Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, April 8, 2013

William Monks

I'm not sure whether I've ever previously mentioned William Monks on this blog, but if I have, it was a just passing mention. A staunch (some might say "rabid") supporter of the Union, Monks was taken prisoner by the Missouri State Guard early in the war and served as a cavalry captain in the Union army later in the conflict. A Howell County resident, Monks made a name for himself fighting guerrillas in south central Missouri and north central Arkansas during the war, but it was during the years immediately after the war as a major (later colonel) in the state militia that he really became notorious (at least in the eyes of former Confederates) because of his sometimes overzealous and harsh tactics in attempting to drive out or bring to justice the lawless bands that inhabited the south central region of Missouri during the late 1860s. Monks claimed he only targeted outlaws, but critics accused him of targeting anybody who had been sympathetic to the Southern cause. He was also roundly criticized for roaming into northern Arkansas, even though his authority was supposedly limited to Missouri. The commentary of the Springfield Leader (which was published by an ex-Confederate) in response to Monks's campaign in Howell county during the late spring and early summer of 1869 will provide a glimpse of how his activities were viewed by Southern sympathizers. In June, after driving Dr. R. K. Belden, "a peaceable and respectable citizen," from the county, Monks and his men, according to the Leader, "directed their infernal machinations against other and equally orderly citizens, and by threats and intimidations, attempted to drive them from the county also. A perfect reign of terror was inaugurated, the best citizens of the place held their lives in their hands, and an outbreak was momentarily expected which it was feared would be attended with the destruction of property and the flow of blood. Enraged by his arrest and backed by a hundred or more cut-throats, each sworn to do his bidding, it was thought and feared that Monks would scruple at no infamy to appease his hellish passion." In 1907, Monks published a memoir of his Civil War-era adventures called History of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For a thorough account of Monks's activities, I refer you to a new edition of the book, edited by John Bradbury and Lou Wehmer, that was published in 2003 by the University of Arkansas Press. The editors fill in the gaps of the narrative originally told by Monks and give details about people and places mentioned in the original book that Monks did not provide. The editors also have a website (www.colonelmonks.com) that contains lots of info about Monks.

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