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Heman C. Smith
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Battle of Crooked River
by Heman C. Smith

    This battle does not rank with great battles of the world's history, but was merely a skirmish fought on Crooked River, Missouri, in Ray County, near the line of Caldwell County, a short distance below the present location of Elmira, Missouri, on October 25, 1838.
   It was during the time of the unpleasant and hostile friction between the Latter Day Saints and other citizens of Missouri. Some of each party belonged to the State Militia. The Latter Day Saint company was under command of David W. Patten, an apostle of the church and a captain of the Missouri Militia. The other party was under command of Captain Samuel Bogard, a minister of the Methodist Church. Though there had been previous agitation accompanied by charges and countercharges, the immediate causes of the conflict were as follows:
    On the night of October 24, it was reported by eye witnesses that Captain Bogard had upon that day called at the residence of Mr. Thoret Parsons, on Log Creek in the southwest part of Caldwell County, and warned him to be gone by ten o'clock of the next day, also stating that Neil Gillium would that night camp with a force six miles west of Far West and that he (Bogard) should camp on Crooked River, expecting that the two forces would form a junction the next morning and "give Far West thunder and lightning" before noon. It was also reported that eight men from Bogard's command had visited the house of a Mr. Pinkham and carried off Nathan Pinkham, William Seely and Addison Green as prisoners.
    At midnight at the sound of the trumpet the citizens of Far West assembled on the public square. The situation was explained and Elias Higbee, the first judge of Caldwell County, [page 456] ordered that a company be sent out to disperse the Bogard mob, liberate the prisoners, and thus prevent the attack upon Far West.
    About seventy-five men volunteered to obey the judge's order. These were placed under Captain Patten and immediately mounted and took up their march toward Crooked River. One of the party describes the scene as they marched southward lighted by the burning of their homes, barns, and grain stacks. He says:
   This company was soon under way, having to ride through extensive prairies a distance of some twelve miles. The night was dark, the distant plains far and wide were illuminated by blazing fires, immense columns of smoke were seen rising in awful majesty, as if the world was on fire. This scene of grandeur can only be comprehended by those acquainted with scenes of prairie burning; as the fire sweeps over millions of acres of dry grass in the fall season, and leaves a smooth, black surface divested of all vegetation. The thousand meteors, blazing in the distance like the campfires of some war host, threw a fitful gleam of light upon the distant sky, which many might have mistaken for the aurora borealis. This scene, added to the silence of midnight, the rumbling sound of the tramping steeds over the hard and dried surface of the plain, the clanking of swords in their Scabbards, 'the occasional gleam of bright armor in the flickering firelight, the gloom of surrounding darkness, and the unknown destiny of the expedition, or even of the people who sent it forth; all combined to impress the mind with deep and solemn thoughts, and to throw a romantic vision river the imagination, which is not often experienced, except in the poet's dreams, or in the wild imagery of sleeping fancy.
   Not knowing the location of Bogard's camp, fifteen men were detailed to reconnoiter in another direction while the other sixty marched on until approaching a ford on Crooked River l little below the north line of Ray County. They dismounted and leaving their horses with a few men moved cautiously and quietly toward the ford and down the hill. They had scarcely commenced descent when a voice demanded "Who goes there?" accompanied by a shot. Young Patterson O'Banion reeled out if the ranks mortally wounded. This shot was fired by a Bogard sentinel, by the name of John Lockhart. About this time he tents of Bogard's camp could be seen in the narrow valley [467] between the foot of the hill and the river.


    Captain Patten commanded a charge, and his command went down the hill at double quick, halting and forming a line about fifty yards from the enemy's camp. Bogard and his men took refuge, and formed under the bank of the river below their tents from whence they fired a broadside and several of Patten's men fell. The fire was returned when Bogard fired a second volley which was also returned and Patten ordered another charge which was instantly obeyed, his men shouting "God and liberty," and immediately the parties came in contact in a hand-to-hand conflict. Bogard's men broke in confusion and crossing at the ford or plunging into a deep hole above the ford gained the west shore of the river and each one fled under the impression, it is said, that he was the only survivor. Patten did not pursue them further. The prisoners were released and one of them wounded. One of Bogard's men fled from behind a tree and turning shot David Patten in the bowels, the wound proving to be fatal. Gideon Carter fell dead on the field, his face so disfigured as to be scarcely recognizable. Patten's force lost one killed and eight wounded by gunshots, two [458] of whom subsequently died; and one by sword. Bogard reported one dead, which formed the base of the charge of murder against all who were present of the church party, in the investigation before Judge King as appears in this issue [Senate Document 189, Journal of History, Vol. 10 (January 1917): 440-454]. Bogard had decidedly the advantage in the ground as the action took place just at the dawn of day and Patten's men could be seen in the east in the light of the dawning day, while they looking to the west could not see plainly the enemy; besides Bogard took shelter under the river bank. Patten's men utilizing some of the deserted tents and wagons of the enemy started for Far West with their dead and wounded. When within about three miles of Far West David Patten was taken to the house of Stephen Winchester where he died that night. O'Banion died shortly afterwards. These two with Gideon Carter were buried in Far West.
    The history of Caldwell County gives the loss of Bogard's command as follows: Moses Rowland, killed; Thomas H. Lloyd, Edwin Odell, James Lochard, Martin Dunnaway, Samuel Tar-water, and Wyatt Craven, wounded. Tarwater is said to have [459] received several saber cuts in the face and neck, considerably affecting his speech and memory. In 1840 by special act he received a pension of one hundred dollars annually from the State of Missouri, which continued while he lived.
    The above account of the engagement is from those who were present in Patten's company.


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