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Ray County skirmish may be the real last battle of the Civil War

By Linda Emley

James Michener has always been one of my favorite authors. I love the way he shared a story about a group of people that lived in one area for several generations. I always felt like I had been part of their lives after reading his books. Ray County has some locations that could be a “Michener” book if we knew all their stories, but many of them were never written down.

This story is about a piece of Ray County soil that was a part of several different events over the years and it’s personal for me because it’s where I grew up. I spent the first seven years of my life on a farm located in 52-27 section 3, which is also known as the old Anderson place on Highway F.

Some of my fondest memories on this farm were playing in the field near old brick and working in the garden, which had two tombstones in a field next to it. My grandmother Mildred Kell Schooler grew up in this area and she told me many stories that I will never forget. She was born in 1907, so she heard these stories from her family first-hand.

I later found out her old brick story was actually the Winner-Nelson murders that took place north of our farm in 1896. I shared that story a few years ago when I wrote about Goldie Reisen, the little orphan girl that lived at the Poor Farm. The original Poor Farm was on land just west of our farm. There is a wooded area on the poor farm land that is the home of a Potter’s Field cemetery. This is where the people from the Winner-Nelson murders are buried.

Our farm was once owned by John and Sarah Anderson. My grandmother told me that one of them died during the Civil War and was buried in the field because they were afraid to take them to a cemetery due to all the bushwackers. I ran across an old newspaper article that told about John Anderson dying in 1864, so this part of the story made sense. She also told me that the last Civil War battle of Ray County was on this farm. Her grandfather had read her this story from an old book that was lost when the Anderson house burned many years ago.

It took a few years, but one day I realized that the book she was talking about was the 1881 Ray County History Book. I found the story on page 304. “The last engagement in Ray County, Missouri, was about six miles northwest of Richmond, near Dr. Horace King’s farm, on the 23rd of May, 1865. The forces engaged were a portion of Capt. Clayton Tiffin’s command and a force of guerrillas under the command of Arch Clement. It was a sharp engagement for a short time, and resulted in the rout of the guerrillas. In the engagement Madison S. Walker was killed. He had been a private in Company D, 35th Missouri volunteers and 5th regiment of veterans reserve corps, and volunteered in the spring of 1865 in Capt. Tiffin’s company.  On the following day after the fight a force of volunteers from Richmond gave Arch Clement and the bushwackers a hot pursuit. This engagement of Capt. Tiffin’s company with Arch Clement’s command on the 23rd day of May, 1865 was emphatically the last one of the war.”

I’ve shared this story with many friends over the years and a few were actually excited that this battle took place on our family farm. But this story got a new meaning a few months ago when I was talking with David Blyth about it. He’s the president of the Ray County Historical Society and loves history as much as I do. My heart skipped a few beats when he explained to me that this battle was the last battle of the whole Civil War, not just the last battle of Ray County. I reread the last words of this story, “This engagement of Capt. Tiffin’s company with Arch Clements’ command on the 23rd day of May, 1865 was emphatically the last one of the war.”

ARCHIE CLEMENT

ARCHIE CLEMENT

I never believe anything unless I read it in at least three places, so I stayed up most of that night looking for more proof. I hit pay dirt when I found the following story. “Last Man Killed in the Civil War. Clayton Tippin, a well-known physician and surgeon of Hamilton, Mo who is here with his little daughter to visit the fair, had the distinction of commanding the Union soldiers who fought the last battle of the Civil War in which a life was lost. During the struggle he commanded at different times three companies at Richmond, Mo. His last command was composed of veterans of Ray and Carroll counties, who had been mustered out, but had re-enlisted under him. It was with a handful of these that he had an encounter on May 23, 1865, with the remaining remnant of Bill Anderson’s bushwackers and guerrillas. Anderson had been killed and Arch Clement, who had been his first lieutenant, was in command. The engagement was fought about 8 miles from Richmond. Capt. Tiffin had with him only 5 men. They were fired upon from ambush by the bushwackers and Madison Walker was killed. Capt. Tiffin himself, was shot through the toe of his boot, the ball not cutting the flesh. This skirmish occurred about 6:30 o’clock in the evening of the day mentioned. Capt. Tiffin was re-enforced and pursued Clement’s command all night and the guerrillas surrendered the next morning at Lexington. Three days later, May 26, 1865, Kirby Smith surrendered all the Confederate Soldiers west of the Mississippi river and all who had opposed the Union forces had been disarmed. Capt. Tiffin is quite sure the last fight was in Ray County and that Madison Walker was the last soldier in that great struggle to give up his life. St Louis Globe-Democrat.”

I found this same article in the Jan. 4, 1905, Columbus Nebraska Journal and in a Salt Lake City newspaper. These stories were written during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which was 40 years after the Civil War, so I needed a little more proof.

A 1909 Richmond Conservator told this story in more detail. “Capt.. Tiffin added, ‘Madison S. Walker, a private who had fought his way all through the war, fell at my side. Angered at the death of Walker and filled with wild desire for revenge, my boys set up a yell and advanced on the band. They turned and fled and we pursued them.’”

I finally believed this story was real when I found the first-hand account of it in the May 27, 1865, Northwest Conservator. This was one of the local Richmond newspapers. “BUSHWACKING. A desperate and wicked band of some ten to twelve buswackers, said to be under the lead of Jim Anderson, recently crossed from the south side of the river and have been prowling around …” A few paragraphs later it tells about the death of Walker. “A running fight took place, in which Madison Walker, a private in Capt. Tiffins’s company was killed. The particulars of this fight, or of Mr Walker’s death we have not heard. Capt.. T hotly pursued them that evening and during the night, the bushwackers moving west. We deeply regret the death of Mr. Walker. Our Provost Marshall, Lieut. Campbell, upon hearing of Capt.. Tiffin’s skirmish, immediately started out with the Provost Guard and some other soldiers and joined in the pursuit. The next morning our citzens were all ready and in arms, and companies started out likewise in pursuit, but during the night they had made good their escape.”

I found military records for Madison Walker and he was a local Ray County man. I’ve been searching for his grave for several months, but have yet to find it. I think he was the son of John and Jane Walker. I found them in the 1860 Ray County Census which says Madison was born in Missouri in 1842. His commander, Capt. Clayton Tiffin, was also a local man. He moved to Ray County with his father, Dr. John Tiffin, in 1842.

The two tombstones that were in the field next to our garden are no longer there. I was told that they were moved by my great uncle many years ago. I doubt they will ever be found, but I would love to know what name was on the second stone. I know it wasn’t Sarah Anderson because she was buried in Hickory Grove cemetery in 1879. If I don’t find Madison Walker anywhere else, I will always wonder if he was the second tombstone on our farm.

For many years, The Battle at Palmito Ranch in Texas has been considered the last battle of the Civil War. It took place on May 13, 1865, so our Ray County battle was 10 days after the Texas battle. I know it’s going to be a hard battle to win, but I’m now on a mission to correct this piece of history from the American Civil War.

The 150th Anniversary of the last battle is coming up this Saturday, May 23. I doubt anyone will have to think twice about where I will be spending my Saturday evening.

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