The year had been hard. The weather was unkind all at the wrong time. The spring rains had come late and the fall rain had nearly ruined the flax harvest this year. But all in all, despite the Yankee blockade, things were going pretty much as one might expect after nearly four years of war. Most of the young men of the county had joined Terry’s Texas Rangers in search of adventure and glory. Most had been able to find an ample amount of both in the defense of Richmond and the Shenandoah valley. Texas had been fortunate, expect for a great victory under the command of Lt. Richard Dowling at the battle of Sabine River near the Louisiana boarder and a brief Federal occupation of Galveston, most of Texas had not been invaded by Lincoln’s boys.
There had been some rumors that scalawags and Yankee contraband had been causing trouble at Damon Township and several had been captured near the town of Booth as they raided a chicken coup. They were summarily dispatched by ball and powder or sent to the prisoner of war camp at the Liendo Plantation. However, word was about that some still lingered in the region intent upon mischief.
The morning of Oct. 22 broke in a somber cool stillness. The weather had turned a bit chilly which caused the heat to rise off the Smithers Lake and the Little Brazos River to hang suspended in the air. There was precious little breeze so the fog stood almost as it were suspended from an imaginary string hung from the sky. The birds were in full song as the sun crept into the morning sky. The sky was nearly cloudless which was sure to make the day warm as it moved on.
No sooner than the shadows had broken that the 30th New Jersey Infantry commanded by Maj. Kritington made a move to surround the Ryon Prairie Plantation house. They had landed the week before to perform reconnaissance in force in preparation for a full scale invasion of Texas from Port Lavaca which was planned for several months hence.
As they crept up the stairs and assaulted the front door they were met by Missy Ferrell who as you might expect was not in the mood to entertain Yankees. Without hesitation the Federals moved quickly to surround the house as they forced open the front door. Missy Ferrell was in a great bother objecting in the strictest terms as Sgt. Gilbert forced himself past her into the living room and beyond into the kitchen where breakfast briskets were baking. Perhaps he could not resist the smell of fresh backed briskets after being on forage rations for the better part of a week. Soon there came a great clang and a yelp as the Sargent was greeted with a hot frying pan by Miss Charlotte who had been surprised by the unwelcome Yankee intruder. After a few moments the good sergeant came stumbling out the front door at a scamper holding a large bump on the back of his head.
With little ceremony Maj. Kritington announced that they were an official party of the Federal Infantry and that all property of rebellious citizens was subject to confiscation or to be burned without notice. Shortly the Federal troops spread like locust through the house gathering up silver, food stuffs and anything that might be easily carried away which possessed any substantial value. Great screaks from the mistress could be heard erupting from the house as the Yankee hordes made great sport of the women’s efforts to resist their pillaging. Shortly Missy Ferrell was confronting the Maj. on the front porch soundly whipping him about the head and shoulders with her fan. Momentarily he struggled with her finally pushing her away, which upon catching her balance she assaulted him again with even greater vigor. This time he raised his right hand and back handed her when she came within range. This sent her reeling back into the wicker chair that sat on the porch. She remained there for a moment stunned that any may would raise a hand against her.
Hearing the commotion, the slaves skedaddled into the cotton fields in fear for their lives not knowing what these blue coats were up too. But unknown to the Yankees a small contingent of Confederate troops was bivouacked behind the barn and were aroused by the commotion. Before the Federals could fully surround the house they had formed a line and wheeled right to confront the advancing Yankee marauders. The Yankees being caught by surprise took individual shots at the assemblage and made a hasty retreat toward the front of the house and greater numbers.
Having heard gunfire several locals from Jones Stock Farm and the Sharecropper Farm went to arms and soon found their way to the source of the gunfire. Shortly they joined the fray from the fence line to the east of where the Federals were attempting to retreat. They took careful aim, resting their rifles on the fence to take down a number of the fleeing Federals.
Hearing shots being exchanged Maj Kritington ordered all men to assemble at the front of the house and to form a skirmish line in the yard. While they were executing a fighting retreat the confederates split their number with half going around the east side of the house and the remainder around the west side forming two independent skirmish lines. SSgt Gilbert of the 1st Texas Infantry commanded the east group and Capt. Meyers of the 34th Dismounted commanded the west group. Without hesitation both lines formed and advanced on the shaken Yankees. Before they could form Sgt. Gilbert wheeled right and infilated their line with a broutal volley. Four Yankees fell as their line wavered. Almost simultaneous a second volley came from the west which took down three more hapless Yankees. The remainder withdrew in great hast toward the split rail fence that boarded the yard. The order was given for independent fire and to keep it hot so that the Yankees could not reform. The fire was effective and shortly they skedaddled beyond the fence line in a vain attempt to evade capture or death. Capt. Meyers ordered a volley fire that thinned their numbers once again. Then after reloading it was ordered to press them into the cotton fields beyond. By this time there were fewer than a dozen Yankees left.
After our boys advanced to the fence it was little more than a turkey shoot as the remaining Yankees threw down their rifles and ran for the cover of the woods beyond the cotton field. None of them made it and the last one lay wounded in the field, refusing to surrender while reloading. When he raised his rifle to fire again Captain Meyers dispatched him swiftly with a pistol shot to the head.
This brief skirmish had been desastorioue of the Yankees. But we had been fortunate. We had three wounded and one dead. The plantation had been saved and the honor of its mistress was protected. The Yanks’ were buried without markers at the edge of the field. One was said to have fallen into the swamp but he was left to the gators. And our gallant men having done a good day’s work were to return to the front after their uncerimounoulsy interrupted furlough to fight for the Great State of Texas and the Honor of the South.
This report is filed at my hand.
– Corporal Michael Bunch, 34th Texas Dismounted
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