Area 14: Southeast of Harrisonville

Residents in this area east of Harrisonville and north of Austin and Dayton suffered greatly at the hands of bands of marauders from each side as the Union troops were never able to protect and control the countryside.

Ox Train Massacre (November 3, 1862)

Quantrill ordered 40 of his guerrillas to attack a 13 ox-wagon train about 10 miles east of Harrisonville. They shot 12 of the Union escort in the head, burned the wagons and turned the oxen loose. Col. Catherwood and 150 cavalry pursued Quantrill and attacked, killing six and wounding 25, but Quantrill and most of his men escaped.

This area was home to an exceptional couple, William M. Briscoe and his wife, Ruth, who could be called Cass County’s Lady Bushwhacker. The following are their stories from the book, Caught Between Three Fires (pp. 496, 516-517), by Tom Rafiner.

Prior to the War, the Briscoe family was a strong fixture in Cass County – after the War, forgotten. William and Ruth owned a 480 acre farm southeast of Harrisonville. Living on a neighboring farm was William’s father, John. The Briscoe’s had five children in 1850 and four more arrived before 1860. William was very active in county politics. He served as county sheriff from 1854 to 1856. These three years coincided with the first three years of the border strife between Kansas and Missouri. Briscoe’s duties as sheriff placed him in the middle of troubles.

On August 11, 1858, Briscoe was elected the Cass County representative in the Missouri State House of Representatives. This same day, R. L. Y. Peyton was elected to the State Senate representing Cass, Bates and Jackson Counties. Briscoe defeated A. S. O’Bannon 1,157 to 663. In 1860 he defeated Jacob F. Brookhart and Benjamin Stevens. He had known and been allied with Peyton for many years.

The border troubles resurfaced in Cass and Bates in 1858 and 1859. Harrisonville became the “capital” for protection. Local militia units were established in Harrisonville, Austin, and Pleasant Hill. William Briscoe was personally involved in leading the militia units and by January, 1859, was serving as a major with Peyton as the General.

During May of 1861, Briscoe rushed back to Harrisonville in order to share with his constituents the events at Fort Jackson in St. Louis. Gov. Jackson’s call to arms and the subsequent rise of the Missouri State Guard swirled through Cass County. Peyton formed a regiment, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, during the early summer of 1861 and William Briscoe was appointed a Captain in this regiment in July. Briscoe resigned from the MSG in August 1861. He re-enlisted in the MSG and Oct. 2, 1861 was appointed as an Aide-de-Camp on the staff of Brig. Gen Rains, 8th Division. From this point forward Wm Briscoe was absent from Cass County and family.

Following Order No. 11, Ruth had taken the family to Cooper County, MO. They settled in the vicinity of Tipton, just south of Boonville. William Briscoe took advantage of the army’s movement through Cooper County to see his family. The same day Price’s forces were preparing to take Boonville, William and Ruth Briscoe, along with 25 bushwhackers visited the Reaves General Store in southern Cooper County. The bushwhackers identified themselves as being part of Bill Anderson’s band.

A. J. Reaves, the store’s owner, was working in the store on Oct. 10 when the Briscoe’s arrived with their 25-man gang. While the bushwhackers were “robbing and plundering” Reaves’s store, Ruth Briscoe was gathering $125 worth of groceries and dry goods. William Briscoe explained he “must have the goods for his family,” and attempted to pay in Confederate Bonds. Although the store did not normally accept Confederated currency in payment, under the unique circumstances they agreed to do so.

After the Briscoes left Reave’s store, along with the bushwhackers, he filed a complaint with the local Provost Marshal. Now alone, William having returned to the Confederate Army and the bushwhackers back in the bush, Ruth was arrested. During the inquiry, Mrs. Briscoe was charged with robbery and “aiding and encouraging rebellion against the Government of the United States.” Described as “a dangerous woman to the Federal cause in aiding, giving information and no doubt about is she as richly deserves being sent south as the worst rebel that has ever done. Her husband is an officer in the Rebel Army.” Ruth Briscoe remained in Federal custody, her future uncertain as December 1864 came to a close.

By virtue of Special Order No. 87 Ruth was banished:

Mrs. Ruth Briscoe, a citizen of Missouri, having forfeited her right of citizenship by her continued acts of disloyalty towards the U.S. Government, by persistently encouraging, harboring and feeding bushwhackers and guerrilla bands and neglecting to report these outlaws to the U.S. authorities is hereby banished beyond the Federal lines by way of Gaines Landing, Arkansas, not to return during the continuance of the rebellion under the penalty of being treated as a spy. She will be permitted to take with her such articles of household goods, and wearing apparel as may be required for her comfort.

Ruth Briscoe left Missouri with three children. Ruth settled in Sherman, Texas. William M. Briscoe, her husband and companion, had died in Texas during the War. Ruth never returned to Cass County.