30 October 2013

Perry J. Moore: From Escorting President Jeff Davis to Montana’s Confederate Gulch

Remembering Our Civil War Heritage and Heroes:

Perry J. Moore: From Escorting President Jeff Davis to Montana’s
 Confederate Gulch

By Ken Robison
For The River Press
October 30, 2013

This continues a monthly series commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War and the veterans that came to Montana after the war. This month’s feature highlights Civil War Confederate veteran Perry J. Moore who fought for the South, escorted President Jeff Davis before his surrender, and in the aftermath headed west to Montana Territory. His brother John T. Moore will be featured next month. Descendants of Montana Civil War veterans are encouraged to send their stories and photos to mtcivilwar@yahoo.com.

Perry J. Moore was raised in northeastern Missouri in Shelby County and joined his brother John T. in the Confederate Army to fight through three years of danger. By war’s end the brothers returned to their home to find that their family had moved west to Montana Territory. The brothers followed to settle on the rugged Montana frontier and try prospecting and mining. Perry established a successful ranch in the Musselshell Valley and became active in Democratic Party politics and a leader in the United Confederate Veterans.

The son of John W. and Eleanor Holliday Moore, Perry James was born on May 8, 1844, raised on the family farm, and received a country school education. His father came originally from Delaware and died when Perry was just ten years of age. His mother came from an old distinguished Virginia family and held the family together after the death of her husband. When the Civil War began older brother John joined the Confederate Army while Perry remained on the family homestead until early 1862.

During the spring of 1862, the fighting between Union forces and Confederate partisan ranger bushwhackers in Shelby County and adjoining Knox County exploded. Colonel John M. Glover of the Third Missouri Cavalry, commanding Union forces in northeastern Missouri ordered his men to suppress the bushwhackers and shoot them down. The conflict extended to civilians as well in the guerrilla warfare environment. On April 10th Col. Glover issued Special Order No. 30:
   “In every case within your reach where the rebels take a dollar’s worth of property of any kind from a Union man or family, do you take at least twice as much in value from rebels in the vicinity (from parties who took the goods if you can identify them) and hold it for security for return of the property, and hold it until the robbery is made good. You will forthwith levy an assessment and collect it from the wealthy secessionists in the vicinity sufficient to comfortably support the families of those members of the M. S. M. [Missouri State Militia] who were killed by the rebels, and see that they are comfortably supported by this means until further orders.”

Two days later, enclosing a list of 65 names of men in the region, Col. Glover wrote to Captain John F. Benjamin of Shelbyville:
   “Captain Benjamin—Sir: I send you a list of names marked (A), who did the killing of militia in this (Knox) county. The others are members of a “bushwhacking” company in this and other counties. Give a list of the names to your commissioned officers, with instructions to hold all such, if arrested. Keep their names as secret as possible; I do not want them to know they are suspected, or we will not be able to catch them. You have two of them, I am told (the Feltz). Hold them safely. We have five or six of them, and on yesterday we killed one of the murderers, William Musgrove. These men are scattered all over the country. You will be as active as possible, and charge your men to be cautious . . . My instructions are not to bring in these fellows, if they can be induced to run, and if the men are instructed they can make them run. [Signed Glover]” And if they “ran” they were shot.

Into this environment of total warfare in May 1862, eighteen year-old Perry J. Moore enlisted in Col. Joseph C. Porter’s Regiment, joining his older brother John. Perry was described as six feet tall with gray eyes, fair complexion, and light hair. Hundreds of men from Shelby County belonged to Porter’s command, while at least a hundred belonged to Union forces against them. Porter’s men lived off the country foraging as they went and served as their own quartermaster and commissary.

In guerrilla fashion Porter’s men roamed the countryside until July 18th when Union forces from Newark attacked resulting in a bloody engagement with about 180 casualties for Federal troops and just 20 for the rebels. Despite this initial victory, arrival of Union reinforcements forced Col. Porter to retreat. By July 19th, Porter’s men including the Moore brothers had fought a battle and marched 65 miles in less than twenty-four hours. The 200 men had not eaten in 36 hours and were exhausted, yet the Federals kept the pressure on them. The pursuing Federal commander Col. McNeil was asked where Porter was, and replied, “How can I tell? He may be at any point within 100 miles. He runs like a deer and doubles like a fox. I hear that he crossed the North Missouri, going south, to-day, but I would not be surprised if he fired on our pickets before morning.”

Ten days later on July 28th Porter’s harassed men suffered another defeat by troops of Col. Odon Guitar, a snarling Missouri Unionist “tiger.” Retreating again, Porter managed to evade, while building up his force until by early August it numbered around 3,000 men. Feeling confident, Porter occupied Kirksville, county seat of Adair County in northeastern Missouri, and set up defenses. Union forces, under Col. John McNeil, known as “a savage fighter,” attacked on August 6th. McNeil sent ten men to reconnoiter Porter’s defensive positions in the town. The scouting force “charged into the very heart of the town, around the square, and through the streets, developing the fact that every house was a Trojan horse, and every garden fence an ambuscade, while the court-house was a castle, with its lower windows boarded up and loop-holed and all its rooms filled with sharpshooters.  After receiving the fire of a thousand shot-guns, rifles and revolvers . . .” yet losing just one man, the cavalrymen rode to safety to report to their commander.

As the fight began, Porter’s fatal miscalculation became clear—he had no artillery, while Col. McNeil had five cannon. Methodically, the Union artillery tore the frame “Trojan horse” houses to fragments and crushed brick walls as if they were eggshells. The Confederates fell back. Slowly the Federals advanced under cover of their artillery, yet out of range of Confederate shotguns. Demoralized by the artillery fire, the Confederates began to give way. The Federals skirmished slightly, then stood off and battered the Confederates to pieces with their artillery. Finally, the Federals charged, creating panic among the rebels and driving the whole force in terror from the field.

The Battle of Kirksville August 6-9 devastated Porter’s men. Confederate losses were never clear, but numbered as many as 200 killed, 400 wounded, and 250 prisoners at the cost to the Union of 8 killed and 33 wounded. Porter and his men fled from the battlefield suffering large-scale desertions among officers and men. With this catastrophic defeat Porter disbanded his regiment, and his surviving men broke into small groups to escape.

Perry Moore in company with his brother John and a young man named John B. Suttle, dressed themselves in civilian clothes. crossed the Mississippi River in a skiff a few miles below Quincy, Illinois, walked out into the country a few miles, boarded a train at a water tank and rode on to Madison, Indiana on the Ohio river. From there they made their way by foot into Kentucky and spent the first night with Jesse James’ grandfather, John M. James.

The Moore brothers and Suttle planned to continue moving south to join some command in the Confederacy. Confederate general Braxton Bragg had abandoned Kentucky, moving south of the state, and leaving it wholly in Union hands. As the Moores and Suttle proceeded south they were passed from one southern sympathizer to another until they reached the home of a man named Pendleton who had sons in Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. He advised them to remain quiet and wait for an expected raid by Morgan.

After waiting in vain for some weeks, the Moores and Suttle joined a man who was moving north with beef and got as far as Indiana and Illinois. From there they returned to Kentucky, and finally after many hairbreadth escapes and much exposure, traveling by night and hiding by day, they all got across the Cumberland River and joined the 9th Kentucky Cavalry, under command of Col. W. C. P. Breckenridge. The 9th Kentucky was assigned to the Second Brigade of Brig. Gen. Morgan’s Division of Cavalry. With this command they joined Bragg’s army and went on south, being in the retreat from Murfreesborough to Chattanooga, skirmishing on the way and around the latter place before the Battle of Chickamauga September 19-20, 1863.

At this time Perry Moore became ill with typhoid fever and sent to a hospital in Georgia, where he remained six weeks, after which he rejoined the regiment, then in Alabama. The 9th Kentucky soon reunited with Gen. Bragg’s army a few days after the disastrous Battle of Chickamauga, but in time to take part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25th, after which they were fighting almost every day for thirty days.

The 9th Kentucky spent the winter in scout and picket duty at Tunnel Hill in front of the Army of Tennessee and encamped at Dalton, Georgia. During that period while intercepting a baggage train, Perry Moore was shot in the left knee. After eight weeks in a hospital, he again joined his regiment in the spring of 1864, and from that time he and the 9th Kentucky were in very active service under Cavalry Corps commanders Gen. Joseph Wheeler and Johnson, advancing and retreating, always fighting, from Dalton to Atlanta.

On May 7, 1864, Union general William T. Sherman began his Atlanta Campaign. The 9th Kentucky fought and helped defeat General Geary’s Division of Hooker’s Corps at Dug Gap, and fought in engagements at Snake Creek Gap, Cassville, Cartersville, Altoona, Marietta, Roseville Factory, Peach Tree Creek, and finally the Battle of Atlanta. About May 10, the 9th Kentucky crossed the Chattahoochee River, marching North with Wheeler’s Corp to destroy Sherman’s railroad communications.

During the Atlanta Campaign on July 31, 1864 a Union raiding force led by Gen. George Stoneman, Jr. attempted to seize Andersonville Prison to free Union prisoners held there. The 9th Kentucky was engaged in the Battle of Sunshine Church, that led to the defeat and capture of Stoneman, who held the unfortunate distinction of being the highest ranking Union officer captured by the Confederacy.

The 9th Kentucky marched through Tennessee to Virginia to join in the Battle of Saltville where Confederates defeated Gen. Stephen Burbridge. Constantly on the move for engagement after engagement, the 9th Kentucky returned to Atlanta as Sherman began his March to the Sea on November 16, 1864. Over the next months into the spring of 1865, the 9th Kentucky as part of the Kentucky Cavalry Brigade opposing Sherman’s Army in many engagements. On April 11th the regiment moved on to Raleigh, North Carolina where they heard of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee.

By early May 1865, while most Americans believed the war was over and the Confederate States of America was disintegrating, President Jefferson Davis still held out hope for the future of the Confederacy. On April 2 President Davis with a cadre of his advisors and cabinet members fled from the capital at Richmond to Danville in southern Virginia. Over the next month, the dwindling Confederate government continued to move southward pursed by Federal forces. On April 18 Perry Moore’s 9th Kentucky Cavalry joined President Davis and his cabinet to provide military escort for them. At Charlotte, North Carolina. the party halted a few days pending negotiations between Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and General Sherman.

On May 8, the Davis party with their military escort left Charlotte and moved on to Petersburg, South Carolina on the Savannah River. At Abbeville, South Carolina, the last Confederate council of war was held. At that meeting were President Jefferson Davis, General John C. Breckinridge, General Braxton Bragg, and five Brigade commanders: Generals Dibrell, Furguson, Vaughn, Basil Duke, and Colonel W. C. P. Breckinridge of the 9th Kentucky, who was then commanding the Kentucky Cavalry Brigade. At this council, the members decided that the struggle was hopeless and that any effort to reach the Trans-Mississippi Department would only fail. President Davis cast the only dissenting vote, but finally accepted the resolution.

There, at the Savannah River, President Davis authorized compensation for his advisors from the remaining Confederate treasury. In addition Perry Moore and the other soldiers of the military escort were paid $28 each in specie for services on the Davis escort. The soldiers received an estimated $108,000, part of the last money paid out by the Confederate government from their depleted treasury.  Perry Moore retained one dollar of this payment for many years as a souvenir of his role in the end of the Confederacy.

The Davis military escort was then told to surrender to pursuing Union soldiers. On May 10, 1865, the 9th Kentucky Regiment marched to Washington, Georgia and surrendered to Union forces. That same morning the 1st Wisconsin and 4th Michigan cavalries captured President Davis and his party at Irwinville, North Carolina. On May 22, 1865, Perry J. Moore subscribed to the oath of allegiance to the United States, and his war was over.

Perry Moore returned home to Shelby County, Missouri to find that his mother, sister, and younger brother had headed west across the plains to settle in Montana Territory. Because of severe conditions in Missouri, in 1864 Mrs. Eleanor Moore, 20 year-old son Sanford, 26 year-old daughter Nancy, and 12 year-old Willie Johns, son of Mrs. Moore’s step-daughter left their Shelby County family farm to join a wagon train heading for Montana Territory. Despite being widowed and 57 years of age, Mrs. Moore bravely led her family westward. The Moore family drove their four milk cows and finally, one year later, arrived in Virginia City still driving two surviving cows. After spending 1865 in Virginia City, the next spring the Moore family followed a stampede of prospectors to Diamond City in Confederate Gulch where rich strikes had occurred on Montana Bar. There, Mrs. Moore opened a boarding house to support her family.

In July 1865, Perry T. Moore started for Montana Territory when he was hired to drive an ox team from Nebraska City to Denver. There he wintered over and in the spring of 1866 joined a wagon train to Montana. His first destination in the territory was Bannack arriving in July to try his hand at prospecting, and from there he pushed on to Last Chance Gulch and finally on to Diamond City to reunite with his family. Mrs. Eleanor Moore died at Diamond City in November of 1868.

Perry joined brothers John and Sanford to engage in hauling timber to the mines in Confederate and the other gulches in the area. They employed a number of teams and men, and after two years the Moore brothers moved east to the Smith River Valley. There they bought a sawmill in the Dry Range country on the lower Smith River and furnished lumber to Diamond City and Fort Logan.

The Moore brothers also ran a small herd of cattle in the Smith River Valley. Perry Moore was one of the first arrivals at White Sulphur Springs when that town was founded. He and his brother John owned and operated a ranch in the Smith River Valley, twenty-five miles from White Sulphur Springs.

In 1871, an early winter caused some concern for their cattle, and hearing of open range in the Musselshell Valley, John drove the cattle there while Perry and Sanford were in California on a horse-buying expedition. In the spring of 1871 the cattle were returned to the Smith River Ranch with John maintaining operations there. In 1872 Perry and Sanford decided to remain in the Musselshell, and later in the 1880s Sanford took up freighting operations.

In leaving the Smith River area, Perry took up a homestead of 160 acres in addition to 400 acres of desert land along the Musselshell River in central Montana near the later town of Two Dot, and lived there the rest of his life. Over the years, Perry greatly expanded his holdings until his ranch encompassed 12,000 acres. He became one of the leading landowners and for many years was one of the most prominent sheep men in central Montana. The Moore ranch expanded into raising hay, grain, cattle and sheep. In his later years he spent much of his time in California.

A life long Democrat, Perry Moore was elected narrowly to the Fourteenth Territorial Legislature in 1885, representing Meagher County. He served as school trustee at Two Dot for many years, was a past master of the Diamond City Lodge of Masons at White Sulphur Springs, a member of Harlowton Chapter No. 22 Royal Arch Masons, and belonged to Loyal Lodge No. 27, Knights of Pythias, at Two Dot. He was a major stockholder in the State Bank of Two Dot. Perry Moore was a member of the United Confederate Veterans and the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp, No. 1390 of Helena Montana.

On August 17, 1881, Perry Moore married Miss Nellie Robertson, who was born in 1859 at Prescott, Ontario. Her father, George F. Robertson, came to Canada from Scotland. Perry and Nellie Moore had four children: Nellie, the oldest, widow of Dr. H. B. Tice, who was a physician and surgeon; two sons Perry James, Jr., and George Fulton; and Margaret.

Proud Confederate veteran Perry J. Moore passed away August 16, 1921 in Lewistown and is interred at Mayn Cemetery, White Sulphur Springs.

1.     Perry J. Moore and the 9th Kentucky Cavalry provided military escort for President Jefferson Davis as he fled to the Carolinas at the end of the Civil War. This newspaper cartoon depicts Davis at his capture dressed in woman’s clothes, when in fact he was wearing only his wife Varina’s large shawl.