Battlefield Dispatches # 55
Chasing Foxes & Still Busting
One usually associates the destruction of “Moonshine Stills” with “Revenuer Raids in the Ozark or Appalachian Mountains and the “Roaring 20’s, Al Capone, Dutch Schultz & Prohibition & not the Civil War? However, the following after action report describes the pursuit of some Confederate “Foxes” near Mount Vernon, Missouri by some Union Mountain Ranger “Hounds” of the Missouri State Militia and the BUSTING of a couple of MOONSHINE STILLS! This report is located on pages 71-72 in Vol. 8 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.
Springfield, Mo., February 26, 1862.
Sir: On Friday the 22nd instant, I was ordered by Lieut. Col. Mills , commanding the post to proceed with my command to Mount Vernon & there wait the arrival of Capt. Mudgett. I started at 11:30 o’clock on the morning of the 22nd with 41 of my “Mountain Rangers”, the others being sick or on detached service [other duty away from unit]. At 10 o’clock p.m. of the same day we reached Mt. Vernon, having marched 33 miles. On arriving I received an order form Capt. Mudgett to be at Gullet’s farm 8 miles below Mt. Vernon by DAYLIGHT next morning. [Note: I can just imagine how unhappy Capt. Richardson was to receive this order after riding 8½ hours to get to Mt. Vernon!] We started at 3 o’clock [a.m.] & were there by the time required. After conferring with Capt. Mudgett he determined for me to proceed north of Spring River & disperse the REBELS congregated there.
Having rested my command 2 hours we started, marched down Spring river on the north side to the old Boonville road, crossing there & traveling in a northwestern direction to a point where the road leading from Oregon, or Bowers Mills, to Greenfield enters the Pea Ridge [,Mo.] Prairie. At that point I directed Sgt. Butcher with 8 men to proceed up the prairie on its south side, to ARREST all PERSONS running from the north, to search certain HOUSES for ARMS & to keep a good lookout for REBELS.
With the balance of the command I proceed to the north side of the prairie, then changing my course east towards Bell’s where we expected to find the enemy. I had traveled up the prairie but a short distance when Sgt. Breshers, STATIONED ON A HIGH POINT OF THE PRAIRIE, MADE THE SIGNAL THE ENEMY HAD BEEN FOUND. Sgt. Butcher had marched up the south side of the prairie 1½ miles, when a band of REBELS formed near a point of timber to oppose his progress. HE MARCHED STEADILY FORWARD & on nearing them they retired behind the point of timber where the SGT. & HIS PARTY CHARGED THEM, the result of which was a RUNNING FIGHT for 3 miles. In the action my men killed 3 rebels, wounded 1 & killed 1 horse. We had 1 horse shot & the Sgt. rode his down in the chase. We captured 3 prisoners & 3 horses. The Sgt. & his party were engaged with from 12-15 rebels & had it not been that my full command made its appearance so promptly on the south side of the prairie he would have brought on an action with from 40-50 rebels, who were posted in the brush, but retired as the command marched across the prairie.
It affords me great pleasure to command Sgt. Butcher & his men in the highest terms for their gallant conduct on the field. ANY OFFICER WOULD BE PROUD TO COMMAND SUCH MEN!
We gave the neighborhood a good scouring, driving the SECESSIONISTS [Confederates] before us. We were in a section of country INFESTED WITH A BAND OF BAD MEN – SECESSIONISTS. We alarmed them greatly & rendered good service to the UNION CAUSE. They had come to the conclusion our troops would not visit them & were depredating [destroying] the property of LOYAL CITIZENS. The 3 prisoners we took were engaged in the attempt to ROB the house of John Gullet of a lot of boots & shoes on the evening of the 19th instant.
On the evening of this hard day’s work we reached the plantation of Price Anderson. Traveling without tents & camp equipage, we were preparing to take our rest on the ground without shelter, when Mr. Anderson invited the company to take shelter in his large & commodious residence. Having reason to believe an ENEMY [was] in front of us, the command laid on its arms during the night.
---[STILL BUSTING TIME!]---
On the morning of the 24th, I divided the command, sending half of it, under Sgt. Butcher up Stall’s Creek & from thence to Mallard’s STILL-HOUSE, in Turnlack Timber north of the prairie , with directions to destroy Pennington’s STILL-HOUSE & the one at Mallard’s & to come to my assistance if he heard firing. With half of the command I crossed the prairie to Daniel’s farm where it was represented the rebels had a strong picket. Not finding them, I marched to Mallard’s STILL-HOUSE from the northwest. The rebels had fled before us & I returned to Mount Vernon & on the 25th came to this city [Springfield, Mo.]. There were two reasons for destroying those STILL-HOUSES: 1st, they were places of rendezvous [imagine that] for the forming of SECESSION BANDS for plunder; 2nd bad men would get drunk & go to Union men’s houses & expose their naked persons to Union women. I hope you will & I know every good woman in the State [of Mo.] will endorse the DESTRUCTION & the BURNING of those STILL-HOUSES. They were each worth almost $150.
Since my company was mustered into the service I have been constantly in the field & am behind with my property reports, but will make them out at the earliest convenient moment.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN M. RICHARDSON,
Capt. Mountain Rangers, M.S.M.
Chasing Foxes to be continued & more STILL-BUSTING, if more references to STILLS are found.