Recently I interviewed Dennis Headlee of Xenia, Clay county, Illinois. As a follower of facebook sites where collectors often post pictures of Civil War-era soldiers, sailors, and citizens from their personal collections, I found myself frequently drawn to those images Dennis posted which I would categorize generically as Partisan Rangers. Now historians who study the Civil War require no explanation on what is meant by this term, but for those unfamiliar with it, I will simply refer you to a much sounder head on the subject than myself, Robert Naranjo, who wrote the following article for The Ohio State University eHistory publication, entitled “Partisan Warfare in the American Civil War.“
Dennis, I’ve noticed that you have an amazing collection of Partisan Ranger images. Tell me a little bout yourself and your interest in collecting these images.
I grew up in Southern Illinois—Copperhead Country—and developed an interest in the Civil War during 5th grade history class. Our school district sponsored a competition requiring that we complete a project about the war. My project included a scrapbook developed from articles and clippings about the life of Abraham Lincoln. I won the competition receiving a blue ribbon and two silver dollars. My mother asked me to share my project and award with relatives during a family Sunday dinner. I received congratulatory responses from aunts and uncles. My grandmother, who I was always close to me, held back and approached me when I was alone. She informed me of my Southern roots and told me that gg grandfather joined the Confederate army and had fought against “Old Abe.” This previously unknown intelligence planted a seed of interest that survives to this day.
Interesting. I can see how that information triggered your interest to learn more. How did you educate yourself further on the Civil War and when did you actually begin collecting?
I began collecting images and artifacts in the mid-1970s. During this time I continued to study and joined our local Civil War Round Table, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Mississippi Valley Re-enactment Battalion. I attended Eastern Illinois University as a social science major with a concentration in Anthropology. My military service was in the US Army, (69-71) and I served on an all-volunteer team conducting irregular combat missions in Vietnam. As a collector, I began to focus on Confederate images and artifacts and gravitated increasingly toward the Western Theater and the irregular partisans and guerrillas of Missouri. This is due, in part, to the geographic area I live in, the nature of my service in the US Army, and the fact that the West has often take a “back seat” to the study of the Army of Northern Va. and the Army of the Potomac.
What are your aspirations?
My hope is to be a contributor to the preservation of American history and to spark interest in our younger generation of Americans.
Capt. Marion Francis (“Dave”) Pool was one of three brothers who fought for the Confederacy in Missouri. He served as a mounted leader under Quantrill and participated in much of the fighting and raids during the war. Sources vary as to Pool’s birth and death dates, but it is generally accepted that he was born in 1838 and died in 1899, at age 61. Following the war, Pool went to Texas and became wealthy as a cattleman and bank investor. Over the years he lived in various states including AZ, NM, MT and from time to time back in MO. He married, raised a family, and participated in veterans reunions. He was a very close friend to Frank James.
See “Dave” Pool After the War by Nancy B. Samuelson.
Missouri, Western Theater Irregular: Pictured in this 1/6th plate, cased ambrotype is Partisan Cpl. James “Homm” Thompson who rode with Quantrill during the raid and destruction of Lawrence, Kansas on Aug. 21, 1863. He is pictured with his side knife, multiple revolvers, and wearing a “battle shirt” and beard; typical of many of the so called “bushwackers” of the Partisan ranks in Missouri. Homm Thompson was killed in Franklin County, Kansas during Quantrill’s withdrawal from the raid. This is one of two known images of Thompson taken two days before the Kansas raid.
Cased 1/6th plate ferrotype of the Younger Brothers, Cole left and Jimmie right. The image was said to be a reunion photo in the autumn of 1865. Cole had returned from California, where he was sent for recruiting duties late in the war. Jimmie was paroled after being captured in Ky. during Quantrill’s flight from Missouri. The image is believed to have been taken in November 1865. The brothers went on, becoming a part of the James/Younger Gang known for their bank and train robberies. They were both severely wounded and captured following the Northfield, Minn. bank robbery and spent twenty five years in prison. Jimmie committed suicide following his release after hopes fell through to marry a journalist who had befriended him during his imprisonment. Cole went on to enjoy celebrity status and toured with Frank James relating stories of their exploits in public appearances.
John Nichols was the first partisan tried, convicted and executed by Federal and provisional Missouri authority in the state. Pictured in this 1/8th plate, back marked cdv. is the image of young Nichols as a prisoner in chains shortly before his execution. On the left of the photograph a Colt revolver is visible being held by the guard just out of the picture. John Nichols, a Kentucky transplant, participated as a member of a small band of partisans and raiders in Northwest Missouri until his capture in April of 1863. Thereafter, he was tried and convicted by military court and sentenced to hang on October 20, 1863. The sentence was reviewed by the Missouri Military Governor and President Lincoln, both declining intervention. The execution was carried out on the prescribed date. After climbing the scaffold with assistance, due to a bullet wound to his leg sustained in an earlier escape attempt, John Nichols was said to have appeared unemotional and commented to the spectators, “Gentlemen, now you will see how a Rebel Soldier dies.” He was 22 years old when executed.
Missouri Irregular, William R. Stewart is depicted in this 1/6th plate cased ferrotype. Time has taken a toll on the condition of this image, yet there is sufficient clarity to reveal an armed young man exhibiting a strikingly serious pose. Through research of limited records available, I’ve learned there were two William Stewarts who rode with Quantrill. Through concern that sources may confuse or misidentify references between the two William Stewarts, I’ve included only the limited information that accurately represents the soldier pictured here. In 1863, at age 18, young William Stewart joined Quantrill’s Partisans and participated in the August 21, 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas, that same year. In 1864, sources indicate that Stewart was with “Bloody Bill” Anderson and was slightly wounded in the attack on Fayette, three days before the battle at Centralia, Missouri where Anderson was killed. References indicate that William R. Stewart was born on August 5, 1844; that he survived the War and died on November 10, 1924 at age 80.
Sometimes an image comes along with no identification, or specific ties to regiment or state. In such cases, conclusions must be based upon content of the photograph, it’s mountings, and any knowledge of history that supports the image’s content. Such is the case with this image and I offer conclusions only as possible, and in my opinion probable. Pictured is a well armed, neatly dressed subject in this 1/6th plate, tinted and gold accented ambrotype. This is obviously not a “Sunday go to meeting” image, but rather a depiction of a man planning to go to war. His weapons; including a Smith, Model 1 cartridge revolver, two percussion revolvers and a blade; are consistent with the story that Missouri Mounted Partisans were required three revolvers, an edged weapon and a good mount. Behind the image in the case is a notation, part of which is borrowed from Shakespeare’s Play, “Julius Caesar.” The notation is as follows: May the 10th, 1861 “My Darling F…ss… May the Lord of heaven and earth protect and bless thee. There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Shall I ever see my darling anymore.” The notation acknowledges this soldier’s separation from a loved one and the uncertainty of what is ahead. Most significant is the date of May 10, 1861 which is the date of the Camp Jackson Massacre near St. Louis. Learning of a Secessionist training camp, Brig. Gen. Nathan Lyons surrounded the camp with a regiment of Union Volunteers and marched the prisoners toward the city. Secessionist protestors along the way were fired on by the regiment resulting in 28 civilian deaths and scores of wounded. This action secured St. Louis but further polarized the Missouri population. The image content; the notation in the case and the date of the notation lead me the opinion the the image is that of a Missouri Partisan. Should that opinion fail to withstand further scrutiny, I believe this image at the very least could be considered as a “classic” example of a Missouri Partisan.
Partisan Ranger James Bray in this cased 1/6th plate ferrotype; There is a hand written notation on the paper under the image: “……… This was cousin James Bray rode with Bill Anderson killed Missouri 1863” No additional information has been discovered in a search of records. Hopefully, continued search will provide additional information.
George Maddox, Missouri Guerrilla (1831-1901) is pictured in this backmarked CDV. A farmer before the War, Maddox joined Quantrill’s Partisans In 1862 and took part in their forays and raids. By the time of the Lawrence, Kansas raid in Aug. 1863, Maddox had become Quantrill’s chief scout. Four years following the Lawrence raid, Maddox became the only Partisan to be tried for murdering a man during the raid. The dead man’s mother attended the trial concealing a derringer. She planned to kill Maddox if he was not convicted. When the jury retired to deliberate, the mother left the courthouse believing it would be some time before a verdict was reached. The jury took only ten minutes to reach a verdict of not guilty. Maddox’ wife was waiting outside with a spare mount and the couple immediately rode for Missouri to avoid any chance of retaliation by the Kansans.
Young Partisans; it is unlikely that these young boys (probably brothers) were, by any stretch, riding with the Missouri guerrilla bands when this 1/6th plate tintype was taken, but their checkered plaid and adorned shirts are similar of those appearing in some photographs of known Missouri guerrillas. It is fair to believe the shirts pictured were made by their mother as she produced one or more for their father, older brother or members of a local band of partisans who had joined the Southern cause. As shown in numerous photographs and supported by some historic references, printed and decorated shirts were commonly associated with guerrilla fighters and in instances served to identify individuals to certain units or commands.
REBEL IN YANKEE CLOTHES: Pictured in this back-marked CDV is Captain George M. Todd (9-17-1839 to 10-21-1864) guerrilla leader, raider and Missouri Partisan Ranger. Captain Todd participated in numerous fights and raids including Lawrence, Kansas. He was a favored lieutenant of Quantrill until a falling out between them during a card game. Todd was quoted as saying, “I know I’ll be killed, but it is just as fitting for me to die for my country as any other man.” Soon after the Captain was fatally shot in the throat by a Yankee sniper during the battle of Second Independence. He is pictured in this photograph in a Federal lieutenant’s uniform, not an uncommon practice among Missouri Guerrillas, depending on circumstances.
“LITTLE ARCHIE” Archibald Clements (1-1-1846—12-13-1866) was one of the most controversial and feared of the Missouri guerrilla fighters. Little Archie, with a height of 5 ft. and weighing only 130 lbs., joined Bloody Bill Anderson’s Partisan Rangers and became a favored lieutenant at age 17. He has been called the “brains” of Anderson’s band and was referred to as “Anderson’s Head Devil” and “Anderson’s Scalper.” He took part in Bloody Bill’s major engagements and earned a reputation as being calculating, deliberate and brutal. Following Anderson’s death in the battle at Centralia, Missouri, Clements took command of the irregular partisans. At war’s end Archibald Clements refused to take the oath of allegiance, and left with other vengeful veterans to continue the fight through raiding, robbing and killing. He and his gang are credited with the first daytime bank robberies in Missouri. Many of their activities occurred in Lafayette County and a posse was dispatched to put an end to their rein of lawlessness. On Dec. 13, 1866, a major gun battle took place between Clements and members of the posse in Lexington, Mo. The ensuing gun fight began in a bar and led into the streets where Archie gained his mount to escape and possibly to get additional weapons. Archie Clements died after receiving a total of 33 or 34 wounds. Witness stated that he emptied 11 revolvers in the fight and although gravely wounded he was attempting to cock a 12th revolver with his teeth before dying at age 20. His gang which, included the James and Younger brothers, went on to earn their place as one of the most infamous outlaw groups in history. It is noted that this image has been published in previous early articles about Archie Clements. There are some who feel the image is that of Archie’s brother. I remain in support of the earlier published accounts.
Brigadier General Meriwether “Jeff” Thompson (1826-1876) is pictured in this early full-plate ferrotype. Denied appointments to West Point and the Virginia Military Institute, Thompson left his native Virginia working west in various locations and finally arriving in Liberty, Mo. in 1847. He was successful in railroads, business ventures and politics where he was elected Mayor of St. Joseph In 1857. At the beginning of the War, Thompson was already a Col. in the Missouri Militia and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier in command of the 1st Missouri State Guards. His command took him to the swamps and marshes of S.E. Missouri where he waged a number of successful skirmishes against Union forces as a guerrilla leader. Here he became known as the “Swamp Fox of the Confederacy” a label placed on him by Gen. U.S. Grant. Thompson’s service took him as far south as Louisiana and included his fighting as a partisan guerrilla, a commander of more conventional forces, directing river naval engagements and two unsuccessful attempts to reestablish Confederate dominance in Missouri. Perhaps Thompson’s greatest contribution came in the form of his written proclamation to execute a Yankee for every Missouri Partisan and pro-Confederate civilian executed by Federal authorities as was Gen. Freemont’s plan. In response, Abe Lincoln intervened and had Freemont’s order rescinded. Gen. Thompson’s retaliatory order undoubtedly saved lives on both sides. At War’s end Gen. Meriwether Jeff Thompson took the Oath of Allegiance and moved with his family to Louisiana.
Jesse Woodson James, ( b. Sept. 2, 1847- d. Apr. 3, 1882 ) pictured in this back marked CDV of the image taken shortly before his death. By age 17, Jesse was in the ranks of Blood Bill Anderson’s Mounted Partisans. During this time, Jesse further cultivated relationships with the Younger brothers, Quantrill, Archie Clements and others who remained “unreconstructed” at War’s end. His real fame, or infamy, really occurred following the war with his varied robberies of banks, trains and stage coaches as part of the James/ Younger gang.
Although some sources have labeled Jesse as the leader of the gang, his fame and credits, as a leader, are more likely the result of his letters and desire to seek public attention. Without question, the name Jesse James ranks among the most known of the criminal elements in history. Whether his service and exploits were motivated by vengeance, a desire to continue the war or for personal gain will undoubtedly continue as a source of debate from this time on.
A very interesting 1/4 plate ferrotype image of four unidentified individuals which bears further study. A number of informed persons with backgrounds in uniforms, accouterments and Western history, have studied and discussed the image and agree on characteristics which support probable conclusions. Observations, supporting conclusions include: A) the image was purchased in Texas in recent years; B) each individual pictured is wearing some item or items designed for military issue including trousers, kepi, shirts, and Federal belt rig with hooded holster and 1851 pattern eagle belt plate. Some of the trousers and shirts appear clean and without significant wear suggesting they are recent acquisitions to the men; C) three of the soldier’s are wearing hats, likely from civilian sources. The hats are noted to be of medium to light color; D) two of the soldiers appear to be wearing boots. Based upon these observations and a final characteristic in the image, it is the belief that Missouri Partisan Rangers are depicted in this photograph: A) many Missouri Partisans are known to have gone to Texas for winter quarters and some fled to Texas following the war. B) Partisan Rangers were not regularly supplied through Confederate sources and relied on relatives, sympathizers and raids against Union forcers. C) civilian hats were commonly worn by soldiers on both sides. The individual forming and positioning of the hats in the image is very consistent with Southern soldiers. The choice of lighter colored hats is more consistent among Confederates than those worn by Federals who appear more often in darker hats. D) two of the men are pictured in boots, more characteristic of Mounted soldiers. Their trousers are unreinforced along the inner thigh and appear to be for infantry or unmounted soldiers. This mismatch easily supports that our subjects are wearing captured materials; E) Most noteable is the positions of the hands of the soldier seated on the left. The index finger on his upper hand, very subtly, is pointing downward toward his other hand. The fingers of the other hand are folded other than the thumb and little finger which are extended. It is believed that this represents a signal or hand sign associated with a group. The “Knights of the Golden Circle” were active in Missouri during and after the war as a pro-Confederate group. Many of the guerrillas were affiliated. Signals of identity were known to exist within the KGC. All factors considered, it is my opinion that this image is, indeed,of Missouri Partisan Rangers.