Ozias Ruark Collection

The Ozias Ruark collection contains correspondence and a diary detailing the service of a captain in the 8th Missouri State Militia Cavalry. Throughout his diary, Ruark comments on four underlying themes: the impact of the war on civilians, foraging, engagements with guerrillas and the daily routine of camp life. He also notes weather, towns and the Ozarks landscape. Ruark’s perspective as a soldier provides a valuable portrait of military life in the region.

Ruark begins his diary encamped on Hay Creek, escorting civilian refugees to Springfield, Missouri. The women and children were almost completely naked and some were barefoot as they traveled across the snowy, rough terrain.

We left camps… and traveled late at night it grew very dark we could not see our hands before us in heavy pine forest… women and children suffer dreadfully The snow fell thick and heavy Men and Angels pity thy poor suffering women and children
Ozias Ruark – February 27, 1864

Once they reached Springfield, Ruark’s company began to scout across southwest Missouri. They foraged in Lawrence, Newton and Jasper Counties with little success. The men found some cattle, but Ruark refused to take any provisions from the countryside as it would have starved the women and children in the area.1 He noted that the women and children he protected were Rebels.

Perhaps the lack of food, combined with Ruark’s refusal to take from Rebel civilians, led to dissention among the ranks. The following day, Ruark’s men filed a petition for his resignation. Ruark noted in his diary that he would comply with their request if one third of the company signed the petition. Ruark filed his resignation with Gen. John Sanborn on March 12, 1864, and retreated to his father’s home. Resignation truly saddened Ruark, but on March 21 he received a letter from Sanborn refusing his resignation.

Disapproved and respectfully returned to Captain Ozias Ruark 8 Msm Cavalry who will immediately forward to these Head Quarters a list of the names of all the enlisted men of his Company who signed the petition for him to resign.
John Sanborn Letter to Ozias Ruark – March 17, 1864

Reunited with his men, Ruark commenced expeditions across southwest Missouri searching for bushwhackers. He recorded several engagements between the 8th Missouri State Militia and guerrillas. Captain John R. Kelso, Company M, 8th MSM, served along side Ruark. Kelso was known as a bloodthirsty killer and patriotic crusader for the Union. Kelso hunted bushwhackers without mercy, and Ruark noted his success. “Capt kelso and Lt Hunter returned from Springfield Killed 4 Bushwhackers took 4 horses.”2 The roads between Springfield and Forsyth, MO were one of Kelso’s favorite bushwhacker hunting grounds.3 Ruark’s diary is an important reminder that not all Union soldiers embraced the increasingly harsh anti-guerrilla tactics. Thus, his service with the infamous Kelso draws interesting comparisons.

Bushwhackers openly attacked both civilian and soldiers. Their tactics of theft, arson and murder did not discriminate between age, gender and race. Ruark helped bury one victim in Springfield, and wrote, “The wailing and weeping of the widow were heart rending.”4 The stability of the region was greatly compromised, and subduing guerrilla warfare became a priority for Union forces. Through his papers, Ozias Ruark offers an interesting perspective of the War in the Ozarks. He documented his daily activities as a soldier hunting bushwhackers, while reflected on how the course of the War impacted the lives of civilians in the region.


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  1. Ozias Ruark. Diary, 1864-1865. C2651. The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER -Columbia , 6.
  2. Ruark, 25.
  3. Elmo Ingenthorn. Borderland Rebellion: A History of the civil War on the Missouri-Arkansas Border. (Branson, Missouri: The Ozark Mountaineer, 1980), 298.
  4. Ruark, 27.