John Henry vs. William Gullet, et. al. – 1865

John Henry was a resident of Van Buren in Newton County, Missouri in 1860.1 Henry worked as a farmer and was a supporter of the Union during the Civil War. In July 1865, he filed a lawsuit against 26 men, whom he claimed falsely imprisoned him for one month in October 1862 and threatened to kill him for his loyalty to the Union. Eventually Henry was able to escape from his captors, but the events surrounding his escape are unknown. Henry asked for $20,000 in damages.

During the war Newton County was subject to extensive guerrilla warfare. Both armies came to Granby for lead to make ammunition. The “Neosho Company” was organized in October, 1860, and later joined the Missouri State Guard under Captain Henderson Jennings. Newton County residents were divided between the Confederacy and the Union, though there were few abolitionists in the area. The County saw several battles which resulted in a vast depopulation of the area and destruction of Newtonia.

Although never specifically identified as bushwhackers or guerrilla fighters, the men who kidnapped Henry were most likely part of a guerrilla band. The defendants denied having taken part in the Henry’s imprisonment and harassment. In September 1866, the court dismissed defendants Daniel Hutchison, William Tilton, William Humphrey, Sanford Hutchison, Asberry Bright, and Samuel Reynolds. After a series of replication motions and continuances, the defendants were granted a change of venue to Greene County, Missouri. The final ruling of the case is unknown, but it represents the various types of violence committed throughout the region and how civilians were left to recover their losses. Due to the vicious nature and predominance of the guerrilla warfare in Missouri, many county court rooms were filled with civilian claims of restitution in the post-war years.

Contributed by the Greene County Archives and Records Center

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  1. 1860 United States Federal Census; Census Place: Van Buren, Newton, Missouri; Roll: M653_636; Page: 999; Image: 491; Family History Library Film: 803636.