- - 1860 Colt Army - -

Centralia, Missouri Field Recovery
Captain Anderson's Men

© MPR Virtual Museum Collection

This simply incredible weapon is a spectacular and rare specimen of Missouri Partisan Ranger history. It is a wonderful weapon lost during the September 27, 1864 Battle of Centralia, Missouri which was led by Captain William T. Anderson and 80 of his men. This Colt was found shortly after Anderson's departure from Centralia on the afternoon of September 27, 1864.

On September 24, 1864, Anderson's Partisan Rangers led a charge on Fayette, Missouri which ended in disaster for the men. After the war ended, Frank James said of the Fiasco At Fayette, "It was like charging a stone wall, only this stone wall belched lead." To which he also added, "The worst scared I ever was during the war was in the Fayette fight."

After Fayette, the Partisan Rangers rode east, following the North Missouri Railroad. On the night of September 26th, the Partisan Partisan Rangers camped 3 1/2 miles south of Centralia on the farm of Colonel Singleton, a southern sympathizer. Among the men was a seventeen year old man named Jesse James, his brother Frank and Cole Younger.

At 11:00 a.m. the next morning, September 27, 1864, a locomotive whistle was heard, and a train from St. Louis carrying 125 passengers and twenty-three yankee Soldiers approached. Captain Anderson and his men halted the train, set fire to the train depot and by way of the nature of the "No Quarter" war, Captain Anderson and his men permanently furloughed these twenty-three yankee soldiers to meet their maker.

At 3:00 p.m. that same afternoon, yankee Major A.V.E. Johnston, with roughly 155 men of the 39th Missouri Infantry rode into Centralia after seeing smoke on the horizon coming from the burning depot. The 39th Missouri Infantry was a mounted infantry unit that carried single shot Enfield muskets as their weapons.

The townspeople told Johnston that eighty Partisan Rangers came into town, but that many more were in camp. Johnston believed that the pro-Southern citizens of Centralia were trying to deceive him and decided to go after the band responsible for the deaths of his men. The civilians begged Johnston not to go after the Partisan Rangers but the Major refused to listen saying that he would bring Anderson's head back with him after battle.

As Johnston's men left town, the soldiers saw a band of about ten Partisan Rangers ride up close to them, halt and gallop off (an old Indian trick). The men of the 39th were excited thinking that the enemy was retreating and trying to get away. They quickly followed the men across the prairie. They temporarily lost sight of the Partisan Rangers as they rode over a ridge and out of sight. When Johnston's men reached this spot, they looked down and saw Anderson's eighty men below them dismounted. The Partisan Rangers positioned themselves with Young's Creek at their back and thick woods on each side of their position.

Johnston thought that he had the enemy outnumbered and seeing no other Partisan Rangers in sight, decided to fight. He was confident that his men's long range muskets could defeat the enemy at a distance before the Partisan Rangers could close in on his troops. Johnston ordered his men to dismount and following standard military procedure, every fourth man held a group of horses.

The yankee Major formed his men in a single battle line and told them to fix bayonets. He then marched his soldiers forward about 100 yards and halted. In response, Anderson's men mounted their horses and slowly rode uphill toward the Federals. With the Partisan Partisan Rangers still a considerable distance away, Johnston prematurely ordered a volley to be fired. Because the yankee soldiers were firing downhill, most bullets passed harmlessly over the Partisan Rangers heads. This was the prearranged signal that Anderson's men were waiting for. The Partisan Rangers put spurs to their horses and galloped towards Johnston's men.

At the same time, the remaining Partisan Rangers, who had been hiding in the woods on both of Johnston's flanks, attacked the Federals. The yankee soldiers had no time to reload for a second volley. It was over in a minute. According to Frank James, the Partisan Rangers rode over the yankee ranks, Jesse James singled out Major Johnston and shot him in the forehead. Ranger John McCorkle said that some soldiers tried to escape and others tried to fight. All were killed except one yankee soldier, Private Enoch Hunt, who somehow escaped the battlefield and made it safely to Sturgeon.

The yankee bodies were left on the battleground as a warning to other yankee commands who might dare fight the Missouri Partisan Rangers. It is said many were scalped while others were decapitated. There is no evidence of this being true - nothing but yankee "spin."

While true that yankee bodies were left on the battleground, aren't most enemies left on the field of battle? Erst, The Partisan Rangers felt with the tremedous shellacking of the 155 heavily armed yankee soldiers bent on Missouri Partisan Ranger annihilation at Centralia; that they had retaliated for their slain comrades in Rocheport and Fayette.

Anderson and his men left the field of battle and headed southwest towards Rocheport. Anderson later road eastward a second time in October 1864, traveling as far as High Hill in Montgomery County. During his third raid, on October 27, 1864, Anderson was killed near Richmond, Missouri.

It was during this brief, fierce, hard riding Missouri Partisan Ranger battle victory, that one of Anderson's men had lost this very revolver. This actual weapon was picked up from the field of battle shortly after Anderson's departure. It had been found by a local Centralia citizen, most likely curious as to the aftermath of the battle. This wonderful specimen had been in that family's estate until coming into the Missouri Partisan Ranger Museum Collection.

Left behind by one of the Missouri Partisan Rangers (possibly Anderson himself) was this Model 1860 Colt .44 caliber revolver. It is exponentially doubtful it would have belonged to, or been left on the field by one of the Federals as they used arsenal made, long range Enfield rifled muskets.

Quite remarkable are the components of this weapon. This Colt is an exemplary guerrilla specimen displaying unmatched serial numbers predating 1863, (the wedge dates to 1860 with a serial number of 7xxx, of which Colt shipped most South), crude hand checkering done in the field (which was against Federal Regulations), intentional removal of serial number from cylinder to prevent tracing of weapon, etc.

All very indicative of Partisan Ranger weaponry resplendent in their resounding craftsmanship, ingenuity and ability to overcome shortages of weaponry. They literally "re-made" weapons from parts of damaged and broken guns!!!!

© MPR Virtual Museum Collection

In Missouri, the Partisan Ranger rarely used a rifle musket, carbine or sword. They most often rode into battle with a minimum of 4 - 5 pistols per man. Most times, one pistol would be carried on each hip, two would be in saddle holsters and possibly even 2 in each saddle bag. Many times their boots and shoulder rigs carried pistols as well.

All were fully loaded and at times considered expendable, as they would capture, rebuild and repair what they had.

These Missouri Partisan Rangers would generally throw their empty pistols down as they emptied them in battle and draw those ready to fire. They could afford to do this as they generally carried the field and they could go back over it and pick up their empty guns.

Yet, this historic revolver would not be recovered by the Missouri Partisan Ranger who had used it that historic day due to the hasty. It would be a Centralia civilian who recovered this weapon an saved it for a very historical souvenir!

Although it is obvious that this gun saw huge amounts of battles and skirmishes, this is a very well preserved specimen. And, obviously incredibly rare. There are not many documented Partisan Ranger weapons in existence. Especially from a historic location.

But, we at The Missouri Partisan Ranger Museum are quite pleased to share this one with you! Enjoy!!!


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