The Murder of Vernon County Sheriff Joseph Bailey
Bailey was an engineer during the war who gained recognition for saving the Union's Army of the Gulf from almost certain capture and/or defeat on the Red River in the spring of 1864. A lieutenant-colonel at the time, Bailey was shortly afterwards promoted to colonel. Toward the end of the war, he was nominated for promotion to brigadier general, but the nomination expired without Senate confirmation. He was again nominated for brigadier general after the war was over and he had already left the service, and the promotion was confirmed to date from November of 1864.
In October of 1865, Bailey moved to Vernon County, and he was elected sheriff the following year. On March 25, 1867, he received a complaint that two brothers living northwest of Nevada, Perry and Lewis Pixley, had stolen a hog from a neighbor, and he went out to arrest the pair the next day. The brothers went with the sheriff freely at first, and he allowed them to keep their weapons. Part way back to Nevada, however, the desperate duo assassinated the sheriff and made their getaway. A $3,000 reward was offered locally for the capture of the pair, and the Missouri governor issued a proclamation offering another $300. The proclamation contained descriptions of the wanted men. Lewis Pixley was listed as about 25 or 26 years old, about 5' 11" and about 180 pounds. His brother was listed as about 22 years of age, about 5'10" and about 175 pounds. Both had light hair.
The Pixleys, who were never captured, were the sons of Plummer Pixley of Chariton County, Missouri. Plummer had been killed near the family home toward the end of the Civil War, but General Bailey had no connection to the murder, or at least none that anyone is apparently aware of. As far as the Pixleys having been Confederate bushwhackers, a Captain Pixley was a member of the Missouri State Guard in 1861, and this person could have been the older brother. In any case, the Pixley brothers were probably related to the captain, even if he was not one of them, because the captain is known to have come from the same general area where Plummer Pixley lived and Pixley is an uncommon name. There is no evidence that I am aware of, however, that Captain Pixley went on to become a notorious bushwhacker, as the brothers reputedly did.