ANTHONY WAYNE VAN LEER
GENERATION 11.1 - FIRST CHILD OF WAYNE VAN LEER
Links to Anthony Wayne Civil War Information
Anthony Wayne Van Leer [View Portrait] was born 8/3/1847 in Dickson County, Tennessee. He came to Fannin County, TX with his parents as a young boy. After the Civil War, he graduated from Carlton College in Bonham. He was a teacher in Bonham and Gainesville.
Anthony suffered from exposure during the Civil War, returning home in ill health. He died of consumption July 3, 1877, at the age of 29. He never married.
Anthony Wayne Van Leer is buried at Shiloh Cemetery outside Bonham, TX. [View Photo #8.] His marker, like most others, has been destroyed by grazing cattle.
His war experiences were pieced together from
As the account below shows, the extreme violence of the Civil War, in general, and of the Missouri guerrillas, in particular, are not compatible with Anthony's personality traits:
Years after his death, his brother recounted his adventures to his grand daughter, Mabel Doris Van Leer, with what she described as "pride--but also with an effort to justify and to understand." Perhaps it is impossible for later generations to fully understand the passions felt during the Civil War.
Last Year of the Civil War - 1864
Conditions in North Texas as discussed in more detail under Anthony's father--Wayne Van Leer. As noted there, Quantrill's Raiders spent their winters in North Texas then returned to Missouri every spring. Many of the settlers in North Texas had relatives in Missouri; Dodd City, the closest village to the Van Leer home, furnished many guerrillas.
Anthony Wayne Van Leer, barely 16 years old and two of his friends--James Haden "Uncle Hade" Whitsett (age 16) and William H. "White" Ragsdale (age 18) left Bonham with the guerrillas in the spring of 1864.
According to Mary Ragsdale (White's sister) in 1931, the boys gathered at the Ragsdale's the night before they went to war where they played the piano and sang "The Girl I Left Behind Me."
was so sad, because the boys were so young."
- "Vanleer Papers," Chester County
Trouble Among the Guerrillas in 1864
The rigors of four years of war with constant violence and deprivation had taken its toll on the guerilla unit. Quantrill's group began disintegrating during the winter in Texas. There were many internal quarrels. The group headed by "Bloody" Bill Anderson broke away altogether. Violence committed on Texas citizens during the winter also turned General McCulloch against Quantrill, and he had him arrested on March 20, 1864.
Quantrill's daring escape and final leave-taking of Texas is described by William Elsey Connelly, a guerrilla-turned-author, in Quantrill and the Border Wars, Pageant Book Company, 1956. Excerpt below.
"General McCulloch went to his dinner alone, leaving Quantrill in his office with two guards. On pretext of getting a drink of water he crossed the room and seized his pistols. Then, he ordered the guards to lay down their guns, which they quickly did. Buckling on his belt, he walked out, locking the guards in and taking the door-key with him. At the foot of the stairs he encountered two more guards. These found the bandit's pistols in their faces as quick as a flash, with an order to drop their guns and step into the street, and they obeyed. On getting to the street, Quantrill shouted to his men to mount and get out of Bonham, as they were prisoners there....Quantrill sent a courier ahead on a fleet horse to order Todd to break camp at once and meet him at the ferry....Colonel Martin's regiment was ordered to overtake Quantrill and bring him back to Bonham dead or alive. Bill Anderson and his men joined in the pursuit....Todd formed his men in the timber at the ford and held And4rson, Fletch Taylor, and their men in check until Quantrill was well towards the ferry. Many shots were exchanged and some on each side were wounded. Before the troops of Martin could come up Qunatrill and Todd had crossed Red River and were out of the jurisdiction of General McCulloch."
Anthony's brother, Isaac Guilford, often told his grandchildren of watching his brother cross the Red River with Quantrill. He must have been visiting his brother in camp when the guerrilla's fled Texas--pursued by fellow Confederates!
March to Missouri
The two guerrilla groups numbered about 50 men each. Anthony Van Leer and his friends would have with the Quantrill/Todd group along with Uncle Simmie Whitsett. Frank James was also a part of this group. [View Photo Uncle Simmie Whitsett at Last Quantrill Reunion, Photo #6.]
The march to Missouri was described by William Elsey Connelly as follows:
"There was little food for man or beast in the country ridden through and all suffered. The streams were bank-full and the horses had to swim them bearing their riders. The guerrillas arrived in Johnson County, Missouri, in bad condition--men hungry, be drabbled, etc., horses worn out."
Apparently the young recruits fared better than some of the older hands. In an interview with the author of the "Vanleer Papers" in 1931, Uncle Hade Whitsett said that
"when on bivouacking after a hard day and the other boys would drop down too exhausted to make up their beds, White and Anthony would make great sport of making up their beds and then would do a dance around their laid out blankets and sleep on the hard ground."After arriving in Missouri, Todd and Quantrill quarreled and Todd took over command. Quantrill spent the summer of 1864 hibernating in the woods with a woman friend--Kate Clarke.
Trans-Mississippi Campaign - 1864
General Price planned a large scale invasion of Missouri in the fall of 1864. As the Confederate forces marched up through Missouri, the guerrillas' task was to create as much havoc as possible in northern Missouri--the "Little Dixie" area along the Missouri River; actions included:
Later in the week, Quantrill met Todd and Anderson in the hills south of Fayette where they plotted one last joint venture--a raid on Fayette, Missouri.
On September 23rd, Anderson and Todd joined forces. With new Missouri recruits--including 17-year-old Jesse James--the guerrillas now numbered over 300. [See Jesse James Photo, in Guerrilla Attire, Photo #5.] The combined groups wiped out a twelve-wagon military train 10 miles northeast of Rocheport."The last weeks of August and first weeks of September 1864, saw the guerrillas north and south of the Missouri River in continuous violent attack against Union forces. In Johnson County, George Todd and his boys swept through the populace murdering in cold blood discharged Union soldiers, Union civilians, and all men of German ancestry..."
* Richard S. Bownlee, Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy
Louisiana State University Press, 1958
"The guerillas formed in a column in the timber south of town and at a trot proceeded up Church Street west of the city cemetery. As they reached the edge of the sleeping town, they broke into a gallop, and with their fierce Rebel yells charged the courthouse square.
"30 Union troopers were barricaded in the courthouse and in a heavy railroad-tie blockhouse on the hill where Central College is presently located. The guerrillas had stuck their heads into a hornets' nest. Frank James afterwards said, 'It was like charging a stone wall only this stone wall belched forth lead,' and added: "The worst scared I ever was during the war was in the Fayette fight.'"
* Richard S. Bownlee, Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy
Louisiana State University Press, 1958
The guerrillas pulled out leaving 13 dead and 30 more escaped wounded. [View Photos--Outside Fayette, Photo #2; Fayette Courthouse, Photo #3.]
General Price met with the guerrilla leaders at Booneville on October 11, 1864. Todd's group was assigned to Jo Shelby's cavalry division and rode as scouts for that hard-fighting elite unit. Anthony Van Leer and his Bonham friends were in every advance guard skirmish as the Confederates lunged westward toward Independence and the Kansas line.
Westport--"The Gettysburg of the Trans-Mississippi"
The Missouri campaign was culminated at Westport, Missouri. [See Photo #4.] Just south of Kansas City, Missouri, on the Kansas-Missouri border, Westport was already well known as the launching point for wagon trains headed to the California Gold Rush.
The Battle of Westport was numerically the largest fought in the Trans-Mississippi:
The Confederates performed better than the numerical odds would suggest--mainly due to the military genius of Jo Shelby. Civil War historians agree with General Price's assessment of Shelby--"the best cavalry general of the South."
Back to Texas
"On November 8, 1864, General Price pronounced the campaign at an end, fired a 24-gun salute in celebration, and started the long winter march to Texas. Starvation was avoided by eating raw corn and slippery-elm bark. One trooper wrote that his unit subsisted for four days on parched acorns, while another told how he and his comrades butchered and devoured a fat pony along the way.
"A cold wind cut through their rags, freezing the water in their canteens, and coyotes laughed from the darkness beyond their campfires, a terrifying sound to men too weak from hunger or dysentery to keep up with the column. Even so, hundred fell out..."
* Shelby Foote: The Civil War--Red River to Appomattox
Vintage Press, 1986.
When Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, General Shelby's troops were camped on the prairie outside Corsicana.
The pass (to the right) was issued to Van Leer and Whitsett on April 11, 1865, by Maurice Langhorne, Captain of Shelby's Escort. This pass was one of the documents Mr. Whitsett supplied to support his claim for a pension as a Civil War veteran.
During the spring of 1865, Anthony Van Leer received news from home that his mother was expected another child. Hade Whitsett relates the story in the "Vanleer Papers."
"One night, the boys noticed young Anthony was sitting apart and crying. This seemed so strange, when he was always so jolly. They thought that he might have been called down for some escapade. So when we asked him, he told us that he had received a letter from his mother, saying...she wanted him to name the baby. So we, boys, got together and chose our Captain's name." [Maurice Langhorne].
General Shelby disbanded the troops in June 1865.
Adjusting to the Peace
Several paths were taken by the defeated Confederates and guerrillas:
Anthony and his friends were fortunate to be able to leave the military as part of the legitimate army--Shelby's guard. Hade Whitsett's pension application includes a receipt showing that he turned in his sword to federal authorities on August 17, 1865.
Fearful of civil prosecution, guerrilla activities were never documented. Anthony's activities with Quantrill's Raiders are based predominately on oral history passed on by his brother, Isaac Guilford Van Leer to his children and grandchildren. These stories were, then, validated by comparing them to historical accounts of guerrilla actions in 1864-5.
Likewise, there are no official records of legitimate Confederate service for any of the three: Van Leer, Whitsett, or Ragsdale.
In his pension application, Mr. Whitsett states that he joined a "Missouri" unit "in Bonham" and that he enlisted in Company E, 2nd Missouri in October 1864. His activities between April in Bonham and October in Missouri are unaccounted for. No official record of service was ever located. Mr. Whitsett's pension was granted based on physical evidence he provided--military passes and receipt for surrender of his sword.
All three young veterans adjusted to the peace successfully
William H. "White" Ragsdale was the owner-editor of local newspapers for several years and later served as a County Judge. His biography with the local Confederate veterans' association simply states that he "served in the Confederate Army toward the close of the war."
James Haden "Uncle Hade" Whitsett owned a general merchandise store in Dodd City for a number of years. He lived to be 103 years old. As one of the last 3 Confederate veterans in Texas, he was awarded the rank of "Colonel" by Texas Governor Allen Shivers.
Anthony Wayne Van Leer attended a small college established in 1867 in Bonham by Charles Carlton, a minister of the Disciples of Christ. He was running a school in Gainsville, Texas when he died of consumption in 1877 at the age of 29.
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