My book Bushwhacker Belles book is about Missouri women who got in trouble with Union authorities during the Civil War for helping Confederate-allied guerrillas in the state.

My book Bushwhacker Belles book is about Missouri women who got in trouble with Union authorities during the Civil War for helping Confederate-allied guerrillas in the state.
Feeding and sheltering the guerrillas was the most common charge leveled against the “bushwhacker belles,” but occasionally merely being related to a noted guerrilla was sufficient cause to arouse suspicion against a woman and bring an increased level of scrutiny. The case of Sarah Parkinson, mother of infamous Jasper County guerrilla Thomas R. Livingston, is one example.
Livingston had moved from Washington County in eastern Missouri to Jasper County in the western part of the state a few years before the Civil War broke out. He became a successful lead smelter and businessman near present-day Oronogo in the years leading up to the war, and he went on to become an infamous guerrilla leader during the war. Perhaps his most notorious action of the war was the killing of about twenty black soldiers at the Rader Farm northwest of present-day Joplin on May 18, 1863. He himself was killed about two months later while leading a charge on Union militia at Stockton.
When Tom Livingston left Washington County before the war, his mother, Sarah Parkinson, stayed behind, and she still lived there during the war.
She, like her son, was considered disloyal, or at least she was suspected of disloyalty by some of her Union neighbors and by certain Federal officers. Partly because of who her son was, she was closely watched for any disloyal activity that she might engage in.
Near the middle of the war (shortly before Livingston was killed at Stockton), she became the target of a Union investigation for allegedly harboring a Confederate soldier.
Near the end of May, 1863, a Lieutenant McBride of Confederate general Daniel Frost's command was found at Mrs. Livingston's home and arrested there by the local Enrolled Missouri Militia, and she was accused of having sheltered him. Shortly afterwards, Captain Benjamin F. Crail of the Third Iowa Cavalry confiscated a stallion from Mrs. Livingston when he was informed that she was a Confederate sympathizer and had harbored McBride
    It was not, however, until several weeks later when Mrs. Parkinson petitioned for return of the horse that Union authorities started trying to build a case against her. It was alleged at that time that, in addition to harboring McBride, she had allowed her home to be used as a distribution point for Rebel mail.
Presumably because he thought it would strengthen the case against her, F. Kellerman, provost marshal at Potosi, also noted that she was the mother of guerrilla leader Thomas Livingston. In early July, according to Union records, McBride signed an affidavit that Sarah Parkinson had, indeed, harbored him, but the affidavit itself apparently does not survive.
Over the next several weeks, Union officials took a number of conflicting statements from Mrs. Parkinson's neighbors and acquaintances concerning her loyalty or lack thereof. Several of the deponents, including the sheriff of Washington County, said they considered Mrs. Parkinson loyal, had never heard of her harboring or feeding bushwhackers or Rebel soldiers, and had never heard her utter disloyal sentiments.
A couple of the witnesses added that they knew Tom Livingston but that they were sure he had not been back to Washington County since the war started. Several other affiants, however, stated just the opposite.
They said they considered her a "dreadful rebel" and had heard her express herself in opposition to Federal authorities.
The evidence against Mrs. Parkinson was forwarded from Potosi to St. Louis, but the case against her was finally dropped about the middle of August and the animal returned to her. Whether Tom Livingston’s death had anything to do with the Union decision to drop the charges against Sarah is unknown.

Larry Wood is a free-lance writer specializing in the history of Missouri and the Ozarks. You may contact him at or like his author Facebook page at