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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Another Bushwhacker Belle: The Charming Mollie Goggin

I've changed the name of this blog from "Ozarks History" to "Missouri and Ozarks History," because, although I started out writing mainly about the Ozarks, I've been writing more and more in recent years about the whole state of Missouri. The person I'm going to write about today, however, actually was from the Ozarks, if you define the Ozarks as extending north all the way to the Missouri River in the eastern part of the state, as most geographers and geologists do.
On March 16, 1864, a bushwhacker named Murray was captured by Union authorities near Pisgah in Cooper County while wearing a Rebel patch with the phrase “Victory or Death” and the name “Mollie Goggin” inscribed on it, and he was imprisoned at Tipton in neighboring Moniteau County. About a month later, Miss Goggin, an eighteen-year-old young lady from the Pisgah community was interviewed at Tipton by Lieutenant Franklin Swap, assistant provost marshal, about the embroidered patch. Admitting that she made the badge, the sassy Miss Goggin became defiant, saying she was a Rebel and always had been. She said she had aided Rebels and would continue to do so, that she never had and never would take an oath of allegiance, and that she would consider it a pleasure to be sent south.
Mollie was allowed to go home, but Swap reported the girl’s statements to district headquarters at Warrensburg, and she was soon arrested and brought to Jefferson City for trial by military commission. Tried on June 20, she was found guilty of “uttering disloyal sentiments.”
The next day, June 21, she was released on parole in the town of Jefferson City to await the promulgation of her sentence, and for the next couple of months, Mollie had the run of the town. Despite having obtained her temporary release on a promise of loyalty, Mollie proved unrepentant in her Southern sympathies and was not bashful about expressing them, all the while continuing to beguile the Union officers with her charm and good looks, and her continued presence in the town of Jefferson City became a growing nuisance to Union authorities there.
On August 20, Lieutenant Swap wrote to district headquarters earnestly recommending that Miss Goggin be forwarded to St. Louis for confinement. Swap said that Mollie had “persisted in her sympathies for the enemies of the government” but that there was no suitable place in Jefferson City to incarcerate her. He added that Mollie took “particular pains to display in public the colors of the Southern Confederacy and refuses all advice to be more consistent in her conversation and dress.”
About the same time as Sapp's complaint, a federal detective who'd recently visited Jeff City, wrote to department headquarters at St. Louis denouncing the favorable treatment Miss Goggin was receiving. The detective said he “was astonished to find her the object of attention of a party of six or eight Federal officers" who were staying in the same building where Mollie was living. “She is handsome and fascinating in appearance,” the detective continued, “which is the only way I can account for her being treated in the way she is by all the officers, all of whom pet her very much.”
Mollie was finally sent to St. Louis in late August and a month later was sentenced to be confined in the Alton Military Prison in Alton, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River. However, the authorities who pronounced the sentence probably did not count on the power of Mollie’s feminine charm to alter its terms, but that’s what happened. After her arrival at Alton, the mesmerizing Mollie quickly had the Union officials at the prison fawning over her the same way the officers back in Jefferson City had. Mary Pitman, a woman who was confined at the Alton facility for two and half weeks in late November, later complained of the favorable treatment Mollie and another young woman received from prison inspector Lieutenant L.W. Danforth and other Union officers. Pitman said that Danforth was in Mollie's room almost every night until pretty late and would also go up to her room the first thing each morning. “Miss Goggins had everything she wanted in the way of food and delicacies” by Danforth’s orders, according to Pitman.
Although Danforth spent time with both young women, according to Pitman, “but Miss Goggins was his favorite. One time Ms. Pitman saw Danforth with his arm around Mollie and his head on her shoulder but most of the time he shut the door when he went to her room. Pittman said she heard the lieutenant say that he thought Miss Goggin was in prison unjustly and that he did not believe in putting women in prison anyway.
In early 1865, several officers of the Alton prison (Danforth not being one of them), petitioned department headquarters for the release of Mollie Goggin because she was only seventeen, “a mere child in appearance and manner,” and that they felt she had been imprisoned long enough. (Mollie was actually eighteen.) They added that since her incarceration at Alton, she had won the esteem and respect of all the officers there by her uniformly good and ladylike conduct. The prison officials said Mollie “little thought when she said she was a Rebel that she would be taken from home and imprisoned for it, because she declares that she is not a Rebel and only said so to be ‘contrary.’”
In mid-January, the men's petition was granted and Mollie released immediately “in consideration of her youth and good behavior” and contingent upon her “loyalty and good conduct in the future.” What happened to Mollie after her release has not been determined.
The story above is condensed from my book about the "bushwhacker belles" of Missouri, women who got in trouble with Union authorities for helping the Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. Not all of them were treated alike, and as this story shows, how good looking and charming they were was one of the factors affecting their treatment.

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