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The Edge of the Battlefield

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Edge of the Battlefield

The Civil War years were a time of great hardship and constant danger for the people of southwest Missouri. During the early years of the war, control of the state government was contested by Union and Confederate sympathizers, and Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson (a distant relative of mine) was eventually forced to leave Missouri to set up a government-in-exile in Arkansas.

The costliest and most deadly battle was fought near Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861. The battle took place in a valley surrounded by a high, circular ridge in southern Greene County, less than three miles from the home of my great-great-great-grandparents, William Andrew and Catherine Boyd Jackson.

Andy and Catherine had come to Greene County in the 1850s, following Catherine’s parents, John and Margaret Harryman Boyd. John had fought in the War of 1812 as a member of the Missouri Mounted Rangers, under Capt. Daniel Morgan Boone. John and Margaret were married immediately following his return to St. Charles County after the war. He was granted land near what is now the town of Republic. They raised ten children, the oldest being Catherine.

Andy Jackson came with his parents to Missouri from Hickman County, Kentucky in the 1830s. He and Catherine were married on January 18, 1837, near Jefferson City. They raised eleven children; the second-youngest being my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Jackson. Their farm sat within a beautiful valley near Roundtree Spring in southern Greene County, north of what is now the town of Battlefield and just south of the James River Freeway.

Andy and Catherine’s oldest daughter married Emmer Lazarus “E.L.” McElhaney, a major in the Missouri Militia. E.L.’s unit served under Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyons, USA. The story passed down through the McElhaney and Jackson families is that when Gen. Lyon’s horse was shot from under him, he commandeered E.L.’s bay horse and rode into battle, meeting his death.

Following the battle, and for the duration of the Civil War, schools, churches and other public meeting places were closed, for fear of attack by either Union or Confederate raiders. Indeed, stories of attacks on homes, individuals and raids on farms and livestock during this time are in abundance. It is a wonder that Andy and Catherine endured the terror and hardship of living in southwest Missouri.

Andy and Catherine Jackson, and E.L. and Margaret McElhaney are buried in the McElhaney Cemetery, near the old Jackson and McElhaney homeplaces. The land is now part of the Ozarks Greenway hiking trail, and Greene County Democrats maintain the cemetery as a community service. – Paul Jackson

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