This Civil War story was told to T. Clifford Morgan by Elias Padget, who had heard it countless times as told by his mother, Saraphine Morgan Padget. T. Clifford Morgan had also heard it told by his father, Thomas Wilson Morgan.
The passage of time has caused the exact date of the encounter to be lost, but T. Clifford Morgan believes it to be in the year 1861. In that year, Mahala Morgan's son, Henderson was 3 years old and her daughter, Rosetta, was 1 year old. Mahala's husband, Sylvester Morgan was the first child of Thomas Scott Morgan and Brooky Kyger Morgan.
One of the greatest worries of a young wife during the Civil Way was that her husband would be killed and she would be left a widow with young children.
Any movement of men across Hickory County Missouri was suspected to be armed rebels unless proved otherwise. On this particular day a man galloped up to Morgan's to warn Thomas Scott Morgan that a large group of men were approaching from Dallas County. They seemed to be headed for the Morgan farm, which was about 3 miles east of Black Oak Point (Later called Preston).
Tom Morgan dispatched his sons to alert the neighbors and ask them to tell others. In a short time, a large company of men assembled at Morgan's. They were deployed south of the farm buildings along a wagon road behind fences and trees. With guns drawn they awaited the intruders. It was the Civil War custom to challenge any group of unknown men. Each side would send out a man. Thus they would determine if they were friend or foe.
Mahala watched but did not see a meeting of men between the two forces. She scouted around the Union line for a look at the opposing force, which had dismounted to form a rough line between trees. She recognized a Union man in the opposing group. Wasting no time she hid behind a large tree. Quickly, she took off her dress and her white petticoat. Then she put her dress back on.
Waving her white petticoat above her head, she ran screaming as loud as she could, right between the opposing battle lines. Tom Morgan, as the leader of the home group, strode out to meet the leader of the strange group. This man turned out to be E.M. Padget of Dallas County, a good friend of Morgan's and grandfather of Elias Padget, who years later told T. Clifford Morgan this story.
Sometimes these chance encounters turned into a bloody battle. All it took was one man with an itchy trigger finger and the battle would begin. By World War II getting killed in this type of encounter was termed, "killed by friendly fire."
Sylvester and Mahala Morgan moved their young family to Vermilion County, Illinois in the summer of 1862. He enlisted in the 125th Illinois Volunteer Infantry on August 10, 1862. He survived the war and they had eight children. Mahala Morgan lived until 1924, and she probably never forgot the day, when as a young woman, she used her white petticoat to stop a Civil War encounter.
When he was a grown man, Henderson Morgan, the oldest child of Sylvester and Mahala returned to Hickory County, Missouri and for many years operated the Morgan Hotel on the east side of the square in Hermitage, Missouri.
Posted: 23 Sep 2009