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John Crouch recognized for historical work in Ray County

The Ray County Historical Society and Ray County Commission recognized John Crouch for his many contributions toward the preservation of Ray County History during the Ray County Historical Society’s quarterly meeting at the museum on April 11, 2013.

Crouch was the catalyst for the acquisition and placement of the Partisan Ranger Memorial at the Battle of Albany site northeast of Orrick in 1988.

After the presentation, Crouch spoke about the battle and provided details about getting the monument in place on the Murrell Thomas property.

It is the final resting place of the 10 or 11 Confederate guerillas killed with Capt. William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson in a battle with federal forces (Missouri militia) on Oct. 27,1864. Capt. Anderson is buried in the Pioneer (or Mormon) Cemetery in Richmond. 

Albany is situated three quarters of a mile northeast of Orrick and while the only remnants of the town are rock walls that run through part of the site, in 1864 it had a grist mill, general store, blacksmith shop, a church, seven saloons and a population of 150 people. 

General Sterling Price, the head of the Confederate forces in Missouri, commission William T. Anderson as a Captain in what was ultimately called the Partisan Rangers. They were “guerilla fighters” who were used to clear a path from Gen. Price to reach Westport.

Crouch said in the last week of October 1864, Capt. Anderson and his men camped on the W.R. Blyth property. The original Blyth home was located one-half mile west of the Creason (Stokes) graveyard, one of the oldest of seven cemeteries located in southwest Ray County. 

John L. Blyth and Rebecca J. Blyth Stokes (two of W.R. Blyth’s children) were in the cemetery and witnessed the battle, which lasted about ten minutes.

The Battle of Albany involved some 600 officers and men.

The 51st Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia was under the command  of Maj. Grimes of Ray County andwere situated in the tree line along the old Albany Road. 

Anderson’s forces were drawn into an ambush by Missouri militiamen under the command of Major S.P  “Cob” Cox of Daviess County.

Anderson and five or six of his men charged the Union troops and Anderson was shot down almost immediately by two balls to the left side of his head near the ear. 

His men tried to recover the body and were also brought down by the Union troops. They succeeded in placing his body on a horse, but it was shot and fell on Anderson’s corpse, pinning it to the ground.

In reading an account of the battle, Crouch said, “still struggling heroically over the body nine of Anderson’s company were killed, dropping like cord wood in a heap that could be covered by a single blanket.

“The tenth and last man, John Pringle, a red-headed Irishman, rushed to the heap of corpses and tried to fasten a rope about Anderson’s leg to drag him away.”

Essentially, the death of Capt. Anderson ended the guerilla assault that had plagued Union forces throughout the war in Central Missouri.

Crouch said the footer for the memorial stone was set in September 1988 and the memorial tablet itself was completed and installed later by Moore Monument Company of Chillicothe.

“Without their generosity, this would have been an impossible task,” Crouch said as the tablet itself is nearly six-foot tall and three-foot wide. It was all done at a cost of $950.

Murrell Thomas, the landowner of the site, has maintained the area.

Crouch said the installation of the monument served a two-fold purpose. It not only marked a significant historical event in the county, it’s placement also helps preserve one of the oldest cemeteries in Ray County, perhaps saving it from future destruction. 

The gravestones in the Creason Cemetery date back to 1820. Missouri attained statehood in August 1821.

Most of the gravestones in the cemetery only bear the initials of those buried there. Another reads: “F.C. Died 1822.”

One monument says: Elizabeth, wife of William Mullin, Born Oct. 7, 1821. Died Sept. 13, 1848.

The other stone read: Mary Creason, first wife of Alec Stewart, second wife of William Creason. Born October 22, 1805. Died Feb. 26, 1878.

Crouse said these markers were broken off and were not visible at the time Crouch first visited the cemetery.   

“The interesting part of the William Mullin stone is that he was the son of the first Rayite, William Mullin,” Crouch said. 

In working to get a monument erected at the site, Crouch said he was skeptical about the kind of reaction he would get.

One writer to the Excelsior Springs Standard wanted to know “what type of person would erect a monument to a bloody killer like Anderson.”

Conversely, James J. Fisher wrote a favorable article in the Kansas City Star about Crouch’s efforts to get the monument placed at the site.

“The stone was erected last fall quietly. There were no bands playing. No honor guards. No long speeches. No flags or bunting lining a narrow dirt road.

“Years ago, these kinds of celebrations happened all the time at other monuments to the Missouri Civil War. But that probably never would have happened here. Not with this monument. It took until 1988 to get a monument, and then it was done without fanfare. 

“This monument is somehow different. It evokes passion, especially in the state of west Kansas.

“If the name William T. Anderson doesn’t strike a bell, remember this one: Bloody Bill, the scourge of the blue-bellied Yankees and Red-legged Jayhawkers. A man who kept enemy scalps attached to his bridle. A man who, quite frankly, was a killer. 

“A man whose name could strike terror into generations of Kansas children. If you don’t be good, Bloody Bill will get you. 

“Bloody Bill was also a hero to a lot of Missourians who had seen their state ravaged by Draconian government through federal occupation.

“They watched as their houses were burned, their crops confiscated and their livestock scattered.

On the monument along with the names of ten soldiers are these words: In Memory of these Confederate Partisan Rangers Who died Near This Place. The Battle of Albany. October 27, 1864 

William T. Anderson, Captain Missouri Guerillas, C.S.A. 

With belated honour 

Oh, smooth the damp hair over their brows; 

They are pale and white and ghastly now. 

And hide the wounds in their gory breasts.” 

For their souls have fled to their final rest.”

Crouch also received a letter from the Sons of Confederate Veterans that said the patriots of Ray County have acted to remember the forgotten Southern dead of incident much heralded in Missouri history. 

“John Crouch of Richmond, a member of J.O. Shelby Camp #191 and the Ray County Historical Society spearheaded efforts to place a maker at the graves of 10 southern soldiers who died in a vain effort to recover the dead body.  

Though Anderson’s body was propped up for photographs by his Union adversaries, he was at least given a decent burial in what is referred to as the Mormon or Pioneer Cemetery at North Thornton and Crispin Street in Richmond.

“The other men, however, were buried in an old graveyard on a bluff overlooking the battleground. If any headstones did exist, they disappeared or were into the ground.

“So, our congratulations go out to Compatriot Crouch and his colleagues for their efforts in raising this long overdue marker to the Southerners who fought such a desperate battle against overwhelming odds.”

The eleven Confederate Partisan Rangers who died in the battle were:

1. Hank Patterson; 2. Simonds; 3. Anson Tolliver; 4. Paul Debenhorst; 5. Smith Jobson; 6. Luckett; 7. John Mcllvane; 8. Jasper Moody; 9. William Tarkington; 10. John Pringle; and 11. William T. Anderson.