Guerrilla Bands in Bollinger
by Pitter Seabaugh
When Sam's brother, Frank, was accused of horse stealing and was hanged in 1861 after turning himself in, Sam killed two of the men responsible and became a fugitive. He was driven from his home town and his family was made destitute. He found friends among the southern sympathizers and was given a commission as major in the Confederate Army. Fighting and fleeing throughout months of guerilla warfare, he raided Federal camps and private enemies alike in the name of the cause he believed right.
At the close of the war Sam Hildebrand continued his depredations, and rewards were offered for him dead or alive. He was pursued by many posses and was finally shot and killed in Illinois in 1872.
Old George Hildebrand and his wife Rebecca McKee had done a fairly good job of raising their children. Their children were Frank, William ,Washington, Samuel S, Henry and Mary Ann. Sam was born January 6, 1836 on the north side of Big River near Bonne Terre. Sams grandfather, David Hildebrand had settled on Big River about 1802 where he died at the age of one hundred. His son George moved there in 1832. In 1850 George Hildebrand died leaving the farm and home for the boys to manage, which they did with more than ordinary success.
In 1861 Sam and his brother Frank was accused of stealing Firman Mcllvaine's finest mare. Sam swore that he and Frank didn't steal the mare. Prior to losing his fine mare, Mcllvaine had no trouble with the Hildebrands and they had known each other all their lives. This was a very common practice of the white man at this time. Many American Indians were being falsely charged with theft, for an Indian could not testify against a white man. The white man wanted and needed more land and the
non-reservation Indians had land. Since they were American Indian, the easiest way to get the land was to charge them with false theft charges and charge them fines that they could not pay. Their land was then auctioned off on the courthouse steps to the highest bidder who could pay the fine. This legal land grabbing theft was called the "Old Mule Trick." A white farmer would just chase one of his mules or horses into the Indians fenced in property. Then he would ride into town and tell the Sheriff the Indian had stolen his livestock.
After the Federal forces learned that Sam had killed both Cornicius and Mcllvaine (in retaliation of his brothers death), orders were sent with intentions of taking vengeance on Sam. Concentrating on the Hildebrand homestead, they ordered Sam's elderly mother to leave the county as they intended to burn the house and barns and destroy all their property. The only thing she could keep was her
family Bible and her bed. She took what she had and moved to the home of her brother, Harvey McKee. On July 6th, 1862 the militia swooped down on the mining camp and opened fire on Sam's little sister Mary Ann, her fiancé Landusky, and Sam's brother Washington. Flanches whole company fired their musket balls into these to men, literally tearing them to pieces.
On July 10th, Captain Esroger went to the home of John Roan, a fifty five year old uncle of Sam's. He was taken about a mile from his home and shot to death.
On July 23rd, Captain Adolph and another Federal Captain went to the Hilderbrand homestead. They killed Sam's little thirteen year old brother Henry. Shot him in the back, after telling him he could walk away. Sam watched all of this from a hill top. He decided then and there that he would get the people responsible for the deaths of his family. Sam never killed anyone who was not in the Federal services. Sam never killed a child a women, nor burned the property of even his most bitter enemy. His homestead had been burned and lost forever. The home his grandfather had built.
On July 13th, Sam, with two companions James Cab and John Burlap, had some wrongs they wanted to redress and Sam made a pact to help them. He promised that he would give them as much aid as possible. Sam later had more men join him, such as Dick Cowan, Dick Berryman, Captain Bolin, William Cato, Bill Rucker, Jesse Pigg, George Lasiter, Tom Hail, Wash Nabors, James Cato and many more. They became known as there Hildebrand gang. Sam made mention of Dick Cowan being on many of his trips to Bloomfield and that the Rebels had burned his home in early February of 1863. Dick Cowan is buried in the Cowan Cemetery, in Wayne County Missouri.
As you will remember from a previous story, it all started with the Ripley County massacre on Christmas day of 1863, when Major Wilson and his troops killed 35 soldiers and 62 civilians.
At the Battle of Pilot Knob on September of 1864, Major James Wilson and six of his men were captured then killed by the Confederates.
Daniel McGee had led a group in guerrilla warfare against the Union. He became a marked man. On February 4th, 1863 Union soldiers, under the command of Captain K. Leeper, ambushed Daniel McGee and 28 others at the home of Simon Cato. Simon Cato was the son of Lewis Cato and older brother of Tabitha Cato
McGee, who was married to Thomas Jefferson McGee. Carolyn Cato, daughter of
Simon and Rebecca Cato, was married to young Ransom Ladd who was born 1829. All 29 of the Cato and McGees were killed at The Battle of Mingo Swamp. It is said that McGee was shot so many times that his torso was nearly cut in two halves. Now I don't know how much Sam Hilderbrand had to do with this but, it was reported by Hilderbrand himself that he was in the area on February 4th. He also said that his wife and children were staying at a near by home. Keep in mind his mother was a McKee.
Hildebrand reported that "on the 4th day of February, we made a charge on the
Federal camp." After the battle the wounded were carried to a retreat. Sam went on to say, "we all started for Mingo Swamp. The Federals followed us, and as our
march was retarded by our wounded, the Federals made their way around and charged us. They divided our line, cutting off seven of my men, whom they took prisoners. We started making our way to the St. Francis River when someone from the opposite shore called for us to bring him a horse. From his voice we knew him as William Cato, one of the seven who had been taken as a prisoner. We afterwards heard that the officer in command at Bollinger's Mill was Capt. Leeper from Ironton, Missouri."
This occurred 14 months before the Fort Pillow massacre on April 12, 1864. Daniel's brother Hugh was there. Then to top it all off on August 10, 1864, the Union went to the home of Thomas Jefferson McGee, an elderly man of 64 years, murdered him, and hid his corpse. It was not found for two weeks. They also burned his home.
Three days later they went to the home of Blair McGee and killed him in the presence of his 12 year old daughter. Finally when Hugh McGee surrendered at
a designated place, he and 6 others were shot down before a firing squad on May 28, 1865. On October 28, 1864 Asa Ladd, son of Ransom Ladd born 1807, was executed in retaliation for the death of Major Wilson.
All of this leads me to think that these massacres were not a result of the civil war, but a result of these men, our ancestors, being Cherokee Indians. Too many of these killings were senseless. A note I got from Mike Ladd, in response to Major Wilson, reads: Major Wilson signed an order directing Leeper to take eighty men, dress them in "butternut" clothing, march with them to White River, find out the
intention of the "Rebels" under Shelby, and on returning burn every mill, building, grain stack, and hay rick on the road," closing mysteriously with the following words underscored: "And you know I don't like to be troubled with prisoners." Among other letters were quite a number from the Honorable Charles Drake, United States Senator from Missouri, urging Leeper to do his work thoroughly and well. These letters, along with Wilson's, are in the hands of ex-Governor Thomas C. Reynolds.
They will, in due time, be presented to the world, with other startling and damaging facts concerning the atrocities perpetrated by Federal soldiers in Missouri.
* MO Division of Tourism