Civil War Raids in Area

The winter of 1863 and spring of ’64 came and were passed. War was lived, talked, breathed even, and became a thing of con­stant dread. However, every mighty drama is eventually re­lieved with its touch of comedy. Such a touch was deftly handed the Mason county war-stage by the appearance in Maysville on Monday, April 11, 1864, of a slightly inebriated man from Sharps­burg, who brought the alarming news of a considerable force of Confederate soldiers in possession of Flemingsburg. The Rebels, he added, were on their way to Maysville. Naturally, such an alarm was not passed off idly. In Flemingsburg, though the Rebels had not actually arrived, bankers there accredited so much faith to the man’s story that they brought all their money for safekeeping to Maysville. The next day, the drunken one’s story was disproved and found to be all his state implied. There were no Confederates in that part of the State at all, so the Flem­ingsburg bankers silently carted their money back home, none the worse off, plus a day’s vacation in Maysville.

Less than a month later, however, an attack did come, and without warning. “On Wednesday, June 8, 1864, a portion of Morgan’s command, under Captain Peter Everett, of Mt. Sterl­ing, dashed into Maysville and took possession of the town. There was no force to resist them and they perpetrated the same outrages that the others did elsewhere. One man was fired at and killed in a skiff, while attempting to cross the river into Aberdeen,” ran the account in the Maysville Eagle. That worthy paper continued: “He (Everett) had a party of about one hundred men and entered the city between 4 and 5 o’clock in the evening .. They burned the Amphitheater, Floral Hall, and Cottage belonging to the North Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical Association near this place, which cost over $20,000; also the bridge over ·the Nort.h Fork on the Lexington Pike. They killed Mr. James Conrad, living in East Maysville, who was crossing the river in a skiff. They shot him through the head in the presence of his wife, who begged them to spare her husband that he was the father of six children. They … took a large number of horses, some clothing, hardware, money and watches. They didn’t appear to be any respect of persons, having taken from Rebels and Union men.”

Everett left Maysville Thursday, proceeding toward Lex­ington, bridge-burning and plundering as he went. Close as it had come, the war was not nearer the homes and hearts of Mason county citizens than it had been since 1860. So completely divided in its sympathies. it had from the first been a hot bed of controversy and upheaval.

So it is not surprising that when Morgan passed through Mayslick towards Flemingsburg on Monday June 1_3 that many from Mason joined up with him, while many others cleaned their guns and opened fire. One to join him at this juncture of his romantic (if piratish) war career was Charles Lawson Clift. In the June-cultivated cornfields of the Lewis county Clift homestead three brothers, Horace, Strawder and Charles were plowing. At the first sight of the General and his men, young Oift dropped the traces from his plow, slid his horse’s harness to the ground and, swinging barebacked into their midst, rode away with the raiders. He was never again heard of.
By the late summer of 1864, it was evident the Confederacy could not long endure. Still straggling raids were directed into Mason county, hounding to near exhaustion the dogged endur­ance of the inhabitants. On Saturday September 10, a gang of about 40 Rebels passed through Washington. It w … 􀂃 late at night, and their coming struck more tP-rror into the souls of Washingtonians than damage to their town. The raiders did, though, rob the toll gatekeeper of the Clark’s Run pike of $130 and threaten to kill him if he resisted.

Trouble, from the closing months of 1864 until the close of the war, existed mainly now among those factions opposed or in favor of the many existing difficulties that follow the collapse of nations. The Maysville· Bulletin, having been refused by the “board of trade” a permit to purchase regular white paper, issued the paper of October 13 and several subsequent issues. on small tea wrapping paper, 12 by 16 inches, adding unrest and ill-feeling to the already numbed and smoldering feelings of the county. At Mayslick a grand Union meeting was held October 22, pledging the interests of the community to the Union. It was a grand affair, listing among the speakers Governor Bram­lette, Ex-Governor Robinson, the Honorable J. F. Bell, William H. Wadsworth and others. More than 1,000 persons attended. Colonel Charles A. Marshall was president of the day.

And those who could not feel the same ardor stayed away and were silent, remorseful for loved ones who had died for another such patriotism.
Three days later Hillsboro, in Fleming county, was raided by guerillas. And Mason county rightfully expected the same treatment before long. Said the Maysville Eagle, an able Union organ: “The people have been practically deprived of the means of self-defense by General Burbridge and that duty entrusted to negroes; the people know how they enforce it.”

On November 4, as the last months of the war dragged on, word came to Maysville of a tragedy common enough yet tragic still for its reality. At twilight on the evening of the 2nd of November, S. Thomas Hunt, a young lawyer from Maysville ( captured on his way to the Confederate Army, in which he had enlisted), with some other prisoners of war, were taken by a military escort from the Lexington jail to the lower corner of Major Hunt’s pasture in south Frankfort to be shot. At their request, Reverend B. B. Sayre offered a fervent prayer. As soon as he pronounced “Amen” the bodies of the condemned were riddled with bullets. A short time later their bodies were interred near the spot, without coffins, a little underground.

Next day William Long, of Maysville, was executed similarily at Pleasureville in retaliation for the killing of two negroes in the neighborhood. Surely the war could not continue thusly so much longer. Too nearly was every sense deadened. There was yet one ray of hope, however physical, when Mason was included among the counties authorized by special legislation on March 6, 1865, to raise a bounty to aid enlistments and provide substitutes to go to war for chosen individuals. Yet little did the measure mean in the face of the tidings brought April 19, 1865, of the end of the long war, gratefully accepted though it was.

Mason county, with others throughout the war-ridden parts of the country, did not come from under the effects of the struggle all at once: more than morale and property and lives was destroyed, had been lost somewhere in the course of the lengthened siege of conflicts and heartaches. Men and women who had been enemies April 8 could not reestablish inherited goodwill on the 9th. So it was with the general countryside. The results were inevitable. The close of the Civil War found the nation, and its depende_nts, in the midst of a financial panic that affected Mason county quite as naturally as did the national strife. And when, at last, the county did regain its feet, its progress forward was slowed, definitely more retarded than before.