Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Civil War Rape

One of the tragedies of war is the mistreatment of women by conquering or occupying soldiers, and the Civil War, of course, was no exception. A case in point is the rape of twenty-three-year-old Lucy Vance, wife of Calvin Vance, in Taney County, Missouri, in late January of 1863.
On Tuesday evening, the 19th, three Federal soldiers came to Mrs. Vance's home and came inside uninvited. They asked about the whereabouts of her husband, and she told them he was in Arkansas. (He might well have been in the Confederate Army or in the bush as a guerrilla, but Mrs. Vance, of course, did not say so in her deposition about her ordeal a few days later.) The soldiers also asked about forage for their horses, and she told them she did not have any or know where any was. After a while two of the men left and went to a neighboring house to look for forage. Pretty soon, two different Union soldiers came into the house but stayed only a short while.
The man who had been there all along told Mrs. Vance he was from Iowa. Pacing back and forth across the floor, he looked out the door periodically and told Mrs. Vance he was looking for his company. Then, he began trying to get friendly with her, but she told him she wished he would leave and go next door to Mrs. Watson's and tell Mrs. Williams to come over and stay with her. It was nine o'clock, and she said was afraid to stay overnight alone. Instead of going next door, though, the man started trying to talk Mrs. Vance into having sexual intercourse with him. She told him no and ordered him out of the house. Instead of leaving, he apologized for having insulted her and offered her thirty dollars, which the woman apparently and, if so, understandably considered even more of an insult. She again refused and tried to get out of the house, but the man blocked the doorway.
Mrs. Vance then sat down with her baby in her lap, and when the man advanced toward her threateningly, she yelled. He told her, if she did not quit hollering, he would kill her. Then he pushed the child off her lap, put his arms around her waist, and picked her up. Carrying her to the nearby bed, he threw her on it and started choking her when she continued to cry out. As her cries subsided, he released her throat and put a hand over her mouth to muffle her sobs. "While in this condition on the bed," Mrs. Vance concluded in her deposition a few days later, "he had sexual intercourse with me."
As soon as the man left, Mrs. Vance went next door to Mrs. Watson's, and when she went back the next morning, she found that everything in her house had been carried off.
A week later, January 26, Mrs. Vance gave a statement to Federal authorities at Forsyth relating her nightmare. She described her assailant as a heavyset man about 5'11" tall with blue eyes, light complexion and hair, and short whiskers. He had a fat, round face with small eyes and a high forehead. He wore a blue Federal cap and overcoat. Despite the woman's relatively thorough description of her rapist, the man apparently was never apprehended or charged and probably never even identified.
Sources: Union provost marshals' papers and 1860 U.S. census.


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