Alexander McFarland Hudson was a lawyer and editor of a Republican newspaper in Lebanon, Missouri, during the Civil War era. A strong Union man during the pre-war unrest and early part of the war, he voted for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election and was personally acquainted with the president. In the summer of 1862, Hudson was appointed to the Laclede County Board by Union brigadier general E.B. Brown, commanding the Southwest Missouri District. He was named a lieutenant colonel of the local Enrolled Missouri Militia about the same time. So, it’s clear he was still in good standing with Union officials at this time.
Hudson, though, was not altogether without sympathy for the Southern cause, or at least for certain Southern men, even at this stage of the war. In May of 1862, shortly before his appointment to the county board, he wrote to Union officials on behalf of his acquaintance Rufus Phillips, a strong Southern man who was being held prisoner in St. Louis on charges of disloyalty.
It was not until the fall of 1862, however, that Hudson had a real change of heart, or so his critics said. In October, he was held prisoner by Confederate forces, and in January of 1863, not long after he was released, a Union scout returned from spying among Rebel forces and reported that Hudson, while he was a prisoner, told his captors that, if they attacked Lebanon, he and his E.M.M. regiment would go over to their side.
Acting on this intelligence, Lieutenant William Gibbs, Union provost marshal at Lebanon, gathered evidence to support the allegation of disloyalty. On January 11, he took a number of depositions from local men who knew Hudson. Although a few stated that, as far as they knew, Hudson was loyal, several others accused him of uttering disloyal statements. One man said he’d heard Hudson say just the previous day that the Rebels would take Lebanon and Laclede County and that “Lincoln would have to give it up.” The witness also said he had heard Hudson say that Union men were just as bad as Rebels in stealing and plundering. Another man stated that he heard Hudson say he wouldn’t follow such a set of thieves as the Federal troops at Lebanon and that the men calling him a Rebel didn’t have as much Union blood in them as he (Hudson) had in his little finger. The man added, however, that he didn’t think Union men would put up bonds for Rebels as Hudson had done. (This might have been, at least in part, a reference to Hudson’s support of Rufus Phillips.) Yet another deponent claimed Hudson was elated by the recent (January 8) Confederate attack on Springfield and that he was one of the strongest and most dangerous Rebels in the area.
The fact that several witnesses against Hudson mentioned his statements opposing theft by Union soldiers supports a statement in the 1889 History of Laclede County that the root cause of Hudson’s clash with Union authorities was that he would not overlook depredations by Federal troops, as many other Union men did.
Lieutenant Gibbs had Hudson arrested and escorted to St. Louis as a prisoner on or about January 20, 1863. Hudson got no farther than Rolla before prominent Union men interceded on his behalf. Among those who wrote letters to Union authorities protesting the arrest and vouching for Hudson’s loyalty were Colonel John M. Glover, commander of the Rolla District; and J.W. Thrailkill, a prominent Rolla physician.
Hudson was released at Rolla on his parole of honor that he would travel to St. Louis on his own and report to Union authorities there on January 25. After he reached St. Louis, the charges against him were dropped, and he returned home a free man. Resentment against Hudson lingered, however, among some Union soldiers and citizens.
On July 17, 1863, Hudson was killed about ten miles east-northeast of Lebanon on Bear Creek along the Rolla road. A coroner’s jury examined Hudson’s mutilated body the next day and concluded he’d been shot several times and stabbed once, as he was walking toward Lebanon.
An investigation by Colonel Joseph Gravely, commanding the post at Lebanon, revealed that a Union wagon train had passed the location where the body was found near the time residents of the area reported hearing gunshots, and the soldiers of the escort were suspected of the crime. George Johnson and John Rupell, members of Gravely’s 8th Missouri State Militia, came under particular scrutiny. They were seen off by themselves on the morning of the murder near the place and time the crime occurred. The two men testified, however, that they had not even seen Hudson on the morning he was killed. After several teamsters, members of the escort, and citizens living near the scene of the crime were interviewed, Gravely decided there was not enough evidence to bring charges, and his superior officer, Brigadier General John McNeil, concurred.