Scene 7: 1863 -- Rebels in the Woods
Following the evacuation of Van Buren by the soldiers, conditions grew worse. Hatred between the two factions intensified. Jayhawking or robbing increased, the mischief being done by gangs of both parties. There were raids and counter raids, with the citizens getting the worst of it all.
The raiding grounds extended from north Arkansas to Pilot Knob. Though a child at the time, I knew the faces of many of them. Of the Federal Faith were: Rance Copeland with a bunch from Salem in Dent County; William Monks of Rolla in Phelps County; William Leeper of Wayne County; Job Haley of Iron County.
The Rebels included: Alexander Chilton of Shannon County; Joseph Huddleston, with seven sons of Shannon County; Doc Hicks of Ripley County; Henry Phillips from lower Carter County; John Cox from Wayne County; Jack Huddleston and sons together with Devil “Dick” Beaux; and Jim Sipes and Joe Quigley from Oregon County.
[Lights come up on center stage.]
(Scene: Set up “house” on stage left with kitchen table with vase of flowers and dishes, 2 chairs, cot, boxes. Mrs. McDowell and 2 children pantomime making dinner and playing around the table. Enter from stage right, Loon Chitty.)
Sister, I came to share supper with you.
My dear Loon, I declare, I’m so happy to see you this evening. Come in. Come in. I was just fixing the table.
(Loon enters, greets children. Gets a plate. Suddenly, 4 soldiers enter from the right and move toward the house. Ms. McD. spies them, finger to lips to silence Loon and children. She grabs Loon and pushes him under the bed. She and children place boxes around the bed to cover him from the view of the soldiers. She motions the children to not look toward the bed. Children resume eating. Soldiers advance to the door and knock.)
Evenin’, m’am. We’ve been on detail and plan to camp here for the night. We’re mighty hungry. Do you have something for us?
I was just fixing supper for my children. My older boy caught a couple of bass. I have some beans and some leftover cornbread. That’s all I can offer.
We’ll take it. We haven’t eaten since yesterday at noon. Thank you, ma’m. Thank you.
(All 4 soldiers crowd into the kitchen and fill their plates. One stays at the table with the children. The other 3 move out into the yard. Mrs. McD. gives knowing eye to children while they eat. The meal finishes and the soldiers start to bed down for the night. 2 of them outside and the other 2 near the kitchen and cot blocking the doorway.. Mrs. McD. puts children on bed and prepares to lie down herself.)
(to soldiers) Do you mind sleeping away from my bed? Sometimes I have to get up in the night with my little one to take him to the privy. I don’t want to stumble over you and wake you.
(She takes her nightcap from bedpost and ties it on. They nod and move away. All lie down and sleep. After a short pause, Mrs. McD. unties her nightcap and passes it on the open side of the bed to Loon. While Loon puts on cap, she starts taking off her buttoned top with aid of children. Passes top to Loon. She removes her skirt and passes it. Loon stands on the open side of the bed, steps over it taking a quilt, which he folds as though carrying a child. He moves quietly past the sleeping soldiers, out into the yard and runs stage right across downstage along apron, tripping on dress, etc. Meanwhile, the actors move off stage left and the house and yard convert to the house of Loon’s sweetheart who takes the place on the bed.
Loon returns to right of house and pantomimes throwing a rock at the window above the sweetheart’s bed. She looks out the window, then slips out the door and comes to Loon’s left.)
Who is it? Who are you throwing rocks at my window?
(Removing cap) It’s your own precious Loon! I just escaped from my sister’s house where four Federals were camped for the night. (They embrace.)
Ballad: “REBEL IN THE WOODS” by Loon Chitty and his Sweetheart
(Written by a Missouri bushwhacker to a friend in prison in St. Louis, April 1863.)
The winter is gone and the spring has come once more.
The rebels rejoice that the winter is no more,
For now it is spring and the leaves are growing green,
And the rebels rejoice that they cannot be seen.
CHORUS: Then home, soon home, home they will be;
Home, dearest home, in this our country,
Where the rose is in bud and the blossom's on the tree,
And the Lark is singing home to South Missouri.
We have taken up arms in defense of our farms,
And if the Federals trouble us we'll surely do them harm,
For we have declared that our land shall be free,
But if they stay away how quiet we will be.
Then home, soon home, home we will be...
The rebels from their homes are compelled to go
And stay in the woods in the bushes thick and low,
For if they go home and there attempt to stay
The Federals will come and force them away.
Then away from their homes, away they will be...
Away from their sweethearts they have to stay
And lay in the woods by night and by day,
For if by the Federals they should captured be
They will be carried to the penitentiary.
Then away from their homes, away they will be...
Now my song is almost ended, and since it is so,
Back to the wars with all speed I must go.
With my gun in my hand and my jacket also blue
Farewell, my dear friends, I must bid you adieu.
Then away from my home, away I will be...
When the war is over I will return to thee,
And we will get married if we can agree,
And when we are joined in wedlock's happy band,
Then we never more will take the parting hand.
And at home, soon home, home we will be...
(Scene Description: Loon Chitty and his sweetheart exit stage left.)