Friday, April 4, 2008


In September, 1862, Confederate forces under Colonel Joseph C. Porter raid Palmyra, in northeast Missouri, and capture, among others, Andrew Allsman, thought to be a Unionist informer. Eventually, Allsman is allowed to leave, but is never seen again. Speculation is that he has been murdered by local, secessionist residents or by some of Porter’s men.

On October 8, US Provost Marshal William R. Strachan publishes an open letter in the local Union newspaper, the Palmyra Courier to Porter, declaring that unless Allsman is returned within ten days, 10 of Porter's men, held as prisoners in Palmyra and Hannibal, will be executed.

The ten days elapse and nothing is seen of Allsman who, no doubt, has already been killed. On October 18, ten men in US custody are chosen by lot. The Courier reports:

“A few minutes after 1 o'clock, Colonel Strachan, provost-marshal-general, and Reverend Rhodes shook hands with the prisoners, two of them accepting bandages for their eyes. All the rest refused.

A hundred spectators had gathered around the amphitheater to witness the impressive scene. The stillness of death pervaded the place. The officer in command now stepped forward, and gave the word of command, "Ready, aim, fire."

The discharges, however, were not made simultaneously, probably through want of a perfect previous understanding of the orders and of the time at which to fire. Two of the rebels fell backward upon their coffins and died instantly. Captain Sidner sprang forward and fell with his head toward the soldiers, his face upward, his hands clasped upon his breast and the left leg drawn half way up. He did not move again, but died immediately. He had requested the soldiers to aim at his heart, and they obeyed but too implicitly. The other seven were not killed outright, so the reserves were called in, who dispatched them with their revolvers.

It seems hard that ten men should die for one. Under ordinary circumstances it would hardly be justified; but severe diseases demand severe remedies. The safety of the people is the supreme law. It overrides all other considerations. The madness of rebellion has become so deep seated that ordinary methods of cure are inadequate. To take life for life would be little intimidation to men seeking the heart's blood of an obnoxious enemy. They could well afford to make even exchanges under many circumstances. It is only by striking the deepest terror in them, causing them to thoroughly respect the lives of loyal men, that they can be taught to observe the obligation of humanity and of law.”

In 1907, Palmyra citizens erect a monument inscribed:
Erected to the Memory of
Capt. Thomas A Sidenor
Willis T. Baker
Thomas Humston
Morgan Bixler
John Y. McPheeters
Hiram T. Smith
Herbert Hudson
John M. Wade
Francis M. Lear
Eleazer Lake

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