By Linda Emley
I think by now everyone knows that the Ray County Historical Society is hosting the Battle of Albany Re-enactment in October of 2014. We have been working on this event for over a year and we still have 19 more months to go.
I’ve spent many hours reading about this Civil War battle and Capt. William Anderson, who died at Albany, but I had never actually been to the battle site north of Orrick.
Several groups have visited the site over the past year, but I stayed behind to “hold down the fort” at the museum. I had seen pictures of the memorial marker and driven by the base of the hill several times, but I hadn’t driven up the road to actually see it.
Visiting Albany has been on my bucket list for many years and finally one day I decided it was time to stop dreaming and just do it.
I tried to find someone that could go with me, but it was short notice, so I just grabbed my camera and headed to Albany. Like many things in life, I often find that I’m perfectly happy when it’s just “me, myself and I” heading out on a mission. I love sharing time with my friends, but I’m very spontaneous and sometimes I don’t have the time to wait for someone else to show up.
Friday March 15, was one of those days for me. It turned out to be a day that I will never forget because I got to watch the sunset as I sat on the hill at Albany. It was so quiet and peaceful that I had to keep reminding myself why I was there. I kept telling myself, “shots were fired and 11 men died here 149 years ago.”
The 1881 Ray County History Book gives the following account: “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, MSM.
“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.”
The Battle of Albany monument was erected in 1988. It honors the 11 Confederate Partisan Rangers who died near this site on Oct. 27, 1864. They were Capt. William T. Anderson, Hank Patterson; Private Simonds; Anson Tolliver; Paul Debenhorst; Smith Jobson; Private Luckett; John Mcllvane; Jasper Moody; William Tarkington and John Pringle. Anderson is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond, but the other 10 men were buried near this site.
The monument says, “In memory of these Confederate Partisan Rangers who died near this place. The Battle of Albany, October 27, 1864 … With belated honour: Oh, smooth the damp hair over their brows; They are pale and white and ghastly now. And hide the wounds in their gory breasts; for their souls have fled to their final rest.”
The property around the memorial belongs to Murrell Thomas. On Aug. 19, 2011, Murrell was recognized by The Ray County Historical Society and the Ray County Commission with a plaque honoring his commitment to the preservation of the history of Ray County.
Gathering at the Battle of Albany Memorial, Ray County Commissioners Bob King, Allen Dale and Mike Twyman, and Ray County Historical Society President David Blyth presented a plaque to Thomas as his son and daughter (Mark Thomas and Lois Stein), and others looked on. Blyth said it was a honor to be the one to recognize Thomas on behalf of the Ray County Historical Society.
This location is actually a small family cemetery that was discovered by Murrell. He cleared the brush and keeps the cemetery maintained. There are several tombstones located there besides the Battle of Albany memorial. I found a grave marker for Elizabeth Mullins, the wife of William. She was born on Oct. 7, 1821 and died at the age of 26 on Sept. 13, 1848. While looking at her grave stone, I wondered why she died so young and what family members stood by her grave as they laid her to rest on that fall day. I didn’t find why she died, but I did find that she had at least two sons and two daughters. He husband remarried a lady named Mary who was 11 years younger than he was. They had seven more children together. This is just one of the stories of the people that are buried here. There are many more stories that have been lost forever in time because no one took the time to write them down.
John Crouch, a local historian, spent many long hours researching the Battle of Albany and was instrumental in getting the memorial marker placed in this cemetery. On Thursday, April 11, John will be the guest speaker at the Ray County Historical Society’s quarterly meeting and will share more history about the placement of this marker. The Historical Society will be presenting John with a plaque for all his hard work related to the Albany marker. David Blyth, our historical society president, will sing some songs from the Civil War era as he tells the stories behind each song.
The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m and is being held at the Ray County Museum. It’s a carry-in dinner that’s open to the public. The Historical Society will provide the meat, while everyone else is asked to bring a vegetable or dessert side dish. Come join us as we learn more about the Battle of Albany and don’t forget our motto, “We always have fun on the hill.”
Write Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her in person at the museum.