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, October 29, 2017

Julia Martin, Rebel Spy?

Twenty-two-year-old Julia Martin, a resident of northern Henry County, Missouri, was arrested on August 20, 1864, for feeding, harboring, and giving information to bushwhackers. She’d first come under Federal scrutiny after a letter she wrote in late May to a Southern-sympathizing girlfriend, Sena Bell, fell into the hands of Union authorities. Julia began the letter with mundane topics like the weather but quickly turned to other matters. She had learned that Sena’s “dear dear friend,” Thomas Cramer, was not dead as she and Sena had feared, and she also told Sena that a company of Missouri partisans had just “got in from Rebeldom.”
“I do hope,” Julia continued, “they will come in, one to every bush, and kill every devil of militia that they can catch. I do wish some of them would give Clinton a call.” Clinton, the seat of Henry County, was occupied by Federal soldiers at the time of Julia’s letter. After gaining possession of the incriminating letter, the assistant provost marshal at Clinton began gathering additional evidence to use against Miss Martin. Jonathan Eshew, a fifty-four-year-old resident of Clinton, testified that it was “the impression of the loyal citizens” that Julia Martin had been carrying dispatches to bushwhackers ever since the outbreak of the war. Eshew said that sometimes, when he was not home, Julia would pass his house and threaten his family with taunts that she was going to get the bushwhackers to drive off the family’s horses.
Bernard Greenlee told Williams he knew Julia Martin to be a Rebel, and he cited the time she and two bushwhackers had come to his father’s house in the fall of 1862. While Julia and one of the men hung back about three hundred yards from the house, the other man came to the Greenlee barn and stole a horse.
Twenty-one-year-old Jonathan Brown swore that Julia was a “notorious rebel” who, during the year 1862, had led bushwhackers to several Union men’s homes so that the men could be “robbed of everything in their houses and of their horses.” Brown also said that Julia acted as a courier for the guerrillas and that he had known her to “ride day and night carrying messages.”
William Weaver, a hotel proprietor in Clinton and a captain in the local Enrolled Missouri Militia, said that at different times when he was scouting through the countryside he had met Julia Martin “traveling unusual fast and her excuse was not sufficient for doing so.” Weaver said he knew several men Julia had mentioned in her letter to be notorious guerrillas.
Garrett Freeman, captain in a local home guard unit, said he’d led a scouting party to Julia’s stepfather’s house in the fall of 1862 and that, while there, he heard Julia threaten to have two sisters of Union proclivity “taken to the brush by the bushwhackers.” Like Weaver, Freeman said he knew some of the men mentioned in Julia’s letter were bushwhackers.
The testimony of George Murray followed the pattern of the other witnesses. He had frequently seen Julia out on the high prairie on horseback letting her horse graze, but he was “of the impression from her actions that she was standing picket for the bushwhackers.”
Julia was arrested and taken to Warrensburg, where she was subsequently interrogated. She said she knew Tom Cramer by sight but knew nothing about him. She claimed that she’d never helped bushwhackers. Asked about the incident in which she supposedly aided two bushwhackers in the theft of a horse from Mr. Greenlee, Julia said she was merely out one morning looking for a bridle she had lost the evening before when she met two men near the Greenlee place. One of them rode up to her and asked her what she was doing. He then accused her of being a spy and demanded to know where she lived. When she told him, he told her to go home, and she obeyed and had nothing more to do with the man. Asked about the incident in which she reportedly threatened to have the two young women of loyal sentiments taken to the brush, she admitted making such a statement but said she did so only because their brother had come to her house and started accusing her of complicity in the theft of the Greenlee horse and otherwise abusing her and that she replied in anger. Julia admitted she was a Rebel sympathizer, but she said she did not approve of bushwhacking.
Julia was held initially for trial by military commission, but, because some of the evidence against her was shaky, she was instead required to leave Missouri, banished to the free states north and east of Springfield, Illinois.
Exactly where Julia Martin went during her exile is not known, but she returned home at the end of the war and got married in Henry County.
Condensed from a chapter in my Bushwhacker Belles book.


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