H. Sargeant’s was on New Hampshire street between Winthrop and Henry. Early in the day the guerrillas entered the house and robbed the inmates of all their valuables. Notice was given them to remove furniture as the house would be burnt. Before applying the torch one of the party assisted in carrying out the piano. During the burning Mr. Sargeant, Charley Palmer and a Mr. Young, a printer, were in the yard, also Mrs. Sargeant, a sister of J. G. Sands Esq., and Mrs. Mary Hanom.
A squad of ruffians fired a volley into the men killing Mr. Palmer, wounding Mr. Sargeant, but missing Mr. Young, who dropped and feigned death. Noticing life in Mr. Sargeant one of the men coolly reloaded his pistol saying he “would soon finish him.” Mrs. Sargeant at once fell on her husband’s prostrate body, begging for his life, but the murderer placed the pistol above her shoulder and sent a ball crashing through his head. Mr. Sargeant survived eleven days. By this time the body of Mr. Young was terribly scorched by his nearness to the burning building, but his presence of mind saved him. The ladies dragged him into the weeds, in line with the other bodies, covered them with sheets and were know more molested.
The courage shown by these ladies is seldom matched by the soldiers in the excitement of a battle. On every side men were falling, close to them Mr. Williamson was killed, near them, Mr. Hay was shot down. Bullets were flying all about them, but they stood guard over the dead and dying.
The residence of F. W. Read was probably visited by more squads than any other place, as it is situated in the heart of the city. Seven different bands called there that morning. Mr. read had been drilled with his company the day before and had left his gun in the store, he started for it but was met at the door by robbers and retreated back into his house. He ran upstairs and raised his head up to look out of the window when a bullet struck the window sill within six inches of his right eye, the squad piled bedding and books at the foot of the stairs and set it on fire to burn him out but Mrs. Read put the fire out. The next squad was for stealing, after demanding as they all did firearms at first, they wanted money next and then helped themselves to whatever they could find. They found in the backside of a bureau drawer a little box containing a pair of gold and coral armlets used to loop up the dress at the shoulder of their little girl Addie who had died a few months before. Mrs. Read begged very hard that he would please not take them as they had been her little dead child’s and she wanted them to remember her by, the brute replied with an oath “Damn your dead baby, she’ll never need them again.” The next squad went in the bedroom, turned the clothes all down, one took out a big bowie knife and cut the mattress for a yard while another lit a match to set it on fire, it proved to be a hair mattress and would not burn, they set the clothing on fire but it was put out. The next squad that rode up, only came in the house, he looked and seemed satisfied that there was not much left in the house worth carrying-off, on looking around he coolly said “this is all I want Madame” and stepped up to the piano and with one jerk pulled off the piano cover which was a new and very nice one, walked out took the saddle from his horse and put it on for a saddle blanket. The next squad were half-drunk and demanded with an oath who had put the fire out, Mrs. Read told them she did and would do it again, the order was given to hold that woman, a villain grabbed her by the wrists and held her in a vice like grasp, while the others piled up bedding and books on a cotton lounge under a window and set it on fire and remained inside until the smoke drove them all on the porch where Mrs. Read was dragged and held till the casing, curtains and drove them all on the porch where Mrs. Read was dragged and held till the curtains and lounge were burning up and out of the top of the window, when they let her go and said, “Damn you, you can have your home now, if you will put it out,” and went away.
Mrs. Read rushed through the smoke into the bedroom, grabbed a pillow in each hand, and thus protected, shoved against the window which was so burned that it fell out on the ground and the home was saved. The next squad was commanded by and an officer who inquired for Mr. Read, and was told that he had gone east for goods. “Where was your store?” She pointed to where Woodward’s Drug Store now is, corner Massachusetts and Henry street, and replied there it is all burning up. One man in his squad immediately replied yes there has some one gone east from that store, there had, it was P.R. Brooks who was then clerking for Mr. Read, which showed how well posted they were and that their spies had been here and done their work only too well. Mrs. Read said, “you seem to be an officer, look at this house and at that burning store and say if you have not punished us enough.” The officer turned to his men and gave the command, “men go away from here and tell all the other squads no to molest these premises any more today, this family has been punished enough,” and he remained on the porch for one-half hour. He was the only one Mrs. Read saw that day that did not act the brute and is believed to be a man who is of high respectability now living in Missouri. The last man that came was named Skeggs, to tell what he has done would make this story too long, he was fiendish and brutal, he stayed too long and was killed, the only one of the rebels known to have been killed.
Mr. Thornton had remained in his house till it was in flames. He then ran out and they shot him three times in the hips. Another shot struck him back of the shoulders and passed clear down his back. Another shot struck his head. The rebel then leaped from his horse with a brutal oath exclaimed: “I can kill you,” and pounded him over the head with the butt end of his revolver till he fell senseless from exhaustion. The man was going to shoot again, but Mrs. Thornton ran between them and prevented him, and the brute soon left. Though so terribly shot Mr. Thornton still lived, but two bullets in the hip joints could never be extracted, and he was a cripple for life.
D.W. Palmer, a gunsmith, was wounded and thrown into the flames of his burning shop. Mr. Langley lived about a mile from town. He was a fine old gentleman of sixty. He was a peaceable man, taking no special part in public affairs. He and his wife lived by themselves on a small farm. Two of the pickets stationed outside the town came to the house. Mrs. Langley begged them “to be merciful: they were old people and could not live long at best.” But her entreaties had no effect, they hunted the old gentlemen around the house and shot him in the yard. The first shot not doing its work they shot him again and again. They then set fire to the house, but through the energies of the old lady the fire was put out and the house saved.
There were many hair-breadth escapes. Many ran to the cornfields near to town; others fled to the “friendly brush” by the river bank. The ravine which runs almost through the center of town proved a safe refuge to scores. The cornfield west of town and the woods east were all alive with refugees. Many hid in the “Park” which was planted with corn. Many others who could get no further, hid among the weeds and plants in their gardens. Mr. Strode, colored blacksmith, had a little patch of tomatoes, not more than ten feet square. He took his money and buried himself among the vines. The rebels came up and burned his shop not more than ten feet off but did not discover him.
Mr. Hampson, who had been, shot lay wounded close by a burning building. It would be certain death to show signs of life. His wife, therefore, who stood by him, asked one of the rebels to help carry her husband’s body away from the flames. He took hold of Hampson and carried him out of reach of the fire without discovering that he was alive. As soon as she could, his wife helped him on a hand-cart and covered him up with rags, and then drew the whole away out of danger. The rebels she passed thought her crazy for “drawing off that load of old rags.”
One of the most wonderful escapes was that of Reverend H.D. Fisher. We give an account of it in his own words: “When Quantrill and his gang came into our town, almost all were yet in their beds. My wife and second boy were up, and I in bed, because I had been sick of quinsy. The enemy yelled and fired a signal. I sprang out, and my other children, and we clothed ourselves as quick as it was possible.
I took the two oldest boys and started to run for the hill, as we were completely defenseless and unguarded. I ran a short distance and felt I would be killed. I returned to my house, where I had left my wife with Joel, seven years old, and Frank, six months old, and thought to hide in our cellar. I told Willie, twelve years old, and Eddie ten years old to run for life, and I would hide. I had scarcely found a spot in which to secrete myself, when four murderers entered my house and demanded of my wife, with horrid oaths, where that husband of hers was, who was hid in the cellar. She replied, “The cellar is open you can go and see for yourselves.
My husband started over the hill with the children.” They demanded a light to search. My wife gave them a lighted lamp, and they came, light and revolvers in hand, swearing to kill me at first sight. They came within eight feet of where I lay, but my wife’s self-possession in giving the light had disconcerted them, and they left without seeing me. They fired the house in four places; but my wife by almost superhuman efforts, and with baby in arms, extinguished the fire. Soon after, three others came and asked for me. But she said, “Do you think he is such a fool as to stay here? They have already hunted for him, but thank God! They did not find him.” They then completed their work of pillage and robbery, and fired the house in five places, threatening to kill her if she attempted to extinguish it again. One stood, revolver in hand to execute the threat if it was attempted. The fire burned furiously. The roof fell in, then the upper story, and then the lower floor; but a space about six by twelve feet was by great effort kept perfectly deluged with water by my wife to save me from burning alive. I remained thus concealed as long as I could live in such peril. At length, and while the murderers were still at my front door and all around lot watching for their prey, my wife succeeded, thank God, in covering me with an old dress and a piece of carpet, and thus getting me out into the garden and to the refuge of a little weeping willow covered with morning glory vines, where I was secured from their fiendish gaze and saved from their hellish thirst for my blood. I still expected to be discovered and shot dead. But a neighbor woman who had come to our help, aided my wife in throwing a few things saved from the fire over and around the little tree where I lay, so as to cover me more securely.”