Corrections, comments, and addenda to the battle of Marks Mill as recalled
by Molly Marks Pickett and Martha Marks Hudson in their reminisences:2
Private James M. Campbell, Co. A, 43rd Indiana Infantry, was one of the
military escort that marched with the wagon train from Camden on April 22,
1864. He had enrolled September 1, 1861 at Bowling Green and was mustered
into service the same day at Terre Haute for three years. He was 19 years
old at the time. He was discharged at the expiration of service on
September 9, 1864.3
"Captain" Thomas Penwarden was actually a private in Co. F, 5th Kansas
Cavalry. He enlisted July 21, 1861, and was mustered out of the service
on August 11, 18644 His regiment, together
with the 1st Indiana Cavalry, 7th Missouri Cavalry, and 18th Illinois
Infantry, was sent by Colonel Powell Clayton, by order of General Steele,
on the morning of April 24, from the Post of Pine Bluff to reinforce the
escort of the wagon train. The cavalry went ahead and reached Marks Mill
in time to participate in the battle. Soon after the battle started, the
infantry arrived at Mt. Elba to find the crossing of the Saline River
held by Lt Col. Benjamin Elliott's 1st Missouri Battalion Cavalry,5150
veterans of many battles, some having participated in the Wakarusa War,
December 1855, and the sacking of Lawrence on May 21, 1856, both in
Elliott's battalion (150 men) were reported "absent on scout" on field
returns of Shelby's brigade, dated May 3, 1864, and Marmaduke's division,
dated May 20. 1864. From the former return we know that the 150 men left
as guard with the prisoners at Marks Mill were from Shelby's Misouri
brigade, and that they were not Elliottt's battalion, but it is
conceivable that Elliott was scouting and picketing in the vicinity of
Marks Mills on the day that Molly Marks confronted the would-be assassins.7
We can believe that the cowardly murderers of unarmed, wounded prisoners
slunk away when threatened with their leader's name. Benjamin Elliott,
"that grim Saul who never smiled," was dangerous, the most armipotent of
this desperate bane of "border ruffians."8
To recapitulate, several errors have been revealed in the story of Marks
Mill. Missouri troops (not a Texas regiment) were left to guard the
prisoners. Missouri "border ruffians" (not Texans) held a long standing
grudge against Kansas "Jayhawks." Ben Elliott (no official named Ellitson
has been found inthe Confederate Army) was expected "take dinner."
2 Pettigrew, Marion DeWoody, and Newton Brightwell, MARKS-BARNETT FAMILIES AND THEIR KIN,
Supplement, pp. 498-500
3 Letter fron Archives Division, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, 15 May 1978, to compiler
4 Letter fron Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, 16 May 1978, to Compiler.
5 Official Records, 1, XXXIV, pp 835-836.
6 Jay Monaghan, Civil War on the Western Border: 1854-1865 pp. 38, 64.
7 Official Records, 1, XXXIV, 3, pp. 803, 832.
8 Daniel O'Flaherty, General Jo Shelby, Undefeated Rebel, pp. 192-193, 254.