By Linda Emley
Many of my stories mention the book, History of Ray County, Mo. – “Carefully Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881.”
It gives us 818 pages of local history stories, many of which can not be found anywhere else. The preface reads, “The publishers of this work flatter themselves that it is worthy of public confidence, and that it will meet with the acceptance and approval of those for whom it is intended, namely: the people of Ray County, Missouri. It has been very carefully prepared from sources of information both official and private, and entirely authentic and reliable. No pains have been spared in making the history thorough, accurate and exhaustive.”
This book has 320 pages of biographical sketches about the citizens of Ray County. The first biographical sketch is 4 1/2-page story about Alexander Doniphan. The second story is a four-page story about George W. Dunn. Doniphan and Dunn were the only two men that got four pages. All of the others only got a half page or one page to tell their stories.
There is no rhyme or reason to the sketches. They’re not in alphabetical order, so it might be in the order they were submitted. In books such as this, the men would have paid a fee to be listed in the book and each got to write his own bio as he chose to tell it. I have often wondered if Doniphan and Dunn were the most important people in town or where the only ones that were willing to pay for four pages.
There are no women listed in the biographical pages as the main person of interest. They were only listed as wives and mothers, but that’s the way things were in 1881.
It was 16 years after the Civil War ended when the 1881 Ray County history book was published. The war was still very fresh in the hearts and minds of many of the people mentioned. There are 43 pages dedicated to the Civil War
There are also many additional references about the men that served in the Civil War in the biographical sketches. It’s interesting to see how they looked at the war in this book because it takes many years before you can look back on history and are really able to judge what happened.
The introduction to the Civil War begins as follows, “THE GREAT CIVIL WAR. Many years must elapse before the complete history of the great struggle between the Federal government of the United States, and the Southern Confederacy, can be written. A great Civil War beyond all others, involves grave and complex questions that require the historian writing from the chancery of truth, to take a calm view of the whole field, which shall do full justice to both sections of the Union.
“The cessation of the war after the surrender of General Lee to General Grant at Appomattox, April 9, 1865, was followed by a flood of biographies, memoirs, reports and historical sketches, that will have to be laboriously collated, winnowed of their chaff, pruned of their partisan exuberance, and reduced to the correct standard of material for a history that makes truth its polar star.
“They strew flowers alike upon the graves of the Confederate and National soldiers. The garlands of roses and lilies are placed sweetly by affection’s hand upon the green graves of the blue and grey as they sleep ‘Under the sod and the dew. Waiting the judgment day; Love and tears for the Blue, Tears and love for the Grey.’ ”
This shows that the Civil War was a great loss for the North and the South because Ray County was home to many boys from both sides.
There is a separate history of the Confederate and Union soldiers from Ray County. Both go into great detail about the local battles and has a list of the local soldiers and their service.
“CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS – Ray county furnished a large number of soldiers for both armies in the late civil war who bore themselves bravely in some of the hard fought battles of the war, adding new luster to the military honors already won by the county. The number of volunteers from Ray county that enlisted in the southern armies is variously estimated at from five to eight hundred. A majority of this number enlisted under Gen. Sterling Price the first year of the war, 1861.”
“UNION SOLDIERS. The number of volunteers furnished by Ray county for the Federal army, is estimated at about 1,200. During the first year of the war the recruits for the Union army in this county were not many. The counties of Ray and Carroll, during the summer of 1861, furnished one company of volunteers, who, under the command of Captain Dick Ridgell, did service at Lexington, Missouri, until the surrender of General Mulligan to General Sterling Price, September 20, 1861. Some other volunteers from Ray county served in their companies at Lexington, at the time of the memorable siege. In the first week of December, 1861, a large force of Federal troops, under General B. M. Prentiss, passed through Ray county, halting for a few days at Richmond. The night after their arrival a company of volunteers was organized near the residence of John Elliott, near Camden, in this county.”
One of the most important Civil War events in our county was the Battle of Albany but the 1881 history book told it like it was just another skirmish.
Page 303, “October 27, 1864, a heavy force of guerrillas, under the command of Bill Anderson, were repulsed near Albany, Ray county, by a portion of the 51st regiment, E. M. M., commanded by Major John Grimes, and a portion of the Daviess company E. M. M., commanded by Major Samuel P. Cox, of the 1st cavalry, M. S. M. In this engagement Bill Anderson, the noted bushwhacker, was killed, while making a desperate charge. The Ray county troops and the Daviess county troops in the action, behaved with great coolness and gallantry. The arrangement of the forces, and the planning of the method in which the attack was to be brought on, were well conceived, and admirably carried out. They reflected the highest honor upon the officers in command. On the fall of their leader, the bushwhackers, who had met with some loss from the well directed fire of the Ray county and Daviess county troops, made a hasty retreat, and left Ray county that night.”
There are many modern-day residents in Ray County with family ties to the Battle of Albany’s Union troops, Partisan Rangers and civilians, so stay tuned for more tales about the 12-minute Ray County battle that changed the course of the Great American Civil War.
Editor’s note: Ray County Historical Society and Lexington reenactor Robbie Maupin have announced plans to co-sponsor a 150th commemoration of the Battle of Albany in 2014.
You can reach Linda Emley at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her during regular business hours at Ray County Museum.