On June 27, 1864, John Thailkill wrote his sister, Nancy Stanton, from Andrew County to explain that he would never take the oath of allegience to the United States. He had just escaped after a month of hard labor in a prison stone quarry at Alton, Ill., a “federal bastiel.” Records showed he added insult to injury by stealing the guard’s gun. The rebel captain had been captured while recruiting north of the Missouri River for Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s army in Arkansas. He did not head straight south as he told his sister, however. Instead, the former Holt County painter became a guerrilla chieftain, his band playing a role in the “Paw Paw” rebellion in Platte County in July, the plunder of Kingston, the surrender of the Keytesville militia garrison, the destruction of a Federal supply train near Rocheport and the slaughter of nearly 100 Union infantrymen at the Battle of Centralia. Thailkill may have joined Price and Gen. Jo Shelby in their march toward the Battle of Westport; he was with those Missouri Confederates who went to Mexico the next spring rather than surrender. Unlike the others, he never returned to his “glories country.”
You may think it strange that I have not wrote to you before this time but I have been trying so hard to keep from being captured again. I maid my escape on the 10th of this month and have been a free man since, o sister you cannot imagine the pleasure that it is to me to once more be out of the hands of the tyrents Dear Sister you cannot imagine how badley I was treated whilst in the federal bastiel … Sister you wanted me to take the oath and come home as dearley as I love you all I would rather never See you then to take this oath one that would force me to support a abolitionis government one that I do so biterly detest No Dear sister I Should stand to be shot twenty times before I would take it had I not made my escape I think I would have died in prison … Sister I am glad I am a rebble you do not know how disgraceful your party has acted in our glories country dixie but there is a time when we will have the pleasure of pointing out to them ther errers Sister when we shall have gained our indipendence which I am sertain we will we will have a Glories country one of the richest and best governments in the world o sister, the people of the south are so kind so Noble and so brave the Northern hords have tryed to whip us back to live with them this they can not do we will dye to a man first they feds have had 5 to 1 and then can not whip us now they are trying to whip us with Negroes of the south, your party says they are fighting for the consitution of ther country this is not so the negro is the property of the south by the constution of the united states of Amarica and they are instead of protectin them and ther rits they are steeling them and other property if you could see our once beautiful country now laid a wast you would not blaim me for being in the rebel ranks No Dear sister I am not ashaime to say that I am a rebble and if I am shot in the defence of my country o will dy in a glories cause… before you get this I will be with my Brothers in armes in the south this is the last letter I will write to any of you untill this war is over I start for General Pries this evening if I have no bad luck I will reach him in 10 days give all my brothers and sisters my best Love….I remain your effectionate Brother John Thrailkill.
Courtesy of James W. Farley, co-author of Missouri Rebels Remembered: Si Gordon & John Thailkill