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THE PONDER PAPERS: THE WILSON MASSACRE AND REEVES' REVENGE

Today I made another visit to the Missouri Historical Society to dig through The Ponder Papers. Most people call this research but I prefer to call it "treasure hunting".  Some of the items I chose to copy were correspondence from people such as John L. Margreiter, dated July 3, 1993.

Mr. Margreiter is , admittedly and admirer of Major James Wilson, 3'rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry (Union). That being said in his letter to Jerry Ponder states:

"I found your observations concerning Major Wilson most interesting, even though I admired him (and the 3'rd Cavalry, MSM) for more than twenty-five years. Until I received your letter I had never read or heard anything detrimental about him, but then history always favors the winning side. In 1991 (having lost most of my interest in the Civil War in the late 70's) I again took up the subject and decided to write a paper on Major Wilson; that was the reason for the ad in Military Images. Having procrastinated for almost a year, some six weeks ago I finally got into active research again. I'm looking for any information , good or bad, on Major Wilson and the events that led to his death; my only criterion is that it must be historically documented not word-of-mouth."

Mr. Margreiter must have found the information Ponder provided credible, in a paper found in the correspondence between Mr. Gene Dressell and Mr. Ponder that investigated the reasons for Colonel Timothy Reeves' execution of Major James Wilson and men of his command.

"Reves and Wilson were old enemies whose men had often traded roles as the hunter and the hunted. Wilson and his men had burned Doniphan, Missouri, Reves' hometown. There is also evidence that on Christmas, 1863 Wilson and the 3'rd Missouri Cavalry surprised the guerrillas in their camp. Unknown to Wilson the guerrillas family had joined them for the holiday celebration. The attack may have resulted in as many as many as 30 civilian casualties, including as many as three of the guerrillas's wives."

The footnote on this piece of information states that it was gleaned from correspondence between author Mark Crawford and Mr. Margreiter dated July 21, 1992. 

Someone has written "Incorrect" in the left margin of the paper and circled "Unknown to Wilson" indicating that Major James Wilson did know civilians were present at the gathering on Christmas Day, 1863 in Ripley County, Missouri.

Also found in the correspondence between Jerry Ponder and Gene Dressell is a paper entitled "Major James Wilson File" dated St. Louis November 9, 1864. The correspondence is to General Rosecrans from Geo. M. Porter.

Porter writes:

"Another point General, and I am done- Why did Major Wilson regard his life in such imminent peril while Capt. Dinger- also a prisoner- was in no danger ?  The inference is that he was conscience of having been guilty of some act contrary to the rules of war whereby his life was in danger - I make no reference to the acts of violence -said to have been committed by him but confine myself to the testimony furnished by the city papers on Oct. 31'st . And the conclusions deductible from that testimony."
















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