When Civil War Guerrillas Came To Perryville

Author Unknown - 1902

March 8th was the 38th anniversary of the most exciting event in this historic little town, excepting of course, the battle between the forces of Bragg and Buell on October 8, 1862, and as a half-dozen men were shot down on the streets here during the war and two were once forcibly taken from the officers and hanged to a tree in the old graveyard on the hill overlooking the town, it may be reasonably inferred that the anniversary does not occur without exciting some very vivid if not very pleasing memories; for the event was followed by a sense of humiliation that the years which have since come and gone have not entirely effaced.

The event was the coming, on March 8, 1864, of the noted guerrilla chief, Jerome Clark, accompanied by one-armed Sam Berry and four others, and the lining up and robbing of half a hundred men on Main Street, all of whom were armed and many of whom had proven their courage in situations that try the souls of men. For months afterward the victims discussed the episode only with extreme reluctance and with evident feeling of humiliation and shame, and it came down as a tradition to later years that more than one man has marked this day from his calender in a vain effort to prevent the recurring memory of a time when he tamely submitted to being robbed in broad daylight of his pistol and money by six men; one of whom had but one arm.

Time Carefully Chosen

The armies of the Potomac and the Cumberland were preparing to move, and interest in the movements at the front were intense and every day witnessed the assembling of the farmers and the people of the town to hear the news when the old stage coach brought the daily papers from Louisville and Cincinnati.

On the evening before a report was circulated that the guerrilla band was within a few miles of the town and when it was carried to the church on the hill where a revival was in progress, the congregation was stampeded and people rushed to their homes and barred their doors against the expected attack. The night wore away, however, without an invasion by the guerrillas, and the conditions were normal the next morning, for it was supposed that the band had passed around the town, and in pursuance of a well-known policy of remaining but a short time in any place was then many miles distant.

When the people gathered the next afternoon to hear the news from the front, everyone was discussing the near approach on the evening before of the predatory band. Here and there a citizen who subscribed for a daily paper read the news aloud, and around him gathered a dozen or more eager listeners, and a half-dozen of these deeply intent groups were sitting under the sheds covering the sidewalks of Main Street and listening to the news.

Held Up On The Street

Suddenly, a single horseman, with a Winchester rifle lying across the bow of his saddle and flourishing a revolver in his right hand, turned into Main Street from the Springfield Pike, and rode the length of two squares, where he wheeled his horse and sat with the street in range and covered by his rifle. At the same time another man, heavily armed galloped into the square and took a position to the south, thus having the several groups of men between the two horsemen, who now commanded the entire street. Jerome Clark, alias "Sue Mundy," the leader; Sam Berry; and two others now rode into the square, flourishing revolvers and yelling and cursing at the top of their voices.

As the commands were uttered the guerrillas stuck their pistols in the faces of the panic-stricken citizens, and not a word in protest, much less an attempt at defense, was made, but the men hurried into the line indicated by the desperadoes. Meanwhile, two of the guerrillas had entered the stores and ordered all the men who had not escaped to the cellars out upon the street, and in less time than it takes to tell it, 50 or 60 men were standing in line in the middle of the street waiting to be robbed. Sam Berry and Sue Mundy were gathering those who had not responded to the summons, because they were dazed by the suddenness of the advent to collect their faculties.

One of these men was a young farmer boy by the name of Carpenter. He was standing in front of a store gazing at the line in the street when Sue Mundy approached him and demanded his pocketbook. The boy was in the act of getting out the money when the guerrilla's pistol, held on a line with his breast, exploded, and the boy fell to the sidewalk. Young Carpenter died the next day.

Recovered Her Purse

Maria Rochester, who had made a small fortune in the days when whiskey was sold without restriction of license and who was then running a little confectionery, was robbed by Sue Mundy along with others. Maria had never made a bad investment in her life, except once, and that was when she purchased her husband for $1,000 from his master; she herself being born free. She always declared that Sam was never worth a cent after she bought him, and for this reason she could not make him work. The loss of her pocketbook, which contained only a few dollars, was a terrible blow to her, and she ran out on the street crying and ringing her hands.

"Oh, my God!" She exclaimed, "I'm ruined, I'm ruined."

"What's the matter auntie?" asked the guerrilla chief.

"Oh, you've ruined me, you've taken every cent I've got in the world," she replied as the tears coursed down her cheeks. Sue Mundy was ignorant of the fact that the old woman owned some good rental property in Louisville, and he considerately let her search a small sack into which a number of pocketbooks had been placed, until she found hers, which he restored to her.

While these scenes were transpiring "on the side," the main show was in progress on the street. After the line had been formed, two guerrillas, one at either end of the line, began the robbery and advanced toward each other, meeting at the man in the middle. Each carried a sack and into this pistols and pocketbooks were dropped as the two passed along, and though pistols were quite as plentiful as pocketbooks, no one thought of using them in defense.

Dr. Page Crane, who had stood before more than one man and exchanged pistol shots with him; and Jerry Watkins, who afterward killed Crane in a hand to hand encounter in which they used self-cocking revolvers pressed to each other's bodies, were also in line and both lost their revolvers and their money. After robbing everybody on the street and in the stores, the guerrillas mounted their horses and rode rapidly out of the town, not a pistol shot having been fired, except by Jerome Clark when he killed young Carpenter. As they rode away one of the guerrillas dropped a large gray mixed shawl, very common for gentleman's wear in those days, from his saddle. Sam Hart picked it up and motioned to the guerrilla to stop and get it, but he called back that the finder might have it, and it is preserved in the Hart family today as a memento of Sue Mundy's visit.

A year later the guerrilla band was routed, and Sue Mundy and Sam Berry were taken prisoners by the federal authorities and imprisoned at Louisville. Scores of crimes were charged against the guerrillas chief, and he was indicted for murder. Many of the citizens here went to Louisville to testify against Clark, and he was found guilty of young Carpenter's death and hanged sometime later.

The execution was witnessed by a vast crowd of people who were familiar with Clark's evil exploits, and as they were returning from the hanging a mad bull ran amuck, trampling down several people. The superstitious believed that the spirit of Jerome Clark had entered into the bull, and that even in death he was reckless and revengeful.

Sam Berry was tried also at Louisville, but it was shown by testimony of witnesses here that he had no hand in the murder of Carpenter, and he escaped with a prison sentence; being sent to Auburn, New York for life. Many years later, a petition was circulated asking for clemency, and some of the men who were robbed here signed it, and the one-armed ex-guerrilla was pardoned by President Grant.


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