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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Friendly fire in the Civil War

Civil War Missouri was a chaotic place. Combatants often wore no uniforms or the uniforms of the opposing side. Enemies sniped from the thick underbrush or attacked civilians in the dead of night. A sense of paranoia spread throughout the land. One good example of this paranoia is preserved in the pages of Turnbo's Tales of the Ozarks: War and Guerrilla Stories.

In the closing days of the war, four or five veterans of the Federal army were passing through the country, possibly headed home. Some had their wives and children with them. They stopped at an old vacant house near the base of Washington Bald Hill three miles northwest of Lutie, Missouri. Vacant homes were numerous by then as many of the civilians had fled the terrible guerrilla war that had ravaged the state for several years.

On the following morning, just before dawn, they were attacked by fifteen Federal soldiers returning from a scouting expedition. They began shooting through an opening or crack in the house, thinking Confederates were hiding inside. The men in the house fired back, thinking they were being attacked by Confederates.

As Turnbo related, "Directly the soldiers ordered the men in the house to come out and surrender which they refused to do. They not only thought they were Confederates, but the worst type of bushwhackers or guerrillas and they did not propose to surrender to them. . .it was cheaper to fight until they died rather than surrender and be put to death afterward like a lot of fattening hogs."

"The outside men now said, 'We will burn you out if you do not give up your arms.'"

"The inside party replied, 'Burn the house if you want to. We will fight you by the light of the fire.' The inside party continued, 'Who are you fellows?'"

"'We are Federal soldiers,' the spokesman answered."

"'Good! We are all of the same stripe,' said one of the insiders, 'and there is no need of us fighting.'"

"An explanation followed and peace was made between the two parties."

Nobody was killed in this affair. As we'll see tomorrow, these incidents were common and didn't always end so happily.

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