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The Civil War in Missouri

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The Palmyra Massacre

Main Idea

  • The Palmyra Massacre was the execution of ten Confederate prisoners as retribution for the capture of a pro-Union civilian, Andrew Allsman.

Preceding Events


  • In September of 1862, Colonel Joseph Porter of the Confederacy raided Palmyra, Missouri. During this raid he took Andrew Allsman prisoner. 
  • Allsman was 66 years old. He had served in the Union army but had been discharged due to his age. He was known in the community of Palmyra as a Union supporter who probably was giving information to Union forces about actions of Confederate sympathizers.
  • Shortly after the raid, Col. Porter decided to free Allsman to avoid the cost of keeping him prisoner. Allsman feared that if freed he would be in danger from some of Porter’s men who knew his reputation as a Union informant. To protect himself he requested a guard to accompany him to the closest Union line. 
  • He was granted this guard, and he set off toward Palmyra. Unfortunately, he would never make it home. His guard failed him or possibly conspired against him. It is believed that he was shot. 



  • The authorities in Palmyra under the command of Brigadier General John McNeil released the following order for Allsman’s immediate release.

Allsman Release Order (Click to Read Full Text)

PALMYRA, MO., October 8, 1862

SIR: Andrew Allsman, an aged citizen of Palmyra and a non-combatant having been carried from his home by a band of persons unlawfully arrayed against the peace and good order of the State of Missouri and which band was under your control, this is to notify you that unless said Andrew Allsman is returned unharmed to his family within ten days from date ten men, who have belonged to your band and unlawfully sworn by you to carry arms against the Government of the United States and who are now in custody, will be shot, as a meet reward for their crimes, among which is the illegal restraining of said Allsman his liberty, and, if not returned, presumptively aiding in his murder.

Your prompt attention to this will save much suffering.
Yours, &c.,
Provost-Marshal. General District Northeast Missouri
Per order of brigadier general commanding McNeil's column


  • The punishment for failure to return Allsman in ten days was the execution of ten Confederate prisoners being held in Palmyra and Hannibal. 
  • In the meantime, Porter had headed south and may not have even received the message; regardless, Allsman was already dead and unable to be returned. 
  • Ten days passed and Allsman failed to return. General McNeil then made the decision to move forward with the threatened execution, and the ten Confederates were shot in front of a firing squad of 30 men on October 18, 1862. Their names were:

    Captain Thomas A. Sidenor, Monroe County
    Willis T. Backer, Lewis County
    Thomas Humston, Lewis County
    Morgan Bixler, Lewis County
    Hiram T. Smith, Lewis County
    Herbert Hudson, Ralls County
    John M. Wade, Ralls County
    Marion Liar, Ralls County
    Eleaser Lake, Scotland County
  • The execution of these prisoners of war, which was widely discussed in the media, enraged and horrified citizens on both sides of the conflict. Ultimately, the massacre is remembered as one of the most brutal events of the war.