Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thomas K. Young, Cedar County Guerrilla

Another military court martial case during the Civil War similar to the one I wrote about last week concerning Thomas Caldwell of Dade County, Missouri, was that of Thomas K. Young of Cedar County. Young, who was referred to in Union documents as "a notorious rebel," was charged with five counts, or specifications, of "Violating the laws of war," two counts of murder, and one count of robbery, and he was tried by military commission at Butler in Bates County in June 1862. He pled not guilty to all charges and specifications.
On the first charge, the first specification was that Young had jayhawked through Cedar County with a gang of guerrillas, plundering and committing various depredations. The second specification was that, after returning home from General Price's Missouri State Guard in the late fall of 1861, he had exerted himself during December of that year and January, February, and March of 1862 to "stir up rebellion" in Cedar County. Specifications 3 and 4 both had to do with Young's participation in Colonel James M. "Polk" Frazier's raid on Humansville in Polk County in late March. Specification 5 was that Young, at the head of a party of guerrillas, had led a jaunt from Montevallo in Vernon County to the Caplinger's Mill area of Cedar County, committing depredations along the way.
Both specifications on the charge of murder had to do with the raid on Humansville, during which Benjamin Smith, a Union man, was killed. On the robbery charge, the only count was that Young had stolen 200 bushels of corn and 40 bushels of wheat from James M. Cooley, another "good and loyal citizen of the United States."
Young was found guilty on counts 1,2, and 5 of the first charge and not guilty on counts 3 and 4. On the most serious charge of murder, he was found not guilty of both specifications and not guilty of the charge. On the charge of robbery, he was found guilty of both the charge and the specification. He was sentenced to be shot to death. However, as in the case of Thomas Caldwell, the findings of the commission were forwarded to President Lincoln for review. Unlike in Caldwell's case, the president ruled in favor of the condemned man in Young's case. He said that the death sentence was "inoperative" because it had not been approved by the officer who had ordered the court martial, and he directed that Young be released.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thomas Caldwell, Guerrilla

In the 1860s census Thomas J. Caldwell was nineteen years old, living with his parents near the Kings Point community of southwest Dade County, Missouri. (A 42-year-old Thomas J. Caldwell, probably an uncle to the younger man, was living not far away in eastern Jasper County.)
The Caldwell family had migrated from Tennessee by way of Kentucky, and like a lot of young men of Southern sympathy in the border state of Missouri, young Thomas Caldwell turned to guerrilla warfare not long after the outbreak of the Civil War. Sometime in early 1862, he fell in with a guerrilla band (perhaps led by noted partisan leader Kinch West, although this is not clear), and on or about April 15 of that year, the guerrillas met a detachment of Federal soldiers and ended up killing a Captain Beard and another of the Union soldiers named Jacob Paris.
Caldwell may or may not have been the one who actually fired the shots that killed Beard and Paris, but he was evidently the only one of the guerrillas who was later captured by Federal authorities. He was charged with murder and tried, at a military commission convened in Springfield on January 24, 1863, on two specifications, one for killing Beard and one for killing Paris. He was found guilty of the charge and of both specifications and sentenced to be "shot to death with musketry."
The conviction was reviewed by President Lincoln, as such convictions often were. On August 3, 1863, he upheld the conviction and ordered that the sentence be carried out. Presumably it was, although I have found no proof of that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Legend of Sidney Wallace

Sidney Wallace was a legendary figure from Clarksville, Arkansas, during the state's Reconstruction period. Depending on which side you listen to, he was either a hero, avenging the murder of his father, or a coldblooded killer and a symbol of the lawlessness of the period.
In December of 1863, Wallace's father, Vincent, who was a Methodist minister, was killed by three or more men in front of the Wallace home near Clarksville. The men were wearing Union army coats, but reports differ as to whether they were actual Union soldiers or bushwhackers disguised as soldiers. Accounts also differ as to whether 12-year-old Sidney witnessed the murder. Some say he did, while others say he was shielded from the sight by the family servant, Missouri Blackard. Blackard supposedly recognized all the killers but did not reveal their identities until Sid Wallace reached his 21st birthday.
According to legend, Young Wallace then set out to avenge his father's murder, first traveling to Kansas to kill a man who had participated in the 1863 attack. In 1871, he shot (or shot at) Joseph Dickey on a road outside Clarksville and beat up Dickey's companion, Dud Turner. Turner filed charges of attempted murder against Wallace. Released on bond, Sid and his brother George went looking for Turner, and Turner killed George in the showdown. About the same time Sid Wallace also reportedly killed constable R.W. "Doc" Ward and a man named Davis.
Turner was arrested for George Wallace's killing, but Judge Elisha Mears discharged him, saying the shooting was a clear case of self defense. This infuriated Sid Wallace, who killed the judge and took to the woods to hide out. He was tracked down, however, and lodged in jail at Clarksville. He broke jail but was caught and returned to his cell. Then, in November of 1873, Sid killed Thomas Paine from his cell during another jailbreak attempt. According to Wallace's defenders, all or nearly all of these killings were somehow related to Sid's quest for revenge for his father's murder, and they held him up almost as a hero. In fact, the New York Times claimed that Arkansas, prior to Sid's latest crime, was a place where "murderers, instead of exciting horror, were set up by the young women as heroes, to be crowned with laurel wreaths and decked with roses."
The Times reporter applauded the fact that Arkansas seemed determined to finally bring Wallace to justice and said that such determination to bring murderers to justice might "eventually result in making the state a desirable place of residence."
Wallace was convicted of murder in the killing of Judge Mears and sentenced to hang. He was held for safekeeping at the state pen in Little Rock from February 18 to March 9, 1874, when he was brought back to Clarksville to face the gallows. He was hanged four days later in front of hundreds of spectators. A contemporaneous newspaper account reported, "The notorious desperado Sidney Wallace, defied the crowd and said clearly, 'I have no confession to make to man, but whatever I have to confess must be to God. I die in defense of myself and friends, and I regret not having a dozen deaths to die.'"
Legends arose years later that Sid Wallace had survived the execution attempt and that the casket buried by the family was actually filled with nothing but sand bags. The New York Times, on the other hand, in reporting the execution, claimed that Mrs. Wallace "rather gloried in" her son's crimes "than condemned them." The Times, citing the Little Rock Republican newspaper, said Mrs. Wallace had urged Sid's brothers to follow in his footsteps. She supposedly wanted them to "go the same road he had gone and when they were dead, she would come in." Such sensational reporting is about as believable as the legendary claims that Sid Wallace survived his execution.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Murder of the Newlands & Hanging of Charles Waller

About the first of May, 1867, 28-year-old William Newland (name sometimes given as William Newton), his wife, and their 18-month old son left their home in Washington County, Indiana, with the idea of settling somewhere in the Southwest. They stopped over for a few months in Illinois, where they made the acquaintance of 42-year-old Charles Waller, his 34-year-old wife (Hannah), their 18-year-old son (Zachariah), and four younger children. Newland, whose father was a well-to-do farmer in Washington County, had a pretty good sum of money with him with which he planned to buy land. He gave Waller some work, and when he (Newland) decided to resume his family's journey to the Southwest, he asked Waller and his family to accompany them, promising Waller a job when they reached their destination. He even provided Waller with a team and a wagon with which to make the trip.
Sometime during the fall of 1867, the two families reached Dade County, Missouri, where they visited with Samuel A. Harshbarger, a relative by marriage of William Newland. After a short while, they set off again, heading southeast toward Ozark County. About November 1, they camped in Webster County a few miles east of Marshfield, where Newland and Zach Waller went hunting together. Young Waller came back to his family's wagon alone and told his father "Well, it's done," or words to that effect. When Waller asked for clarification, Zach told him that he had killed Newland. (Reports conflict on whether the father or the son killed Newland, but, in either case, the "Well, it's done" statement suggests they were both in on the conspiracy.) Charles Waller determined that, in order to cover up the crime, they had to get rid of Newland's wife and child. He or his son slit Mrs. Newland's throat and presumably also killed the child, Samuel Lincoln Newland, although the child's body was never found.
William Newland's body was found not long after he was killed about six to eight miles from Marshfield, but law enforcement and the citizenry did not become particularly aroused at first. After a lapse of some weeks or months, however, relatives of the Newlands back in Indiana became concerned for the well-being of the family, since they had not heard from them. Newland's father asked Harshbarger to initiate an investigation, and he learned of the discovery of William Newland's body near the same time that the remains of Mrs. Newland's body were found along the Hartville Road (approximating present-day Highway 38) near Cantrell Creek in the spring of 1868 a few miles to the southeast from where her husband had been found. According to at least one report, Mrs. Newland's head was detached from her body. (Reports conflict as to which body was found where, but the evidence suggests that Newland's body was found nearer to Marshfield than his wife's. Mrs. Newland was apparently not killed where her body was found. More likely she was killed near the same spot as her husband and her body then hauled a few miles and dumped, because it seems unlikely she would have willingly continued the journey with the Wallers after her husband went missing.)
The discovery of Mrs. Newland's body caused much alarm. Already suspected of having killed William Newland, the Wallers now became the object of an intense manhunt, funded mainly by Richard Newland, William's father. The Wallers were tracked to Ozark County, where Zach Waller had gotten married, but the family had already taken off by the time authorities got there. Waller was then said to be in Arkansas, while Zach was thought to be in Texas. A deputy was dispatched to Texas to bring Zach back. When he got back to Missouri, he reported that he had captured the fugitive but that he had been forced to shoot and kill Waller when he tried to escape. He collected the $1,000 reward that had been offered ($500 from Richard Newland and $500 from Webster County) before authorities began to suspect that he had lied and that Zach Waller was still alive.
Meanwhile, Sam Harshbarger was hot on the trail of Zach's parents. He tracked them to Rock County, Wisconsin, and then to Beaver Creek in the same state. From there, he traced them to Faribault, Minnesota, where, in August of 1870, he finally caught up with them, still in possession of some of Newland's belongings. Harshbarger captured them and brought them back to Marshfield, where they were lodged in the Webster County jail. Charles Waller was indicted for first degree murder in 1871 and his wife, Hannah, was indicted as an accessory. Waller was tried at the March 1872 term of court, and on Friday, March 29, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty. The next day, Waller was brought back into court, and Judge R. W. Fyan pronounced a sentence of death by hanging. The execution date was set for May 17. Cursing the verdict and those who had testified against him, especially Sam Harshbarger, Waller said he had been convicted by a pack of lies but that he was ready to die. Hannah, meanwhile, pled guilty to manslaughter and was given a three-year sentence in the state penitentiary.
From her cell in Jeff City, she wrote to Governor Gratz Brown on May 9 proclaiming her husband's innocence and pleading for mercy in his case as well as her own. Three weeks earlier, she had given birth, while in prison, to a new baby, and she asked to be released so she could raise her child. She enclosed a letter that her husband had written to her just days earlier in which he talked of meeting her in heaven and told her to follow the Lord's path. At least three other people wrote letters to Brown also pleading for leniency. One of them, Waller's court-appointed lawyer, did not claim, like Hannah, that Charles Waller was innocent of the crime, but he instead based his appeal wholly on his opposition to capital punishment. Gov. Brown, however, was unmoved by any of the letters, saying that he did not feel he should countermand a lawful verdict.
Waller had been receiving spiritual counsel since his conviction (and perhaps before the verdict), mainly from Rev. McCord Roberts, a well-known Baptist minister in Southwest Missouri. However, he continued steadfastly denying having committed the crime for which he was to pay the ultimate price, until just a day or two before the scheduled execution date, when, according to newspaper reports, he finally admitted the deed. He had been eating well, but on the morning of his execution, Friday, May 17, he refused breakfast, saying that he felt nauseous, and he reportedly wailed in agony. By early afternoon, however, when he was finally taken to the scaffold, which had been erected just east of Marshfield on what was known as Bald Hill, he had regained his composure and reportedly walked up the stairs to meet his fate with a firm step in front of a spellbound crowd, who were eager to witness the high drama.
Legal hangings during the 1800s were often public spectacles attended by a picnic-like or carnival-like atmosphere, and Waller's execution was no exception. People had begun pouring into Marshfield on Thursday, the day before the event, and the crowd grew to a reported 5,000 to 7,000 people, who watched as Waller mounted the scaffold. The convict declined to make a statement when given the opportunity, and Rev. Roberts then said a prayer. Waller's face was covered with a mask and the noose adjusted around his neck. The sheriff then pulled the lever and dropped him into eternity. His neck was reportedly broken by the fall, and he died within two or three minutes but was allowed to hang for another ten minutes or so before his body was taken down and buried in a grave that had already been prepared very near the execution site. The crowd gradually began to break up.
Zach Waller continued on the lam, but Harshbarger proved to be a stubborn detective. He ran down a number of leads over the years and finally located the fugitive holed up in Minnesota (one report said Florida), where his parents had also taken refuge. He was brought back to Webster County and indicted in March of 1877. In September of the same year, he pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree, an option he was given in hopes that he would tell what happened to the Newland child. He was sentenced to forty years in prison, but he never revealed anything about the fate or whereabouts of little Samuel Lincoln Newland.

Devil's Promenade

My latest book is about the famous Joplin or Tri-State Spook Light. Actually, Hornet Spook Light is probably the most accurate descriptor, s...