform him of the kind of work the newcomers
were doing, and to complain loudly of the unwarranted and outrageous
Enraged and excited, the commander snatched
up a brace of revolvers as he left his headquarters and buckled them about
him and hurried to the nearest livery stable where the best among the
animals of his men had been kept. Just as he arrived, Allen Parmer was
riding out mounted on a splendid horse. The Federal major laid hands upon
the bridle and bade Parmer dismount. It was as the grappling of a wave
with a rock.
No Guerrilla in the service of the South was
cooler or deadlier; none less given to the emotion of fear. He looked at
the Federal major a little curiously when he first barred the passageway
of his horse and even smiled pleasantly as he took the trouble to explain
to him the nature of the instructions under which he was
"D——n you and d——n your instructions," the
major replied fiercely.
"Ah," ejaculated Parmer, "has it really come to this?" and then the two
men began to draw. Unquestionably there could be but one result. The right
hand of the Federal major had hardly reached the flap of his revolver,
before Parmer's pistol was against his forehead, and Parmer's bullet had
torn half the top of his head off.
In June, 1865,
Quantrell started from Bedford Russell's, in Nelson County, with John
Ross, William Hulse, Payne Jones, Clark Hockinsmith, Isaac Hall, Richard
Glasscock, Robert Hall, Bud Spence, Allen Parmer, Dave Helton and Lee
McMurtry. His destination was Salt River.
McClaskey's the turnpike was gained and traveled several miles, when a
singularly severe and penetrating rain storm began. Quantrell, to escape
this, turned from the road on the left and into a woods pasture near a
postoffice called Smiley. Through this pasture and for half a mile further
he rode until he reached the residence of a Mr. Wakefield, in whose barn
the Guerrillas took shelter. Unsuspicious of danger and
of the belief that the nearest enemy was at least twenty miles away, the
men dismounted, unbridled their horses, and fed them at the racks ranged
about the shed embracing two sides of the barn.
horses were eating the Guerrillas amused themselves with a sham battle,
choosing sides and using corncobs for ammunition. In the midst of much
hilarity and boisterousness, Glasscock's keen eye saw through the blinding
rain a column of cavalry, one hundred and twenty strong, approaching the
barn at a trot.
He cried out instantly, and loud enough to be heard at
Wakefield'a house sixty yards away: "Here they are! Here they are."
Instantly all the men were in motion and rushing to their
Captain Edward Terrill, known well to Quantrell
and fought stubbornly once before, had been traveling the turnpike from
the direction of Taylorsville, as completely ignorant of Quantrell's
proximity as Quantrell had been of his, and would have passed on
undoubtedly without a combat if the trail left by the Guerrillas in
passing; from the road to the pasture had not attracted attention. This he
followed to within sight of the barn, understood in a moment the character
of the men sheltered there, and closed upon it rapidly, firing as he came
Before a single Guerrilla had put a bridle upon a
horse, Terrill was at the main gate of the lot, a distance of some fifty
feet from the barn, and pouring such a storm of carbine bullets among them
that their horses ran furiously about the lot, difficult to approach and
impossible to restrain.
Fighting desperately and
deliberately, and driving away from the main gate a dozen or more Federals
stationed there, John Ross, William Hulse, Allen Parmer, Lee McMurtry, and
Bud Pence, cut their way through, mounted and defiant. The entire combat
did not last ten minutes. It was a fight in which every man had to do for
himself and do what was done speedily.
Once above the
rattling of musketry, the neighing of horses and the shouting of
combatants, Quantrell's voice rang out loud and clear: ''Cut thorugh,
boys, cut through somehow! Dont' surrender while there is a chance to get
The fire upon the Guerrillas was furious.
Quantrell's horse, a thoroughbred animal of great spirit and speed, could
not be caught. His master, anxious to secure him, followed him composedly
about the lot for several minutes, trying under showers of bullets to get
hands upon his favorite.
At this moment Clark Hockinsmith,
who was mounted and free to go away at a run, saw the peril of his chief,
and galloped to his rescue. Quantrell, touched by this act of devotion,
recognized it by a smile, and held out his hand to his comrade without
speaking. Hockingsmith dismounted until Quantrell took his own place in
the saddle, and then sprang up behind him.
volley from Terrell's men lining all the fence about the great gate,
killed Hockingsmith and killed the horse he and Quantrell were upon. The
second hero now gave his life to Quantrell. Richard Glasscock also hurl
secured his own horse as Hockinsmith had done and was free too ride away
in safely as he had been.
Opposite the main entrance to
the barn lot there was an exit uncovered by the enemy and beyond this exit
a stretch of heavy timber. Those who gained the timber were safe.
Hockingsmith knew it when he deliberately laid down his life for his
chief, and Glass-cock knew it when he also turned about and hurried up to
the two men struggling there—Quantrell to drag himself out from under the
horse and Hockingsmith in the agonies of death.
volley from the gate mortally wounded Quantrell and killed Glasscock's
horse. Then a charge of fifty shouting, shooting men swept over the barn
lot. Robert Hall, Payne Jones, David Helton, and Isaac Hall had gone out
some time before on foot. J. B. Tooley, A. B. Southwick and C. H.
Southwick, wounded badly, escaped fighting. Only the dead man lying by his
wounded chief, and Glasscock, erect, splendid, and fighting to the last,
remained as trophies of the desperate combat. Two balls
struck Quantrell. The first, the heavy ball of a Spencer carbine, entered
close to the right collar bone, ranged down along the spine, injuring it
severely, and hid itself somewhere in the body. The second ball cut off
the finger next to the little finger of the left hand, tearing it from its
socket, and lacerating the hand itself badly. The shoulder wound did its
work, however, for it was a mortal wound. All the lower portion of
Quantrell's body was paralyzed and as he waa lifted and carried to
Wakefield's house his legs were limp and his extremities cold and totally
At no time did he either make complaint
or moan. His wonderful endurance remained unimpaired to the end. His mind,
always clear in danger, seemed to recognize that his last battle bad been
fought and his last encounter finished. He talked very little. Terrill
came to him and asked if there was any good service he might do that would
"Yes," said Quantrell quietly, "have Clark
Hockingsmith buried like a soldier."
After he had been
carried to the house of Wakefield and deposited upon a pallet, he spoke
once more to Terrell:
"While I live let me stay here. It
is useless to haul a dying man about in a wagon, jolting out what little
life there is left in him."
"Terrell pledged his word that
he should not be removed, and rode away in pursuit of those who had
Some of the fugitive Guerrillas soon reached the
well known rendezvous at the house of Alexander Sayers, twenty-three miles
from Wakefield's, with tidings of the fight.
heard the story through with a set face, strangely white and sorrowful,
and then he arose and cried out: "Volunteers to go back. Who will follow
me to see our chief, living or dead?"
"I will go back,"
said Allen Parmer, "and I," said John Ross, and "I," said William
"Let us ride, then," rejoined James, and in twenty
minutes more—John Ross having exchanged his jaded horse for a fresh
one—these four devoted men were galloping away to
At two o'clock in the morning they were
there. Frank James dismounted and knocked low upon the door. There was the
trailing of a woman's garments, the circumspect tread of a watching
woman's feet, the noiseless work of a woman's hand upon the latch and Mrs.
Wakefield, cool and courtly, bade the strange firmed men upon the
threshold to enter.
Just across on the other side of the
room from the door a man lay on a trundle bed. James stood over the bed,
but he could not speak. If one had cared to look into his eyes they might
have seen them full of tears,
Quantrell, by the dim light
of a single candle, recognised James, smiled and held out his hand, and
said to him very gently, though a little reproachfully: "Why did you come
back? The enemy are thick about you here; they are passing every
"To see if you were alive or dead, Captain. If the
first, to save you; if the last, to put you in a grave."
"I thank you very much, Frank, but why try to take me away? I
am cold below the hips. I can neither ride, walk nor crawl; I am dead and
yet I am alive."
Frank James went to the door and called
in Parmer, Ross and Hulse. Quantrell recognized them all in his old, calm,
quiet fashion, and bade them wipe away there tears, for they were crying
Then Frank James, joined in his entreaties by the
entreaties of his comrades, pleaded with Quantrell for permission to carry
him away to the mountains of Nelson County by slow and easy stages, each
swearing to guard him hour by hour until he recovered or died over his
body, defending it to the last. He knew that every pledge made by them
would be kept to the death. He felt that every word spoken was a golden
word and meant absolute devotion. His faith in their affection was as
steadfast and abiding as of old. He listened until they had done talking,
with the old staid courtesy of victorious Guerrilla days, and then he
silenced them with an answer which, from its resoluteness, they knew to be
"I cannot live. I have run a long time; I
have come out unhurt from many desperate places; I have fought to kill and
I have killed; I regret nothing. The end is close at hand. I am resting
easy here and will die here. You do not know how your devotion has touched
my heart, nor can you understand how grateful I am for the love you have
shown me. Try and get back to your homes, and avoid if you can the perils
that beset you."
Until 10 o'clock the next day these men
remained with Quantrell. He talked with them very freely of the past, but
never of the earlier life in Kansas. Many messages were sent to absent
friends, and much good advice was given touching the surrender of the
remnant of the band. Again and again he returned to the earlier struggles
in Missouri and dwelt long over the recollections and the reminscences of
the first two years of Guerrilla warfare.
parting came, and those who looked first upon Quantrell's face that
morning as they stooped to tell him goodbye, looked their last upon it
Terrill had promised Quantrell positively that he
should not be removed from Wakefield's house, but in three days he had
either forgotten his promise or had deliberately broken his pledge. He
informed General Palmer, commanding the department of Kentucky, of tho
facts of the fight, and of the desperate character of the wounded officer
left paralyzed behind him, suggesting at the same time the advisability of
having him removed to a place of safety.
sent an ambulance under a heavy escort to Wakefield's house and Quantrell,
suffering greatly and scarcely more alive than dead, was hauled to the
military hospital in Louisville and deposited there.
the question of recovery had been absolutely decided against him, but few
friends were permitted into his presence. If any one conversed with him at
all, the conversation of necessity was required to be carried on in the
presence of an official. Mrs. Ross visited him thus—Christian woman,
devoted to the South, and of active and practical patriotism—and took some
dying messages to loved and true ones in Missouri.
Mrs. Ross left him
at one o'clock in the afternoon and at four the next afternoon the great
His passing away, after a life so
singularly fitful and tempestuous, was as the passing of a summer cloud.
He had been asleep, and as he awoke he called for water. A Sister of
Charity at the bedside put a glass of water to his lips, but he did not
drink. She heard him murmur once audibly—"Boys, get ready." Then a long
pause, then one word more—"Steady!" and then when she drew back from
bending over the murmuring man, she fell upon her knees and prayed.
Quantrell was dead.
Before his death he had become a
Catholic and had been visited daily by two old priests. To one of these he
made confession, and such a confession! He told everything. He was too
serious and earnest a man to do less. He kept nothing back, not even the
least justifiable of his many homicides.
As the priest
listened and listened, and as year after year of the wild war work was
made to give up its secrets, what manner of a man must the priest have
imagined lay dying there.
Let history be just. On that
hospital bed, watched by the calm, colorless face of a Sister of Charity,
a dead man lay who, when living, had filled with his deeds four years of
terrible war history. A singularly placid look had come with the great
change. Alike was praise or censure, reward or punishment. Fate had done
its wort and the future stood revealed to the spirit made omniscent by its
journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He had done with
summer's heat and winter's cold, with spectral ambuscades and midnight
vigils. There would never be any war in the land of the hereafter. The
swoop of cavalry, the roar of combat, the agony of defeat, white faces
trampled by the iron hoofs of horses, the march—the bivouac, the battle;
what remains of these when the transfiguration was done and when the river
called Jordan rolled between the shores of the finite and the infinite?
Nothing! And yet by those, standing or falling, must the great Guerrilla
Quantrell differed in some degree from every
Guerrilla who was either a comrade or his contemporary. Not superior to
Todd in courage and enterprise, nor to Haller, Poole, Jarrette, Younger,
Taylor, Anderson, Frank James, Gregg, Lea, Maddox, Dan Vaughn, or Yager,
he yet had one peculiar quality which none of these save Gregg, Frank
James, Thrailkill, Lea and Younger possessed to the same pre-eminent
decree— extraordinary resource and cunning.
Guerrillas fought. Indeed, at certain times and urider certain conditions
fighting might justly have been considered the least of their
accomplishments. A successful leader requires coolness, interpridity,
rubust health, fine horsemanship, expert pistol practice, quick perception
in peril, great rapidity of movement, immense activity, and inexorable
fixedness of purpose.
Those mentioned excelled in these
qualities, but at times they were too eager to fight, took too many
desperate chances, or rushed too recklessly into combats where they could
not win. Quantrell counted the cost of everything; watched every way lest
an advantage should be taken of him; sought to shield and save; his men;
strove by much strategy to have the odds with rather than against him;
traveled a multitude of long roads rather than one short one once too
often ; took upon himself many disguises to prevent an embarrassing
familiarity; retreat often rather than fight and be worsted; kept scouts
everywhere; had the faculty of divination to an almost occult degree;
believed in young men; paid attention to small things; listened to every
man's advice and then took his own; stood-by his soldiers; obeyed strictly
the law of retaliation; preferred the old dispensation to the new—that in
to say, the code of Moses to the code of Jesus Christ; inculcated by
precept and example the self abnegation and devotion to comrade; fought
desperately; carried a black flag; killed everything; made the idea of
surrender ridiculous; snapped his fingers at death; was something of a
fatalist; rarely drank; trusted few women, but these with his life; played
high at cards; believed in religion; respected its ordinances; went at
intervals to church; understood human nature thoroughly; never quarreled;
was generally taciturn and one of the coolest and deadliest men in a
personal combat known to the border. He rode like he was carved from the
horse beneath him. In an organization where skill with a pistol was a
passport to leadership he shot with a revolver as Leatherstocking shot
with a rifle. He drilled his men to fight equally with either hand. Fairly
matched, God help the column that came in contact with
As to the kind of warfare Quantrell waged, that is
another matter. Like the the war of La Vendee, the Guerrilla war was one
rather of hatred than of opinion. The regular Confederates were fighting
for a cause and a nationality—the Guerrilla for vengeance. Mementoes of
murdered kinsmen mingled with their weapons; vows consecrated the act of
enlistment and the cry for blood was heard from homestead to homestead.
Quantrell became a Guerrilla because he had been most savagely dealt with,
and he became a chief because he had prudence, firmness, courage, audacity
and common sense. In personal intrepidity he was inferior to no man. His
features were pleasing without being handsome, his eyes were blue and
penetrating. He had a Roman nose. In heighth he was five feet, eleven
inches, and his form was well knit, graceful and sinewy. His constitution
was vigorous, and his physical endurance equal to an Indian. His glance
was rapid and unerring. His judgment was clearest and surest when the
responsibility was heaviest, and when the difficulties gathered thickest
about him. Based upon skill, energy, perspicacity and unusual presence of
mind, his fame as a Guerrilla will endure for generations.
Quantrell died a Catholic and was buried in a Catholic cemetery at