Casefile Clues

04 October 2012

Killed by Bushwackers 1864--Getting Proof

Family tradition has maintained for years that John Lake was killed in Chariton County, Missouri, during the Civil War. His estate was appraised in 1865 which is consistent with a death during the War. Of course, the settlement of his estate makes no mention as to how he died and contemporary records being consistent with a family tradition is not sufficient proof that the tradition is true. There are no death records in Missouri during this time period and the Lake family didn't pass down letters, diaries, or other material that would help to substantiate the circumstances behind his death.

The story was not that John simply died during the war, he was killed by bushwackers.  The scenario makes for good drama and a wonderful story but genealogists usually long for a little more than family tradition and rumor. The different versions of the story were fairly consistent (being hung in a barn), but consistency among the differing versions doesn't necessarily prove anything more than consistency.

A reference on Google Books indicates that there's probably some truth to the story. It's also motivated me to do some more searching for references to this incident when I have time.

The image below contains the reference to John Lake:
United States., Scott, R. N., Lazelle, H. M., Davis, G. B., Perry, L. J., Kirkley, J. W., Ainsworth, F. C., ... United States. (1880). The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Washington, D.C: Govt. Print. Off.--obtained on GoogleBooks http://books.google.com
The letter is dated 26 December 1864 and indicates that John Lake was one of three or four Union men who were killed by bushwackers. The incident happened on the previous Saturday and a December of 1864 calendar indicated that the date of the incident was 24 December 1864. Apparently there were rebel sympathizers in Chariton County and some violence as indicated in this report from E. J. Crandall.

The age of John is a little bit on the high side--he was not sixty years of age at the time of his death. However, there was only one John Lake in Chariton County and Bee Branch Township (where the family lived) is located in the northeastern part of the county. There seems little doubt that this is the person for whom I am looking.

One never knows where contemporary accounts of things will be located and never assume that your ancestor's name is not in a book.

I was fortunate that John Lake was mentioned by name--the others were not.

Stay tuned...we may have an update.

Reminder--we don't include complete citations on blog posts--just our personal preference. Complete citations are always included in Casefile Clues or you can learn about citations in Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained. We always do include enough background information in blog posts that readers can find our original sources.If you think we don't, please fire off an email to me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com .