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Memories of the Civil War

The Hunt and Adams Family

Contributed by David Church
Oak Grove, Missouri

In order to understand the actions of our ancestors during the civil war, we must have a knowledge of the decisions that they faced, and the things that were happening in the western counties of Missouri at that time. This area was the site of some of the most heinous atrocities and criminal outrages that were ever perpetrated on this continent.

In Missouri, the civil war was a conflict not only between the forces of North and South, but also between the residents of Missouri and Kansas, regardless of whether their sympathies were for the Union, or the Confederacy. The bands of militant Yankee zealots from Kansas that perpetrated cruel and criminal attacks on the residents of Missouri, were known as the Kansas "Red-Legs" or "Jayhawkers". These included such men as Lan and Jennison.

The forces from Missouri that retaliated were called "bush-wackers", and included Quantrell and the Younger Brothers. The recent biographers of Quantrell and the Youngers, feel that these men have been seriously wronged by history. This is largely because the histories were all written by the Yankee victors, and were very biased. Whether justified or not, the actions of these men were prompted by the heinous atrocities that their families had suffered at the hands of the Yankee "Red-Legs".

The conflict in this area along the borders of Missouri and Kansas began in 1857, and during the years of the Civil War, both Union and Southern sympathizers who resided in western Missouri, suffered the inhumane outrages of those robbers and marauders who came into this state from Kansas.

Mrs N.M. Harris, who was a young girl living in Jackson County during the Civil War later gave the following account of Colonel Jennison and his band of Kansas "Red-Legs" on one of their raids into Missouri.

The (Jennison) ordered the execution of wounded Confederate soldiers on parole; he murdered men in the presence of their families. The silver plate and jewelry Jennison and his men stole and carried into Kansas would have stocked many jewelry stores; the bedding, wearing apparel and furniture they carted over into their beloved commonwealth was ample to supply the homes of the whole horde (they carried away three forty-pound feather beds from one house at one time); the cattle, horses and mules these thrifty thieves drove to their state from Missouri were enough to stock (and did) the farms of many of the 'emigrant aiders' in Kansas. "Jennison's command hauled from a graveyard near Harrisonville a number of tombstones - this was a gruesome kind of highway robbery, but they doubtless reasoned that the smooth side of the marble slabs would make substantial doorsteps. They took the patchwork quilts from the negro cabins as eagerly as they pulled from the beds of invalids among the aristocracy the downy silken comforts and costly counterpanes. "They tore up the hearths to seek hidden treasure; they took the family carriages and drove as their occupants; they packed in wagons all wearing apparel, household articles, harness, plows or whatever they wanted and could make room for. They left not a horse, mule or any cattle they could manage to drive away; they robbed hen roosts, took children's toys, even compelling one gentleman to take off his coat, pants and shoes and give them; they broke dishes they could not carry away; handsome party finery that did not appeal to their pilfering proclivities they wiped their muddy boots on. On Sunday afternoon I counted in the Sni hills seven dwellings burning at once, two homes of poor widows. Harry Truman's mother, Mrs. Martha Ellen Young Truman, retained vivid memories of the Civil War up to the time of her death in 1947 at the age of ninety-four.

"She could recall an attack by Jim Lane's Kansas Redlegs when she was nine years old on her parent's farm near Grandview, Missouri. The Jayhawkers, she related, shot 400 Hampshire hogs and but off their hams, then blasted away at the hens "out of sheer cussedness" and burned the family's hay and stock barns. There were even a few Yankee officers that were disgusted by the Actions of men such as Lane and Jennison.

Cave Spring, MO November 22, 1864

General John B. Sanborn:

Jennison has just passed through this vicinity on his return from Arkansas River. The night of the 19th he stayed at Newtonia, the 20th at Sarcoxie, and the 21st at Dry Fork. Where he passed the people are almost ruined, as their houses were robbed of the beds and bedding. In many cases every blanket and quilt were taken; also their clothing and every valuable that could be found, or the citizens forced to discover. All the horses, stock, cattle, sheep, oxen, and wagons were driven off. What the people are to do it is difficult to see. Many of them have once sympathized with the rebellion, but nearly all of them have been quiet and cultivated their farms during the last year, expecting the protection of U.S. troops. Jennison crossed Coon Creek with as many as 200 head of stock, cattle half of them fit for gold beef, 200 sheep, 40 or 50 yoke of work oxen, 20 or 30 wagons, and a large number of horses, jacks, jennets, say 100, as they were leading many of their broken-down horses and riding fresh one. The Fifteenth Kansas had nearly all this property, the men said they had taken it in Missouri. There are cases where the men tore the clothing off of women in search of money, the threatening to burn houses in order to get money is the common practice. They acted worse then guerrillas. Can the stock be returned to this department so that the owners can get their property?

Respectfully, Green C. Stotts

After the war both Charles Jennison and James Lane, leaders of the "Red-leg" raids mentioned, were highly esteemed by the people of Kansas. Instead of serving time in prison for their crimes, both were elected to multiple terms of office in the Kansas State Senate or the United States Senate!!!!

Toward the end of the war it was the policy of the United States Government to enroll all of the inhabitants in the border counties of Missouri in the army. All men suitable for service were to be put into some military organization -- loyal Union men into one class, and Southern sympathizers into another. This was done to prevent any men from joining the Confederate forces of Generals Price or Shelby, or guerrilla bands in the area. There are many stories that survive of men who were torn from the arms of their wives and children, dragged from their homes, or just taken out and shot.



William Houston Adams was born on July 8, 1837, in Lafayette County, new Chapel Hill, Missouri. He was the son of Spencer Adams and Rachel Botts Adams. William H Adams was attending school at the old college at Chapel Hill, when the cholera epidemic of 1849 struck that area His family all came down with the disease, and his father died. William H Adams was only twelve years old in 1849, but it was necessary for him to quit school in order to care for his mother and family who had the cholera.

William Houston Adams married Mary Ann Cantrell on February 16, 1859. Mary Ann Cantrell was the daughter of Christopher Cantrell and Narsises (Narcissus)(Narcissa)(Narcissa)(Nancy) Mulkey Cantrell. Mary Ann Cantrell was born on August 21, 1840, in Lafayette County, Missouri.

When the Civil War started, William H Adams enlisted as a member of Colonel Upton Hays' Regiment under General Sterling Price, and served with him until after the famous battle of Lone Jack, where he was severely wounded. William H Adams was a very passionate supporter of the Southern Cause. During the battle of Lone Jack, there was a moment of confusion on the battlefield and the lines of the Confederate and Union forces become confused. At this point, some of the Confederate troops were firing upon their own men. William H Adams saw what was happening, and tried to stop his comrades from shooting their own men by knocking the guns out of their hands. He was, however, stopped when several of his comrades "got him down and sat on him". William H Adams was wounded at the Battle of Lone Jack, August 16, 1862, when he was struck in the left side by a cannon ball.

After he was wounded at Lone Jack, William H Adams spent most of the remainder of the war "hiding out" in the woods from the Yankees and Red-Legs that patrolled the area leaving devastation and havoc in their wake. The Yankees had orders to round-up and forcibly enlist all men in the area, and the Red-legs had orders to execute wounded Confederate soldiers on parole.

Once, while William H Adams was visiting his family, at their home near Chapel Hill, news was received that their was a Red-Leg patrol in the area. With little time to act, it was decided that he would hide in the cellar of the house. The access into the cellar, and his wife, Mary Ann Cantrel Adams, hurriedly covered the door of the cellar with a rug. Next she moved a rocking chair directly over the door, and there she sat with her two small daughters, Jennie and Willie Ann. At that time Jennie was old enough to talk, so her mother warned her that she must not let the soldiers know where her father was, or they would kill him. If they asked her where her father was, she was to tell them that he had gone away and was not a home.

When the Red-Legs arrived, looking for William H. Adams, they were not satisfied with his wife's answer, so while the men searched the house, one of them decided to charm the truth out of little Jennie. He took her up on his knee, and "promised her the moon and stars." He let her play with his watch, and told her that she could have it if she would just tell him where her Daddy was. Her mother maintained eye contact with little Jennie throughout this questioning to bolster the little girl's courage. Once more the soldier asked little Jennie where her Daddy was, and she coolly replied, "He's down south fightin' de Feds."

William H Adams was not discovered by the Red-Legs, so they looted the farm and house, taking the livestock, household articles, and everything of value, even the clothing and bedding. They didn't leave even one pair of socks, but thank goodness the didn't take that rug!

At the end of the Civil War, William H Adams refused to sign the loyalty oath and concede defeat. Because he refused to sign, he was jailed in Warrensburg, Missouri, for a period of nine months. At this time, William H Adams and Mary Ann Cantrell Adams were still living near Chapel Hill, and had two small children. Mary Ann Cantrell Adams regularly made the trip to Warrensburg to visit her jailed husband, and to bring him clothing and other essentials.

Evidently Mary Ann Cantrell Adams had a reputation for being as stubborn and determined as her husband. Once, while she was visiting her jailed husband in Warrensburg, a terrible storm blew in pouring torrents of rain and flooding many parts of the country. Her father, Christopher Cantrell, paced the floor nervously, and was very worried. He said that he knew if Mary Ann and started for home, she would continue on regardless of the conditions she encountered. His fears proved to be founded, for when Mary Ann Adams and her two babies reached Blackwater Creek, the bridge had been washed away by the storm. Just as her father had feared, she crossed the flooded creek anyway. With one babe in front of her on the horse, and the other behind her, she made her horse swim the flooded waters of Blackwater Creek. They arrived safely at home later that evening.

During the Civil War, William H Adams lost everything he had, besides having been a security for others, which debts he afterwards had to pay. At the close of the war, all the property he owned was one old pony.

In 1864, William H Adams and Mary Ann Cantrell Adams along with their two daughters, moved to Jackson County, near Lee's Summit, Missouri. They brought with them Rachel Botts Adams, mother of William H Adams. Rachel Botts Adams died in 1870, and was buried in the Wood Chapel Cemetery, near Lee's Summit.

With a good constitution and a determined will, William H Adams went to work, and by industry and perseverance, he secured a fine home of ninety-two and one half acres. This is the farm that he later sold to his son-in-law who called it "Rocky Knob". It is located on what is now called Hunt Road. Once, while clearing some land, a tree that he was felling "fell wrong". The tree fell on him and crushed his hand. The story, as his daughter told it says that "his hand was mashed as big as a plate." Someone was sent to Lee's Summit to get the doctor, who arrived later that night. By the light of a kerosene lamp, with only whiskey and laudanum to deaden the pain, the doctor amputated three fingers of the crushed hand, leaving only the index finger and thumb.

William H Adams loved hunting and fishing. He was known as the king of fox hunters, and within one year captured as many as twenty-two foxes.

May Ann Cantrell Adams died September 10, 1896. She was buried in the Lone Jack Cemetery.

In the early 1900's William H Adams gave each of his daughters a parcel of land or $400.00. The majority of his farm was purchased by his son-in-law, Harvey Lee Hunt, but part of it may have been the parcel of land given to Sarah C Adams Hunt, Harvey Lee's wife. William H Adams continued to live on his farm with his daughters for extended periods of time.

William Houston Adams died on May 2, 1928, and was buried in the northeast corner of the Lone Jack Cemetery in the shade of the cedar trees.

William Houston Adams and Mary Ann Cantrell Adams were the parents of the following children. (William H Adams gave each of his daughters a nickname that was used more often then their proper given name.)

1. Martha Jane (Jennie) Adams Bynum, born December 20, 1858 (60?), died 1941 - She married Robert Bynum, Robert Bynum was born May 24, 1846, and died March 18, 1893.

2. Willie Ann Adams Grayum, born July 20, 1862, died August 12, 1909 - She married William Grayum

3. Mary Ellen (Mollie) Adams Hunt, born April 16, 1867, died June 20, 1955 - She married William Daniel Hunt on October 19, 1888.

4. Rachel Narcissus Adams Hunt, born September 15, 1870, died June 20, 1911 - She married John Wiley Hunt on September 21, 1890

5. Sarah Christina (Sallie) Adams Hunt, born February 1, 1872, died April 27, 1966 - She married Harvey Lee Hunt on November 10, 1895

6. Minnie Belle (Kate) (Katherine) Adams Hayden, born March 21, 1874, died in 1963 - She married Chalmon (Chal) Hayden, Chalmon Hayden was born in 1874, and died in 1968

7. Lillie Mai (Babe) Adams Rice< born October 13, 1876, died ? - She married Walter Rice and moved to Oklahoma

8. John H Adams, Born April 12, 1881, died May 15, 1881 - 1 month, 3 days

9. & 10. Twin sons that died in infancy

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