The Civil War in Missouri

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The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.

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Gunstock Reputedly from Sam Hildebrand’s Rifle, “Kill-Devil”

ca. 1860
MHM Collections

After the local pro-Union Vigilance Committee executed Sam Hildebrand's brother for stealing a horse and Union soldiers burned Hildebrand's home, he initiated his own personal war in southeast Missouri. "I determined," Hildebrand wrote in his autobiography, "to destroy as many of my blood-thirsty enemies as I possibly could." Hildebrand employed unconventional and unacceptable methods of warfare that made him an especially notorious Bushwhacker—ambushes and raids; torture; and brutal execution of prisoners of war, informants, and spies—but felt justified in their use because of the "fresh barbarities committed by the different Federal bands who were infesting the country in Southeast Missouri." Assisting him in his vengeful undertaking was his faithful gun, "Kill-Devil," which he used to great effectiveness. He claimed he could hit a target the size of a man's hand at 100 yards.