ONE OF WAR'S WORST FEUDS: A REIGN OF TRAGEDY FOLLOWING THE CONSCRIPTION ACTS. THE MURDER OF CAPT. WAUGH OF TENNESSEE INSPIRED "BILL" PARKER TO TERRIBLE REVENGE –HIS TEN VICTIMS AND HIS OWN DEATH
Of all the bloody episodes in the history of the Southern Confederacy none is more replete with tragedies than the story of "Bill" Parker, the Tennessee outlaw. The story has its beginning in the Conscription nets of the Confederate Government. The world will never know all the horrors that grew out of the enforcement of those acts in regions where the popular element was strongly in favor of the Union, as was the case in the mountain counties of East Tennessee.
In the civil war, Union men, arrested and forced against their own principles and contrary to their protests into the ranks of a despised cause, did not blame the Confederate Congress so much as they did the local home officer, instrumental in the enforcement of the public set, especially when that local home officer, instrumental to the enforcement of the public set, especially when that local home officer was the neighbor and kinsman of the men to be arrested. In East Tennessee, where the public sentiment was so violently opposed to secession, the individual life of the conscript hunters in many instances, soon or late, atoned for the enforcement of the public decree. The acts of revenge did not always end with a single tragedy. One conspicuous chapter in those annals of blood and revenge relates to the outlawry of a young man named Parker.
A Captain Waugh was an officer in the "Enrolling Bureau" of Confederacy. In the discharge of his official duties it frequently became necessary for him to cause the arrest and imprisonment, or the sending to the front soldier duty, of men who were his old personal friends and neighbors, bitterly opposed to the war and more bitterly opposed to the war and more bitterly opposed to the Confederacy. Among other arrests made by men noting under his authority in 1862 or 1863 was that of an old friend and comrade, Lafayette Jones, a young gentleman of many excellent parts. He was a newspaper man of talent, genial, clever and ongoing in manner. He and Waugh were intimate friends, and were members of the same secret society.
When Jones was arrested, or captured within the Confederate lines in Tennessee, he had on his person some greenback currency, an army pistol, and a number of letters and other papers showing that he was not only a sympathizer with the Federal Government, if not in its secret service, but that he was carrying into the Confederacy contraband matter. In short, he was found to be engaged in nets considered by the Confederate authorities "treasonable." Jones asserted that he was a Federal officer, or in the Federal service, openly, and that he should be treated as a prisoner of war, at worst. He was therefore sent to Richmond, Va., and placed in confinement in Castle Thunder.
When Jones was being dispossessed of the contraband articles he begged that he might retain "his greenbacks," which he said he had earned honestly, and he told Capt. Waugh that if he persisted in taking the money he would hold him personally responsible for what he considered an individual robbery, and he said that if he ever secured his liberty again he would travel a thousand miles to take the officer's life in revenge.
Capt. Waugh explained to the prisoner that the dispossessing him was not his personal act, but that it was in obedience to the Confederate law. Jones claimed a special exemption at the hands of his old friend. Falling to secure the favor, which it was not in the lawful power of that friend to grant. Jones's parting threat was that he intended to escape from confinement and that he would never rest until he had returned to Tennessee and killed Waugh.
Capt. Waugh was a fearless man, and he paid little or no attention to any threats made against him. It was quite an every-day matter for someone to threaten his life, and human life seemed very cheap and trivial then to many men.
One night, some weeks after Lafayette Jones had been sent to Richmond, Capt. Waugh was at home, in the act of retiring, when a noise was heard outside. Mrs. Waugh remarked that she believed "the robbers" were coming, for the whole country was infested with roving bands of outlaws who made a business of plundering friend and foe alike. Suddenly the sound of a gun, fired through an opening in the bed chamber, stunned the inmates of the room. Capt. Waugh instantly fell forward. "I am killed," he said. He was dead in an instant, with a bullet in his heart.
The next moment the door was burst open, and Lafayette Jones, at the head of twenty or thirty men, some of them in blue army clothing, centered the room uttering shouts and curses. Jones rushed to the bedside, saw that his victim was already dead, and, as he stood over him, endeavoring to drown the cries of anguish from stricken wife, he yelled triumphantly: "I told him I would kill him, and I have done it!"
In Jones's party were some blood kindred of Mrs. Waugh. In fiendish glue they proceeded to ransack and rob the house and adjacent store of everything of value that could be carried away. Then they stole away, leaving the dead body of the slain man with the agonized widow and daughter. The next that was heard from the leaders they were within the Federal lines, beyond the reach of Waugh's friends.
The murder of the enrolling officer and the robbery of his family by men wearing the Federal uniform aroused the most intense feeling among the Southern sympathizers in the country. Even Union people deplored the event, for they knew that it would doubtless lead to retaliation upon some of them. Capt. Waugh was well and widely known. He was a Pennsylvanian, a member of an old and wealthy family of that State. His wife was from a prominent family in Tennessee. The dead man was carried for burial into North Carolina, followed by an immense concourse of people-more than a hundred armed troops accompanying. It was believed that further trouble with the Jones party would attend the removal of the body.
The death of Capt. Waugh was the beginning of a long history of assassinations in that county. There had been several murders of citizens in that section, citizens of all ages, and representing both Union and Confederate sentiments, but no death had been attended with circumstances of such cold-blooded atrocity. It was followed by a most terrible train of tragedies.
Living with Capt. Waugh at the time of the murder was a young man named Parker. He was an employee in some business capacity, and he was a man most devotedly attached to Waugh's family. The young man swore that he would never rest until he had killed ten of the leading Union men of the section in retaliation for the murder of his friend and benefactor. He became crazed, infuriated with a thirst for the blood of his late employer's political foes. He made no secret of his purpose to kill and the threat spread far and wide. A few days after the tragedy several of the best citizens of Union sympathies in the county were found dead, shot down in the highway, in the field, in the workshop, wherever Bill Parker could find them. Murder after murder followed. Parker leaving information in the various neighborhoods, through which he swiftly went, that it was now Parker's time for killing. No one knew when or where he was going, and he had his secret hiding places where he could not be trapped or caught.
One of his victims was a blood cousin of Capt. Waugh's widow, an innocent man, showdown as he fled from the assassin in his fields. But he was a strong Union man, and that was enough for Parker to know. He hunted for Union men, but that h would pick them as it suited his purpose, and that he would take his own good time for the work. He defied arrest. He sent word to his friends that he knew he would not be stopped in his career so either friend or foe until the ten men had selected had fallen. No one, save a few of his own mother's household, knew where he made his hiding places. Armed squads of men could not find him. No one man could be induced to seek for him.
The Southern people had become alarmed. The assassin seemed endowed with wings so swiftly and so unexpectedly he went from place to place. He was here to-day, and to-morrow while he was being hunted by armed bodies of men, he would kill another victim twenty miles away.
Public feeling at last rose to such a pitch that it was determined that Parker should be hunted down and killed, cost what it might. He was outlawed. A thousand vows were registered that "Bill "Parker must be found and put out of existence.
After a long and fruitless search an expedition in pursuit of the outlaw came upon it somewhat unexpectedly. He saw that he was outnumbered, and he fled. He had not yet killed the tenth man though lacking only or two of the number. He was on horseback. It was more than a [race?] for one life, for death stared in the face but pursued and pursuer. Mile after mile in the open highway the flight was kept up, Parke open highway the flight was kept up, Park doubtless intent on saving his fire for [close?] quarters. The pursuers discharged their guns as best they could. Finally some of the part got within good range and fired. Ten outlaw horses fell, but the rider was seen to enter thicket nearby.
Examinations of the surroundings showed that the outlaw himself must have been hit as well as his horse, for there was a plain bloody trail that lead directly from the horse into the woods into which the man had been seen to run. This trail was followed by armed men away into a high and rugged mountain range nearby-a wilderness unbroken for more than ten miles in one direction and for about four in the other across the range.
Search was continued day after day with the utmost caution, but Parker could not be found. Weeks and months rolled around and still no tidings of the outlaw. There was, however, one consolation-the assassinations had ceased. There was a general rejoicing. Through the mystery which hung over the disappearance of the outlaw added a painful suspense to the lull in the storm, for the security might be only temporary. It was possible that the man was recovering slowly of his wounds, and he might yet return.
The war ended and a year passes. But still there were no tidings of the outlaw. The mountain had been time and again searched in vain for his hiding place or for his dead body. An unfathomable mystery hung about his fate. One day in 1866 or 1867 a party of hunters were going through a little skirt of woods bordering a plantation in the settlements about four miles directly across the mountain from where Parker's horse had been killed. They suddenly came upon a pile of human bones, which remnants of clothing nearby. Lying by the side of the skeleton was a pair of army saddlebags. Those contained two pistols and some other effects, which were instantly identified as Parker's. The high skull bone had the unerring marks of the famous young outlaw. There remained yet the evidence of the fatal shot that had been fired at the fugitive years before, for a bone of one of his legs had been broken by it. In that condition, carrying his effects with him, the man had crawled a distance of four miles, over one of the most rugged mountains in the State.
Within sight, and within calling distance of the skeleton was the residence of one of the most prominent "Southern" men in the whole county-a man who had once been a good friend of Parker. The supposition is that the wounded outlaw had endeavored to reach that friend's house, but becoming completely exhausted from loss of blood and starvation he died before giving the desired refuge through it was in full view of his longing eyes.
Day after day, while he lay suffering within sight of the Southerner's home, Parker's voice was heard in its piteous cries. After the skeleton had been found, the mistress of the mansion had a distinct recollection of having heard those cries.
But Parker's remorse, however deep and long torturing it might have been, could have surpassed that of the one who was the beginner of the long series of tragedies for which he had made himself responsible. Lafayette Jones himself died a raving maniac in the most horrible agonies.
After the killing of Capt. Waugh the assassin entered the Federal Army, remaining with it in good record till the disbandment after the war. When peace came, and there were no longer scenes of bloodshed to occupy his thoughts, his mind gave way under the memory of the assassination of his old friend and in the consequences that had followed. He had learned that his friend, acting under orders o the Government that he in honesty was endeavoring to serve, should not have been censored, much less deprived of his life, for the park taken in the arrest and imprisonment of Jones and in the appropriation of his property. Horrible visions haunted him, and then there came that wild delirium of brain which seizes the insane, and the poor fellow died a raving maniac, bound in manacles, in a cell of the Asylum for the Insane in Tennessee.
Among the victims of Parker's retaliation there were several members of Jones's own family-the father and two sons. Another brother of Jones, becoming desperate had joined the band of robbers, and he, too, was killed by a Southern man while in the act of robbery in the course of the reign of terror there in East Tennessee. So four men- all the male members of that household-were wiped out of existence as the consequence of the political troubles in that region. Among other victims of Parker's wrath were the father and grown son in another household near Capt. Waugh's home.
Nor were these all the tragedies resulting from the Jones and Parker murders. The friends of men assassinated by Parker visited swift retaliation upon the family of the outlaw-every male member who did not flee the State being hanged or shot in revenge. The killing of Capt. Waugh led to the violent taking away of fifteen or twenty others, Union or Southern in sentiment of both parties. It has been stated that more than forty-five men lost their lives in murders and assassinations in that one county (Johnson) in East Tennessee in the course of the war and in retaliation immediately after the surrenders. The numbers were about equally divided between the secession and union sympathizers.
Long after the war closed, one of the men engaged in the robbery of Capt. Waugh's widow and family, one of the leaders in the assassination, and a blood relative of Mr. Waugh, was killed by a boon companion in a drunken revelry. Nearly every actor in the tragedy has passed away, the end coming with violence or in insanity.
New York Times, August 2, 1891