Discussion Capt. Robert B. Blackwell and the "Blackwell Crowd"; Guerillas and Outlaws who killed both Confederates and Federals alike...

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I have researched the guerilla leader, Capt. Robert B. Blackwell and his band of Tennessee guerillas and outlaws, referred to as the "Blackwell Crowd", for a couple of years now and found his story to be quite fascinating. As his story is entangled with Lt. Colonel, John Porter West, who was the Lt. Commander of the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, whose resignation from that position was tendered, penned and submitted for consideration on 11 Mar 1864, and soon accepted. At which point he returned to his home of Montevallo, Shelby, Alabama and soon formed Capt. West`s Shelby County Militia and Home Guards in the fall of 1864. Capt. R. B. Blackwell, slipped below the Tennessee river and into Alabama where he was being sought out for his crimes, soon joined Capt. West`s Militia and Home Guards in Shelby, Alabama where he would in short order allegedly become responsible for numerous killings, murders, robberies and thefts of innocent civilians in the county and region. Unbeknownst to Capt. J. P. West who was under the impression that Robert B. Blackwell was a legitimate "Colonel" in the Confederate Army, who like him had previously resigned his commission for similar reasons. Which was a lie, one that would go unchecked for some time.

My 4th Great Grandparents as well as my 3rd Great Grandfather`s family, to include my Great Great Grandfather (9 years old), would have also been impacted by the "Blackwell Crowd", to some extent, as they were all living in Shelby, Alabama within just a few short miles of where the gang was headquartered and operating out of. My 3rd Great Grandfather was born and raised in Shelby, Alabama and enlisted into Capt. West`s Company of Alabama Cavalry at Montevallo on 16 Mar 1862, which was mustered into Confederate Service 4 days later on 21 Mar 1862 at Montgomery, AL as Company "B", 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry. From October 1864 until the end of the war in May 1865 my family, along with numerous others, would have been threatened by then "Colonel" Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", as they were all located well with-in the immediate vicinity of where the alleged crimes were committed against the citizenry there. Then the band of outlaws continued to allegedly murder, steal, rob and thieve for sometime in Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties, Alabama, bringing much fear and anxiety to the local population for some time, well after the close of the war.

What we know about this man... Robert B. Blackwell was appointed Sheriff of Bedford County TN during the war. Later during the Civil War he ran a ruthless band of guerillas and outlaws called "The Blackwell Crowd" and he was recognized as their Captain, who was reputedly making raids on both Confederate and Federal forces around Fayetteville and Shelbyville, TN by the summer of 1864. He may have or may have not enlisted on either side but certainly murdered officers and men of both sides. Interestingly enough "Major" Robert B. Blackwell was paroled at the end of the war. Following is what is recorded in his Confederate Service records: Confederate States Army, the rank of Major, surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama on 4 May 1865 (General Richard Taylor`s Surrender), POW Camp at Gainesville, Alabama and paroled from there on 10 May 1865 and sent home to Tennessee from there. Registers of Prisoners Paroled at Gainesville, Alabama. May, 1865. National Archives Microfilm, M598, Roll 73. So obviously at some point and time he did serve in the Confederacy as a Major in Buford's Cavalry Brigade, before going rogue by the summer of 1864.

He received a lot of notoriety during a raid that he and his band of guerillas and outlaws conducted in September 1864 where they captured a number of Col. J. H. Blackburn`s Federal soldiers at the depot at Shelbyville, TN, where all were let go but 10 whom were taken off and shot, 9 died and 1 somehow survived, who informed the Federal army who was responsible for the deaths of his comrades. At which time orders were given to shoot on sight and kill Capt. Blackwell and any of his men responsible for the murders and to burn his wife and children out for retaliation. Below is an account of the incident which was published in the Nashville Daily Press, October 6, 1864.

"Blackwell's Raid into Shelbyville; From Colonel Joseph Ramsey, who arrived here from Shelbyville, we learn some further particulars of the raid into Shelbyville several days ago, by Blackwell. Capt. Blackwell, he says, surprised and captured the Home Guards, thirty-two in number, and afterwards burned the Railroad Depot, containing about one hundred bales of hay, understood to belong to Robert Galbreath and Peter English.

A lot of arms and munitions of war, in the depot, were also destroyed. After this depredation, some of his men shot a negro, and arrested several others, which were carried off with their prisoners above named. Shortly after leaving Shelbyville, and while near Fayetteville, he selected ten out of the thirty-two Home Guards captured, and had them shot, some say in retaliation for the hanging of Jordan C. Moseley at this place on Friday last, while others understood it was in retaliation for a man named Massey, who was shot some time previous by order of General Eleazar A. Paine, then commander of the Post at Tullahoma.

Blackwell thought that he had murdered all his victims, but in this he was mistaken, for one of the number was still alive when the bodies found, and was able to give the particulars of the foul deed. Our informant was not able to learn the survivor's name, but understood that some hopes are entertained of his recovery. The citizens of the neighborhood where the infernal murder was committed, some seven miles south of Fayetteville, Lincoln county, were deterred for a day or two by threats from burying the bodies of the slain, but they finally got together in force, and interred them in the best possible manner. The man left for dead, but only badly wounded, was taken in charge by the citizens and properly taken care of. The twenty-two remaining prisoners were we understand, were afterwards turned over to General N. B. Forrest at Fayetteville, and six of that number had made their escape, and returned to Shelbyville before Col. Ramsey left.

A furloughed Confederate soldier named Bivins, made his appearance in Shelbyville soon after Blackwell left, and learned that there was a straggling Federal soldier in the place. He went to the Federal soldier, and demanded of him a surrender as a prisoner of war, which he did. The people of Shelbyville paid but little attention to the affair, from the fact that they suspected the man claiming to be a Federal soldier, to be in league with Bivins, and acting as a Confederate spy, Bivins then requested the soldier to go home with him to dinner, after which he took him off, and foully murdered him, as he is understood to have said, in retaliation for the murder of his (Bivins') brother. The remains of the soldier were found in the woods so badly disfigured by the hogs at to be scarcely recognized."


Below is another account which was published in the Nashville Banner in September 1915:

Blackwell`s Bushwackers - War Echoes by Will T. Hale, in the Nashville Banner:

"In my recent series in the Banner under the heading of "Crimes and Tragedies of the "Old Days," I noticed the fact that Robert Blackwell`s guerrillas, during the war between the states, attacked the depot at Shelbyville, Tenn., and capturing twelve of Col. J. H. Blackburn`s Federals, marched them out and killed them. I have just received from Alabama a letter written by an acquaintance of a soldier who happened to be with Blackwell in that raid, giving the particulars as they were told to him by that acquaintance.

To make the story better understood, let me say by way of preface that, in giving the names of the men of Col. Blackburn`s companies in my history of DeKalb County, I show that P.M. Melton, Berry Bruton, S. J. Cleek, James Hashaw, John Hyde, H. J. Johnson, George Boss and W. J. Shaw of Company A, were killed at Wells Hill Sept. 28, 1864; and then I ask if these were the men captured by R. B. Blackwell`s guerrillas.

Blackwell carried his captives to Fayetteville, as the following letter shows, and then marched them out to "a high hill" where they were executed. Was this Well's Hill? Some residents of Lincoln County may be able to answer."

My Alabama correspondent writes under date of October 3, 1915:

"Josh Kelley and his cousin Tom B. Kelley were soldering in the fourth Alabama Confederate Cavalry under General Joe Wheeler, and served four years each. They were in Forrest`s Cavalry, and were with the wizard of the saddle in nearly every battle, in which he often said they were excellent soldiers in every respect, and devoted to the Southern cause, Josh Kelley also had two brothers in the army and about a dozen cousins from fourteen years up in addition.
Before the Blackwell raid on Shelbyville, Josh Kelley secured a furlough and came to his Alabama home to spend a month, his command, I think, being somewhere near Nashville. It was near the close of the war and our country was filled with Yankees; so it was dangerous for Confederates to be away from their command. They had to slip in and out and keep hid while at home. Near our home there was, and still is, a large swamp known as Banyan Swamp. It served as a hiding place for the Confederates. Near the swamp lived an old lady named Sullivan who took great interest in helping to secrete Southern men. Father had been at home about as long as his furlough lasted, and was ready to go to his command. He and his cousin were then at Mrs. Sullivan`s home. On one morning Josh and Tom espied two men, dressed in blue, crossing it. Knowing the winding of the road with the intention of capturing or killing the supposed Yankees. When the latter came close they were seen to!


The Shelbyville Gazette, October 21, 1915:

"Robert Blackwell and Joe Kelley.

The swamp, to be specific, lies three miles east of Toney, Ala., and fifteen miles northwest of Huntsville. On recognizing Blackwell, the Kelleys made themselves known, explaining that they were trying to get back to their command. Blackwell and Joe Kelley knew all the secret paths from Alabama to Nashville. Josh and Tom persuaded the two men to go with them a part of the trip back to Nashville. Mrs. Sullivan gave them a good meal, after which they took out in the rain. They finally reached Lincoln County, then made their way to Shelbyville. However, on the route they had fallen in with seven other bushwhackers, making a squad of eleven.

Reaching Shelbyville at night, they went to the homes of good Confederates, hid their horses and decided to take a rest. They learned that there were twenty-two Yankees in the town, regular soldiers, well armed. The knowledge of the Federals being so near created a desire to capture them. So the newcomers all kept themselves hid, while a spy was sent out to locate the enemy. who learned they were in the depot. Josh Kelley and one or two others were opposed to making the attack, saying it was too great a risk; but Blackwell, Tom and Joe Kelley insisted that all to do was to 'catch the bluecoats, and had their way.

At a certain signal the eleven charged the depot. Blackwell and Tom Kelley dismounted, entered the building and demanded the surrender of the Yankees. Meanwhile the rest of the attacking party galloped around the depot making as much noise as possible to overawe the enemy. Josh Kelley, who had been stationed at one of the windows opposite to where Blackwell and Tom Kelley entered, said those two deliberately walked in on twenty-two armed men saying: "Surrender, **** you, or die!'

The Yankees gave up, and were marched out under cover of guns of the assailants. Of course they were chagrined when they learned the small numbers composing the attacking party. Made to mount their horses, which were nearby, prisoners and victors galloped toward Fayetteville, Blackwell and Josh Kelley being in the rear. Josh, said Blackwell before they had gone far, 'hold my horse. I am going back to finish.' "Returning to the depot he set fire to some baled hay, and going back to Kelley they caught up with the main body after a mile ride. The road southward was followed.

Presently Kelley asked Blackwell what he was going to do with the Federals. Tom Kelley and Blackwell both replied there was only one thing to do - shoot them. For, they said, if the prisoners were released they would return and terrorize the whole country, Josh said they were regular soldiers, and it would be an outrage to kill them; but his plea for the captives was at first of no avail. 'Why, ' said Tom Kelley, 'I'M going to make you shoot one-- it will do you good Josh!

As Josh continued to intercede, Blackwell agreed to parole half of the prisoners. Eleven of the most respectable Yankees were selected and Josh Kelley made out the parole on the horn of his saddle. The eleven were accordingly released. This occurred on the public square in Fayetteville by moonlight.

After this Josh Kelley and a few others went to the homes of Southern sympathizers and were soon asleep. The remaining men took the eleven captives out south of Fayetteville, just on top of the high hill leading to Huntsville, and on the east side of the road, and shot them. On each of the victims was pinned a paper containing the word, 'In memory of Massey,' Massey was a good and aged man had been shot at Fayetteville a short time before because he would not give the Federals some information relative to his sons who were in the Confederate Army supposed to be then in the neighborhood.

My correspondent would like to hear from any of the men paroled that night, if living. He says that the dead men were found next morning by Elijah Phillips, relative to Tom Phillips, present sheriff of Lincoln County. Letters sent to me will be forwarded promptly to the writer of the foregoing sketch."


Just days after this raid in Shelbyville, TN which occurred on 28 Sep 1864, Capt. Robert B. Blackwell and his band of guerillas and outlaws, who came to be known as the "Blackwell Crowd", found middle Tennessee a bit too dangerous and sought safety south of the Tennessee River. As he was slipping out of Tennessee into Alabama it was alleged that while in flight he killed a Confederate recruiting officer from the 17th Tennessee Regiment, who attempted to enlist Blackwell and his gang of guerillas and outlaws, which got General Nathan B. Forrest involved in the chase for him. It was at this time in October 1864 that Blackwell made his way into the hill country of central Alabama and successfully passed himself off as a resigned Confederate "Colonel" to then Capt. John Porter West, joining his Militia and Home Guards at Montevallo, Shelby, Alabama as Capt. West was out gathering up deserters to send back to the front and press them back into Confederate service in the region. "Colonel" Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd" offered up their services to Capt. West in assisting his efforts and thus established himself as being legitimate for the time being.

Within a short time as many as twenty civilians in Chilton, Bibb and Shelby Counties, Alabama were murdered or executed, most of them soldiers thought to be AWOL or family members assisting deserters. The killing, robbing and stealing continued to the close of the war, and then quite some time after the war. Eventually Blackwell was named the culprit and he had no choice but to move on, although the residents of Shelby County did catch up to some of his men who had made up the "Blackwell Crowd" and took vengeance on them and any thought to have been in league with Blackwell. No one was ever "officially" charged in connection with any of the killings.

Oddly enough, people in the region never held Capt. John P. West responsible for any of the deaths allegedly attributed to Blackwell. The blame rested solely on the "Blackwell Crowd" who had claimed to have orders to arrest deserters and Union sympathizers, but never returned anyone to the Confederate army. Attacking isolated farms, and in addition to hanging or shooting those who would oppose them they tormented women and children, took what they wanted and reputedly even mutilated some of the bodies of some victims. They were a terror on society and I am sure that the few who the citizens of Shelby County caught up with after the war they exacted revenge on them so heinous as to make up for the ones whom they could not catch or implicate.

What became of Robert B. Blackwell you may ask? He fled to Parker County, Texas and on 28 May 1868 he was assassinated by a fellow citizen. According to his obituary his body was found at Spring Creek along the road from Weatherford to Stockton at 11 am with seven balls in the left side of his body, back and neck. He had been scalped as by Comanches. Blackwell himself was armed with two six-shooters, neither had been drawn or fired, so he was ambushed and killed before he could respond. The suspect was a lone citizen of Parker County with whom there had been a personal difficulty with Blackwell, the suspect had been missing at the time that the Obituary was published in the Dallas Daily Herald on 6 Jun 1868.
 
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Lubliner

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@2nd Alabama Cavalry I am not sure I can find my way back to a reference I came upon the other night in Series 2 of the Official Records, about Prisoners and Treatment of on both sides. I had been scanning through all 8 volumes and came upon a soldier's report that discussed being led captive and headed toward Forrest's command, when the men he was with ordered them suddenly along a side path. Soon he was halted and the leader turned and without hesitation shot the 'soldier' through the ear and into the bone of his skull. He lay there confused, stunned, as he heard other gunfire, and played dead. The men left after the victims were killed, and he alone survived. A negro boy chanced upon him as he was trying to walk, but couldn't but stumble. Brought back to a house, he was taken in. The day or two after a confederate came by knowing one got away, and demanded to kill him. The keeper said he was near death, and would die, so let it be. The confederate left, and they moved the man around to different people until he was healed enough to return. If I can find the source I read this from (I believe in dreams but this was really read), I will return with which Volume it was in.
Lubliner.
 

Lubliner

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I have found the Volume. It is in Series 2, Volume 8 on page 19 and 20. I will give some particulars in case of a dead end search for the volume on line. The report was written to Major William Innes in Nashville, Tennessee on January 3, 1865; the Assistant Commissioner, Organizing U. S. Colored Troops. George W. Fitch wrote it, claiming to be First Lieutenant of the 12th U. S. Colored Infantry, and A. A. Q. M. He says he was captured on the 20th of December 14 miles southeast of Murfreesborough in company with two other officers, Lieut. D. G. Cooke of the 12th, and Captain Charles G. Penfield of the 44th U. S. C. T. They were caught by a company of scouts belonging to Forrest's command, numbering 36 men and commanded by Captain Harvey. The confederates robbed them of everything of value including clothing. They were kept under guard for three days with other prisoners, privates of General Steedman's Division who were captured near the same place. They were led to Lewisburg, 18 miles south of Duck River. There the officers were sent under guard of 4 men to report to Forrest's Headquarters. (At least what the guard told Fitch). They went along the Pike Road leading to Mooresville and left the road for the purpose they said of stopping at a neighbor's house overnight.
Half a mile in going through a wooded ravine, the advance man halted, turned and as Fitch came up, drew his revolver and fired without a word. The bodies of the others were buried on the premises of Col. John C. Hill. The shooting occurred on the 22nd.
Fitch believes there were 12 privates belonging to Cruft's Brigade that were led off to the right toward Columbia and killed as well.
No match maybe to what you were seeking, but a clear indication of activity taking place in those areas.
Lubliner.
 
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That would be Capt. Addison Harvey, who at that time led a 40 man Company of Scouts under Forrest, who on April 19, 1865 was murdered by a Confederate deserter in the act of stealing one of Capt. Harvey`s horses at Columbus, Georgia, and promptly ordered his arrest. Once Capt. Harvey confronted the Confederate deserter attempting to steal his horse, the man broke out into the most abusive language and Capt. Harvey buffaloed him with the but of his pistol and knocking him to the ground unconscious. Not long after he came to, finding Capt. Harvey alone, the Confederate deserter slipped up behind him and shot him through the head. Capt. Addison Harvey died instantaneously. This coming just 10 day's after Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia and 7 day`s before Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee. He was laid to rest there in Columbus, but sometime later his family had his remains resumed and re-interred him at the City Cemetery at Canton, MS where he lies in rest to this day.

If you have not already researched his extremely impressive service during the war as Captain of Harvey`s Scouts, I highly recommend that you do. He was known at the highest levels of the Confederate Government and Confederate Military and many in high positions spoke extremely well of his actions during the war.

"A nest of yellow Jackets continually buzzing about my trains, and stinging severely when I attempted to drive them away." - Maj. General W. T. Sherman.

The above statement was given by General William T. Sherman regarding his dealings with Capt. Harvey and his Company of Scouts during the Meridian Campaign and the Atlanta / Dalton Campaign.
 
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The area known as Lower Yellow Leaf was a poor community in Chilton County, which bordered Shelby County, Alabama to the south, was a favorite place of outlaws and seemingly over-run with Confederate deserters by the fall of 1864, most of whom had been captured and paroled at Vicksburg and never returned to their regiments after being exchanged. In 1860, only two voters from the Lower Yellow Leaf community supported secession. So it was a breeding ground of dissent from the very beginning of the war.

The area which was well protected and hidden by numerous narrow creeks, streams and brooks among a small number of isolated farms, the wooded hills of Lower Yellow Leaf, which ran alongside Yellow Leaf Creek, made the perfect place for anyone seeking to hide out from those who would hunt them down and attempt to press them back into Confederate service. This was one of the areas where Capt. West`s Shelby County Militia and Home Guards were known to operate in gathering up deserters to return them to the front and it was one of the first places that Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd" struck after joining Capt. West`s Company of Militia.

In the Fall of 1864 after numerous bands of outlaws and bandits were reported to the authorities of rampant robbing and stealing from the local population of southern Shelby County, Major William T. Walthall sent a squad from nearby Talladega to inquire about the disturbances in that part of the county, but they were quickly frustrated and returned to Talladega without success. Being born and raised in Shelby County, Capt. West’s Militia and Home Guards were better motivated and equipped to deal with the problem, since they were locals and would most certainly know the parties involved. So they were charged to protect families in the County, especially those who were located on the west bank of the Coosa River from the roving gangs of robbers.

Initially Capt. West also met with disappointment, early on he apparently attempted a night raid with his inexperienced militia, despite the many dangers associated with such an effort. As soon as he made it to his destination and was closing in on the hideout, a group of concerned citizens, thinking that they were the gang of outlaws, formed and began firing on them which resulted in Capt. West and his Militia shooting back. This resulted in one of Capt. West`s men, Joseph Squire, who was the manager of the local Montevallo Coal Company being wounded. Fortunately no-one else was injured in the mishap.

After this incident Capt. West came to realize that his men were much older and very inexperienced, compared to the seasoned veterans that he had formerly commanded just months before of the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry. So he had to change his tactics and approach to how he was going to operate in the region. Acting under the orders of Captain Alexander C. Lemmon, post commander at Montevallo, Capt. West and his Militia and Home Guards began arresting deserters, bandits and outlaws as well as anyone who supported and harbored fugitives. Mr. John Thames, a sixty-five-year old man who hailed from the Lower Yellow Leaf community, was captured and placed in arrest just before the end of September 1864, accused of "feeding, harboring or aiding Confederate deserters."

Captain Lemmon refused a request made by the probate judge of Shelby County, who was deeply concerned that Mr. Thames might be taken by force from authorities and hanged by a mob or the local home guards. The request was denied in the interest of justice, however he soon gained his release after posting a $1,600 bond on 7 Oct 1864, but was arrested again a few weeks later during the latter part of October or early November 1864. It was reported that an armed squad escorted him away from home, and he was never seen or heard of again. That squad was believed to be led by "Colonel" Robert B. Blackwell and from that point forward accusation after accusation was made as more and more people simply came up missing and were never to be seen or heard of again. All coming as apprehensions and arrests were being made by a group of men who claimed to be part of the Home Guards and local Militia returning deserters to the Confederate Army to be pressed back into Military service.

Just from the Lower Yellow Leaf community alone some nine other residents disappeared in similar fashion. One such occurrence involved a certain Mr. Jonathan Huckabee, who was a local pastor in the area, after he disappeared his relatives had to inquire as to what may have become of him in Montevallo regarding the possible location of his body. Some accounts ended in executions in remote areas far away from the possibility of witnesses and other times bodies would be found alongside a lonely road, some mutilated, in the middle of no-where. Suspicions were many but evidence and witnesses were scarce, which is why this activity was allowed to continue for as long as it did. Many of the local residents soon enough began to suspect the same group of individuals as being directly involved in all of these disappearances and killings, that being the "Blackwell Crowd", but initially no-one could prove their involvement in any of it. All that they could do is speculate.

Other such incidents in the immediate area soon followed; a group of armed men reputedly killed and burned a suspected Confederate deserter’s home to the ground around him. Another shot and killed a very young Thames Lowery, who was a teenager which did not enroll in the Junior Reserves as was required. It is reported that he was shot and killed as he drank a glass of buttermilk down by the creek on his family farm. Another was a Mr. Jackson Langston, and his father who were abducted by vigilantes on 6 Feb 1865, both were later found dead, hanged by the neck from the same tree. Four days later the vigilantes returned to murder the dead man`s father-in-law, Mr. Charles B. Cobb after suspecting that he possibly witnessed the abduction and could identify them.

This was the perfect region and environment in which "Colonel" Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd" could hope to find in which to carry out their lawlessness, and they took full advantage of the opportunities which were presented them there for as long as they could get away with their misdeeds. Above are just a few of the alleged victims of "Colonel" Robert B. Blackwell and his band of outlaws known as the "Blackwell Crowd." There were numerous others.
 
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Really interesting reading that brings to mind another Tennessee rascal--Captain Champ Ferguson--who was one of only two Confederate officers executed after the war for their war crimes, the other being the colonel of the Andersonville POW camp.
Yes, Champ Ferguson was also a thorn in the side of the Federals for many reasons especially regarding guerilla activity in Tennessee. Before being executed he claimed to have killed more that 100 Union soldiers and pro-Union civilians. One incident in specific regarding his killing of several Federals who were ambushed, resulted in several letters being exchanged between General`s George H. Thomas and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

In February 1865 Maj. General George H. Thomas (U. S. Army), who commanded the Department of the Cumberland at Nashville, TN., threatened to execute a number of Confederate prisoners, believed to be part of Ferguson`s band of guerillas, who were previously captured in retaliation for the murder of some Federal soldiers by Confederate guerillas who were acting in the area without orders or authority.

Maj. General Nathan Bedford Forrest, on 23 Feb 1865, replied back by letter to Maj. General George H. Thomas and among other things, to include the exchange of prisoners, he stated the following:

"In regard to the murder of Federal soldiers by Guerillas and the threatened execution of a number of Ferguson`s Brigade for retaliation, I have nothing to say. I know nothing of the facts and can only forward the papers to General Beauregard, commanding the Military District of the West, for his consideration and action."
 
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A couple of months after the war had been brought to a close, the residents of Shelby County, Alabama and the Lower Yellow Leaf community, in what is now Chilton County, did see some justice to this senseless violence brought on everyone there by Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", however it came in the form of mob justice and vigilantism. After suffering from starvation and sick of being robbed and plundered, with many of the residents being taken off by armed men in the guise of the local Home Guards, when actually it was members of the "Blackwell Crowd", never to be heard of or seen again, with the few that did turn up being found dead hanged from trees or discovered along a lonely road dead with some of those bodies being mutilated, the local citizenry had enough.

They turned to mob violence against those thought to be responsible for their misery, suffering, anxiety and fear. Two of the men who they exacted revenge upon were Mr. James J. Cobb and Mr. Robert R. "Fox" Rushing, both of whom were locals and members of Capt. West`s Shelby County Militia and Home Guards and both were believed to be in league with Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd". Mr. James J. Cobb was disliked by many, in addition to him being the guide of Robert B. Blackwell showing him how to get around the local area, at the beginning of the war he had formed an infantry company and was sent to the front, after a certain amount of time he tendered his resignation and returned home to Shelby, Alabama. Many who he had enlisted never forgave him for that because they had to remain and finish out the war. They expressed outrage that he had coaxed them into the army and then gone home, many of those soldiers insisted that family members back home in Shelby County have nothing to do with him. He did join the Militia and Home Guards in August 1864, but in the eyes of those that he talked into enlisting, he should have remained with them. Because of this many of the families of those men back home were indeed angry with him. It is strange that all of the victims of Robert B. Blackwell and the "Blackwell Crowd" were neighbors or relatives of James J. Cobb, to include one of his younger brothers, Charles Banks Cobb who was lynched, allegedly by the "Blackwell Crowd", on 10 Feb 1865 at his home at Oak Grove in Chilton County. All of this raised much suspicion for the local citizenry that he was in league with Blackwell, and possibly suggested to him who he should visit and place in arrest next and helped orchestrate the attacks.

Another member of Capt. West`s Shelby County Militia and Home Guards believed to be in league with Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", was Mr. Robert R. "Fox" Rushing, who many disliked because he was a wealthy planter who owned a 300 acre Plantation near Shelby Springs, Shelby, Alabama not too far from the Shelby Iron Works. Before the war he was in the business of, among other things, loaning money to some of the local farmers and was known to place very strict terms on how and when they would pay him back, some times in as little as 10 days. If for what ever reason they were late or did not pay back every penny that he was owed he would take their farms, which was put up for collateral. This angered many, and he was seen to ride with Blackwell on occasion so this gave reason to suspect him. In addition to all of this, "Fox" Rushing was also accused of giving information and directions to Wilson during his raid and destruction of Shelby County on 31 Mar 1865, as part of Wilson`s greater campaign on Selma and Montgomery near the end of the war, which utterly devastated the county. He was also accused of selling goods to the Federal Army during the war for Gold.

Basically a detachment of Brig. General Emory Upton's division, to include Brig. General Edward F. Winslow’s Cavalry Brigade, of Maj. General James Harrison Wilson's Corps carried out a path of destruction along what was known as part of the Ironworks Trail, from Birmingham to Montgomery. When they came through Shelby, Alabama on 31 Mar 1865 they began at Helena and tore up everything from there to Montevallo and then headed to Old Shelby and Columbiana. This Cavalry raid resulted in the Federals destroying the coal mines and rolling mill at Helena on Bucks Creek, the charcoal furnaces (brown ore), the Alabama & Tennessee River Railroad Depot, Kings Iron Works (Ware’s Forge) and the Male and Female Institute at Montevallo, the Shelby Iron Works and charcoal furnaces (brown ore) at Old Shelby, the Shelby Iron Company Railroad from Old Shelby to Columbiana, the large rolling mill and the C. B. Churchill & Sons Company Foundry at Columbiana (Confederate weapons and munitions manufacturer). So when the local residents heard that Fox Rushing aided the Federals in the destruction of their beloved county, it gave them just one more thing which motivated them to deal with him harshly.

On the night of 3 Jun 1865 both Cobb and Rushing would pay dearly at the hands of the local citizenry, in what resulted in pure mob justice. It all began when three of the men went to the home of Mr. James J. Cobb that night and were claiming to be Confederate Soldiers from Mississippi heading home after being paroled and were in need of shelter and food for the night. Mr. Cobb invited them into his house and offered the three a glass of Butter Milk, as soon as they saw their opportunity they signaled to about 30 hooded men (angered local residents / vigilantes), who were waiting outside and busted through the door as they quickly subdued Mr. James J. Cobb. They then stole all valuables, wrecked the house and rode off with Cobb, who was later found hanging from a green apple tree by his daughters.

From there they headed to the home of Mr. Robert R. "Fox" Rushing, who lived near Shelby Springs just a few short miles from the Shelby Iron Works, only a short distance of where my family lived, so I am sure that my own family would have heard the commotion as it played out. Once they arrived to Fox Rushing`s plantation they dragged him from the house and hanged him from one of the rafters of his barn, he was found dead with his mouth crammed full of Hickory Nuts. Some stated that he was hanged from a tree near the barn. It was about this time that Blackwell and his gang realized that their welcome had run out and decided to move out of the area. But violence and vigilante justice remained for some time longer, until Military Reconstruction was eventually brought to a close and life could return to some type of normalcy.

Even to this day if either Fox Rushing or James J. Cobb are brought up in certain parts of the region it creates some division, some swear that the two were rascals and scoundrels who were in league with Blackwell and his gang of outlaws and others think them to be fine upstanding men who were victims of the times. Generations of the family`s of both men came together for more than a hundred and fifty years on 3 June of every year and would assemble at the homestead of both men, memorializing them and remembering what happened to them. Opinions as to what happened and why vary, but both sides were passionate about their positions for many years after.
 
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Lubliner

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@2nd Alabama Cavalry, the Blackwell Crowd you speak of could have been of great use up in Kentucky in late '64 and early '65. Those times in that State were filled with the same type of nefarious undertakings. Did his crowd travel out beyond the limits you mention at any time that I speak of?
Thanks,
Lubliner.
 
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Not that I am aware of, according to the source material that I have for them, they operated solely in middle Tennessee, northern Alabama and then in central Alabama. At least from the Spring of 1864 until just after the close of the war. This specific region in Bibb, Shelby and what is now Chilton County, Alabama was a safe haven for deserters and roaming bands of armed gangs and outlaws who were doing nothing but killing, murdering, stealing, rustling, plundering and robbing innocent civilians as their men folk were off fighting the war. The Violence in Shelby, Alabama went on for at least the first 10 years of Reconstruction. Some of my family died during the time frame that Blackwell was operating in the area and several of their neighbors were victims of the "Blackwell Crowd" so I have wondered for some time if those few were also victims of his, or some other band of outlaws. For all I know my family could have been part of the Vigilantes who finally reckoned with Blackwell`s men after the war since they lived in the middle of where the violence and killing was being committed.

By the time that this vigilante justice was being administered in June 1865, the men of Company "B", 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry (Capt. West`s old Company) had already returned to their homes in Shelby, Alabama, as well as men of, Company "E", 29th Alabama Infantry and others, so it would not have taken much to have a few of them assemble and take care of the problem once made aware or it. My 3rd Great Grandfather, who served in Capt. West`s Company "B", 2nd Alabama Cavalry got back home to Shelby County in late May 1865 being paroled at nearby Talladega on 25 May 1865, a days ride by horse from Shelby County. I am sure that once he and others were back home and received the news of what had been happening while they were off fighting the war, especially if their families were victims or were threatened by this senseless violence, it would not have taken much at all to get them involved in taking action against those who were suspected to be the trouble makers.
 
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Lubliner

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@2nd Alabama Cavalry it is a good mystery. Georgia was also a prominent hide-out for guerrilla activity near Johnson's Crook, Madden's Branch, and the massacre that is attributed to General Gatewood. I have read other cases where the dead have been left in conspicuous places so the message can be understood; many times at fords and bridges of common causeway. It was a very despicable spirit of malice that drove these men forward. Nothing but death seemed to be the only cure.
Lubliner.
 
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From some things that I have read, it appears that Robert B. Blackwell and Champ Ferguson may have known each other in Tennessee, how well or how briefly I can not say with any certainty. I am curious if Ferguson and his band of Confederate Guerillas in Tennessee influenced Blackwell? The two men would have certainly found common ground with one another regarding some of their views at the very least.

According to what I have researched regarding the "Blackwell Crowd" and the misdeeds which they first committed in Tennessee that soon brought them to Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties, Alabama, it kind of reminds me of the movie "Cold Mountain", where the local Home Guards were comprised of certain men who could not be trusted by the local residents back home while the men of fighting age were at the front fighting the war. Because of what they were accused of doing in Shelby, Alabama and its environs it allowed me a unique perspective of what life may have been like for the rest of my family there while my 3rd Great Grandfather was away serving and fighting with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry from 16 Mar 1862 - 25 May 1865. Many decades ago, when my Great Grandfather and Grandfather used to talk about the Civil War, they would often say that my family had a very hard time during the War, both regarding the men fighting it as well as the rest who were left at home. I never fully understood exactly what they meant by that, until I came across the allegations made against Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", who was headquartered less than 5 miles from where my family`s homestead was, and a mile or so from some of his alleged victims who were carried off and later found dead, either along the roads or hanging from a tree somewhere.

I have a very detailed account of what my 3rd Great Grandfather, who served with the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, experienced during the war, almost a day to day account, but with these findings regarding the atrocities being committed back home in Shelby, Alabama it allows me to see the effect that the war had on the loved ones that my 3rd Great Grandfather left behind as he was off fighting the war, as well as what he came back to after the close of the war, while the "Blackwell Crowd" was still active and allegedly killing people there for a few months after the war had ended.

Times were very harsh in Shelby County, Alabama during the Civil War. In 1860 it had a population of around 8,000 people with about 15% of the county`s men initially joining the southern cause and fighting for the Confederacy at the beginning of the war. By mid-war (1863) there were reports of over 4,100 residents, mainly women and children, suffering from starvation and in great want of even the most basic needs necessary to maintain life. The vast majority of those left at home in Shelby County, Alabama during the war were receiving weekly rations from then until the close of the war and even longer during the first few years of Military Reconstruction. A weekly ration consisted of cornmeal, salt pork, flour and sugar which was given out from authorities at Montgomery and distributed to the needy in each county by local administrators in those counties. An official of the Freedmen`s Bureau who travelled through the region (Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties) in January 1866 reported that the suffering of the poorer whites was just appalling. It was not an easy life in the south during the Civil War for either the men off fighting at the front or those who were left behind at home and left at the mercy of murderers, robbers, deserters, bands of outlaws, guerillas, and some corrupt Home Guards who looked for every opportunity to take advantage of a defenseless population of old men, women and children left at home. Some consider the Military Reconstruction on the south from 1865 - 1877 to be 12 more years of war on them.

So when I came across this information regarding the "Blackwell Crowd" it excited me because for the first time I was able to associate how the rest of my family was forced to live as well as my ancestor`s who were fighting the war.
 
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Lubliner

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@2nd Alabama Cavalry I can see a definite trend of preying upon these county citizens, almost as a reflection of what was done to troops when surrendered. If a family caused an inconvenience for these men, such as exposure to an enemy, withholding subsistence upon request, becoming a burden through complaint or being whiny, being a known helper to runaways or union men, they would get targeted. The reference I used showed a distinct act of violence against U. S. C. T. leaders, and Champ was a benefactor with that crowd. Some point to Forrest as being so but I haven't the knowledge yet to base a judgement, but was appalled at the thought.
Thinking over gatherings around secluded areas, and the conversations where all rumors and decisions were weighed out and measured, these men must have had enough 'intelligence' on your family, or enough fear of retribution from a cherished leader to harm them not, at least to the point of death. All were in it up to the hip, hard times and vicious feelings of animosity and revenge. Yet some were chosen to be spared, and it was not a random choosing, so something you ought consider in your search.
Lubliner.
 
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Lubliner, that is certainly one way to look at it. Another perspective I suppose would be that since the Home Guards and the "Blackwell Crowd" were heavily targeting deserters, and families harboring and aiding those deserters, which were typically the victims, it may indicate that my family was not doing either of those things, for as close as they were in proximity to all of the violence happening all around them they surely would have also been targeted if they were doing the same thing. All of the men in my family in Shelby, Alabama of fighting age were at the front fighting and stayed there for the duration of the war. The only ones left behind were old men, women and young children, regarding my family anyway.
 
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TnFed

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From some things that I have read, it appears that Robert B. Blackwell and Champ Ferguson may have known each other in Tennessee, how well or how briefly I can not say with any certainty. I am curious if Ferguson and his band of Confederate Guerillas in Tennessee influenced Blackwell? The two men would have certainly found common ground with one another regarding some of their views at the very least.

According to what I have researched regarding the "Blackwell Crowd" and the misdeeds which they first committed in Tennessee that soon brought them to Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties, Alabama, it kind of reminds me of the movie "Cold Mountain", where the local Home Guards were comprised of certain men who could not be trusted by the local residents back home while the men of fighting age were at the front fighting the war. Because of what they were accused of doing in Shelby, Alabama and its environs it allowed me a unique perspective of what life may have been like for the rest of my family there while my 3rd Great Grandfather was away serving and fighting with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry from 16 Mar 1862 - 25 May 1865. Many decades ago, when my Great Grandfather and Grandfather used to talk about the Civil War, they would often say that my family had a very hard time during the War, both regarding the men fighting it as well as the rest who were left at home. I never fully understood exactly what they meant by that, until I came across the allegations made against Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", who was headquartered less than 5 miles from where my family`s homestead was, and a mile or so from some of his alleged victims who were carried off and later found dead, either along the roads or hanging from a tree somewhere.

I have a very detailed account of what my 3rd Great Grandfather, who served with the 2nd Alabama Cavalry, experienced during the war, almost a day to day account, but with these findings regarding the atrocities being committed back home in Shelby, Alabama it allows me to see the effect that the war had on the loved ones that my 3rd Great Grandfather left behind as he was off fighting the war, as well as what he came back to after the close of the war, while the "Blackwell Crowd" was still active and allegedly killing people there for a few months after the war had ended.

Times were very harsh in Shelby County, Alabama during the Civil War. In 1860 it had a population of around 8,000 people with about 15% of the overall population joining the southern cause and fighting for the Confederacy at the beginning of the war. By mid-war (1863) there were reports of over 4,100 residents, mainly women and children, suffering from starvation and in great want of even the most basic needs necessary to maintain life. The vast majority of those left at home in Shelby County, Alabama during the war were receiving weekly rations from then until the close of the war and even longer during the first few years of Military Reconstruction. A weekly ration consisted of cornmeal, salt pork, flour and sugar which was given out from authorities at Montgomery and distributed to the needy in each county by local administrators in those counties. An official of the Freedmen`s Bureau who travelled through the region (Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties) in January 1866 reported that the suffering of the poorer whites was just appalling. It was not an easy life in the south during the Civil War for either the men off fighting at the front or those who were left behind at home and left at the mercy of murderers, robbers, deserters, bands of outlaws, guerillas, and some corrupt Home Guards who looked for every opportunity to take advantage of a defenseless population of old men, women and children left at home. Some consider the Military Reconstruction on the south from 1865 - 1877 to be 12 more years of war on them.

So when I came across this information regarding the "Blackwell Crowd" it excited me because for the first time I was able to associate how the rest of my family was forced to live as well as my ancestor`s who were fighting the war.
I Don't know anything about Blackwell but Ferguson was definitely an influence on another famous guerrilla around TN.....John P. Gatewood.
.known as the Red Headed Beast from Georgia.
 
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I Don't know anything about Blackwell but Ferguson was definitely an influence on another famous guerrilla around TN.....John P. Gatewood.
.known as the Red Headed Beast from Georgia.
I am familiar with Gatewood in Georgia, he is another great example of the leader of a band of Confederate guerillas, especially towards the end of the War (1864 - 1865), when more and more of these bands and gang`s were being formed. Quite a few of these band`s of guerillas targeted the Federal army, but also often found themselves in sparsely inhabited areas where civil authority had broken down and along with rogue Home Guards, were known to terrorize and plunder farms and towns, sometimes killing or wounding large numbers of people. It was a real problem near the end of the war that was only growing worse.

In early February 1865, while my family in Shelby County, Alabama were under threat from the violence of the "Blackwell Crowd" and other band`s of deserters terrorizing the area there, and my 3rd Great Grandfather, with the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, was operating and fighting against Sherman during the Carolinas Campaign, his brother-in-law died at the hands of a Home Guard in Greene County, Alabama, which was 3 counties to the west of Shelby, Alabama. He was a Minister and exempt from the war, but while out on his circuit ministering to his flock, he and three other men with him, while cutting firewood were assaulted by the local Home Guards and placed in arrest in Greene County, suspected of being either draft dodgers or deserters. It was still quite cold being winter and they were locked in the local Church without provisions for several days, they soon ran out of firewood which left them extremely cold during the nights. After the Home Guards at Greene County verified who he and his men were they eventually let them go, they had been badly beaten but were allowed to go free. However, by then my 3rd Great Grandfather`s brother-in-law was already suffering from pneumonia and soon died of it.

There were many victim`s of the Civil War, civilians and soldiers alike, numerous civilians died or were killed whose deaths were not recorded or contributed directly to the war... many of those were just simply forgotten. Death was not selective during the Civil War, it took everyone equally who embraced it.... soldiers, old men, women and children. This weighed heavily on the men at the front fighting the war, I am sure that it tore their hearts out when they received a letter from home stating how much their families were suffering and in want of even the most basic needs and necessities to maintain life. Many of them at one point or another had to consider rushing home to take care of and protect their families and struggled with that and performing their duty to what they perceived as being their country.
 

TnFed

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Anyone interested in learning how vicious guerrilla conflict could be, would get an idea from reading John P. Gatewood, Confederate Bushwhacker, by Larry D. Stephens. I don't know that much about partisan conflict in Alabama. Though I have heard of Bill Looney. You have certainly done a great job on your research. I know a little about Ferguson and Beatty, because two of Beatty's men were relatives of WW1 hero Alvin York.
 
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Lubliner

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@2nd Alabama Cavalry I got another lucky hit last night in the O. R. Series 1, Volume 32, part 1. It covers operations in Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and North Georgia for January 1st to April 30 of 1864. This is when Johnston was at Dalton and Roddy near Florence, keeping watch on Union forces guarding Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville and rebuilding Railroad Lines. Veteran re-enlistments and furloughs had depleted some of the forces of the Union and they were gathering strength for the Spring Campaign; it covers the prequel.
I thought I should highlight a few references made on guerrillas.
Page 7: "A party of guerrillas, numbering about 150 men, attacked Tracy City on the 20th...." [Jan.]
" " : "Col. T. J. Harrison, Thirty-ninth Indiana (mounted infantry) reports from Cedar Grove, 21st instant that he had sent an expedition of 200 men to Sparta, to look after the guerrillas in that vicinity....Having passed over the localities of Carter's, Champ Ferguson's, Bledsoe's and Murray's guerrillas, his force remained on the Calf Killer [Creek] five days, and during that time killed 4, wounded 5 or 6, and captured 15, including a captain and lieutenant, 30 horses, and 20 stand of arms."
Later on Feb. 7, another report sent [page 8] makes some high claims. I say this because they report having killed Ferguson, and we know it isn't so.
"Col. William B. Stokes, Fifth Tennessee Cavalry recently scouted in the vicinity of Sparta after certain bands of guerrillas infesting that neighborhood, and had succeeded in killing 17 and capturing 12, besides 20 horses and mules. Another force, under Colonel McConnell, succeeded in killing 23 and capturing 40 of the same gang...."
This band of guerrillas they claimed to consist of 600 men, finely mounted.
[On page 16 is found the killing of Bledsoe and Ferguson].
Surprisingly, there was a huge amount of relief being offered to destitute citizens in the cities. This could be one more hot poker in the fire too, knowing it would swing allegiance and cause hostility on the rebel front.
Lubliner.
 

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I have researched the guerilla leader, Capt. Robert B. Blackwell and his band of Tennessee guerillas and outlaws, referred to as the "Blackwell Crowd", for a couple of years now and found his story to be quite fascinating. As his story is entangled with Lt. Colonel, John Porter West, who was the Lt. Commander of the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry, whose resignation from that position was tendered, penned and submitted for consideration on 11 Mar 1864, and soon accepted. At which point he returned to his home of Montevallo, Shelby, Alabama and soon formed Capt. West`s Shelby County Militia and Home Guards in the fall of 1864. Capt. R. B. Blackwell, slipped below the Tennessee river and into Alabama where he was being sought out for his crimes, soon joined Capt. West`s Militia and Home Guards in Shelby, Alabama where he would in short order allegedly become responsible for numerous killings, murders, robberies and thefts of innocent civilians in the county and region. Unbeknownst to Capt. J. P. West who was under the impression that Robert B. Blackwell was a legitimate "Colonel" in the Confederate Army, who like him had previously resigned his commission for similar reasons. Which was a lie, one that would go unchecked for some time.

My 4th Great Grandparents as well as my 3rd Great Grandfather`s family, to include my Great Great Grandfather (9 years old), would have also been impacted by the "Blackwell Crowd", to some extent, as they were all living in Shelby, Alabama within just a few short miles of where the gang was headquartered and operating out of. My 3rd Great Grandfather was born and raised in Shelby, Alabama and enlisted into Capt. West`s Company of Alabama Cavalry at Montevallo on 16 Mar 1862, which was mustered into Confederate Service 4 days later on 21 Mar 1862 at Montgomery, AL as Company "B", 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry. From October 1864 until the end of the war in May 1865 my family, along with numerous others, would have been threatened by then "Colonel" Robert B. Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd", as they were all located well with-in the immediate vicinity of where the alleged crimes were committed against the citizenry there. Then the band of outlaws continued to allegedly murder, steal, rob and thieve for sometime in Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties, Alabama, bringing much fear and anxiety to the local population for some time, well after the close of the war.

What we know about this man... Robert B. Blackwell was appointed Sheriff of Bedford County TN during the war. Later during the Civil War he ran a ruthless band of guerillas and outlaws called "The Blackwell Crowd" and he was recognized as their Captain, who was reputedly making raids on both Confederate and Federal forces around Fayetteville and Shelbyville, TN by the summer of 1864. He may have or may have not enlisted on either side but certainly murdered officers and men of both sides. Interestingly enough "Major" Robert B. Blackwell was paroled at the end of the war. Following is what is recorded in his Confederate Service records: Confederate States Army, the rank of Major, surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama on 4 May 1865 (General Richard Taylor`s Surrender), POW Camp at Gainesville, Alabama and paroled from there on 10 May 1865 and sent home to Tennessee from there. Registers of Prisoners Paroled at Gainesville, Alabama. May, 1865. National Archives Microfilm, M598, Roll 73. So obviously at some point and time he did serve in the Confederacy as a Major in Buford's Cavalry Brigade, before going rogue by the summer of 1864.

He received a lot of notoriety during a raid that he and his band of guerillas and outlaws conducted in September 1864 where they captured a number of Col. J. H. Blackburn`s Federal soldiers at the depot at Shelbyville, TN, where all were let go but 10 whom were taken off and shot, 9 died and 1 somehow survived, who informed the Federal army who was responsible for the deaths of his comrades. At which time orders were given to shoot on sight and kill Capt. Blackwell and any of his men responsible for the murders and to burn his wife and children out for retaliation. Below is an account of the incident which was published in the Nashville Daily Press, October 6, 1864.

"Blackwell's Raid into Shelbyville; From Colonel Joseph Ramsey, who arrived here from Shelbyville, we learn some further particulars of the raid into Shelbyville several days ago, by Blackwell. Capt. Blackwell, he says, surprised and captured the Home Guards, thirty-two in number, and afterwards burned the Railroad Depot, containing about one hundred bales of hay, understood to belong to Robert Galbreath and Peter English.

A lot of arms and munitions of war, in the depot, were also destroyed. After this depredation, some of his men shot a negro, and arrested several others, which were carried off with their prisoners above named. Shortly after leaving Shelbyville, and while near Fayetteville, he selected ten out of the thirty-two Home Guards captured, and had them shot, some say in retaliation for the hanging of Jordan C. Moseley at this place on Friday last, while others understood it was in retaliation for a man named Massey, who was shot some time previous by order of General Eleazar A. Paine, then commander of the Post at Tullahoma.

Blackwell thought that he had murdered all his victims, but in this he was mistaken, for one of the number was still alive when the bodies found, and was able to give the particulars of the foul deed. Our informant was not able to learn the survivor's name, but understood that some hopes are entertained of his recovery. The citizens of the neighborhood where the infernal murder was committed, some seven miles south of Fayetteville, Lincoln county, were deterred for a day or two by threats from burying the bodies of the slain, but they finally got together in force, and interred them in the best possible manner. The man left for dead, but only badly wounded, was taken in charge by the citizens and properly taken care of. The twenty-two remaining prisoners were we understand, were afterwards turned over to General N. B. Forrest at Fayetteville, and six of that number had made their escape, and returned to Shelbyville before Col. Ramsey left.

A furloughed Confederate soldier named Bivins, made his appearance in Shelbyville soon after Blackwell left, and learned that there was a straggling Federal soldier in the place. He went to the Federal soldier, and demanded of him a surrender as a prisoner of war, which he did. The people of Shelbyville paid but little attention to the affair, from the fact that they suspected the man claiming to be a Federal soldier, to be in league with Bivins, and acting as a Confederate spy, Bivins then requested the soldier to go home with him to dinner, after which he took him off, and foully murdered him, as he is understood to have said, in retaliation for the murder of his (Bivins') brother. The remains of the soldier were found in the woods so badly disfigured by the hogs at to be scarcely recognized."


Below is another account which was published in the Nashville Banner in September 1915:

Blackwell`s Bushwackers - War Echoes by Will T. Hale, in the Nashville Banner:

"In my recent series in the Banner under the heading of "Crimes and Tragedies of the "Old Days," I noticed the fact that Robert Blackwell`s guerrillas, during the war between the states, attacked the depot at Shelbyville, Tenn., and capturing twelve of Col. J. H. Blackburn`s Federals, marched them out and killed them. I have just received from Alabama a letter written by an acquaintance of a soldier who happened to be with Blackwell in that raid, giving the particulars as they were told to him by that acquaintance.

To make the story better understood, let me say by way of preface that, in giving the names of the men of Col. Blackburn`s companies in my history of DeKalb County, I show that P.M. Melton, Berry Bruton, S. J. Cleek, James Hashaw, John Hyde, H. J. Johnson, George Boss and W. J. Shaw of Company A, were killed at Wells Hill Sept. 28, 1864; and then I ask if these were the men captured by R. B. Blackwell`s guerrillas.

Blackwell carried his captives to Fayetteville, as the following letter shows, and then marched them out to "a high hill" where they were executed. Was this Well's Hill? Some residents of Lincoln County may be able to answer."

My Alabama correspondent writes under date of October 3, 1915:

"Josh Kelley and his cousin Tom B. Kelley were soldering in the fourth Alabama Confederate Cavalry under General Joe Wheeler, and served four years each. They were in Forrest`s Cavalry, and were with the wizard of the saddle in nearly every battle, in which he often said they were excellent soldiers in every respect, and devoted to the Southern cause, Josh Kelley also had two brothers in the army and about a dozen cousins from fourteen years up in addition.
Before the Blackwell raid on Shelbyville, Josh Kelley secured a furlough and came to his Alabama home to spend a month, his command, I think, being somewhere near Nashville. It was near the close of the war and our country was filled with Yankees; so it was dangerous for Confederates to be away from their command. They had to slip in and out and keep hid while at home. Near our home there was, and still is, a large swamp known as Banyan Swamp. It served as a hiding place for the Confederates. Near the swamp lived an old lady named Sullivan who took great interest in helping to secrete Southern men. Father had been at home about as long as his furlough lasted, and was ready to go to his command. He and his cousin were then at Mrs. Sullivan`s home. On one morning Josh and Tom espied two men, dressed in blue, crossing it. Knowing the winding of the road with the intention of capturing or killing the supposed Yankees. When the latter came close they were seen to!


The Shelbyville Gazette, October 21, 1915:

"Robert Blackwell and Joe Kelley.

The swamp, to be specific, lies three miles east of Toney, Ala., and fifteen miles northwest of Huntsville. On recognizing Blackwell, the Kelleys made themselves known, explaining that they were trying to get back to their command. Blackwell and Joe Kelley knew all the secret paths from Alabama to Nashville. Josh and Tom persuaded the two men to go with them a part of the trip back to Nashville. Mrs. Sullivan gave them a good meal, after which they took out in the rain. They finally reached Lincoln County, then made their way to Shelbyville. However, on the route they had fallen in with seven other bushwhackers, making a squad of eleven.

Reaching Shelbyville at night, they went to the homes of good Confederates, hid their horses and decided to take a rest. They learned that there were twenty-two Yankees in the town, regular soldiers, well armed. The knowledge of the Federals being so near created a desire to capture them. So the newcomers all kept themselves hid, while a spy was sent out to locate the enemy. who learned they were in the depot. Josh Kelley and one or two others were opposed to making the attack, saying it was too great a risk; but Blackwell, Tom and Joe Kelley insisted that all to do was to 'catch the bluecoats, and had their way.

At a certain signal the eleven charged the depot. Blackwell and Tom Kelley dismounted, entered the building and demanded the surrender of the Yankees. Meanwhile the rest of the attacking party galloped around the depot making as much noise as possible to overawe the enemy. Josh Kelley, who had been stationed at one of the windows opposite to where Blackwell and Tom Kelley entered, said those two deliberately walked in on twenty-two armed men saying: "Surrender, **** you, or die!'

The Yankees gave up, and were marched out under cover of guns of the assailants. Of course they were chagrined when they learned the small numbers composing the attacking party. Made to mount their horses, which were nearby, prisoners and victors galloped toward Fayetteville, Blackwell and Josh Kelley being in the rear. Josh, said Blackwell before they had gone far, 'hold my horse. I am going back to finish.' "Returning to the depot he set fire to some baled hay, and going back to Kelley they caught up with the main body after a mile ride. The road southward was followed.

Presently Kelley asked Blackwell what he was going to do with the Federals. Tom Kelley and Blackwell both replied there was only one thing to do - shoot them. For, they said, if the prisoners were released they would return and terrorize the whole country, Josh said they were regular soldiers, and it would be an outrage to kill them; but his plea for the captives was at first of no avail. 'Why, ' said Tom Kelley, 'I'M going to make you shoot one-- it will do you good Josh!

As Josh continued to intercede, Blackwell agreed to parole half of the prisoners. Eleven of the most respectable Yankees were selected and Josh Kelley made out the parole on the horn of his saddle. The eleven were accordingly released. This occurred on the public square in Fayetteville by moonlight.

After this Josh Kelley and a few others went to the homes of Southern sympathizers and were soon asleep. The remaining men took the eleven captives out south of Fayetteville, just on top of the high hill leading to Huntsville, and on the east side of the road, and shot them. On each of the victims was pinned a paper containing the word, 'In memory of Massey,' Massey was a good and aged man had been shot at Fayetteville a short time before because he would not give the Federals some information relative to his sons who were in the Confederate Army supposed to be then in the neighborhood.

My correspondent would like to hear from any of the men paroled that night, if living. He says that the dead men were found next morning by Elijah Phillips, relative to Tom Phillips, present sheriff of Lincoln County. Letters sent to me will be forwarded promptly to the writer of the foregoing sketch."


Just days after this raid in Shelbyville, TN which occurred on 28 Sep 1864, Capt. Robert B. Blackwell and his band of guerillas and outlaws, who came to be known as the "Blackwell Crowd", found middle Tennessee a bit too dangerous and sought safety south of the Tennessee River. As he was slipping out of Tennessee into Alabama it was alleged that while in flight he killed a Confederate recruiting officer from the 17th Tennessee Regiment, who attempted to enlist Blackwell and his gang of guerillas and outlaws, which got General Nathan B. Forrest involved in the chase for him. It was at this time in October 1864 that Blackwell made his way into the hill country of central Alabama and successfully passed himself off as a resigned Confederate "Colonel" to then Capt. John Porter West, joining his Militia and Home Guards at Montevallo, Shelby, Alabama as Capt. West was out gathering up deserters to send back to the front and press them back into Confederate service in the region. "Colonel" Blackwell and his "Blackwell Crowd" offered up their services to Capt. West in assisting his efforts and thus established himself as being legitimate for the time being.

Within a short time as many as twenty civilians in Chilton, Bibb and Shelby Counties, Alabama were murdered or executed, most of them soldiers thought to be AWOL or family members assisting deserters. The killing, robbing and stealing continued to the close of the war, and then quite some time after the war. Eventually Blackwell was named the culprit and he had no choice but to move on, although the residents of Shelby County did catch up to some of his men who had made up the "Blackwell Crowd" and took vengeance on them and any thought to have been in league with Blackwell. No one was ever "officially" charged in connection with any of the killings.

Oddly enough, people in the region never held Capt. John P. West responsible for any of the deaths allegedly attributed to Blackwell. The blame rested solely on the "Blackwell Crowd" who had claimed to have orders to arrest deserters and Union sympathizers, but never returned anyone to the Confederate army. Attacking isolated farms, and in addition to hanging or shooting those who would oppose them they tormented women and children, took what they wanted and reputedly even mutilated some of the bodies of some victims. They were a terror on society and I am sure that the few who the citizens of Shelby County caught up with after the war they exacted revenge on them so heinous as to make up for the ones whom they could not catch or implicate.

What became of Robert B. Blackwell you may ask? He fled to Parker County, Texas and on 28 May 1868 he was assassinated by a fellow citizen. According to his obituary his body was found at Spring Creek along the road from Weatherford to Stockton at 11 am with seven balls in the left side of his body, back and neck. He had been scalped as by Comanches. Blackwell himself was armed with two six-shooters, neither had been drawn or fired, so he was ambushed and killed before he could respond. The suspect was a lone citizen of Parker County with whom there had been a personal difficulty with Blackwell, the suspect had been missing at the time that the Obituary was published in the Dallas Daily Herald on 6 Jun 1868.
Amazing read, seeing that I am sitting in Huntsville Al. only a few miles from the swamp in question
 
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