Confederate Justice part 2

Confederate Justice

Part II

The Joke and the Error in Judgment

     It was the habit of the Rangers, dashing men who were admired by southern leaning ladies because of their rebelliousness, daring, and panache, but feared and despised by those that held opposing political beliefs, to force Union men and women to feed their men and horses.  Henry Clay “Billy” Magruder dictated that one reason he became a guerrilla Ranger was because the girls liked them.  They always had safe houses and Confederate sympathizers on which they could depend in times of need, but rather than deplete the larders of friends, they would rather deplete the larders of their enemies.  These Partisan Rangers, many of whom got their training under General John Hunt Morgan, such as Marcellous Jerome Clarke, better known by his sobriquet “Sue Mundy,” Thomas Carlin Dupoyster, Henry Clay Magruder, and John Bryant, were considered southern heroes that risked their lives on a daily basis to ensure survival of the southern way of life.  Meade County was so much of a Confederate stronghold, that in the 1864 presidential election only four votes were cast for Lincoln.

One day about the 17th of August 1864, a little over a year after the Shacklett raid, aided by a Union informant, Captain John Bryant a 20 year old leader of a company of 6 or 7 men, loosely attached to the larger force of Captain Thomas Dupoyster, rode into the farm lot of David Henry.  He and his men dismounted and he ordered Henry to feed and water their horses, and Mrs. Henry to prepare them a meal.  Henry was afraid not to do the bidding of these heavily armed men considering his cooperation with the Union.  After the men ate, they went to collect their horses.  They mounted, and began riding slowly away, but not fast enough to suit David Henry.  Some say Henry fired a gun in the air, and some say he simply shouted, and while he may have done both, there is no doubt that he yelled out, “There they go captain.  Get them!”  Hearing this, Bryant and his men put spurs to their horses and galloped away as quickly as possible, thinking a Union patrol was after them, maybe fearing it was the 12th Kentucky Cavalry.  Except for Henry’s joke and bragging, the matter might have ended.

Henry was not shy about telling his joke on Bryant around the neighborhood.  Before long, Bryant or Dupoyster got word of the joke being spread and a week or so later a party of 35 Confederate men rode into Henry’s yard demanding to see Henry.   Henry, hearing the thunderous hoof beats as the men rode in, hid in his upstairs bedroom.  Mrs. Henry, her daughter and son, bravely faced the Rangers.  Dupoyster’s men ransacked the Henry house taking shirts, jewelry, the women’s shawls, and money.  Then they broke Henry’s firearms against a tree.  After the guerrilla Rangers threatened to harm the women, Henry finally came down the stairs and stepped out on the porch.  Bryant, enraged at the sight of Henry, drew his revolver and shot David Henry in the chest, the bullet exiting his back and lodging in the door frame.  Mrs. Henry began wailing, and tried to comfort her dying husband.   The 22 year old Dupoyster slapped Mrs. Henry and told her to stop her wailing.  Dupoyster felt Henry’s pulse, and declared, “The damned old abolitionist has had about enough.” He threatened to hang Henry’s son and Neal Neafus, who happened to be present, before sundown, but John Shacklett was called for and swore the men were not abolitionists and Dupoyster relented.

 The Error in Judgment

     Forty Six year old James Irvin Newton was wounded while serving with the 12th Kentucky Cavalry.  He apparently suffered from a severe lack of judgment, or understanding.  He came back from serving in the Union Army in 1865, to a strongly Confederate region.  Sue Mundy, Henry Clay Magruder, and Henry Medkiff were captured in the Cox tobacco barn about 4 miles distant March 12th of 1865.  Captain Bill Marion was in Meade County looking for the men on March 13th.  One Arm Berry was fighting in the summer and fall of 1865 in Meade, Breckenridge, Hardin and Hancock counties.  Henry Clay “Billy” Magruder was hidden by the Richardson family when he escaped being captured with Morgan.  The Hamilton’s hid Frank James, the brother of Jesse James, and one of Quantrill’s raiders when he got shot in a gunfight on the streets of Brandenburg, in the summer of 1865.  The sentiments in Meade County were set in stone.  Newton according to the Hill Grove Baptist Church history was suspected of supplying information to the Home Guard on guerrilla movements.  Why would he not be expected to do this, since as a private in Co. C 12th Kentucky, he was hunting guerrillas?  For whatever misguided reason, Newton returned to Meadeville, and resumed his blacksmithing at his home across Hill Grove Road from the Meadeville Cemetery.  One evening, a man or group of men rode into the Newton yard.  One man entered the house where Newton, his wife, and children were having supper.  One story states that the man who entered tried to get Newton to step outside, and when he wouldn’t, gunned him down in front of his family.  Another story says that a group of masked men called to Newton, and when he stepped onto the porch he was shot by one of them.  A variation on that story states that Newton stepped onto the porch where a man extended one had to shake Newton’s hand and with his other hand pulled a revolver and shot him down.  I guess it doesn’t matter which way it happened, he was just as dead.

It was common knowledge that sometimes the guerrillas or Rangers would hang the body of the assassinated as a warning to others.  Fearing this reprisal, the Catholic Newton’s carried James over to the Baptist cemetery and buried him that night, disguising the grave as best they could placing a slab of limestone rock as the only marker.  It stayed that way until October of 1998 when a heavy granite monument with two bronze tablets was placed by family members.  One of the Newton’s told me that the monument was made heavy to deter any who would still desecrate the grave.

An 1865, Louisville Daily Journal, article states Billy Magruder’s brother and a man named Burch were suspected of the killing.  Were Newton’s and Henry’s deaths in retaliation for Shacklett and Gorsuch?  No one knows for sure, but they could have been; and, rightly or wrongly Ranger justice, albeit a year or two late, was enacted.


Be sure to see the next installment of Fischer’s Features, “The secret History of the Log Cabin at the Corner.”