By David Knopf, News Editor
It should come as no surprise that Ray County sent 650 men to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The birthplaces of the great majority of the soldiers reveal family roots in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. And while there was also strong sentiment for preserving the Union in Richmond and surrounding towns, loyalties were split enough that there were many from Ray County that sided with the South, “who fought, bled and died for a cause they thought just and right.”
That characterization is drawn from the history of Richmond’s Brown-Rives Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a national society founded in 1894. The Ray County chapter started on May 10, 1911, 50 years to the day from the first blood shed in the Civil War west of the Mississippi River.
The chapter drew half its name from Col. Benjamin Johnson Brown, a native Kentuckian who was twice elected sheriff of Ray County and served two terms in the state Senate.
When he was killed on Aug. 10, 1861 at the battle of Wilson’s Creek – 12 miles southwest of Springfield – he was still the Missouri Senate’s incumbent president. Brown was buried on the battlefield, but his body was later moved to a final resting place in Springfield.
The Brown-Rives Chapter chose Col. Benjamin Allen Rives for the second half of its namesake. Born in Virginia, Rives was a medical doctor who moved to Ray County in 1850 and became “a leading physician and surgeon, also a successful farmer,” according to a chapter historian.
In 1858, he was elected to the Missouri Legislature.
It was Rives who, early in 1861, organized a Confederate company in Richmond to answer Gen. Sterling Price’s call for troops to meet at Lexington. Rives’ company included his brother and five nephews.
Soon promoted to colonel of the 2nd Regiment, Missouri Volunteers, he fought in most of the battles that took place in Missouri. He was on the fast track for further promotion, the history notes, “But his life was not long spared to the cause to which he so willingly devoted it.”
Rives was mortally wounded on March 8, 1862 at the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern – more commonly referred to as the Battle of Pea Ridge – in Benton County, Ark. He died the next day.
In the ornate language of the time, the Brown-Rives history notes that “Death closed his bright and glorious career”.
Posthumously, notice came that Rives had been promoted to general. It’s not known if the promotion had been decided before his death or if it was intended to honor him for his sacrifice.
With transportation disrupted and far more limited than it is today, it was rare for Civil War casualties to be brought home. But Rives is the exception. His body is buried beneath a modest stone on the perimeter of the Watkins Cemetery south of Shirkey Golf Course in Richmond.
The colonel’s brother, Lt. Robert Rives, died in Arkansas, as well, after being wounded in the Battle of the Hemp Bales in Lexington.
While the Rives family sacrificed two sons to the Confederate cause, Rev. James Duval and his wife, Lydia Russell Duval, paid even a greater toll among the Southern sympathizers in Ray County.
The Brown-Rives historian notes that Rev. Duval, a Democrat, was also a slave owner, something not uncommon at the time.
The first of three Duval sons to die in battle was William Russell Duval, who enlisted in Company C of the 3rd Missouri Infantry in December 1861. He survived battles in Carthage and Wilson’s Creek, Mo., and at Pea Ridge in Arkansas before being killed in the Battle of Corinth, Miss., on Oct. 4, 1862.
His brothers, Henderson and Thomas Duval, were also members of Company C in the 3rd Missouri. Col. Rives commanded the three brothers until his death in March 1862.
Henderson and Thomas survived all the battles that William had fought in, but died on the same day – May 16, 1863 – in Mississippi at the Battle of Baker’s Creek, also referred to as the Battle of Champion Hill.
That battle was considered a turning point in Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s eventual siege of and victory at Vicksburg.
A relative of the three brothers, Col. Daniel French Duvall – some spell it Duval – also served in Company C of the 3rd Missouri infantry, but was more fortunate. The son of Isaac and Sarah M. Jeffries Duval, Daniel French survived the war and is buried beneath a large stone in the Confederate Cemetery in Higginsville.
He lived until 1926, and according to his stone, was a member of the last Confederate board that supervised the cemetery and adjoining residences for Confederate veterans and their families.
The Brown-Rives Chapter of the U.D.C. was not only active in commemorating the contributions of Ray County’s Confederate soldiers, but supported the veterans home with funding and volunteer work.
In addition to Daniel French Duval – his stone spells it Duvall – there are at least four Ray Countians buried in the Higginsville cemetery. They are David Edwards (Company G, 3rd Missiouri Cavalry, died 1910); Fuller Harris (Company I, 5th Virginia Cavalry, 1912); John Lamley (Company C, 3rd Missouri Infantry, 1917); and Joseph Wells (Company E, 3rd Missouri Infantry, date of death not recorded).
The four, and possibly others, were Confederate soldiers who lived in the veterans home and were buried in the adjoining cemetery.