Henry E. Skaggs Papers

Henry E. Skaggs
Image courtesy of State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center- Rolla

Henry E. Skaggs lived in Cooke, Texas with his wife Narcissa and their three children in 1860.1 Though he lived in Texas during the war, Skaggs was a “Union Man.” Skaggs, however began to fear for his life when the Confederate Conscription Law of 1862 was passed. The law called for enlistment of all able-bodied white men between eighteen and thirty-five into the Confederate Army. Skaggs believed if he remained in Texas, he would be hung. “When the conscript law came out I had to leave home left a loving wife & little children for that dear wife to care for. She went through exposures & insults beyond measure.”2 Skaggs and five other men fled to Missouri and enlisted in Company C, 1st Missouri Cavalry on September 13, 1862.

The 1st Missouri Cavalry organized in July 1861. Prior to Skaggs’ enlistment, 500 men from the regiment joined Gen. John C. Fremont in his 1861 Missouri Campaign. The remainder of the regiment, located in St. Louis, eventually rejoined Fremont near Springfield. When Fremont received orders to evacuate Springfield, the 1st Missouri Cavalry was divided into detachments and sent to Rolla, Sedalia and Otterville. The 1st Missouri Cavalry was constantly traveling across the region, riding from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Little Rock Arkansas.

A little over a month after enlisting, Skaggs briefly engaged Rebel forces near Fayetteville, AR on October 27, 1862. “We mounted our horses and went out to give the Scoundrels a licking but they would not stay to see it they run like turkeys the knight of the 27th our whole force marched for Fayetville where the rebel force was concentrated.”3 From the fall of 1862 until the spring of 1863 Company C marched along the Missouri-Arkansas border, passing through Pilot Knob, Cape Girardeau, and Rolla, Missouri and Greensboro and Gainesville, Arkansas. Company C saw very little combat, although the regiment completed regularly skirmish drills to keep the soldiers sharp.4 In March 1863, the regiment was sent in quest of the Cherokee chief, Stand Waitie, who had committed depredations along the border of the Indian Territory, and succeeded in breaking up his force.5

In June 1863, the 1st Missouri Cavalry was divided and detachments were sent throughout Missouri and Arkansas. The regiment participated in fighting at Searcy, Batesville, and along White River, Arkansas, and at Bloomfield and Pilot Knob, Missouri, as well as numerous minor skirmishes with the guerrilla bands which infested the two states. Skaggs and his company were involved in the Battle of Bayou Meto on August 27, 1863 in Arkansas.

Skirmishing with the enemy some five or six hours they then fell back to Byometer the 26th we drove their pickets. the 27th about three thousand of our cavalry went on them drove them from 54 their first line of works after a skirmish fight for several hours, loss on our side about 50 killed & wounded
Henry Skaggs Diary, Sep. 13, 1863

The loss of friends and fellow soldiers was a harsh reality for many men in the military. Many turned to religion for comfort and guidance. Skaggs was deeply religious. He wrote about his devotion to God saying, “How Sweet is the Sabbath the morning of rest The day of the week which I Shurely love best; The morning my Saviour arose from the dead And took from the grave all its terrors & gloom O let me be thoughtful and prayerful today.”6 Skaggs also compiled a soldier’s prayer book. Prayer and faith provided an opportunity for soldiers to seek forgiveness for their actions during the war and ask God for protection both physically and spiritually. Skaggs’ prayed, “While faithful to my duties as an earthly soldier. may it be my highest ambition to be a good Soldier of Jesus Christ; to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life, guide guard & protect me this day. preserve my body from danger and my soul from sin It is Thou O Lord only who makes me to dwell in safety. Bless my rulers and Country: Bless my brother–soldiers and officers.”7

During the war, 2 Officers and 51 Enlisted men were killed or mortally wounded from the 1st Missouri Cavalry. 2 Officers and 179 Enlisted men died from disease. After the War, Skaggs returned to his wife and children in Cooke County, Texas. He resumed his life as a farmer and carpenter. Thirty years after the War ended, Skaggs requested a pension increase. He filed paperwork on November 4, 1895 citing medical complications related to an eye disease and piles (hemorrhoids). His pension at the time provided eight dollars a month. According to his pension files, Skaggs consulted many physicians but could not find cures for his conditions. Partial vision was eventually restored, but he continued to have complications with vision throughout his life.

The Henry E. Skaggs Papers consists of a diary from 1862 though 1864, a letter written in 1863, a prayer book, and a 1895 pension deposition.


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  1. 1860 United States Federal Census; Census Place:, Cooke, Texas; Roll: M653_1291; Page: 236; Image: 484; Family History Library Film: 805291.
  2. Henry Skaggs Letter to William Lochsen, Commissioner of Pensions Washington D.C., August 22,1893, Henry E. Skaggs Papers, 1862-1895, R247, The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA .
  3. Henry Skaggs Diary, Oct. 27, 1862, Henry E. Skaggs Papers, 1862-1895, R247, The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA.
  4. Henry Skaggs Diary, Jul. 10, 1863, Henry E. Skaggs Papers, 1862-1895, R247, The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA.
  5. 1st Regiment Missouri Cavalry”, Missouri Union Volunteers, National Parks Service Civil War Solider and Sailor System, http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/regiments.cfm
  6. Henry Skaggs Diary, Apr. 28, 1863, Henry E. Skaggs Papers, 1862-1895, R247, The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA.
  7. Henry Skaggs Prayer Book, 1863, Henry E. Skaggs Papers, 1862-1895, R247, The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA.