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NEW LIGHT ON MASSACRE IN CENTRALIA
The Intelligencer (weekly) Sept. 18, 1924 pg 7 cols 5 & 6
Further light on the Centralia Massacre, during the Civil War, is to be found in the following article taken from the Centralia Guard:
M. F. Hicks who was living in Centralia at the time of the Bill Anderson Massacre September 27, 1864, gives us the following first-hand account of that memorable day when twenty-three unarmed federal soldiers were taken off of the North Missouri train and shot without quarter by the guerrillas under Captain Bill Anderson. Mr. Hicks was about ten years old at that time and stood out and saw the tragedy thru as he was not old enough to realize that there was any personal danger in standing out in the open while shooting was going on. Mr. Hicks says the federal soldiers taken off of the train were formed in line just east of Ball's store and Anderson's men stood with their backs to the store and fired their revolvers toward the east at the unarmed federals, who broke and ran. He says the guerrillas were many of them so drunk they shot wild and several of the bullets struck the house where Mr. Hicks lived, and many of the men ran in that direction.
The Ball store was an old frame building, painted a dull brick red and stood facing the north on about the present site of R. P. Everman's barber shop in Railroad street. The old North Missouri depot was a little farther to the east than the present Wabash depot.
The house where Mr. Hicks lived was located somewhere just east of where Tom Sims' blacksmith shop now stands, or about a little over a block from where Anderson's men stood while firing.
Mr. Hicks says:
"I was living in Centralia at the time of the Bill Anderson Massacre. I saw the train when it came in on the old North Missouri Railroad with the soldiers that were afterwards taken off and shot down. There were several of these men who were not killed.
"When the soldiers were formed in line to be shot, some of them broke and ran. Two of these men were killed in our house and one of them just as he was starting into the house. I also saw one man make his escape. He ran from the firing squad and was chased into an old blacksmith shop that we had there, by one of Anderson's men who was riding a fine looking horse. The federal ran into the door of the shop and the guerilla jumped off of his horse and followed him into the shop, when the federal ran out of a side door and then ran to where the horse was, mounted the animal and rode away as fast as the animal could run. The guerilla came to the door of the shop just as the federal had mounted his horse, and he ran out yelling to the others: 'Dam him, shoot him, he has stolen one of our best horses and gone.' The federal soldier flattened himself out on the horse so as to make a very small target, and they did not get him. I learned afterward that he ran the horse out to the Pool neighborhood east of town, got a suit of civilian clothes and made his getaway.
"I also saw Major Johnson and his men when they came into town after Bill Anderson. Johnson made the remark as he rode into town that he would get Bill Anderson or eat his supper in hell.
"When Anderson's men were in town before the train from the east came in, they were sacking the place. They would roll whisky barrels into the street and break them and every fellow who did not have a bottle or canteen, would steal a new pair of boots, tie the straps together, fill each boot half full of whisky and throw them across the horn of his saddle. Then they would ride around and make every fellow they met take a drink with them out of one of the boots.
"If our Tommy Ryan or "Ras" had been there that day there would have been some scrambling for the boots.
"Mr. Hicks was doing errands at the Hall home in Centralia. Mr. Hall's daughter, Eliza, was lying ill in the house with tuberculosis and it was his business to go for anything the family might need. Mr. Hicks saw the guerrillas when they came into town and saw them loot the stores here. He says they would get a bolt of calico, take hold of the end and get on their horses and start in a run down the streets, unwinding the calico as they shouted and yelled waving the free end. They also took dishes and other articles out of the stores and sailed them thru the air or broke them upon the rails of the track in front of the Ball store. After the train came in and they shot the soldiers down, three of the soldiers tried to get into Mr. Hall's house, one of them was shot down in the yard and two of them were followed into the house by the guerrillas and shot down in the room where Eliza Hall lay. Mr. Hall went out in the yard and told the guerrillas that his daughter was a mighty sick woman and asked them to remove the bodies of the two federals from the sick room. They brandished their revolvers and swore at him, telling him to drag the bodies out himself if he did not want them there. At this juncture Captain bill Anderson rode up to the place and asked what was the matter and Mr. Hall told him. Anderson got down off his horse and said to Mr. Riggs who was standing there: 'Here, old man, you hold my horse,' and turning to Mr. Hall he said, 'If you have a sick daughter in there I will get those men out of the sick room.' Mr. Hicks says Anderson was not a large man while the bodies were those of large men. He went in, seized the first man by the wrist and dragged him out of the house and into the yard. Going back he got the other one and dragged him out, too. He then mounted his horse and rode back to where his men were carousing upon the street.
Richard Cook, one of our good friends, living just southwest of Centralia, was living in this vicinity during the memorable Centralia Massacre, and has given us a little bit more to add to our write-up of that fateful day, which has not been published before. Mr. Cook was a boy of about ten years of age, and on the memorable September 27, 1864, was attending school at Union, south of town. His teacher was named Sandusky of Columbia. At about 11:30 a.m., Turner Sexton, who hauled wood to town for selling on the streets, came by the school with his team going as fast as he could drive them. He stopped long enough to yell at the teacher that Centralia was full of guerrillas and that they had stopped the west bound passenger train and took off a lot of Union soldiers and shot them down in the street. The guerrillas were getting drunk and burning the town. Sexton drove on to the south. Shortly after dinner about two o'clock the teacher dismissed the children and sent them to their homes for safety which they might not have in the school house if the guerrillas came that way. A little later in the afternoon Mr. Cook said they could distinctly hear the reports of the muskets and revolvers to the eastward. The next day he went to where the battle had been fought. The rail fence had been taken down by Johnson's men for 150 panels so they go thru with their horses. Just a little ways beyond the fence could be seen more bodies of the dead Union soldiers and a large number of horses that had been killed in the charge of the bushwhackers. Bodies of men were found scattered over a long distance from the scene of the fight, where they had been followed and set down. Mr. Cook said that when the Mounted Federals entered town in the afternoon one man was posted at each of the four roadways leading into town as lookouts or sentrys, as they expected a brush with the Bushwhackers and didn't know where or when they might show up. The man posted at the southwest edge of town tried to stop Sexton as he ran his team out of the town. Sexton yelled, "Run for your life, they're killing everybody over yonder." The sentry thought Sexton was one of the raw recruits of his company and shouted, "Go back, you damned coward, and help your comrades in that fight." Sexton didn't tarry but kept on at full speed. The lone sentry died at his post when he could probably have gotten to safety if he had known the true conditions in that battle. Mr. Cook witnessed the hauling of dead to the trench along the railroad just a little east of the present Centralia High school building where they were buried and remembers when the bones were taken up years later and buried in the National cemetery at Jefferson City.
J. W. DANIEL GIVES LIGHT ON MASSACRE
Mexico Intelligencer (weekly) September 25, 1924 pg 7 col 3
J. W. Daniel of Mexico is one of the older residents of this county, who was in Centralia at the time of the Civil War and saw the Federal soldiers under Johnson, when they were coming into Centralia. He writes the following letter to the Guard: 9;
"I am told you contemplate writing up the Centralia Massacre of Septenber 1864. Perhaps what I may say, or know about this slaughter, may interest at least some of your many readers. At the time of this one-sided fight between Major Johnson and Bill Anderson and their soldiers, the writer (then in his seventeenth year-now in his 76th) was living on the farm later known as the Doc Pool place, near the head of Skull Lick Creek, and about five miles easterly from Centralia. Singleton's home and barn (in which latter building the Anderson soldiers were quartered) was about three miles southwest of our farm. The day before the fight Major Johnson with 200 cavalrymen (including himself) came by our farm riding two abreast. Myself and father, A. B. Daniel, Sr., were cutting corn near the dirt road, on the west side. Major Johnson and his men had come from Hannibal as we learned, and as we understood it, had been sent to this locality in search of Bill Anderson. The Major called to us to come out to the road, which we did, when the following colloquy took place:
"Johnson asked us if Bill Anderson was in this locality. My father said: 'No, not so far as I know.' He said that we had been cutting corn several days and had no means of knowing. Johnson then said: "Well, he is up here, and I am going to have him. Have you any horses down at the barn (about 500 yards from the road)?' "No,' said my father, 'None that you would want. They are all worked down.' Notwithstanding this answer, the Major deputized two of his men to gallop down to the barn. They did not take any horses, but they did take a man's saddle that we had bought only a few days prior to this. The saddle, we found on the battle field after the fight.
"The first knowledge we had of the slaughter, was in the afternoon of that day, when we saw two Confederate horsemen under whip, shooting at one of Johnson's men as they passed around the north boundary of our farm, and entered the brush on Skull Lick Creek near the old home of Jim Pool. We had to presume that this man got away, as by this time it began nearing dark, and we failed to see Anderson's men return.
"Now, I will go back to the beginning of the fight. When Johnson arrived in Centralia, he soon heard that Anderson and his men (about 250, we heard) were camping in the M. G. Singleton barn, about three miles southeast of Centralia. In order that he might the more easily find the location, he pressed into his service our old-time acquaintance and friend, Drury Ragsdale (a Southern sympathizer), whose home was at Paris, Mo., but who had gone to Centralia on business. Mr. Ragsdale afterwards told us of the fight. He said, when nearing the barn, Johnson's men were ordered to dismount from green horses picked up along the road from Hannibal, and then the order was given to fire. The noise of the muskets put the horses on their mettle, of course, and just then there came out from the Young's Creek brush Bill Anderson's men, with bridle reins in their mouths, guns and pistols buckled to their saddles and a revolver in each hand, shooting down the Union soldiers man after man, in quick succession.
"In order to save himself, Mr. Ragsdale said he sat in his saddle with uplifted hat in hand and yelled: 'Citizen, citizen, citizen."
'Your informant has heard that Drury Ragsdale died in Paris several years ago, but no doubt he has relatives there who have heard him tell of his sad lot, while the fight was on.
"We understand that the day after the fight only two or three of Johnson's men escaped death. The Major himself was also killed. The writer was in Centralia the second day after the mix-up, and went out to the cut just east of the town limits where the men had been hauled in, in wagons, from the battlefield, and dumped into the long ditch prepared for burial purposes. Their bodies had been dumped into this pit like hogs, and it was a most grisly sight to look upon. There I saw many bloody hats and caps scattered along the trench, and all clotted with blood, and punctured with bullet holes, and lying about the grounds were dead horses and other evidences of the awful slaughter.
J. W. Daniel"