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Robert Lee's letter to The Bonham News
By Edward Southerland
Jul 12, 2016
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Robert Lee's letter to The Bonham News

If you will permit me the use of your valuable columns, I would like to give you a true statement of what is known the Pilot Grove difficulty, notwithstanding there has been no killing in Pilot Grove at all except Dr. Pierce. But to begin:     

I was raised in this state, and enlisted in the Southern Army, and fought the best I could, until the surrender when I laid down my arms and returned home to live, as I thought in peace the balance of my life. But how badly I was disappointed you will soon see.  A short time after my arrival home, one night when I was sick in my bed, I was arrested by a party of men: (Israel Boren, Lewis Peacock, James Maddison, Bill Smith, Sam Bier, and Hardy Dial) wearing the U.S. uniform, and was told by them that I would be carried to Sherman to stand trial for offences committed during the War. Of course, I surrendered and was perfectly willing to yield myself.

After we had proceeded a short distance from my home another party (in citizens dress) fell in with us. Among these citizens I recognized a party known as “Doc” Wilson and several other thieves.  Well as we proceeded to Sherman  ”Doc” Wilson began to hint to me that I should buy out and not go to Sherman.

Now, you can imagine my dismay, when our entire party, U.S. soldiers and all, halted in Choctaw Bottom this side of Sherman, when off the road, and stationed a guard over me apparently with a view of staying some time. In the meantime, ”Doc” Wilson [was] still persuading me to buy out and escape the punishment at Sherman, which he presented as very severe. I repeatedly begged to be taken to Sherman, sick hardly able to sit up, [a] surrounded man. Now then I was in Choctaw Bottoms Surrounded by a band of thieves. After keeping me thirty-six hours, my sickness growing worse all the time, and I begging them to take me Sherman, I finally agreed to accept their offer and obtain my release.

I agreed to give them my mule, saddle and bridle, a $20 gold piece which I had in my pocket, and executed my note to “Doc” Wilson with my father’s name for security for $2,000 in gold payable on demand and to leave the country forever.

Having no pen and ink Wilson made a pen of a toothpick and ink of gunpowder and water mixing it in my brother’s hand. (He came with me when arrested) 

Now after being arrested I thought to try the civil law on these scoundrels, and to prevent me from doing so they have ever since tried to kill me. One day about twelve [days] after this occurred, I was in Pilot Grove and met Jim Maddox, a friend of Peacock’s, and I told him that if he desired to fight me I would loan him a pistol, but the coward said he did not want to hurt me and proposed taking a drink, saying he was sorry he had done what he did.

After drinking with him I told him I wanted to be let alone and he said all right.  However, he went out of the grocery store, borrowed a pistol from a friend, slipped up behind me while I was making a contract with a Negro to do some work, and shot me in the face. He then left me on the ground for dead and bragged that he shot Bob Lee’s brains out.

I was in a very precarious condition for some time and would have perished but for the timely aid and skill of the late Dr. Pierce. I may add here that the excellent gentleman (soon after my recovery) was called to his gate and brutally murdered in the presence of his family by one of the clan, Hugh Hudson. The Doctor’s death is attributed to his kindness in taking care of me in his house and nursing me.

Still the civil authorities take no notice of these things. I have done everything I could to procure peace: I have even tried to buy it with money; and I have done every way in my power to do right and be peaceable: still I am hunted by a squad of U.S soldiers assisted by a number of horse thieves who come to my house, throw fire in the beds, drag my children by their feet over the floor and insult my wife. Yet the U.S. troops stood by and said not a word. These “Good Union” men were principally deserters from the Southern Army and lay in the bush during the war, the lowest of God’s creation; and these good Union men, “truly Loil” are biasing the judgment of the men (U.S. troops) who should protect us impartially.

I further wish to say that Elijah Clark, a young man, was taken from his horse, which he had bought from one of these thieves, by the gang and was tied and murdered on the prairie, the U.S. troops being present. Also William Dixon was followed some twenty miles from his home, at Hog Eye, and taking refuge in a mill kept thirty men at bay. After flirting with death and firing many times at Dixon, the party told him if he would surrender they would not hurt him. When Dixon came to the door of the mill and threw down his pistol they riddled him with bullets, the U.S. Soldiers being present at the time.  They robbed his pockets at the time, turning them inside out, and even took the dead man’s spurs.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Hugh Hudson received his reward of $300 from the “Clan” for killing Dr. Pierce, and has since died. Wilson and Maddox have left this country for a new field in Southern Texas. Nance, Baldock, Bud Favors and several others have been killed while pursuing me. Sanders and Peacock have been wounded, the latter twice. Now I will not cease to punish these men so long as I can find them. Peacock still hires men to kill me, and they must take the consequences.

I will trust the U.S. troops will cease their interference and I will clear the country of this band of thieves. Finally I am perfectly willing to surrender myself to any impartial civil authority at any time, but will not give myself up, unarmed, to thieves and robbers. I am sorry to take so much of your valuable time and space, but a great many people, even the military, have no idea of the true origin of all trouble, so I give you all the particulars.

I remain yours, Robert Lee