Ozark history writer Larry Wood got a surprise when searching provost marshals’ papers. . . among the people on the list accused of harboring bushwhackers was John Morgan, who was reported as living seven miles south of the Waynesville post. This was my great great grandmother's brother.
The Union provost marshals’ papers on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives in Jefferson City, some of which are also online at the archives’ website, represent an invaluable source for anyone researching the Civil War in Missouri. The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, available in book form at some regional libraries and also available online, chronicle Civil War battles, troop movements, and correspondence among high-ranking officers, but the provost marshals’ papers are a much more likely source of information about everyday citizens. So, unless one’s ancestor was a prominent soldier during the Civil War, the provost marshals’ papers are probably a more valuable source for the family researcher than the Official Records.
For instance, in searching through the provost marshals’ papers a couple of years ago, I ran across a letter that touches upon my own family history. It was written on September 23, 1864, by Major J.B. Kaiser, commanding the Union post at Waynesville, Missouri, and addressed to Brigadier-General John McNeil, commanding the Rolla district. In it, Kaiser identified a number of citizens of Pulaski and Texas counties who had supposedly been aiding and harboring bushwhackers and "also conveying news to them by every opportunity they can get."
Among the people on the list accused of harboring bushwhackers was John Morgan, who was reported as living seven miles south of the Waynesville post. This was my great-great-grandmother's brother. In fact, the location Kaiser mentioned, seven miles south of Waynesville, was no doubt a reference to what, as far as I know, is still the Morgan farm today. It is located south of Waynesville on Highway H not far from Mount Gibson Church. This land was acquired by John Morgan’s father, Reuben Morgan, about 1829, and, the last time I knew, it was still in the Morgan family today.
Another person listed in Kaiser’s letter was the "Widow Tippet...where the Rebels make frequent visits for the purpose of gathering information." Mrs. Tippet was identified as living near Widow Adams, who lived west of Waynesville and was considered "a strong Rebel sympathizer." The Widow Tippet was my great great grandmother, John Morgan’s sister. She had previously been married to my great great grandfather, Robert Wood. After Wood died, she remarried Leroy Singleton Tippet, but he, too, died prior to the Civil War.
What I found particularly interesting was that I also discovered a letter written a few months earlier in April of 1864 by a prominent Union man named John B. Ellis of Pulaski County to Colonel J.P. Sanderson, provost marshal general of the Department of the Missouri headquartered in St. Louis, in which Ellis identified other men of Pulaski besides himself who could be trusted as honest and reliable Union men. One of the men Ellis mentioned was John Morgan.
This just goes to show how difficult it is for researchers to determine whether a Missouri ancestor (or any other person in Missouri) was actually loyal or not during the Civil War. Sometimes people were falsely reported as disloyal simply because a neighbor held a personal grudge against them, or else they were reported as disloyal on very scant evidence. On the other hand, sometimes people of suspect loyalty were reported as loyal because the person doing the reporting was of dubious loyalty himself. If Union authorities had a hard time knowing for sure who was loyal and who was not, how are researchers to know for sure 150 years later?
What I do know is that the two oldest sons of Rebecca Morgan Wood Tippet, William Henry Wood and Thomas Jefferson Wood, were in the Confederate Army at the time of Kaiser’s letter. So it’s likely that she probably was a Southern sympathizer. However, James K. Wood, who was another of her sons and my great grandfather, joined the Pulaski County and Texas County Volunteer Missouri Militia in March of 1865, near the tail end of the war, when he was about 19 or 20 years old. Of course, by then many people who had previously nursed Southern sympathies had seen the writing on the wall and had shifted their loyalties, at least outwardly. So, my great grandfather might well have been a Rebel sympathizer, too, but, as I say, it’s often hard to tell for sure based on the conflicting evidence.
Larry Wood is a free-lance writer specializing in the history of Missouri and the Ozarks. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or like his author Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLarryWood/.