Sunday, October 17, 2010

Confederate Images: Henry C. "Billy" Magruder

By Nancy Hitt

“He was buried in an unmarked grave”, “His body was moved to the other Magruder cemetery”, “He was buried on the Hilltop cemetery”, were some of the tales handed down over the years, but just where was the Confederate Partisan Henry C. “Billy” Magruder buried?

Billy joined the Buckner Guards at age 17, was at Fort Donelson and was part of the surrendered troops. Made a prisoner, he managed to escape and fought at Shiloh. He was with General Albert Sidney Johnston when Johnston was killed.

Billy joined up with Gen. John Hunt Morgan and was on the Great Raid into Ohio where Morgan was captured, but Billy was able to escape again. This time he returned to Kentucky and began a guerilla career which would lead to the gallows.

He was active in Bullitt, Breckinridge and Meade Counties during 1864 in which old scores with Unionists were settled at the end of a gun. When William C. Quantrill and his band came into Kentucky they fought side-by-side with Magruder and his men.

Near Cloverport, Kentucky the Home Guards wounded Billy. He aid Marcellus Jerome Clarke (a.k.a. Sue Mundy) along with Henry Medkiff were overtaken and captured in a barn near Webster on March 12, 1865. The Yankees gave a guarantee to Clarke to treat him as a Pris oner of War, but they broke their word and executed him in Louisville on March 15! Henry Medkiff served some time, but was paroled. Billy suf fered a wound to the lung, and was taken to Louisville and placed in the military hospital where Quantrill also lay, dying.

On June 6,1865 Quantrill died after being paralyzed in a gunfight at the Wakefield Farm on May 10th. Billy lingered and lingered while the Yanks waited for him to recover enough to be able to walk to the gal lows. He was given a sham trial and convicted on eight counts of mur der. However, the research of Stewart Cruickshank points to the fact that these ‘victims’ were either present or former Federal solders.

Billy’s mother, aunt and some other family members came to Louisville in a wagon to plead for Billy’s life, but to no avail. Gen. Palmer had his execution carried out on October 20,1865—which was more than six months after Appomattox. Poor Billy suffered from March until October in the hospital with little medical aid and yet he managed to walk on his own to his death, at the end of a Yankee noose. It is interesting to note that Catholic Father Brady ministered to both Quantrill and Magruder and may have converted both before their deaths. Father Brady was with Magruder at the scaffold and they were allowed to pray together before the execution— which took place at the same location as that of the Clarke execution, 18th and Broadway in Louisville. Today there is an his torical marker at this site.

Billy’s mother took him in the wagon to be buried, but where was that cemetery? Over 70 years ago Porter Harned, a re nowned historian of the War, was told by his older brother that Henry Magruder was buried on property which joined the Harned land on Wilson Creek between Lebanon Junction and Boston, Kentucky. This was a valuable lead in finding Billy.

Archibald Magruder was a solder of the American Revolution and Great-Grandfather to Billy. Archibald is buried in a family cemetery in Guerilla Hollow at the Bernheim Forest on Hwy 245 as this property was the original homestead before being sold to Bernheim.

Ezekial Magruder, a son of Archibald, settled South of Lebanon Junc tion and was to become a guardian of Billy along with his maternal Un cle, William Magruder. I first looked at the Magruder Cemetery at Bernheim Forest for clues, but it was confusing until I obtained a family re cord of the Magruders and was able to single out the individuals who composed the family, but Billy did not appear to be there.

Along with Betty Darnell and Steve Masden, we investigated the Ma gruder Hilltop Cemetery which is on the North side of Hwy. 61 just out of Lebanon Junction and were sur prised to find such fine monu ments, although in need of repair. We were able to determine his burial site as a space between the graves of his Aunt and Uncle (there was a squared off blank stone placed there for him). With the graciousness of the property owners, Lisa and Keith Haley, I was able to order a VA marker for Billy.

Curt and Ruby Carter with their son Travis cleared the overgrown cemetery and installed the stone in 2000. That was my very first “find” and I want to encourage everyone to keep looking for our unmarked heroes!

Originally published in the Spring, 2005 The Lost Cause

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