Tag Archives: Montana

Confederates in Montana Territory

BOOK REVIEW: Robison, Ken, Confederates in Montana Territory: In The Shadow of Price’s Army, (South Carolina: The History Press, 2014.) 190 pp., photos, illustrations, bibliography/notes, index. ISBN 978-1-62619-603-2, paperback, $19.99

By Nancy B. Samuelson

Confederates in Montana Terrirtory-Ken Robison
Confederates in Montana Territory: In the Shadow of Price’s Army by Ken Robison

I was eager to dig into this book as I am a long time student of Missourians in the Civil War. However, I was very disappointed in the book. It is an attractive book with a lot of good photos and illustrations, but the research is only skin deep.  The title of the book is misleading as only about four of the men discussed in the book served in Price’s Army. The author does not have a very good grasp on the history of Price’s Army and the guerrilla units associated with Price. The book contains several errors. In the forward to the book, 1859 is given as the year California entered the Union. The correct year is 1850. Colonel Thoroughman was said to have been taken to a prison in Quincy, Illinois after he was captured. There was no Union prison at Quincy, he most likely was taken to the prison at Alton, Illinois. The Moore brothers were said to have gone south into Kentucky and spend a night with John M. James, the grandfather of Jesse James. A good trick indeed, as John M. James died in 1827.

Confederates in Montana
An early tintype, owned by Ken Robison, showing unidentified Confederate soldiers in Montana Territory.

There are two stories in the book concerning supposed Quantrill men. The first story is about James Berry. This chapter is reasonably close to the facts; Berry did serve with Quantrill for a short time. He also did participate in a robbery with the Sam Bass gang and was killed when there was an attempt to apprehend him. The author states that Berry’s family survived to become prominent in Montana history, but leaves the reader completely in the dark about the family’s contribution to the state’s history.

Ken Robison, author
Author Ken Robison

The chapter about Langford “Farmer” Peel, is titled “When Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”. A good title, since this tale is almost entirely fiction. Langford Peel never served with Quantrill or anybody else during the Civil War. He hung out in mining camps in California, Utah, Nevada and Montana during the time of the Civil War. He was a rough customer and was accused of several murders. He was finally shot and killed in Montana. The tale about some of Quantrill’s men hijacking a steamboat to come after Peel is from a newspaper article from the Great Falls Tribune of April 30, 1922. The story is complete fiction.

There were a number of men from Price’s Army who did go to Montana and who became prominent men. John C. C. “Coon” Thornton and Thomas L. Napton immediately come to mind, but the author ignored these men. Several Quantrill men are known to have gone to Montana too, one served as the Sheriff of Lewis and Clark County. These folks are also ignored. The book is an easy read but it is history light-weight.

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This book review is co-published with the James-Younger Gang Journal.

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Tuesday June 30th, 2020

Stray Leaves

Here's some colorful video history on George Morgan Chinn, a grandson of Frank James' cohort John Pendleton "Black Jack" Chinn. Whenever I drive from Danville to Midway or Lexington, Ky, I pass the ruins of Chinn's Cave House.
Here also are a couple of testimonials about George, also colorful, from the files of the James Preservation Trust.
#1- "I remember George very well. He was my late father's cousin and we do have his linage through the Morgan's, dating back to John Morgan in 1778. He was a really smart fellow and funny. His [Ed.: grand] father was Jack Chinn. I have a picture of him with William Jennings Bryan, Dicky Brant, and Frank James (Brother of Jesse) seated in a buggy hitched to the only grey horse that won the Kentucky Derby. Jack was fined five dollars for speeding in a horse-drawn vehicle. He paid ten dollars and told them to keep the change because he was going out of town (Harrodsburg, Ky) the same speed he came in. My dad had a lot of these old family tales."
And #2 - "hi I knew him personally. He has a lot of historical books at the Fort Harrod Museum. He also published one about Brooklyn or the Palisades area of Jessamine and Mercer Counties. His wife's nickname was Cotton because of her white hair. They were both feisty. I lived and grew up on five acres that attached to the Chinn land. It was at 5555 Lexington Rd in Mercer county. The Chinn mansion was in a hairpin curve...'Chinn curve.'
"We had hunters and trespassers that would go on the property and we would have to call the Chinns to have them removed.
"My grandfather grew up and ran with Jack Chinn. Jack had a moonshine still in a cave across the ky river from the mansion. He would take a boat across to the cave.
Mr. George Chinn was a historian and you can look for his books on google. Or contact the Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg or the local library. Sorry, that is all I have except I know George had a daughter."
George Morgan Chinn also was a director of the Kentucky Historical Society and editor of their publication "The Register." He authored several books, including "Kentucky: Settlement and Statehood, 1750-1800," still in print, "The Encyclopedia of Hand Arms," and the five-volume work "The Machine Gun."
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