Thursday, February 11, 2010

The True Adventure Of Sergeant Thomas Merrick

Thomas Merrick home was Elwood, Kansas, and would enlist on May 30, 1861, and was mustered in on the same day as a Sergeant in Company A. of the first Kansas infantry. He was wounded in the action at Wilson’s creek in Missouri on August 10, 1861. On October 21, 1863, he would be promoted to Sergeant major. Now here is were his military career becomes a little confusing. The records shows he was also in Company new D., of the First Kansas infantry. Here he was a Sergeant and had enlisted on January 3, 1864, and was mustered in January 4, 1864. The on April 1, 1865, he was reduced in rank to private and was mustered out on August 30, 1865, at Little Rock Arkansas.

Thomas Merrick had not been in the army very long when he had his first adventure, it took place at Iatan, Missouri, the following is the account of that adventure.

Early in 1861, before war had been declared, a Confederate flag was raised at Iatan, Mo., a small village about 12 miles above Leavenworth. Col. D. R. Anthony of Leavenworth, one day happened to be a passenger on a boat that was carrying regular troops from Fort Leavenworth to St. Joseph, and when the boat tied up at the landing near Iatan, he and a companion decided to visit that village and make inquiries regarding the flag. They found the town loafing place was a small grocery, at which place they made their inquiry. About a dozen men were in the store at the time, and one of them pointed to the flag that was folded and lying on the counter. "I'll take that with me," said Anthony, whereupon every individual in the store drew a revolver, and the colonel changed his mind. The story reached Leavenworth and the pro-slavery element had considerable fun out of the incident.

Shortly after the organization of the First Kansas infantry a few members of Companies A and I learned that the flag still defiantly floated, and also that a force of Confederate cavalry had been organized and armed at the place. A spy was sent to Iatan to make investigations and upon his return reported that the flag pole had been erected within a few feet of the railroad track, that a company of "rangers" had been organized and was then encamped, 140 strong, within the town. On June 3, 1861, a portion of the First Kansas received arms, and a few of them resolved to lower the Iatan flag. The members of the proposed expedition, through the kindness of friends among the other companies, secured rifles enough to arm their crowd, together with a limited supply of ammunition.

That night 17 men stole quietly out of camp and midnight found them hunting up and down the river for boats to enable them to cross. A small skiff capable of holding 5 persons was found and the first load crossed. In the meantime another small boat had been found and pressed into service. When the first boat returned for the others, 5 men concluded to withdraw from the expedition, leaving but 12 to carry out the plans. The balance of the members were taken across the river, whereupon they started on a long march for their destination, arriving at the outskirts of Iatan about daybreak. The spy originally sent to make investigations was again delegated to make a reconnaissance, which he did, reporting that the flag would not be hoisted that day and that it was kept at the rear of a small store. Determining to have the flag at any cost, the party advanced on the town and when turning a corner within a hundred yards of the flag pole discovered that the stars and bars were being run up.

The members of the expedition charged and surrounded the flag pole just as the cord had been tied. A demand was made for the flag, which resulted in a little parleying, whereupon "Mell" Lewis, one of the expedition, whipped out a knife, cut the rope, and the flag fell at their feet. It was gathered up and a retreat ordered, when some one inside the store opened fire on them at a distance of less than 100 feet, three of the expedition being wounded by buckshot, two of them quite severely. The retreat was much slower than was hoped for on account of the wounded men, but at last all were safely landed on the Kansas side with their trophy.

The men taking part in the capture of the flag were Frank H. Drenning, Thomas Merrick, Frank M. Tracy, G. Mellen Lewis, Fred Amerine, William Smart and James Liddle, of the Elwood Guards, and Emil Umfried, Theo. Kroll, — Voeth, Richard Lander and Henry Laurenzier, of the Steuben Guards. The boys reached camp about dusk and intended to keep the matter quiet, but the story got out and was printed in the Leavenworth Conservative the next morning. This noted flag now reposes in the museum of the Kansas State Historical Society at Topeka.


"The first rebel flag ever captured by Kansas soldiers was taken from Iatan, Missouri, June 3, 1861, by a party of twelve soldiers of the First Kansas, then in camp at Fort, Leavenworth. Seven of the soldiers were members of the Elwood Guards company of this Township. Sergeant Frank Drenning demanded the lowering of the flag "In the Name of Abraham Lincoln and the Congress of the United States." That trophy is now in possession of the State Historical Society.

"It was Thomas Merrick, a citizen of this township, who captured the first Rebel flag raised in St. Joseph. It was brought over here and burned.

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