25 November 2012

Quantrill Raider James F. Berry

Remembering Our Civil War Heritage and Heroes:

James Berry: Quantrill Raider and Train Robber
Who Left Deep Tentacles in Montana—Part I

By Ken Robison
For The River Press
November 28, 2012

This continues a monthly series commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the veterans that settled in Central Montana. This month features Confederate soldier James Berry who came to Montana Territory during the Civil war; returned to Missouri for a life of crime as part of the Sam Bass gang; and after his violent death, his widow and family came to the Shonkin area to join her father.

The border war between Missouri and Kansas, known as “Bleeding Kansas,” was a series of violent confrontations from 1854 and 1861 involving anti-slavery “Free-Staters” or “Jayhawkers” based in Kansas Territory versus pro-slavery “Border Ruffian” elements or “Bushwhackers” from Missouri. Bleeding Kansas was a proxy war between Northerners and Southerners over the issue of slavery. It set the stage with the outbreak of the Civil War for special animosity and violence in both Kansas and Missouri. Jayhawkers raided Missouri farms thought to be pro-secessionist, freeing slaves and wrecking havoc. Bushwhackers raided Kansas towns and farms burning and pillaging.

Throughout the South, Confederate veterans fought and died for their cause, the War of Southern Independence, But in the states of Missouri and Kansas, more than soldiers died, as the conflict became one of “total warfare,” sweeping though the civilian population of farms and towns with a ferocity greater than perhaps any other region.

Despite the fact that Missouri’s Governor favored secession and pro-secessionist officers led the state’s militia, the Missouri State Guard, the state remained in the Union at the outbreak of the Civil War because of decisive action by Union troops stationed in St. Louis. Along the Missouri River corridor a large slave-owning area known as “Little Dixie” remained in insurrection throughout the early years of the war. For the Confederacy, the Missouri State Guard under General Sterling “Old Pap” Price conducted much of the fighting. Supporting the partisan rangers of the State Guard were quasi-military units such as William Clarke Quantrill’s Raiders and Bloody Bill Anderson’s gang. These units wrote their own rules of warfare and often dressing in civilian clothes or Union uniforms. They left a bloody trail as they employed hit and run tactics, often taking no prisoners.

Three Berry brothers, Isaac “Ike”, Richard “Dick”, and James “Jim” Berry grew up in Callaway County, Missouri in the heart of “Little Dixie.” James F. Berry was born in 1838 near Shamrock, Callaway County, fifth of ten children of farmer Caleb and Virginia Fulkerson Berry. By 1860 James was off the farm, owning and operating a grocery store in nearby Williamsburg. He was described as being very talkative, having sandy red hair, often with a chin beard, 5’ 9” tall, with a round full face that got very red when he was drinking.

As with many unconventional forces of the Confederacy, few records were kept and even fewer survive, and this is the case with Quantrill and Anderson’s men. Post-Civil War reconstructions, such as the William Pennington List offer well-researched insight into those who likely served in the war with both William Quantrill and Bill Anderson. Among Quantrill’s men were later famed outlaws, Jesse and Frank James and the Younger Brothers.

Pennington’s List includes the three Berry brothers, Ike, Dick, and Jim Berry together with Samuel Morgan Hays, husband of their sister, Rebecca Berry, reporting briefly on each member:
            Berry, Ike (Isaac). Was at Lawrence [Kansas] with Quantrill, Centralia [Missouri] with "Bloody Bill" Anderson 9/27/1864. Purportedly convinced Anderson to burn Danville [Missouri] 10/14/1864. Survived War becoming a liquor merchant/ Restaurateur. Died 1928, Mo.
            Berry, Richard. With “Bloody Bill” Anderson Unit. Survived War - Was with Quantrill at Lawrence [Kansas]. Brother of Ike.
            Berry, James. With “Bloody Bill” Anderson Unit. Rode with the Sam Bass gang after the war, robbing banks and trains throughout the mid-west. Killed, Oct 21, 1877 by Sheriff Glasscock in Adrian County, MO. 
            Hays, Samuel Morgan. With Quantrill. Indicted 18 Nov 1863 for the murder of George Burt at Lawrence [Kansas], 21 Aug 1863. Sam was married to Rebecca Berry.

Historian Rick Miller writes of Jim Berry in his book Sam Bass & Gang: [Jim Berry] “was reportedly a member of Bloody Bill Anderson’s guerilla troop, associated with the infamous Quantrill’s raiders in Missouri during the Civil war.” Years later, in 1877, the Sedalia Mo. Weekly Bazoo wrote, “Jim Berry’s bearing was that of a man who would fight to the last. Indeed, he had given previous examples of his desperate and daring nature. He was one of Bill Anderson’s most daring followers, and his unshrinking courage was tested in many a terrible fray which that bold partisan led all into who followed his banner.” The [Missouri] State Journal added, “Jim Berry was known to have been one of the most desperate members of that terrible company of rough-riders who followed the fortunes of Bill Anderson during the war, and they also knew that he had two or three brothers living in Callaway who were fully as dangerous as he.”

Miller writes also of Ike Berry: “According to the St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, 12 November 1864 . . . [Bloody Bill] Anderson’s ‘orderly’ was a man named Ike Berry, whom he called ‘Weasel,’ Both Anderson and Berry were intoxicated and together severely pistol-whipped and tortured Lewis, and Anderson even rode a horse over him until the family was able to produce five thousand dollars. Lewis died, largely as a result of his injuries, on February 2, 1866.”

Sketchy as the sources are, it is convincingly clear that the three Berry boys served under Quantrill and Anderson during the Civil War, and only the toughest of the rough rode with them. Examining Jim Berry’s activities during the Civil War in detail it is clear that he served only briefly in the war before heading to the western territories, while Ike and Dick Berry continued to fight for the Confederacy through most of the war.

By late 1861, William Quantrill had formed a raider force that likely included the three Berrys and their brother in law Sam Hays. During the winter his force grew in strength to around two hundred men, and were better mounted and armed. Throughout 1862 Quantrill and his men raided around Kansas City, Independence, and Olathe. After a raid on Independence, on March 19, 1862, the Union issued a general order that all guerrillas were to be treated as common criminals rather than soldiers and prisoners of war, and they were to be shot on sight. This "No Quarter" policy apparently was a turning point for Quantrill and his men. Until this time they often paroled prisoners, a common practice by both sides early in the war. After the authorities issued the "No Quarter" order, Quantrill and his men exercised the same policy of no quarter towards their captives, usually killing them on the spot.

Hoping to cause the Union Army to soften their policy towards guerillas, the Confederate government passed the Partisan Ranger Act. The act legitimized guerrilla bands as rangers acting under the authority of the Confederate Army. The Union Army command ignored the Partisan Ranger Act, but from this time on the men who rode with Quantrill and similar bands considered themselves soldiers in the Confederate Army, and the CSA bore the responsibility for their actions.

In July 1862 the Union issued Order No. 19, requiring all able-bodied men in pro-slavery Jackson County to enlist in Missouri Union militias and help exterminate the guerillas. This was at a time when marauding Kansas Jayhawkers operating as Federal militia, were preying on slave holding families in Jackson County. The order led many young men in Jackson and surrounding counties to flood into the camps of Quantrill and General Price’s other units.

On August 11, 1862, Quantrill led twenty-five veterans and four hundred new recruits into Independence, Mo. The Union commander surrendered his force to a Confederate officer present. Four days later, Quantrill received a commission as captain, and his men were mustered in as partisan rangers in the Confederate army, organized as Shelby’s 2nd Missouri Cavalry Regiment. This unit was also designated the 12th Regiment, Missouri Cavalry, CSA. This regiment, including Jim Berry was informally known as the “Jackson’s County Cavalry” since a majority of its men came from the Jackson county area of western Missouri. Although Col. Upton Hays and later Colonels Beal G. Jeans and David Shanks commanded this cavalry unit, it remained closely associated with Quantrill and his Raiders. .

Five days later, on August 16 at the Battle of Lone Jack, Quantrill’s Raiders join the Confederate army in defeating Union forces in nearby Lone Jack, Missouri. On September 12, Quantrill raided Olathe, Kansas killing fourteen, while sacking and looting the town. The Fourth Kansas Cavalry chased the Raiders for ten days through four counties in Missouri. Throughout the early fall of 1862, Quantrill’s men were chased relentlessly by the Fourth Kansas and Sixth Missouri Cavalry.

During the summer of 1862 Bill Anderson formed his own gang, robbing to support themselves, and killing Union soldiers, quickly gaining the sobriquet, of “Bloody Bill.” Early in 1863 Anderson traveled to Jackson Co., Mo. to join Quantrill. Initially, Quantrill gave Anderson a chilly reception perceiving him to be brash and overconfident.

In May 1863 Anderson’s gang joined Quantrill’s Raiders on a raid near Council Grove, Kansas, in which they robbed a store west of town. After the robbery a US Marshal with a large posse intercepted the raiders about 150 miles from the Kansas-Missouri border. In the resulting skirmish, several raiders were captured or killed as they spit into two groups to return to Missouri.

During early summer 1863 Bloody Bill Anderson was made a Lieutenant, serving under Quantrill in a unit led by George M. Todd. It is possible that the Berry boys began serving under Anderson by this time, although this is not clear. During June and July Anderson took part in several raids that killed Union soldiers in Westport, Kansas City, and Lafayette County, Mo.

On August 21st Quantrill led his force of about 400 men into Lawrence, Kansas, the strongest abolitionist city in the state. The attack had been carefully planned with independent columns approaching in a coordinated pre-dawn attack. Over four hours, the raiders pillaged and set fire to the town, killing about 185 civilian men and boys, most of the male population, while burning about a quarter of the city to the ground. Their principal target, Jayhawker Senator James H. Lane, escaped death by racing through a cornfield in his nightclothes.

By 9 a.m., the raiders were on their way out of town. The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events in the history of “Bleeding Kansas.” The city seal of Lawrence commemorates Quantrill’s attack with a depiction of a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the burnt city. Quantrill led his force along the Texas Road en route to winter quarters in Texas. Along the way on October 6th they fought a minor battle at Fort Blair in Cherokee County, Kansas.

It seems clear that Ike and Dick Berry were among the raiders that day of infamy at Lawrence, Kansas although it is possible that Jim Berry had already left the war behind and headed westward to Nevada.

Some time during mid 1863, Jim Berry arrived in mining fields around Reese River, Lander County in central Nevada. There on November 26, 1863 James F. Berry married Mary Elizabeth Price. Mollie, as she was known, with her father Cyrus and brothers Kyle and Charles had moved by wagon train from Callaway County, Mo. to nearby Austin, Nevada in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil war. The Price family likely knew the Berrys back in Missouri, and Cyrus Price seemed determined to leave Little Dixie after the suicide death of his wife and before the family became swept up in the war.

Jennie Lee Berry, the first of six children, was born at Reece River Valley, Nevada on August 30, 1864. Shortly after, Jim Berry joined the gold rush to the new Montana Territory. A combination of the gold strikes on Grasshopper Creek and Alder Gulch, Montana Territory during the Civil War and the decisive defeat of Gen. Price’s army in 1864 brought many Missourians to the new territory during and after the Civil War—so many in fact that a legend was born that Montana was settled by “the left wing of Price's army.” There is an element of truth to this legend as evidenced by the arrival of Missourian Jim Berry and his family and many others in the new territory after serving with Gen. Price’s army.

Jim Berry’s activities in frontier Montana from 1864-67 remain unknown, but in May 1867 twin daughters, Anna/Anne Natalle and Adelaide “Addie” Price Berry were born in Virginia City. Apparently during the summer of 1867, Jim Berry headed overland back to Missouri. His wife Mary and their three children went overland from Virginia City to Fort Benton to board a steamboat to go down the Missouri River to their home near Mexico, Audrain County, Missouri. The steamer Gallatin departed Fort Benton September 2nd with the Berry family on board. Family legend tells that Mrs. Elizabeth Meagher, wife of recently deceased Thomas Francis Meagher was also on the steamboat that carried a total of eleven ladies and six children on this trip.

The steamboat Gallatin departed Fort Benton for Omaha with 150 passengers and upwards of a quarter of a million dollars in gold dust onboard. After trouble from late season low water, the boat reached a point thirteen miles below Camp Cooke on the morning of the September 5th. Here the Gallatin ran hard on the rocks at Holmes Rapids, and for six days the crew and passengers worked with block, tackle, and spars, struggling to get her afloat. On Sunday, Sept. 8th, the steamer Only Chance came along and about 25 of the Gallatin’s passengers, gave up and took passage down on that boat, an action they would later regret.

By Wednesday September 11th, the Gallatin’s crew and passengers had strained and racked the boat so badly that it was considered unsafe to remain onboard any longer. All the passengers and freight were put ashore, and the boat dismantled, even to the deck planking. Her splendid machinery was left in place, in hopes she might eventually get through, and the steamer was tied to the bank. Later passenger accounts spoke highly of the conduct of Capt. Howe, who worked day and night, in the cold weather and water to save his boat and secure comfort for the passengers.

The eleven lady passengers, including Elizabeth Meagher and Mary Berry, with the six children, provisions, baggage, and a few male passengers were put on two mackinaw boats. The balance of the passengers started overland on foot to reach the steamer Huntsville at Cow Island, fifty miles below. Eight miles down river, the mackinaws met Captain Jacobs of the Huntsville, coming up with a yawl to their relief. He agreed to carry passengers on the Huntsville to Omaha for $75 currency, while Capt. Howe of the Gallatin generously gave all the provisions he had and all the money left from his trip.

Having no cooking utensils, the mackinaw party, including Elizabeth Meagher and Mary Berry, laid down to sleep about eleven o’clock that night, rather hungrier than was pleasant. To add to their discomfort the rain coldly and continuously poured down on them through the night, with wolves howling in the distance. Berry family legend tells that Mrs. Meagher had plenty of Buffalo robes and shared them with Mrs. Berry who wrapped her six-month old twins in the robes, saving their lives.

 An early start and the mackinaws reached the Huntsville by 10 a. m., while the foot passengers, hungry and weary, wet, foot-sore and demoralized, came struggling in by squads until night, thankful for their deliverance from a shipwreck on the Upper Missouri.

The money and provisions from Captain Howe left $21.50 due from each cabin passenger and $6 from deck passengers, which was paid. The Huntsville then waited for the arrival of the ship’s Clerk and additional travelers from Fort Benton.

Boating conditions in that late season were horrible. The steamboat Imperial was hard aground twelve miles below Cow Island on September 14th, with poor prospects of getting off. Another boat, the Zephyr, was above Cow Island, and it was believed would have to remain all winter in the mountains. The Only Chance had a terribly rough trip down to Cow Island, pounding over rocks all the way. She left Cow Island September 12th and made her way down to Omaha, the passengers, including the twenty-five from the Gallatin, suffering all the way from poor quality food leading to much sickness and two deaths from dysentery. One passenger recorded that “a gladder set of boys never walked a steamboat plank” upon their arrival at Omaha October 4th. Onboard were over 200 passengers and about $3 million in treasure.

The steamboat Huntsville with Elizabeth Meagher and the Berry family aboard departed Cow Island September 19th. The boat passed Fort Peck on the 28th and worked her way down the Missouri slowed by the late season low water, the almost constant need to spar across sand bars, and frequent high winds. At long last, the trip from hell ended at Omaha on the 17th of October. The Berry family likely continued on to Missouri by train after their life-threatening trip down the Missouri River.

The escapades of Confederate veteran James F. Berry and his family will continue next month in Part 2.

 [Sources: US Census 1850-1880; 2012 http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-jamesberry.html; http://penningtons.tripod.com/roster.html ; Sam Bass & Gang. By Rick Miller. Austin, TX, State House Press, 1999; The Tenderfoot Bandits Sam Bass and Joel Collins, their lives and hard times. By Paula Reed and Grover Ted Tate. Tucson, AZ: Westernlore Press, 1988; “John Harris and Addie Berry Harris Family” Collection of Harris-Berry Family Material Collected by William H. Patterson Held at OHRC; “Historical Sketch of James F. Berry (1838-1877)” by John F. Harris (Great Grandson); Sedelia Weekly Bazoo 23 Oct 1877; The (Jefferson City Mo.) State Journal 19 Oct 1877; http://www.missouridivision-scv-org/mounits/12mocav.htm ; http://www.whitsett-wall.com/Documents/James%20Simeon%20Whitsett,%20 Civil%20 War%20Guerrilla.pdf ; “Mrs. Thomas Francis Meagher’s Sad Departure from Fort Benton In 1867: What a Way to Treat a Lady!” Fort Benton Historian Blog August 3, 2005]


1.     Sketch of James F. Berry from Missouri Ledger. [Courtesy of OHRC]
2.     General Sterling “Old Pap” Price, Commander of Missouri State Guard [Courtesy of OHRC]
3.     William Clarke Quantrill, Confederate Raider [Courtesy of OHRC]