Civilian Side of the War

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
The civilian population, especially in the South, suffered greatly during the Civil War. Author James McPherson estimated the number of deaths at 50,000. Such deaths were primarily by starvation, disease, and deliberate and indirect result of armed incidents. Thousands more were displaced. Their stories were often lost or hidden in obscure areas of the war. Some stories remain through recent ancestral studies, diaries, generational accounts, or limited record keeping/published material. Records often either destroyed or overshadowed by military operations. One so called lesser known incident was dubbed the Huntsville Ar. Massacre:

“In the midst of the Civil War, on January 10, 1863, nine men were taken from a guardhouse and led to a field on the Samuel P. Vaughn farm about one mile northeast of Huntsville, where they were shot by Union soldiers on the bank of Vaughn’s Branch near the road that led to Carrollton. One survived. Although the reason for the execution may never be known, it may have been in response to the ambush of a Union army escort and the mistreatment of the daughters of Isaac Murphy by locals.

Isaac Murphy was elected in 1861 to the Secession Convention from Madison County on the Unionist platform, receiving eighty-five percent of the vote and eventually becoming the lone delegate to vote “no” on Arkansas’s secession from the Union. Upon returning to Huntsville, he was greeted well by the locals. However, this attitude changed as the war progressed and, particularly, as the war came closer to home. Although a majority of the people in and around Huntsville had been Unionists, sides were now changing.

Following the Battle if Pea Ridge, Murphy’s life was threatened, and he, along with Dr. James M. Johnson and Frank Johnson, were forced to flee to Pea Ridge,where Murphy took a civilian position on General Samuel Curtis’ staff. Although Murphy had made arrangements to have his family moved to Missouri, the plans did not materialize, and his daughters, Louisa and Laura, remained behind in Huntsville, where they faced constant harassment. By the fall of 1862, Murphy’s daughters were most eager to visit him and made the trip to Pea Ridge. As preparations were being made for the Battle of Prairie Grove, they had to be sent back to Huntsville weeks later, a journey they began on November 16, 1862. For protection, Colonel Alfred W. Bishop furnished an escort of twenty-five soldiers to accompany them.

When they were within about two miles of Huntsville, the escort decided to send the Murphy daughters into Huntsville alone. While resting, the escort was surprised by a local guerilla band, and a skirmish ensued. Of the twenty-five soldiers sent as escort, only seven returned to Pea Ridge alive.

Following the Battle of Prairie Grove, General Francis Herron was ordered to take his 5,000 troops northeast to the Mississippi River to join General Ulysses S. Grant on his push toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. This trek took Herron and his troops through Madison County via Huntsville. Upon arrival, it was reported that the Murphy daughters were still being harassed by the locals to the point of having their personal belongings taken from them. Within days, several citizens were arrested and held for reasons not entirely clear.

In the early morning hours of January 10, 1863, nine men were taken out for execution by members of Company G of the Eighth Missouri Cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Elias Briggs Baldwin. Those executed included Chesley H. Boatright, a blacksmith, former county treasurer, deacon of the Huntsville Presbyterian Church, and prominent Mason; William Martin Berry, a prominent member of Odeon Masonic Lodge and son-in-law of Isaac Murphy; Hugh Samuel Berry, son of the aforementioned William M. Berry and captain in the Confederate army, home on leave; John William Moody, nephew-in-law to Chesley H. Boatright and a deputy US Marshal and farmer; Confederate army captain Askin Hughes; John Hughes; Watson P. Stevens, a cousin of the Berrys; Robert Coleman Young, a Baptist minister; and Bill Parks. One of the nine, Parks, survived and left for Mississippi after he had recuperated.

Word of the massacre spread quickly among the Union troops, and within weeks Lt. Col. Baldwin was arrested and charged with “violation of the 6th​ Article of War for the murder of prisoners of war.” He was transported to Springfield, Missouri, where he was to be held pending a trial before a military commission. Many of the requested witnesses were either too ill to attend or on active duty and did not attend the trial. Due to the lack of witnesses, charges against Baldwin were dropped, and he was discharged.“

https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/huntsville-massacre-3795/
 
Joined
May 1, 2015
Location
Upstate N.Y.
Civilian populations in any war zone probably suffer in many ways of no fault of their own. This is true in any armed conflict. The story of the two ladies being harassed by local townsmen I'm sure happened frequently. What puzzles me is bringing in the execution of others and soldier totally unrelated to the two ladies situation. There is no reason given or reference to a court martial or trial of the men. No connection to the harassment story at all. If in fact a war crime did happen the military courts would resolve it. It states the officer was arrested and held for trial without any one pursuing the charges. I'm sure there were other townsmen who could have come forward. Did the executed men deserve their faith or were they innocent? No details of any kind are given and is not in the context of the original "civilian suffering". Why include with the original ladies story?
 
Last edited:

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Civilian populations in any war zone probably suffer in many ways of no fault of their own. This is true in any armed conflict. The story of the two ladies being harassed by local townsmen I'm sure happened frequently. What puzzles me is bringing in the execution of others and soldier totally unrelated to the two ladies situation. There is no reason given or reference to a court martial or trial of the men. No connection to the harassment story at all. If in fact a war crime did happen the military courts would resolve it. It states the officer was arrested and held for trial without any one pursuing the charges. I'm sure there were other townsmen who could have come forward. Did the executed men deserve their faith or were they innocent? No details of any kind are given and is not in the context of the original "civilian suffering". Why include with the original ladies story?
Answers to some of your questions are found by further reading of the incident, and within the original posting. Isaac Murphy (Father of the daughters) allegedly took part in the executions, one of whom was his son in law. Moreover, there appeared to be Masonic connections. There was mention of any court martial of the executed men, only arrest and execution. Certainly not uncommon finding retribution after being ambushed during the war. Often innocents, quite possibly the case here, lost their life, the ultimate method of suffering. Here is another link

http://www.huntsville364.org/The Huntsville Massacre.doc
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
There is no doubting that civilians who were caught up in war zones had a miserable time of it. However, this particular incident (Huntsville Massacre) is screwy all around. It seems to be a case of circular sourcing: that is, there was only one source and it was copied nearly verbatim. This mixture of officers and civilians may be strange. Research, that ignores whatever source was used by the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, etc., paints an even more confused picture. Chesley H. Boatright may not have died until 1867. The Confederate officers don't seem to be on rosters. Something surely did happen--Bingham was tried in Springfield, IL (charges dismissed because of lack of witnesses). The incident certainly seems to be a reflection of just how confused those times were.
 

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Colonel James O. Gower, (Union) Third Division Head quarters, Forsyth, Missouri, dated January 25, 1863, to Colonel C. W. Marsh, Assistant Adjutant General, reveals the following.

"I have called upon Lt. Colonel Baldwin, Provost Marshal of the division to furnish a written statement of what disposition was made of the nine prisoners of war (referred to in Colonel Dan Huston's letter) supposed to have, been murdered at Huntsville, Arkansas, on the 10th instant, and will report as soon as the matter can be investigated. I have no doubt but that some officer of this division ordered these men shot, and regard it myself as a great out rage."
 

Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Keeping in Arkansas:

Little Rock, Arkansas, April 17, 1863.

Lt. General Holmes, (Confederate)

Commanding, District of Arkansas:

Sir: I left Dardanelle, Arkansas, on the 5th instant, and returned yesterday, the 16th, having gone as far into enemy country as Cassville, Barry County, Missouri.

They (the Union forces) have murdered every southern man that could be found, old age and extreme youth sharing at their hands the same merciless fate. Old Samuel Cox and his son (age 14), Saul Gatewood, Heal Parker and Capt. Duvall, of Missouri, were a part of those murdered in Carroll. They burned on Osage, in Carroll County, fifteen southern houses and all the out houses, none of those thus made homeless being permitted to take with them any clothing or subsistance. They seem to have hoisted the black flag, for no southern man, however old and infirm or however little he may have assisted our cause, is permitted to escape them alive.

General, I have not the language to describe in truthful colors the ravages these Hessians are committing In the northwest of this State. Their guide and principal leader up there is an Arkansian, formerly a Baptist preacher in Carroll county, of the name of Crysop.

The infantry and a battery of five guns, numbering about 1,000 men, left the cavalry at Carroll- ton, they moving in a northeast direction and toward Forsyth, Missouri, on White River, about 43 miles from Springfield, Missouri on the river road from the latter place to Yellville, Arkansas.

No troops at Huntsville, Berryville, or Bentonville, Arkansas. The Pin Indians have moved out of the nation. An occasional scout visits these places, murdering and stealing.

General Herron is at Springfield, very sick and not expected to live. But few troops at Springfield.

The main force is concentrating at Hartville under command of General Blunt. They report 10,000 men and I do not believe they miss it far. They are concentrating to check Marmaduke, whom they fear as honest men do the devil. On the border, both in Arkansas and Missouri, they are murdering every southern man going north or coming south. A first Lieutenant (Robert H. Christian) of the Missouri Militia committed one of the most diabolical, cold-blooded murders that I heard of during my trip. Four old citizens had gone to the brush, fearing that by remaining at home they would be murdered. Their names were Asa Chilcutt (who was recruiting for the C. S. Army), Alias Price, Thomas Dilworth, and Lee Chilcutt. Asa Chilcutt was taken very sick, and sent for Dr. Harris, a Southern man. The doctor came as requested, and while there, this man Christian and 17 other militia came suddenly upon their camp. Lee Chilcutt made his escape. The others were captured, and disposed of as follows: Asa Chilcutt, the sick man was shot some six or seven times by this leading murderer, Christian. They marched the others 150 yards to a ridge, and, not heeding their age or prayers for mercy, which were heard by citizens living near by, they shot and killed the doctor and the others, all of them being shot two or three times through the head and as many more times through the body. They (the Federals) then left them, and, passing a house nearby told the lady that, they had "killed four old bucks out there and if they had any friends they had better bury them." This man Christian also tried to hire two ladies, with sugar and coffee, etc. to poison southern men lying in the brush. Christian proposed furnishing the poison and also the subsistance, and would pay them well if they accepted his proposition. The names of the ladies are Rhoda Laton, and Mrs. Simms, and every word of all the above can be proven in every particular.

I have given you the above narrative of Christian's acts at the request of the public living in that section. They look to you as the avenger of their wrongs.

I have the honor to be, general, your most obedient servant,

JOSEPH G. PEEVY,
Capt. Company B. Hunter's Regiment,
Missouri Infantry on Detached Service.

https://thelibrary.org/lochist/periodicals/wrv/V1/N4/S62f.htm
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
The civilian population, especially in the South, suffered greatly during the Civil War. Author James McPherson estimated the number of deaths at 50,000. Such deaths were primarily by starvation, disease, and deliberate and indirect result of armed incidents. Thousands more were displaced. Their stories were often lost or hidden in obscure areas of the war. Some stories remain through recent ancestral studies, diaries, generational accounts, or limited record keeping/published material. Records often either destroyed or overshadowed by military operations. One so called lesser known incident was dubbed the Huntsville Ar. Massacre:
Yes, you're right: war takes a terrible toll on civilians. While some are butchered by the enemy, others fall victim to the heated passions of their own. Such an atrocity was the terrible events at Shelton Laurel, North Carolina where troops of the 64th NC, under command of Col. Heth and Col. Keith, assaulted women and slaughtered civilians (perhaps the most egregious being a 13 year old boy. Confederate troops--having killed his father and brothers--tried to "execute" him but only wounded him in the arms; the boy clung to the legs of a Confederate officer, crying that they had killed his family and wounded him: "Let me go home to my mother"--but they shot him 8 more times).

The entire incident was horrific and anyone interested can read the account by a southern writer: https://www.ourstate.com/atrocity-at-shelton-laurel/. The atrocity outraged even the Confederate NC government. Keith fled while Heth was protected by his close friendship with Robert E. Lee.

Poor, unfortunate civilians--peril from all sides.
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
These men seem to have deteriorated into a madness of methodical bloodlust, enjoying some satanic moment of unquenchable sadism.
Lubliner.
War certainly "justified" many things that people would never have done ordinarily. But, if there were times when the Worst was brought out, the Civil War also included some times of incredible humanity. Perhaps this is what is meant by "These are the times that try men's souls": that it is times of extreme stress that bring out a person's deep character.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Civilian populations in any war zone probably suffer in many ways of no fault of their own. This is true in any armed conflict. The story of the two ladies being harassed by local townsmen I'm sure happened frequently. What puzzles me is bringing in the execution of others and soldier totally unrelated to the two ladies situation. There is no reason given or reference to a court martial or trial of the men. No connection to the harassment story at all. If in fact a war crime did happen the military courts would resolve it. It states the officer was arrested and held for trial without any one pursuing the charges. I'm sure there were other townsmen who could have come forward. Did the executed men deserve their faith or were they innocent? No details of any kind are given and is not in the context of the original "civilian suffering". Why include with the original ladies story?
Actually in war.......any war......war crimes frequently go unprosecuted and unpunished.....the very act of being polarized into two camps willing to kill one another, doesn't lend itself to an actual impartial application of justice.
 
Last edited:

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Many of the people had differing allegiances within small communities and regions. Moreover, many killings stemmed from deep animosities before the war and were accentuated during and after. It was more personal at this level where retribution was never satisfied.
I've read this was a factor in the Hatfield Mc Coy feud.
 
Top