COLE CAMP MASSACRE – JUNE 19, 1861
Gov. Jackson quoted as saying the following in the Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) on July 29, 1861:
“Col. Cook raised a regiment of 800 men, mostly Dutch. These he quartered in two large barns. Two of my captains, Hall and Stone, with their companies, consisting of 180 men, went to these barns before daylight, and slaughtered the enemy like hogs, killing 230* of them, putting the rest to flight, and getting every gun the scamps had. [Cheers]”
In the Civil War Missouri Passport Book, at the top of the Cole Camp Massacre page, there is a quote from Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson where he said that the Battle of Cole Camp was the “greatest fight of the war.” That speech, as recorded in the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch newspaper on July 29, 1861, reveals the governor’s attitude and intentions concerning his efforts to carry Missouri out of the Union. Below is a link to the original article and an easy to read transcription of the article.
Below the two newspaper articles links is a link to an interesting article on the Battle of Cole Camp by Nick Burchett. The article shows the brutality of the war and the divisions that existed between some of the rural communities in Missouri. It is also a glimpse of what the next four years would be like in Missouri.
Original Richmond Daily Dispatch newspaper article:
Transcription of the above article:
“The Battle of Cole Camp” by Nick Burchett:
Marker Location: N38°27.855, W93°09.573, Hwy 52, south of junction with Dodge Pond Ave.
Stamp Location: Cole Camp Museum, when staff available.
Address: 108 South Maple Street
Phone Number: 660-668-3037
Staff Available: May: Fri-Sat, 10 am-4 pm; Sun, 1-4 pm ; Jun-Oct: Wed-Sat, 10 am-4 pm; Sun, 1-4pm ; 2nd weekend Oct thru 1st week Dec: Fri-Sat, 10am-4pm; Sun, 1-4pm; closed 2nd week Dec-Apr.
Visit Fee: None, donations are appreciated.
It is unusual there were no official reports from the commanders or their subordinates on either side of this conflict. The Union correspondent of the Missouri Democrat gives the following version of the fight at Cole Camp:
“Capt. Cook, pursuant to an order of Gen. Lyon, had enlisted in Benton County and adjoining counties, about 700 Union men — three hundred for the active service, and four hundred Home Guards. On June 19th, there was about five hundred in camp. The headquarters were two great barns, belonging to J. H. Meyer, near Cole Camp. The camp was surrounded by a strong line of sentinels, and by scouting parties, so well-guarded that no attack was apprehended. Most of those sleeping in the barn even left their muskets outside, as there was hardly room for them inside.
Suddenly, at three o’clock in the morning, they were attacked by one hundred mounted men and two hundred and four infantry, with two small cannons. The sentinels were shot down, and the guns [were] taken possession of before the sleeping men awoke. Then the butchery commenced. ‘No mercy to the Dutch!’ was the war cry. (Most of the Home Guards were Germans.) The defenseless men were assassinated without mercy. Capt. Cook fled at the beginning of the fight.
There suddenly appeared upon the bloody field a company of our men, led by Capt. Elsner and they gave a most destructive fire upon the thick crowd of the murderers, killing many of them and driving the rest from the field. We lost 20 killed, 52 wounded, and 23 prisoners. The prisoners were conveyed to Warsaw, and there liberated on taking the oath not to bear arms any more against the Southern Confederacy. They report the loss of the enemy at 36, among whom are Leech, of the Warsaw Democrat, Sam Atkinson, lawyer Whipple, and several other secession leaders.
The venerable Judge Tyree [Tiery], 72 years old, a strong Union man, and a slaveholder himself, was tied to a tree by Jackson’s marauders, and shot like a mad dog. His body was literally torn to pieces.”—Judge John Tyree [Tiery], who resided between Warsaw and Cole Camp, went to the Union Home Guard camp and told them of the State Guard plans to attack. John Tyree [Tiery] met the rebels of the State Guard during their march from Warsaw, questioned, placed against a tree and then executed. The rebel forces moved overnight from Warsaw north on the old military road to the northeast corner of Benton County and surprised the Union Home Guard, ambushing the Soldiers, many of whom were sleeping in Meyer’s barns. Reports vary, however some researchers believe there were 40 dead from the Home Guards, some 55-60 wounded, some later dying from their wounds, and a number captured, two to three dozen. Others had fled the scene, escaping into heavily forested areas, leaving the rebels to claim victory. [From the Missouri Democrat, Letter to the Editor: “The Cole Camp Fight.” published July 1, 1861.]
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES ABOUT THE COLE CAMP MASSACRE
Jun 1, 1861 Missouri Republican “Latest By Telegraph–Warsaw, MO” [Summary: 700 Union men in organized companies near Cole Camp threaten all secessionists in Osage valley, ask Harney for arms.
“Warsaw, Mo. May 31. The Union men from Pettis, Henry, Benton, and Morgan counties, numbering some 700, organized seven companies near Cole Camp, in this county, on Tuesday last, and threaten death to every secessionist in the Osage Valley. They have sent an agent to Gen. Harney for arms. Great excitement exists here, and had it not been for the peace arrangement between Generals Harney and Price, the military companies here would have driven these men from this county, at whatever costs.”]
Jun 13, 1861 Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times “Letter from C.F. Jackson to the citizens of Benton County–Arms for the Union Men in Southwest Missouri” [Summary: In a May 31st letter, Jackson denies that a Mr. Cooke came to him requesting protection and was denied. Jackson says also that Harney will not give Cooke arms due to the peace agreement. Implores citizens of Cole Camp to cease strife and obey the State authorities–Union Home guards will be formed in the Southwest beginning with Cole Camp. The men there do not want troops to come, but only need arms. The Democrat says Cooke has been given the authority to enroll companies and be armed by the general government.]
Jun 22, 1861 New York Tribune “Important from Missouri” [Summary: Gov. Jackson and 500 men arrived in Syracuse, about 25 miles south of Boonville. After confiscating property of both enemies and friends, the Governor and his men fled southward to Warsaw. Reports on fighting near the town of Coll [Cole Camp] between Secessionist and Unionist Home Guard. Gen. Lyon captured many Secessionist documents at Boonville; they contained information on past activities and orders issued by secessionist leaders, and a list of items seized from the Liberty Missouri Federal Arsenal.]
Jun 23, 1861 New York Tribune “War Movements in Missouri” [Reports various movements: Capt. Totten returned to Syracuse, MO after giving up pursuit of Jackson at Florence. Jackson has passed through Cole Camp, headed for Arkansas. 4,000 State troops will be concentrated at Lexington (MO) before Lyon reaches there. Kansas regiments are coming to Lexington to aid Lyon. State troops have now evacuated Lexington and are now marching toward Arkansas.]
Jun 24, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Fight at Cole Camp” [Summary: Reports of the Cole Camp fight are detailed, along with Jackson’s whereabouts. The state guard in Lexington are moving south, and the men wounded in the Battle of Boonville have arrived at the capital.]
Jun 28, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: A lengthy letter with interesting background info about Jeff City and Germans in Missouri. Two newspaper correspondents strayed so far from camp that Gen. Lyon thought they were scouts of the enemy and almost had them shot. Benton County Home Guards organized openly before they received arms and were attacked by rebels. Capt. Totten is out on an expedition to Syracuse, MO in pursuit of Jackson. The Union soldiers are amazed how Lyon and Blair were so composed during the rain of bullets at the Boonville battle. A reporter from the Republican was captured, upon allegedly giving info to the rebels. Lyon is still willing to offer the same deal to Jackson, if caught, as he did at the Planter’s House.]
Jul 1, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Cole Camp Fight” [Summary: From a letter by a local store owner, some details of the fight and list of the killed.
“…Suddenly, at three o’clock in the morning, they were attacked by one hundred mounted men and two hundred and four infantry, with two small cannon. The sentinels were shot down and the guns taken possession of before the sleeping men awoke. Then the butchery commenced.
“No mercy to the Dutch!” was the war-cry. (Most of the Home Guards were Germans.) The defenseless men were assassinated without mercy. Capt. Cook fled at the beginning of the fight.
There suddenly appeared upon the bloody field a company of our men, led by Capt. Eisner, and they gave a most destructive fire upon the thick crowd of the murderers, killing many of them and driving the rest from the field…”]
Jul 2, 1861 Missouri Democrat “War Correspondence” [Summary: Correspondent “B” at Boonville talks about preparations for a campaign, Planters’ House meeting, Cole Camp and Gen. Lyon. Lyon’s relative visited the camp upon fleeing from Mississippi, forced out by the rebels.
“…The newspaper publications to the effect that Capt. Cook fled and his men then rallied and nearly gained the day at the battle of Cole Camp, on the 19th, are, as far as Capt. Cook is concerned, slanderous and very far from the truth. I have conversed with his officers and men, as well as himself, and am satisfied he was the last to leave the field and first to return to it. Nine of his wounded have since died, making nearly thirty on the side of the federal Home Guards. Forty-four was the loss on the side of the rebels. Capt. Cook has been at home but six times in two months, and has not heard from his family for over two weeks. He intends returning soon, in company with a force sufficient to protect him….”]
Jul 2, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Various headlines: Ex Lt. Gov. Thompson and Prentiss spotted taking arms from Tennessee to White River, Arkansas. Sigel’s regiment headed West to cut of Jackson who was last seen at Stockton. Casualty figures from Cole Camp battle. Jackson’s men viciously murder 72-year-old Judge Tiery.]
Jul 4, 1861 Jacksonville (AL) Republican: “Untitled [Cole Camp]”
Jul 4, 1861 New York Tribune “The Cole Camp Fight–Reliable Particulars” [Summary of the attack at Cole Camp and list of the killed. Bands of rebels roam Benton, Pettis and Morgan counties, murdering and stealing.]
Jul 6, 1861 Keowee Courier (Pickens Court House, SC): “Untitled [Booneville–Cole Camp–Jackson]”
Jul 8, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Correspondent from Boonville wishes to correct belief that Gen. Lyon had retreated from Boonville before the engagement took place. Also corrects a report on the battle at Cantonment Lyon in Benton county involving Capt. Cook. Lyon is preparing to march to the Arkansas border and wait for cooler weather. The secessionists severely mistreated Cole Camp prisoners.]
[Summary: Pep talk for the South: Summarizes past battles in Missouri, calls for volunteers in VA and MO.
“…Another battle we had a day or two afterwards [Battle of Boonville], and I think it is the greatest fight of the war, although upon a small scale. Col. Cook had raised a regiment of 800 men, mostly Dutch. These he quartered in two large barns. Two of my captains, Hall and Stone, with their companies, consisting of 180 men, went to these barns before daylight, and slaughtered the enemy like hogs, killing 230* of them, putting the rest to flight, and getting every gun the scamps had. [Cheers] There has been some little skirmishing on the north side of the Missouri River, of which, however, I can give no account, having seen nothing but telegraphic reports from that region….”]
*The current edition of the Missouri Civil War Passport Book has the number as 280. This mistake is due to the misreading of the original newspaper article. Click here for original.