Bourland in North Texas and Indian Territory During the Civil War: Fort Cobb, Fort Arbuckle & the Wichita Mountains

by Patricia Adkins-Rochette

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Observed by

Emily Rucker Grisham, Matilda Grisham McEwen, and Mary Grisham McEwen


"I had been acquainted with Levi Carter and his son Robert Carter for several years before they were murdered. On Sep 27, 1863 two or three hundred rebel soldiers, who called their commander General Wheeler [Confederate Cavalry General Joseph 'Fightin Joe' Wheeler, born 1836 Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia] came to my house from towards Georgetown [now Hamilton County TN].

They arrived about noon and stayed about an hour. About fifteen cavalrymen ate dinner at my table, while Gen. Wheeler sat on the porch. A cavalryman, carrying Osnaburg [Yankee] grain sacks, came dashing up from towards Georgetown and reported to Gen. Wheeler that they had found two bushwhackers with a pocket knife. At first Gen. Wheeler said bushwhackers would have a mightier weapon than a pocket knife. The cavalryman quickly added: "but they had over a hundred Osnaburg grain sacks."  Wheeler jokingly said: "I should be made a Colonel for catching such bushwhackers."  In a few minutes after the cavalryman left, we heard gunshots and loud shrill screams. About a quarter of an hour after the last gunshots, the same cavalryman, plus two others, came back and reported that they had killed the two bushwhackers. Wheeler and his men wer laughing as they left. As soon as we dared, about an hour later, the three of us ventured out to investigate and found the badly mutilated bodies of Levi and Robert Carter." from a sworn statement of Emily (Rucker) Grisham.

Levi Carter, a blacksmith and a preacher of Methodist Gospel, and his son Robert were Union sympathizers but not ideological zealots. Their murders took place near Georgetown in the Ninth District by five men: James Roberts, George Roberts, Felix Purviance, Polk Runnions, and 'Texas Ranger Tenor.'  Four of these men had been acquainted with the Carters, so when these parties met, it is believed that the Carters attempted to flee and Roberts shot Levi Carter, badly wounding his arm. The Carters were told that they had to go before General Wheeler, even though Levi Carter was profusely bleeding and could barely walk due to loss of blood. The last time that a Union sympathizer saw these two parties was just after they passed Esquire Stanfield's house. When they arrived at Georgetown, Gen. Wheeler had already left, and they ascertained that Gen Wheeler's troops had stopped to have dinner with a Union widow named Grissom [sic, Grisham]. They sent a messenger, who found Gen. Wheeler sitting on Emily Grissom's porch, to get instructions in regard to the disposition of the prisoners.

When the Carters were captured, they were carrying "a quantity" of Osnaburg grain sacks, which they had picked up in some vacated Federal camps near the Hiwassee River. It was noticed, when the company left Esq. Stanfield's, that the rebels were carrying several Federal Osnaburg sacks while escorting the Carters past Stanfield's house in pursuit of Gen. Wheeler.

Robert Carter's badly mutilated body was missing his eyeballs so the family looked for them that night; then the next morning, they made a diligent search of the bloody ground for Robert's eyeballs, without success. Union sympathizers believed that James Roberts took the eyeballs home to show his mother. As he entered his home, he told his mother that he had killed the two Carters as he threw the eyeballs into her lap, he exclaimed "Well, by G--d!  There are Robert's eyes, any how!"  She quickly replied that she hoped he'd bring her the eyes of more of the "Lincolnites".

What happened to Robert Carter's eyeballs?  It was reported that these eyes were preserved in spirits, and kept by rebels as a memorial of their valor. Below is an political address given to his Union constituents by Mr. G. W. Hickey, Union candidate for office [ca.1865] in Cherokee County, North Carolina. "In East Tennessee, near Georgetown, a band of these men ran upon an old man and his son, by the name of Carter -- the old man was a preacher of the Gospel -- the young man had a wife and children. They shot the old man, killing him, then threw down the young man and cut his eyes with knives, put them into their pockets, and afterwards into a bottle of brandy to preserve them. They then set him up and told him that he might go if he could make his escape. They still pursued him and overtook him, about two-hundred yards from the former place and shot him down dead."

The above is abstracted from: (1) affidavits of Emily (Rucker) Grisham/Grissom, and her daughters Matilda (Grisham) McEwen and Mary (Grisham) McCuan/McEwen, taken on Apr 15, 1864 by John Stanfield, acting Bradley County Justice of the Peace;  and (2) a narrative, written in 1866 by J.S. Hurlburt from his pro-Union perspective, from pages 245-256 of History of the Rebellion in Bradley County, East Tennessee, published 1866 in Indianapolis. Edited by John W. Cook, et. al. then reprinted 1988 by Sink-Moore Publishing Inc, Cleveland TN.

Editor's note:  Matilda Grisham McEwen was a twin to Elizabeth Grisham Wilson, your editor's gg-grandmother.  Your editor's grandmother was named Katie Matilda Wilson Adkins.


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Patricia Adkins-Rochette        03/20/2013     

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Bourland in North Texas and Indian Territory During the Civil War: Fort Cobb, Fort Arbuckle & the Wichita Mountains