A Night of Terror

Jacob Glover, PhD. Program Manager

“About midnight last night, a band of mounted highway robbers, 6 in number, entered our quiet village, armed to the teeth, & proceeding to the Post Office…” – April 29, 1865

Traditional accounts of the American Civil War often end on April 9, 1865. On that famous date, of course, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.

The violence unleashed by the war, however, could not be stopped by a formal surrender. In the months following the war in Kentucky, guerilla bands and outlaws held sway in many areas of the Commonwealth. Although the freedmen and their families were often the targets of these vigilante groups, on other occasions the Shakers at Pleasant Hill drew their attention.

On the night of April 29, 1865, that is exactly what happened. The lengthy journal entry below gives an idea as to the desperate situation in which the Shakers found themselves.

Pictured here, late in his life, J.R. Bryant was in charge of the Village’s finances, and a target of outlaws on the night of April 29, 1865. Bryant raised the alarm at the Centre Family and saved the community a great deal of harm.
Photo c. 1870s.

“April 29, 1865. About midnight last night, a band of mounted highway robbers, 6 in number, entered our quiet village, armed to the teeth, & proceeding to the Post Office… Every apartment in the house was forced open in a vain search for pelf; & being providentially disappointed in their booty, which did not exceed 30 dollars, they sallied forth, & surrounded the brick Office, the leader of the band giving orders to take Bryant the Trustee, dead or alive – to force him to deliver the contents of his coffers – when they demanded entrance, & commenced battering at the front door & smashed in a window, cursing & threatening vengeance. Meantime J. R. Bryant escaped at a back door, leaving M. Burnett & 3 or 4 sisters the only occupants, & gave the alarm at the Center Family, but being discovered by the sentinels, was fired on several times by these foul fiends in human shape, yet, by the protecting hand of God, escaped unhurt.

Looking down the Turnpike, the Post Office is the small building to the left of the large Trustee’s Office. Although the bandits initially forced their way into the Post Office, they later turned their attention to the Trustee’s Office and the person of J.R. Bryant. Photo c. late 1800s.

When some of the brethren arrived at the scene of the action, they were halted & threatened with immediate death by these demons, if they approached. The alarm was then rang which aroused the whole village in a state of excited alarm which so frightened these fiends incarnate, that they fled to their horses & beat a hasty retreat, firing a volley at every moving object & some of the buildings as they went. One ball passed through the side glass of the front door of the Office, & through the sash over the door at the far end of the hall, glancing the ceiling penetrating the dining room door at the extreme end of the porch… No clue to the diabolical traitors.”

Although no one was physically hurt, I can’t help but wonder what must have been going through the minds of the pacifist Shakers during this eventful and terrifying night. Such terror was not representative of life at Pleasant Hill throughout the nineteenth century, but the trying times of the Civil War seem to have left an impression everywhere.

Sam Berry, The One-Armed Outlaw

Julia Raimondi, University of Richmond

Samuel Oscar Berry was one of many orphans that Shaker merchants brought back to Pleasant Hill from their trading journeys across the south and mid-west. He arrived on Halloween 1845 from Clay County, Missouri, with one of his brothers when he was nine years old. A third, younger, brother would also arrive a few years later.

Berry’s stay at Pleasant Hill was a troublesome one. Like most orphans brought into the community, he didn’t immediately conform to their practices and had a habit of lashing out and rebelling. His brothers were similar, and repeatedly they ran away. His first runaway attempt was in June 1852. He was recaptured and brought back, only to run away again at some point during the next few years (the Shakers recorded his first runaway attempt and did not record it when he ran away again).

Not much is known about what happened in the years between that and the Civil War. At some point, Berry lost one of his arms in a farm machinery accident. Reports conflict slightly as to the location of the incident – one says Perryville and the other states Lexington. From then on, he was known as Sam ‘One-Armed’ Berry.

Sam ‘One-Armed’ Berry and
Jerome ‘Sue Mundy’ Clarke *

Despite missing an arm, Berry was able to successfully enlist in the Confederate army as a member of General Morgan’s 6th Cavalry. The rumored reason for his enlistment is that he witnessed a Union soldier bayonet his sister to death, but there are no official records of him having a sister.

Throughout the war, Morgan’s men were known for their rough and thuggish ways across Kentucky, and it was not unheard of for these men to devolve into bands of roaming guerrillas that terrorized the countryside.

Sam Berry, his friend and fellow outlaw Jerome ‘Sue Mundy’ Clarke, and several other criminals formed one such guerrilla group. This guerrilla group, ironically, was who held up the Shaker stagecoach outside Pleasant Hill.

In a journal entry from the day of the incident, a Shaker scribe reported that Berry and his gang members robbed the Shakers of roughly $150. They also stopped and robbed other travelers passing by, including a Union soldier, before letting the stagecoach go and continuing on to Harrodsburg, where they had a failed attempt in robbing the bank.

Berry and his gang continued to terrorize and pillage the Kentucky countryside for another year, including massacring a unit of African American Union soldiers. Eventually, they were all caught and court-martialed for their crimes. All of them were sentenced to death, but Berry was able to use his injury to get his sentence commuted to 10 years hard labor at a military prison in Albany, NY.

Despite multiple attempts to have the President pardon him, he died of tuberculosis three years later while still in prison. He is now one of three Confederate soldiers buried at Rural Albany Cemetery in upstate New York.

Julia Raimondi is a student at University of Richmond completing a research project on the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill. For questions or comments please contact at Julia.raimondi@richmond.edu.

* Photo courtesy of FindAGrave.com.