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Meade County area back-road history tour, part 4

By Trish Turner




 Located on US 60 near the Meade/Breckenridge County lines is a historical marker that relates the story of how Sue Mundy, with two other guerrilla leaders, was captured near that site. The marker reads: "'Sue Mundy' Captured. At age of 17 in 1861, Jerome Clarke, called Sue Mundy, joined the Confederate Army. He was with Morgan's Raiders from 1862 until Morgan's death in 1864. He then became notorious as a guerilla. On March 12, 1865, Union soldiers captured him here with two other leaders of guerrilla bands. Clarke, then only 20, was executed three days later in Louisville."  As I continued on the Meade County back roads tour with Gerry Fischer, he took me to the site of Sue Mundy's capture. We drove up the gravel driveway near the historical marker and came to a clearing on the top of a rise. Gerry pointed out that this had once been the location of the Cox family's log cabin style tobacco barn. It was here that Sue Mundy, Billy Magruder and Henry Medkiff were captured by Union Major Cyrus Wilson and the 50 soldiers under his command of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry. Gerry filled me in on the back story to that event, beginning with who the main players were on the Confederate guerilla side, and why they were there in that barn.  Marcellus "Jerome" Clarke, aka "Sue Mundy", was 17 years old when he joined the Confederate Army in the 4th Kentucky Infantry. He was captured in Tennessee following the Battle of Fort Donelson, taken to Camp Morton in Indianapolis, and was able to escape and get back to Tennessee. He then joined Morgan's Men, a cavalry unit under the leadership of Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan. While with Morgan, Clarke took part in Morgan's Raid, which began in Brandenburg on July 8, 1863 and extended into Indiana and Ohio. Clarke, with many other men from Morgan's unit, made his way back across the Ohio River into Kentucky. Rather than continuing to fight with a regular Confederate unit, some of Morgan's Men decided to turn to guerrilla warfare. That is what Jerome Clarke did. He was given the name Sue Mundy by the Louisville Journal, which wrote about his exploits, some of which were fictional.  Henry Clay Magruder, often called "Billy", came from Bullitt County, Kentucky. At the age of 20 he was already a veteran in the Confederate Army, having fought in the Battle of Shiloh and scores of skirmishes with Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan, including Morgan's Raid. He was amongst the group of Morgan's Men who filtered back into Kentucky and he became involved in guerilla activities.  Henry Medkiff, sometimes called Metcalf, was a Confederate soldier who allegedly was sent into Kentucky by General Lyon to bring out men in various guerilla bands and rendezvous in Paris, Tennessee to become part of Breckenridge's command. He was riding with Sue Mundy, Billy Magruder, and several other guerillas, who were presumably heading towards Tennessee, on February 26, 1865. They were overtaken by a unit of Union soldiers near Patesville in Hancock County, and during the skirmish two guerillas were killed and Billy Magruder was seriously injured in his abdomen.  As stated in Fischer's book “Guerilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky”, Magruder, Medkiff, and Mundy retreated with the remaining guerillas and stayed with Magruder's cousin Mrs. Grays for two days; then he was moved to the woods where he remained for a week. From there he was taken to the Cox farm in Mt. Marino where Elizabeth Cox, reportedly a distant cousin of Magruder lived, and there they stayed until they were captured. The guerillas hid in the Cox tobacco barn for three to four days. A local doctor, Jesse Pitman Lewis, occasionally came in to treat the wounds of Billy Magruder. The Union Army had been searching the three of them and informants had told the army that they were in the Meade/Breckenridge County area. On the morning of March 12, Major Cyrus Wilson and his men surrounded the Cox homestead and tobacco barn. Wilson's subordinate, Captain Lewis O. Marshall, went to the Cox family home on the premises and told Mr. John Cox to go down to the barn and convince the guerrillas to surrender. He was told that if he did not do so the Union soldiers would burn his barn down. Mr. Cox was also threatened with hanging if he did not obey. When Cox talked to Sue Mundy he was agreeable to the surrender and he handed his pistols to Cox. Immediately Mundy, Magruder, and Medkiff were taken to Louisville to stand trial.  Sue Mundy, Henry Clay "Billy" Magruder, and Henry Medkiff were accused of the brutal murder of Sergeant Edward Caldwell in Bullitt County on January 5, 1865. Caldwell was a Union soldier on leave to attend to his father's funeral. At least five guerrillas, including Mundy and Magruder participated in the raid on the Caldwell home and the killing of Sergeant Caldwell. Mundy was tried and hanged within a couple of days of his capture. Magruder was allowed to heal from his wounds, but was hanged on October 20, 1865. Magruder testified that Metcalf (Medkiff) was not involved with the Caldwell murder. Medkiff was sentenced to hang, but the sentence was later commuted to 10 years hard labor. Soon after, for some reason, he was set free by General John M. Palmer.  There is little evidence now that a log tobacco barn stood on the Cox property. In fact, the only structure on the property now that was there in 1865 is the Cox family cemetery, which sits upon the hill, not far from where the tobacco barn had been. I wanted to go up and look at the graves but there were two large farm dogs at the present residence on the property and Gerry did not think it wise to intrude on their territory. I had to agree and just took long range pictures from the comfort of the truck's window.  Before taking me back home, Gerry drove into Brandenburg and down to the riverfront. We got out near the historical marker for Morgan's Raid that states "Morgan—On To Ohio." Gerry pointed out a home on the bluff overlooking the Ohio River on the Indiana side. He told me that while Morgan and his men were crossing the river from Brandenburg over to Indiana the Union artillery was firing upon them from that location. I was amazed that cannons of that day had such a long range. Gerry also drove me up to Lawrence Street where we stopped at the home of Colonel Robert B. Buckner. Colonel Buckner knew General Morgan, probably from the Mexican War. While Morgan was in the Brandenburg area he made the Buckner home his headquarters. I was sad to come to the end of my Meade County area road trip with Gerry Fischer, but he promised to take me on another tour in a week or so. That trip did occur just before everyone was pretty much confined to their homes for fear of the spread of the Corona Virus. We drove through Shelby, Spencer, Nelson, and Bullitt Counties, following the trail of Civil War guerilla activities in that area that are covered in Gerry's book. You can look forward to reading about our adventures on that road trip in future issues of this newspaper.  Before I close, I want to encourage everyone who is interested in local Civil War history to read Gerry Fischer's book, “Guerilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky.” You can purchase a copy at the Meade County History Museum located at 281 Oaklawn Road in Brandenburg. Gerry will even autograph a copy for you.  While at the museum be sure to look around at the outstanding exhibits of local history that have been put together by Gerry and his wife Fran, Shirley Brown, Steve Straney, Sherrill Williams and others. On the second Tuesday of almost every month the Meade County Historical and Archaeological Preservation Society (MCHAPS) presents interesting programs relating to the history of the Meade County area. Notices will be posted in this newspaper about those upcoming events, so keep your eyes open.

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