Saturday, May 2, 2015

Killing of Eli Baker

Twenty-four-year old Eli Baker was killed on October 1, 1861, in Stone County, Missouri, by a band of men that included James Huddleston and Isaac Bledsoe. Although details of the incident are sketchy, apparently it had political overtones, as most such incidents did during the Civil War, and the subsequent prosecution of Huddleston and Bledsoe for the crime definitely had personal overtones.
Huddleston was finally arrested in connection with this incident in mid-1863. (Whether Bledsoe was arrested is not known for sure.) Huddleston, however, was quickly paroled to Greene County. The parole was soon extended to Lawrence County. Before long Huddleston absconded to St. Louis, but he was apprehended there and placed in Union custody. In September a grand jury met in Stone County and indicted both Huddleston and Bledsoe for second degree murder.
The indictment, full of legalese, declared that "James Huddleston and Isaac H. Bledsoe and divers other persons to the jurors unknown on the 1st day of October...not having the fear of God before their eyes but being moved, seduced and instigated by the devil, did willfully, premeditatively, feloniously and of their malice aforethought with a gun, which gun was loaded and charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet, which said gun was loaded as aforesaid, they the said James Huddleston and Isaac H. Bledsoe and divers other persons to the jurors unknown had and in their hand in and upon the body of one Ali Baker in the face of God and the State...did discharge and shoot off upon and against the body of said Ali Baker, giving to the said Ali Baker one mortal wound in the thigh of him the said Ali Baker of the depth of two inches and the breath of one-half inch, of which wound the said Ali Baker did languish and did die."
The fascinating thing about this indictment is that the foreman of the grand jury was Bowling Baker, father of Eli Baker (the victim of the shooting). Huddleston retained John S. Phelps (Union colonel, U.S. congressman, and future governor of Missouri) as his attorney. Huddleston had served under Phelps, probably even at the time of Baker's killing. Phelps quickly gained Huddleston's freedom on parole and bond of $2,000. A month or two later Huddleston was re-enlisted into the Union army. A new effort was made in 1864 to revive the case against Huddleston, but he served in the arny until the end of the war.
So I don't know the final outcome of this case, but apparently Huddleston was never tried for the crime he supposedly committed. Whatever the final outcome, I find the case interesting because of the political and personal overtones. Huddleston was a Union soldier, and Baker and his father were probably Southern sympathizers or at least conservative Union men, plus Bowling Baker served as foreman of the grand jury that was investigating his own son's death.


Steven Huddleston said...

Was the James Huddleston that is mentioned, James Kennon Huddleston, son of John Lane Conley Huddleston?

Greg said...

Isaac Bledsoe was my great great grandfather. He was a Methodist minister, farmer and apparent pillar of the Stone County community prior to the war. He and most of his family fled to Texas as the end of the war neared, perhaps as Gen. Serling Price retreated through Indian Terr. to Texas. Family legend reports that he died from a hunting accident near Ft. Worth in 1865, leaving his large family to struggle on in Texas.

Union propaganda pamphlets portray him as notorious bushwhacker, associated with Bloody Bill Anderson. Bledsoe and the southern leaning part of the Anderson family apparently traveled together to Texas as several show up in the same area (Shackelford Co.) at the same time as the children of Isaac Bledsoe. One Bledsoe son apparently served in the Texas Rangers with one of the Andersons in the 1870s. The descendants of the Union part of the Anderson family is still in Stone County, MO, living on the land the family owned near the Bledsoe homestead north of Galena. The Bledsoe land was seized as part of a default judgment by his neighbor for burning his house. I have research regarding all this and would be happy to share.

Greg Bledsoe, Tulsa, OK

Larry Wood said...

Interesting info, Greg. Part of it doesn't quite seem to jive with my theory that Baker might have been killed partly because he was a Southern sympathizer. Huddleston was definitely a Union man, and I had assumed Bledsoe probably was, too. Maybe the Union pamphlets that portrayed him as a notorious bushwhacker got him confused with another Bledsoe. There were at least a couple of Bledsoes who were Quantrill men, but, as far as I know, Isaac Bledsoe of Stone County was not one of them. Also, I'm a little skeptical of the connection to Bloody Bill Anderson and his family. The only male Anderson of Bill's family to survive the war was Bill's younger brother Jim, and he died about 1871 in Texas (probably Grayson or Refugio County).

Larry Wood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Wood said...

Steven, I don't know who James Huddleston's parents were. Maybe J.S.C. and M. Huddleston of 1850 Taney County census. Had a 14 year old son 14. 10 years later in 1860 a 24-year-old James Huddleston is listed in Taney County census. I assume they are the same person and that this James is perhaps the one who killed Baker a year or so later.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this information! I'm researching this family, because Bowling Green Baker is my 4X Great Grandfather. I found records on that Eli's brother Enos Baker served in the Civil War. His Find A Grave memorial says that he served with Captain Clemial Davis' Company of the Missouri Home Guards for the Union in the Civil War.

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