Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sunset Hills Cemetery - Boonville, MO - Part II - Ambushed at Rawling's Lane

"Captain Parke stated he fought for fifteen minutes and had 7 men killed...The men killed are said to have been massacred, four being scalped, one hung and scalped; three had their throats cut; their bodies were afterward recovered and buried at Boonville." - Official Report, August 30, 1864

As a follow-up to my first post on my recent visit to historic Sunset Hills Cemetery in Boonville, Missouri, I wanted to highlight a marker that will be of interest to Civil War enthusiasts.

The cemetery is actually one of more than a dozen stops - and of four stops in Boonville alone - on the Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation's "Gray Ghost Trail." The trail concentrates on Civil War actions in the "Little Dixie" section of central Missouri that witnessed a good amount of guerilla warfare and "bushwacking" activity, associated especially with the notorious William "Bloody Bill" Anderson.

(Just as I had started to build a personal library of books about the Civil War in Texas, I can see that I'll need to do the same for Missouri!)

A marker in the cemetery commemorates the resting place of eight Union soldiers who were killed in an ambush:

Photo By Jim Schmidt

Photo by Jim Schmidt

In Memory Of Soldiers Of The 4th Regiment, Missouri State Militia Cavalry Killed By Bushwhackers Under The Command Of "Bloody Bill" Anderson In Howard County, Missouri, 28 August 1864: 

Sgt George H. Baugh, Orderly Sgt Porter W. Davis, Pvt John F. Hathaway, Pvt Alfred Gosnell, Pvt Thomas Mitchell, Sgt Alvin Moore, Pvt James O'Neal, Corp David A. Shough

The men no longer rest in this cemetery: as mentioned in my previous post, many of the soldiers who in battle or of disease - once buried here - had since been exhumed and reburied at Jefferson City National Cemetery or at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.

A wayside marker has some details about the battle, styled "Affair at Rawling's Lane":

The plaque pictured at left has been placed in Sunset Hills Cemetery in remembrance of eight Union cavalry soldiers who died in action and are buried here. In central Missouri in the summer of 1864, bands of Southern partisan cavalry roamed the country making life di”ffcult for civilians and militiamen alike. In late July, 1864, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson led a raid out of Rocheport (located 10 miles to the east, north of the Missouri River). That raid went far north and east, nearly to Hannibal. Anderson may have been in Boone and Howard counties during August, 1864, but people generally assumed that all of the “bushwhacking” in this area was the work of Anderson and his band.

A detachment of the 4th Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union), under the command of Captain Joseph Parke, was stationed in Boonville at this time. After hearing reports that Anderson and his men were in the vicinity, on August 28th Parke with 44 troopers of the 4th Cavalry crossed into Howard County. Heading east in the direction of Rocheport, Parke’s command got caught in ambush at a place called Rawlings Lane, on the old Boonville Rocheport Road about 3 miles northwest of Rocheport. These were Anderson’s men for the most part, but a small group of riders led by Clifton Holtzclaw of Howard County was there as well.

Anderson had placed several horsemen in the lane to the Rawlings farm to serve as decoys, while the bulk of his men lay in wait over a hill, in a line parallel to the farm lane. Parke took the bait, following the decoys as they rode east through Rawlings Lane. Parke charged, and once all of of his men were in the lane the Southern cavalry charged up and over the hill. Parke’s detachment was decimated in the attack.

Captain Parke left the scene before the action was finished, and on the road to Fayette he met Major Reeves Leonard and a detachment of Union cavalry moving south in the direction of the š fight. Anderson drew his men off , but some continued the š fight along the Boonville-Rocheport
Road. Survivors from Parke’s command fought a rear guard action while retreating to Boonville. Captain Parke was dismissed from the service for his actions at Rawlings Lane.

Men of the 4th Militia Cavalry who were killed in the action at Rawlings Lane were: Sergeants Alvin Moore and George Baugh; Corporal David A. Slough; and Privates John H. Hathaway, Alfred Gosnell, James O’Neal and Thomas Mitchell. The bodies were brought to Thespian Hall, placed in co”ffins and prepared for burial. e Reverend James Morton conducted a brief service and some men of Parke’s command spoke in tribute to their comrades. The coffins were taken to the old cemetery and laid side by side in a common grave. Orderly Sergeant Porter Davis, who was found dead several days later near the scene of the battle, also was buried at Sunset Hills. The story is told that Davis and several of the others had been scalped.

[Some quick additional research shows there may be some errors in the wayside marker and the cemetery marker: it seems some of the soldiers' name may be misspelled, which is not surprising as official records and muster cards are notorious for inaccuracies; it may also be that Parke resigned from the service rather 

The action is described in the Official Records - Series 1 - Vol. 41 (XLI) - Part I - pp. 299-300

AUGUST 28, 1864.-Skirmish near Rocheport, Mo. 

No. 1.-Report of Major General Alfred Pleasonton, U. S. Army, commanding District of Central Missouri.
No. 2.-Report of Captain Joseph Parke, Fourth Missouri State Militia Cavalry.
No. 3.-Report of Lieutenant William Argo, Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

Here is No. 1, Gen. Pleasonton's report:

Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton
Numbers 1. Report of Major General Alfred Pleasonton, U. S. Army, commanding District of Central Missouri.

WARRENSBURG, MO., August 30, 1864.

Captain Parke, at Boonville, reports having crossed the river on the 26th with forty-four men after Holtzclaw; near Rocheport came   up with two of Holtzclaw's people; wounded 1 and captured both horses. Advanced a mile and was attacked in rear by a band numbering 100 men, commanded by Holtzclaw and Anderson. Captain Parke stated he fought for fifteen minutes and had 7 men killed, 2 wounded, and 3 missing. The men killed are said to have been massacred, four being scalped, one hung and scalped; three had their throats cut; their bodies were afterward recovered and buried at Boonville. From this report Captain Parke's forces were evidently surprised on the march and did not attempt to do any fighting. I recommend that Captain Parke be dismissed the service for this after.


The fallen soldiers' Compiled Military Service Records are available through my subscription to have included a few of their records below.

May They Rest in Peace.


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