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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ruth and Sarah Bond: Bushwhacker Belles of Miller County?

On or about April 1, 1864, Miller County sisters Ruth and Sarah Bond were arrested by Federal authorities and taken to Jefferson City on charges of feeding and harboring bushwhackers, and several of their neighbors swore out affidavits against them. Twenty-two-year-old Ruth and eighteen-year-old Sarah said they were completely innocent, claiming not even to know why they were arrested. Perhaps the truth lay somewhere in the middle, as is often the case when disparate stories collide, but the Bond girls and their case made it all the way to St. Louis before they found someone to take their side in the argument.
After the Bond sisters were transported to Jefferson City, Lieutenant James M. Gavin, provost marshal of the Jefferson City sub-district, began gathering evidence against them. On the 11th, fifty-four-year-old Henry Jenkins, a close neighbor of the Bonds in northeast Miller County, testified that he had heard the young women say they had fed bushwhackers and would do it again “in spite of hell.”
Hannah Jenkins, Henry’s daughter-in-law, was also deposed on the 11th. She said the Bonds always claimed to be in favor of the South but that she did not know of any disloyal acts on their part.
On April 22, Madison Carrendon was interviewed. Echoing Henry Jenkins, Carrendon said only that he had heard the young women say they had fed bushwhackers and would do so again and that they had the reputation of being Southern-sympathizers.
On the evidence of these three statements, Lieutenant Gavin forwarded the paperwork in the case of Ruth and Sarah Bond to Warrensburg, headquarters of the District of Central Missouri, on April 23, although the women themselves remained imprisoned at Jefferson City. The following day, Colonel T.A. Switzler, the district provost marshal, in turn forwarded the file to General Egbert B. Brown, commanding general of the district, with the following notation: “…These women are loose characters and were arrested last summer upon the same charges. Evidence could not be obtained sufficient to convict them. The neighborhood in which they live has been infested with Bushwhackers whenever there was any in the country. The interests of the country would be promoted by sending them away.” On April 28, General Brown sent the file to department headquarters at St. Louis with a recommendation that the Bond girls be banished from his district.
Upon examining the scant file, Colonel J.P. Sanderson, provost marshal of the department, immediately sent the papers back to Colonel Switzler with a request that he gather more testimony and then return the file to him, along with the defendants in the case. Switzler remanded the case to Lieutenant Gavin, who once again started taking depositions. On May 16, Jobe Wood testified that he could not say positively the Bond women fed and harbored bushwhackers but that it was generally believed they did and that they were "very bad women, and Rebels.” Lydia Jenkins, a sister-in-law or niece of Henry Jenkins, was also interviewed on the 16th. She stated that one of the Bond sisters had always told her she was in favor of the South, that it was believed in the neighborhood that the Bonds aided bushwhackers, but that she did not know positively that they had.
The Bond sisters and the file in their case were forwarded to St. Louis on May 17. The next day, however, Sanderson again returned the papers to Switzler with a request that the depositions of the Bond sisters be added to the file. “This case in its present shape,” he declared, “is wanting in material upon which to found even an opinion.”
Ruth and Sarah Bond were lodged in the Myrtle Street Prison, and after they had languished there between two and three weeks without having been examined or tried, they wrote to Colonel Sanderson in early June beseeching him to intervene on their behalf. They told him that they had no one in St. Louis to speak for them because their brother was in the Union Army, their father was dead, and their mother, who was not in good health, was home with the younger kids. “Please you will look over our case,” they concluded. “Yours respectfully, Ruth C. Bond and Sarah A. Bond.” Whether the Bond sisters had even given depositions in Jefferson City, as Colonel Sanderson believed, is uncertain, but after appealing directly to Sanderson, the young women were promptly interviewed in St. Louis per Sanderson’s instructions. On June 6, Ruth told her examiner that she lived in Miller County five miles from Tuscumbia and was twenty years old. (According to census records, she was at least twenty-two.) She said her brother John was in the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry and that her recently deceased father had always been a loyal Union man. “I am as loyal as anybody can be,” she said, “and so is my sister and mother.”
Ruth added that there had never been any bushwhackers or Rebels of any kind fed at her house and that, if they did come, she wouldn’t feed them. She named several men from her neighborhood who were supposed to be guerrillas, but she didn't know any of them personally. She said she did not know why she and her sister were arrested but she thought it might have come about because of something Hannah Jenkins had said about them. Ruth said Hannah’s husband (i.e. William Jenkins) had formerly been in the Confederate Army but was now a member of the same Union company that John Bond was a member of. Hannah had been with her husband in the field but was forced to leave, and upon her return to the neighborhood, she got mad at Sarah Bond for some reason and reported the sisters to Federal authorities, so Ruth had been told. What Hannah accused Ruth and Sarah of doing, however, Ruth did not know.
Sarah was also deposed on June 6, giving much of the same testimony that her sister gave. Sarah added that she had never carried any letters for the purpose of sending them beyond the Union lines or for any other purpose.
After the Bond sisters were deposed in St. Louis, their case was again referred back to Jefferson City for more evidence. Lt. Gavin forwarded additional information to St. Louis in mid-June with a recommendation that the Bond women be sent out of the state. After reviewing the papers, Sanderson referred the case to General William Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Missouri, with an endorsement that he did not think the evidence in the case justified conviction and banishment and that he, therefore, did not agree with Lieutenant Gavin’s recommendation that the young women be exiled from the state. On the 17th, Rosecrans ordered the women released on bond, and four days later they were freed on $500 bond each.
Ruth and Sarah Bond returned to their home territory and were still living in the Miller County area after the war.
The sketch of the Bond sisters above is condensed from a chapter about them in my Bushwhacker Belles book.

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