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Lincoln County Urban Legend: Major James Wilson

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Major James Wilson

It was a war unlike any seen before, and hopefully will never see again. It was a war that pit brother against brother, and father against son. It split the United States in half and many tears were shed on the battlefield. But a crime against humanity was being done, and so it was that the war had to be fought. It was the war against slavery. Every human is created equal, no matter what color their skin is, or if they are male or female. Everyone has the right to be free! I’m sure you know that I have been talking about the Civil War, it began April 12th 1861 and ended May 9th 1865. The first shots rang out at Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12th 1861 and the first battle outside of Manassas, Virginia July 21, 1861.

It was mostly north against south with a few split states, Missouri was one of these split states, though mostly Confederate. Union troops occupied a little town near the middle of the state called Troy early in the Civil War. In 1861 the Federal Army set up camp at Spring Park using the Methodist Church as their headquarters, and Troy came to be used as a Union recruitment station throughout the war.

Confederate Colonel Timothy Reeve was a Baptist Minister who formed a guerilla unit in Southeast Missouri as the Civil War was beginning. Reeves was from Ripley County on the Arkansas border. His unit later became part of the 15th Missouri Calvary Regiment. Reeve and his soldiers were often found fighting against the Union Militias that were headed by Major James Wilson, a native of Troy. Many of these battles were standard Missouri guerilla style warfare. Reeves had never forgiven Wilson for a surprise attack on Christmas Day on the Reeves camp near Doniphan, Missouri.

Confederate General Sterling Price invaded Missouri in 1864. Major James Wilson and a large number of soldiers were captured at the battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri on September 27th 1864. The Confederates had spread out from Pilot Knob to an area just East of current day Highway 185. On the morning of August 3rd, 1864 a Confederate Colonel, who was also believed to be an Inspector General called the prisoners into formation, Major Wilson and five others were separated from the formation and put under watch of a double guard because they had been identified as having been militia members.

Instruction had been given to the Colonel of the Confederate regiment to wait with the prisoners until Colonel Timothy Reeve arrived to take command of the prisoners. When Colonel Reeve arrived he took the prisoners and led them into a wooded area near St. John’s Creek and put them to death by firing squad. Their bodies were found three weeks later by a young man walking by the creek. A justice of the peace and a postmaster from the neighboring town of Beaufort were notified of the find.  And a neighbor was finally able to identify the men by their personal effects. They then buried the bodies where they found them.

During these three weeks Colonel Amos Maupin had been searching for the missing men, he was notified of their discovery and went to examine the bodies himself. He had the bodies dug up and re-examined and then curiously re-buried them in the same place.

And this is where our mystery begins, is with the final resting place of five Union soldiers. Several U.S.  Military telegraphs have been found regarding this matter. The first telegram gave the order to recover the remains and then transport them to Washington, Missouri. There five of the remains were to be buried with Major Wilson’s remains going on to St. Louis, Missouri. A return telegraph was sent back from Lieutenant J. D. Jacoby from the Quartermaster’s Corps to General Ewing stating that there was not enough time to remove all the remains and that he would only be sending Major Wilson’s body to Washington.

Through other telegrams we learn that Major Wilson’s remains indeed went to St. Louis where they waited in the courthouse until finally being sent home to Lincoln County, Missouri.

On August 2nd 1870 a monument was erected in his, and his men’s, honor in the Troy city cemetery by the post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Major James Wilson fought for what he knew was right, even against all odds. Upon learning that he had joined the war on the Union side his wife took their children and left him going back to her family in Virginia. Even his family including his brother broke all ties with him because of their Confederate sympathies. But still Major Wilson stood and fought! Major James Wilson was born May 3rd 1834 and died October 3rd 1864 at the age of 30, he is buried in the Troy city cemetery in Troy, Missouri.

I have lived in Lincoln County for 35 years and I have come to find that most of Lincoln County’s residents stand up for what they think is right. I am proud to say that Major James Wilson is from Troy, Missouri and that is why I wrote this story.

Isaiah 56:1

Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. 

If you know any urban legends please contact Norm McFadden at 636- 233- 6878, and may God be with you. For more works by Norman McFadden visit

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