- Jul 23, 2017
- Southwest Missouri
It was in the winter of '63, when the 33d Missouri Cavalry, of which I was a member, was encamped in the hollow just south of the Little Piney and about half a mile from Arlington, when the incident I am about to relate occurred." says L. F. Pillman. "The morning of December 24 dawned crisp and cold, with a few inches of snow on the ground. Supplies were pretty short, and the next day being Christmas, our Colonel suggested that a hunting party be organized to secure some fresh meat for the holiday dinner. Twenty men were selected, myself among the number, and as I was familiar with the country about there. was placed in charge of the party.
We mounted our horses and, with our old carbines and twenty five rounds of ammunition each, left camp by the Springfield road for the hills. where deer and wild turkeys were as plentiful in those days as hogs are now. Before leaving camp we were cautioned to look out for Price's Rangers, as bands of them were likely to be found at most any point in the country through which we intended to hunt. We rode two abreast and when nearly to the place where it was arranged that we should scatter out, a deer same rushing around a sharp turn in the road not over 30 yards in front of us. Ben Brunswick and I, who were in front, both blazed away and the deer dropped in his tracks. Dismounting, we took our game, after bleeding, and proceeded to hang our first trophy up to be gathered in when we returned.
As we were doing so, feeling highly elated at our success, around the same turn of the road whence the deer came rushed fifteen horsemen, unmistakably some of Price's followers. They were coming so fast that before they could pull up they were within 30 feet of our hunting party and every one of them covered with a carbine. We clearly had them, and they realized the situation, never raising a hand in the face of eighteen guns, into the muzzles of which they could plainly see. They surrendered but when we learned that, like ourselves, these followers of the enemy's camp were hunting a Christmas dinner, a truce was declared, the prisoners given their arms and the hunt renewed. We came out to get game, not prisoners, and somehow the sentiment of the fast approaching holiday softened every one and made them forget all about human strife.
The blue and the gray mingled for a time and then scattered off into the hills. Our party were to meet when the first deer was killed an hour before sunset. All through the day I heard the guns singing from the valleys and creek bottoms, and when I stared for the rendezvous I was balancing a big buck and a pair of fine gobblers across my horse. By the appointed hour, we had all assembled. Six deer and nine turkeys were the result of the day's hunt. Happy and hungry, we started back to camp, and were not over a mile from the picket lines when we were startled by a loud command, “Halt!”
As we pulled up there arose a line of fifty men from the thicket at our right and a squad of twenty or thirty more rode into view at our front. We were amazed—trapped like a bevy of quail.
The bluffs at our left presented a dash in that direction. There was nothing but surrender. Visions of a Christmas feast vanished as the commander came up with a squad and relieved us of our arms, game and everything. "'Danged if ye ain't prutty good hunters." said the scrawny son of the Ozarks to me as he ordered his men to pack the game on their horses. “Too good to spile! Reckon we'd better let 'em go, boys: maybe they'll *** out agin sometime and kill 'nuther lot uv game fur us.'
They left us our horses, and we were ordered to ride on and not look back. If ever a sore, sad, disgusted lot of soldiers faced a commanding officer it was our little band of hunters. We made our report, and when it was learned that we had shown clemency to the first band of rangers we encountered, the Colonels ire was excited and he came near ordering us to the guard house: but instead, left us to the jeers and scoffs of the camp. The sun had not climbed the bluffs on Christmas morning before a messenger came in from the outpost announcing that an orderly and six men had come with a flag from Gen. Price. They were conducted to the commanding officer, bearing upon their horses' backs six deer and nine turkeys, also our arms taken from us the night before, with regrets of the Confederate General 'that our hunting party had been molested after the magnanimous treatment accorded to a squad of his (Price's) men, who had fallen into the Federals' hands.'
I think that was the most enjoyable event of my life. and that hunt and its sequel will live in my memory as long as memory last"
Rolla Herald Dec 28, 1893 One of L F Pillmans Yarns. A War Story Hard To Beat
These would be rated low on any believability scale, especially #1, but it's Christmas and nothing says holiday with family like a good yarn being spun. Merry Christmas cwt!