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 28, 2016

A Civil War Murder at New Tennessee

Around the middle of July, 1864, a young man named Eli Vansickles was arrested by Union authorities at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, on suspicion of having been an accessory to the murder of a school teacher in the New Tennessee settlement of Ste. Genevieve County in the fall of 1861. On July 20th, an anonymous letter writer told officials that he knew several people who were knowledgeable about the murder, and he forwarded the names of Thomas Arendall, Arendall's wife, and Joseph Townsend as possible witnesses.
Authorities apparently did not locate Joseph Townsend, but they did take a statement from his older brother, John Townsend, on July 29. John Townsend told them that he lived in the New Tennessee settlement (located in the southern part of Ste. Genevieve County) and that it was "generally known in the neighborhood that Andrew Burnett, a rebel, murdered the man and that Eli Vansickles, now under arrest as accessory to said murder, was at the time and place in company with said Burnett and that said Eli Vansickles is also a rebel and was in the Rebel Army."
John Townsend went on to say that, after the murder, he and Joseph Townsend (whom he did not identify as his brother) went to the place where the body was lying dead, that Joseph Townsend helped bury the corpse, that he saw Joseph Townsend take a watch and some other articles off the body before the burial, and that, as far as he knew, Joseph Townsend had never accounted to anyone for those items.
The same day, July 29, William Thomas Arendall also gave a deposition in which he stated that he knew Andrew Burnett, now deceased, was the person who killed the school teacher (name not given), and he recalled the date of the murder as approximately November 1, 1861. He said the school teacher was just passing through and was shot down about 300 yards from his (Arendall's) house. Later that same evening, Arendall saw Burnett at a mill about three-fourths of a mile from where the murder had occurred and that Burnett told him that he was the one who had killed the man and that Vansickles was with him when he did it. Burnett, according to Arendall's testimony, said that both he and Vansickles belonged to Jeff Thompson's Rebel army.
Whether Vansickles (sometimes spelled Van Sickles or Van Sickle) was ever punished for his part in the crime and, if so, how severely, is not known. What is known is that Vansickles continued to live in Ste. Genevieve County after the war and died there on the last day of 1882 after "a long, painful illness."


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