Tragedy, Murder Linked to Civil War Revolver

A Civil War pistol displayed at the Squirrel Cage Jail and Visitors’ Center in Gallatin is thought to belong to notorious Union Capt. William Brumfield, who was shot to death on the south side of the Gallatin business square in the bitter aftermath of the war.

A Civil War pistol displayed at the Squirrel Cage Jail and Visitors’ Center in Gallatin is thought to belong to notorious Union Capt. William Brumfield, who was shot to death on the south side of the Gallatin business square in the bitter aftermath of the war.

In August, 1862, Capt. William Brumfield was elected to command Company D 33rd Reg. EMM (Enroled Missouri Militia). Brumfield was from Washington Township (his grave site is still marked by a headstone at the Old Scotland Church). Brumfield also served as a private in the 43rd Reg. MVI (Missouri Volunteer Infantry) from September, 1864, until war’s end. In both periods of service he was under the command of Lt. Col. William Flint, who later was the Daviess County Sheriff at the time of Brumfield’s death in July, 1868. Capt. Brumfield’s early period of service was at Breckenridge in neighboring Caldwell County. The Union held control in Daveiss County but rebels were active to the east and south. Brumfield was relieved from duty after 180 days and his Company D disbanded in early 1863. It appears that Brumfield and some friends, upon their own initiative, murdered Confederates and men who helped the rebel cause in the eastern part of Daviess County. In April, 1863, Jonathan Oxford was taken from his home and murdererd at the Clear Creek Church. George Crews and Thomas Peery were ambused near Breckenridge in September, 1863, by Brumfield and his friends. Robert Ford of Coffey was murdered in June, 1864. In the fall of 1864, Thomas Peery’s father, Col. William Peery C.S.A. (Gen. Slack’s paymaster), and Lt. Williams were surprised in their sleep and murdered east of Lock Springs. James Weldon C.S.A. was taken from his home and murdered "by a captain from Caldwell County with a group of his men." In August, 1866, William Crews was murdered at the Clear Creek Church by "Brumfield and Nichols." Research suggests that Nichols may have been Lt. Mounce Nickols or one of his sons from Jackson Township. It was reported that Crews was murdered because he planned to avenge the death of his brother, George, and friend, Thomas Peery. On July 27, 1868 — about 18 months before Capt. John Sheets was murdered by Frank and Jesse James during the savings association robbery in Gallatin — Capt. Brumfield was shot and killed south of the courthosue by Pvt. Solomon Tomlin. Tomlin had served in Brumfield’s command at Breckenridge for 68 days in 1862-63. Unlike Capt. Sheets, Brumfield was not liked nor respected. In November, 1868, a grand jury issued a bill charging Tomlin with murder in the first degree but Tomlin was never tried in court. The particulars of the charge were written in a humorous language, and Tomlin had long since left the county with his family. The most detailed account of the killing of Brumfield is in the 1882 History Book, starting on page 232. The following summarizes that account: Brumfield had a murderous instinct and bullying manner which made people afraid. It seems that on a raid in Buchanan County, Tomlin and Brumfield appropriated several horses. In the division of the property, the two men exchanged bitter words which crescendoed until Brumfield declared he would kill Tomlin. On the day of Brumfield’s murder, Brumfield went to Tomlin’s home located two miles south of Gallatin. He intended to call him out. Tomlin’s wife, Julia, told Brumfield that her husband had gone to Gallatin. Brumfield vowed that she would never see her husband alive again. He also told her that he would be back that night to hang Tomlin’s hat on the gate post. Brumfield learned in Gallatin that Tomlin was hiding in Lt. Benton Miller’s store, located on the south side of the business square. Brumfield exited from the courthouse through the south gate, going directly toward the store. Tomlin was watching and saw Brumfield approaching with revolver in hand. The store owner ordered Tomlin to leave. Tomlin, armed with a double-barrel shotgun, stepped out of the store and shot Brumfield in the chest before Brumfield could raise his revolver. That revolver eventually came into the possession of J. Paul Croy of Gallatin, and then the Daviess County Historical Society. The Manhattan 5-shot cap and ball revolver is marked by Serial #13201.

Researched by David Stark, Gallatin; written by Darryl Wilkinson, Gallatin North Missourian, March, 1997.