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Monday, September 10, 2012

A Missouri bushwhacker meets a bloody end

This rather gruesome image is of Captain William H. Stuart, a Confederate bushwhacker from Missouri. He started bushwhacking early in the war and later joined the band of Bloody Bill Anderson. He helped Bloody Bill on his ride through central Missouri in the autumn of 1864 in support of General Price's Confederate invasion. This is covered in my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness, although Stuart himself is never named. He was probably at the slaughter of the wagon train and the attack on Fayette, for example.

Stuart also spent a fair amount of time riding with his own small band, and this is when he met his end. The November 25, 1864, issue of Columbia Missouri Statesman states:

"Death has overtaken another notorious desperado and robber, in the person of rebel captain Stewart [sic], who, a companion of Anderson and a participator in many of the enterprises of that brigand, has been a curse to this section for many months past.

"Stewart was killed at the house of M'Donald in old Franklin, Howard county, on Friday last, by a cattle drover. Two drovers were at the home of Mr. M'Donald when Stewart and two companions rode up for the purpose of robbing or murdering them. The drovers fastened the doors of the house and Stewart in attempting to break them down was shot by one of the drovers and killed instantly. One shot penetrated his neck, another entered near the mouth, and a third passed fairly into the corner of the forehead. The other two guerrillas escaped.

"Stewart was a man of medium height, spare made, smooth of face, and wore very long hair of a red color. He was on the whole a fine looking man. The drover who killed him was in town on Wednesday and had in his possession a photograph of the desperado taken after death, exhibiting plainly the holes where the fatal bullets entered. Stewart was from the vicinity of Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri."

Death photos of bushwhackers and outlaws were common in those days, both as gruesome mementos and as a way for authorities to identify suspects. Bloody Bill also had his death photo taken, as did Jesse James and the Dalton brothers.

This card was sold at auction a couple of years ago by Heritage Auctions, which has all sorts of great stuff to buy if you have more disposable income than I do.

There is some debate of the spelling of Stuart's last name. This genealogical website states that it's actually spelled Stewart.

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