28 November 2013

John T. Moore: From Missouri Bushwhacker to Montana Rancher

Remembering Our Civil War Heritage and Heroes:

John T. Moore: From Missouri Bushwhacker to Montana Rancher

By Ken Robison
For The River Press
November 27, 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 Confederate Perry J. Moore’s brother John T. Moore who fought throughout the war for the South, came to Montana Territory to find his family, and ranched in the Smith River Valley. Descendants of Montana Civil War veterans are encouraged to send their stories and photos to mtcivilwar@yahoo.com.

When the Civil War erupted in border state Missouri, young John T. Moore joined local Confederates in battleground northeastern Missouri. Moore fought for four long years before his war ended in the Carolinas. Returning with his younger brother Perry J. Moore to their home in war torn Shelby County, the brothers found that their mother and younger siblings had migrated to Montana Territory to escape the violence and hard feelings in Missouri.

The eldest son of John W. and Eleanor Holliday Moore, John Thomas was born April 17, 1841 in Shelby County, Missouri. Father John W. Moore died in 1854 leaving his wife and five children on the family farm. In June 1861, at age twenty, John T. Moore enlisted in Confederate Colonel Martin E. Green’s regiment of volunteer cavalry in northeastern Missouri. John’s enlistment record described him with blue eyes, fair complexion, light hair, and 5 feet 11 inches tall.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Martin E Green was a leading secessionist in northeastern Missouri. In early July Green raised the 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry Regiment (Confederate), mustered the regiment in Knox County, and was elected Colonel with Lt. Col. Joseph C. Porter and Major Benjamin W. Shacklett.

Col. Green went on the offensive in northeastern Missouri in August, 1861 attempting to scatter Col. David Moore’s 1st Northeast Missouri Home Guard Regiment (Union). Green’s much large force of 2,000 men with a battery of two cannon struck Moore at Athens, Missouri. Col. Moore’s men had received Springfield rifles and bayonets, while the Confederates had few rounds for their cannon, were poorly equipped and trained,  and were armed primarily with shotguns and squirrel rifles. As the secessionists, including Private John Moore, advanced, firing became general. After some initial success, the advance faltered as they approached through a cornfield. Major Shacklett was wounded and his demoralized men began falling back. Col. Moore commanded his men to fix bayonets, and ordered, “Forward! Charge! Bayonets!” This counterattack routed the Confederates into headlong retreat.

The 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry with Private John Moore became part of the Second District/Second Division, commanded by Col. Green, in the Missouri State Guard under command of General Sterling “Pap” Price. Col. Green’s men engaged in a number of skirmishes and engagements after the debacle at Athens. During this period they gained improved training, arms, and equipment.

Now part of Price’s army, Col. Green’s men left northern Missouri with it. In mid September 1861 the 1st Northeast Missouri participated in a successful attack on Lexington, Missouri where they overwhelmed Union forces and captured the Union commander Col. James A. Mulligan. From September 13-20 September General Pap Price’s 15,000 men of the Missouri State Guard laid siege to the river-town of Lexington, defended by just 3,500 men primarily of the 23rd Illinois Infantry. On September 18th, Price’s army mounted a major assault on Mulligan’s heavily fortified defensive works. After the assault failed, Confederate artillery pounded Mulligan’s men. On the 20th, elements of Price’s army used hemp bales soaked in the nearby Missouri River to act as moving breastworks to work their way up the river bluffs toward Mulligan’s position. By early afternoon Mulligan surrendered. Confederate light losses included 25 killed and 72 wounded, while the Federals lost 39 killed, 120 wounded and the rest as prisoners of war.

Shortly after the Battle of Lexington Private John Moore was taken ill with measles. He was left at Johnstown, south of Kansas City in western Missouri. Within six weeks Private Moore was taken prisoner and spent six months in captivity in St. Louis until about mid April 1862. While being taken on a steamboat from St. Louis across the Mississippi River to a Union Prison at Alton, Illinois he made his escape.

Private Moore returned to Missouri and joined Col. Porter’s 1st Northeast Missouri Cavalry by May 1862 when his younger brother Perry, just eighteen years of age, joined the regiment. The 1st Northeast Missouri was in constant activity taking part in many skirmishes and was fully engaged in the Battle of Kirksville on August 6, 1862.

Private John T. Moore later related an account of the capture and execution of Confederate Col. Frisby McCulloch two days after the Battle of Kirksville. Col. McCulloch was charged, tried, and sentenced to death as a bushwhacker, even though he was captured wearing a regular Confederate uniform and carrying letters authorizing him to recruit troops. The colonel and twenty-six of his men were condemned to be executed for having broken previous prisoner paroles. He asked the privilege of giving the word to fire, and his request was granted. So, when all was ready, he gave the word for his own execution and that of his men, saying, “May God forgive you for this cold-blooded murder. Aim at the heart. Fire!” A second volley was necessary. This tragic incident is commemorated in a beautiful poem written soon afterward by Mrs. Baird, of Kirksville, who had five brothers and a husband in the Confederate army.

The Battle of Kirksville helped consolidate Union dominance and ended most bushwhacking in northeastern Missouri. It virtually destroyed Porter’s regiment, which was disbanded and scattered. John and his brother spent the winter in Kentucky as related in last month’s article on Perry J. Moore.
In the spring of 1863 John and Perry Moore made their way to Tennessee and joined the 9th Kentucky Mounted Infantry under Col. W. P. C. Breckenridge and took part in the Battle of Missionary Ridge.

The 9th Kentucky fought its way through the southeast to Bentonville, North Carolina over the next two years being part of the Confederate forces attempting to defeat or harass General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea. The Moore brothers participated in the major battle at Bentonville, which was the last engagement they were in. The Battle of Bentonville was also the last major action of the Civil War in which a Confederate army was able to mount a tactical offensive. This battle, the largest ever fought in North Carolina, was the only major attempt to defeat the powerful Union army of General Sherman during its march through the Carolinas to the sea in the spring of 1865.

Under exceptionally capable Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Confederate forces fought well at Bentonville. They could not overcome the overwhelming Union strength and the heavy casualties suffered during the battle. Just over one month later Gen. Johnston surrendered to Gen. Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina.

After Bentonville the 9th Kentucky was ordered to join the military escort for fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis. When President decided to surrender he ordered his military escort to also do so. The Moore brothers’ war was finally ended when they surrendered May 10, 1865 and swore an oath of allegiance twelve days later.

The United States government furnished transportation for the paroled 9th Kentucky back to Kentucky, and the Moore brothers returned to their home in Shelby County, Missouri. There, they learned that their mother and siblings had moved west the previous year. The message they received was: “Please tell my boys, if they make it home from the War that we’ve gone West to the Mines.”

To John and Perry the “West” was a lot of territory. Apparently, the two parted to find their separate ways to Colorado on their search for their family. John Moore moved on to Nebraska and was hired as a “bullwhacker” to cross the plains to Denver. Not finding his mother in the Colorado mines, the next spring he came to Montana with a large cattle outfit, arriving at Diamond City on August 10, 1866 to finally reunite with his family. He remained at Diamond City until 1870 engaged in the sawmill business with brothers Perry and Sanford and with William H. Sutherlin, later publisher of the Rocky Mountain Husbandman.

During his residence at Diamond City, John Moore married Miss Irene Lewis, daughter of G. S. Lewis, of New York, who came to Montana in 1866. In 1870 Mr. Moore moved to his 3,000 acre ranch near the site of old Camp Baker at the mouth of Sheep Creek. There he had a fine ranch with barns, sheds and other outbuildings, and an excellent residence. He raised cattle and horses on a large scale, having over 1,000 head of cattle and many horses, shorthorn cattle and draught horses being his favorite breeds.

In their later years, John and Irene Moore lived in Long Beach, California. There in 1926 he wrote his “Memoirs,” published July 19th 1926 by the Montana Newspaper Association in Montana’s weekly newspapers including the Judith Gap Journal. John Moore’s account bypassed the early years back in Missouri and the Civil War and focused on the early times and pioneers in Meagher County. The Moore Memoir gave a picture of the fun, as well as some of the hardships of life in Montana in the late 60s and 70s.

Among his many anecdotes, John Moore wrote movingly about his dear wife Irene:
   “On August 31, 1869 I was married to Irene Lewis of Diamond City, the dearest little girl that ever crossed the plains in a covered wagon. She passed away on August 14th, 1921, in Long Beach. We had lived together 52 years and I do not think there was ever two people in Montana that lived together that long and thought more of each other than we did.”

He wrote of the arrival of the military in the Smith River Valley:
   “In the winter of 1869 and ’70 a company of United States soldiers came over and built a temporary post on the Moore ranch that they called Camp Baker. In the summer of that year they moved ten miles up the river and built Fort Logan. The Moore boys furnished all the lumber for the fort.”

And he wrote of some hardships:
   “The winter of 1871 and 1872 was one of the hardest winters we ever had in Montana. On the 22nd day of November 1871, the thermometer dropped from 21 above to 40 below in less than one hour. A man by the name of G. F. Snelling, one of the commissioners of Meagher county, went out to look for a cow and was frozen to death two days later 20 miles from home. He had a bunch of fine splinters in his hand, which showed he had been trying to light a fire, as they were partly burned, but he had no more matches.
   “We had zero and below weather from the 22nd of November until the middle of February. The snow got to be about three feet deep all over Smith river valley. About the first of January, W. S. Sweet and Bill Gordon moved their band of about 600 cattle from Smith river to the Musselshell valley where there was no snow.
   About the first of February G. S. Lewis, father of Len Lewis; Ed Sayre and I started for the Musselshell with 376 head of cattle, got as far as the Dogy ranch, bought a small stack of hay from Jim Brewer and stayed there two days in a storm and fed the hay to the cattle; then drove on to Fort Harvey, got there the 13th, turned the cattle loose on bare ground . . . The 14th of February the Chinook came and took all the snow off the ground in the Smith river valley and we had no bad weather after that. The latter part of March, Mr. Lewis and I went back after our cattle and found them all within five miles of where we left them. We drove 375 head back to Smith river, having lost one head from the time they left home till they got back.”

John Moore wrote about the colorful origins of White Sulphur Springs:
   “In 1873, Jim Brewer built a log cabin at the Springs, cleaned out the spring, built a house over it, charged the boys 75 cents each for a bath, sold whiskey and ran one hell of a place. In ’74 it got to be quite a health resort. The neighbors would gather from all over the valley and run horses, drink, gamble, fight and have a good time. On July 4th, 1874, a big crowd from all over the valley were there and had one grand time. Brewer set up a big tent for the ladies to dress in. Sanford Moore was riding a little buckskin horse that was chuck full of buck. He tied him to the rack and went into the house. Jess Edwards, a professional gambler who was known all over the territory as “6 Fingered Jess” got on Sanford’s buckskin and rode up to the race track. When the race was over the boys all started running their horses back to the house and Jess’s mount turned loose bucking, threw old Jess off, tore off nearly all his clothes, got the saddle under him, ran into the guy ropes of the tent, turned it over and left the ladies al standing there looking like a lot of bathing beauties. However nothing like that kept us from having lots of fun and that was what we were looking for.”

Private John T. Moore remained active in his community and a proud member of the United Confederate Veterans and the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp No. 1390 in Helena. Just months after his Memoir was published, John T. Moore, Confederate veteran and Montana pioneer passed away at age 85 on December 1, 1926 in Long Beach. He rests today in Mayn Cemetery, White Sulphur Springs.

1. John and Perry Moore in their later years.