Some time ago we posted Chapter XXVII of Father Paul Ponziglione's unpublished memoir. It is a very long chapter that covers several subjects, eventually leading up to the start of Civil War activity in southeast Kansas. The events he described occurred in 1861, and much of it was about the threats of guerilla warfare and all-out lawlessness as the war ramped up in our region.
The very last topic, which was pretty brief, might have been skipped in reading. But it pointed out two things:
"On the 7 of December (1861) my dear friend and companion Father James C. Van Goch, who at that time was visiting the Catholic Families in the vicinity of Fort Scott, had a narrow escape from the hands of a company of drunken Union men, who about 3 o’clock p.m. attacked him on the high way, took his horse, and having ordered him to kneel down, they would most certainly have shot him, had it not been for the sagacity of their Captain Mr. Bell, who was the only sober man of the party. Thus seeing that his soldiers were determined on killing the Father, remonstrated that they were not allowed to do any such thing, without first giving him a fair trial. “Let us” said he, “bring our prisoner to the camp, there we shall hold a court-martial, and condemn him to be shot, doing so we will be all right.” This suggestion proved satisfactory to all. The Father was ordered to get again on his horse, and surrounded by those unruly fellows, who were sneering at him, and cursing him at every step, at last they reached the camp.
Here the Captain told the men to unsaddle their horses, and bring them down in the valley along the creek, where there was, as yet, some good grazing ground left. “This done, said he, “come up and we shall have a court-martial on the Father!” The men yelling like a gang of wild Indians now started down the hill to comply with the orders they had received. As soon as they got out of sight, the Captain addressing the Father with great respect and kindness told him not to fear, and asked him where he wanted to go? The Father replied that he was on his way to the residence of a Catholic family, where he was expected to have Mass on the next morning. Then the Captain answered “Well Father, let us go at once, we will soon be there.” Both started on a gallop, and in short time reached the house, where the Father was expected, and there apologizing for what his men had done, the Captain left him with his friends."
Some Reference Information:
1. Chapter XXVII of Father Paul's handwritten memoir was long, but interesting. Handwritten in composition notebooks, it used nearly 52 pages, and transcribed to 20 pages of 12 pt. Times Roman. We titled the chapter Winds of War. The entire Chapter is HERE.
2. The picture of Father Ponziglione was digitized for A Catholic Mission by the Kansas State Historical Society. The original painting was commissioned by Knights of Columbus Council 760, St. Paul, in 1906. After a brief display in St. Paul, it was donated to the historical society to preserve the memory of the then-famous Jesuit Missionary. For more information about Father Paul and the painting, follow THIS LINK.
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.