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John Claiborne Tyree Jr.: "Martyr of the Battle of Cole Camp"

Account of John Tyree, first casualty in the Battle of Cole Camp.

John Claiborne Tyree Jr.: "Martyr of the Battle of Cole Camp"

John Claiborne Tyree Jr. was born in 1795 in Virginia, the son of John Claiborne Tyree Sr. and Hannah Clay. On April 10, 1821 he married Mary Ann Keen in Franklin County, Virginia. John lived in Franklin County, Virginia until1830, and then sometime after migrated with his family, sister Obedience Tyree-Dillon and her family and possibly others from Franklin County, Virginia to Benton County, Missouri. The earliest court and land records of Benton County indicate John was a successful and prominent member of the community. He served as Justice of the Peace, was involved in commerce and engaged in farming. It is not surprising being from a farming family of Virginia he was also a slave owner. Throughout the 1840's and 1850's the records for John denote a quiet life of farming and trade, helping to transform the newly settled Benton county area into a proper settlement. However, when the Civil War began Benton County was not immune to the bloodshed and strife which gripped the entire nation.

On June 18th, 1861 it is reported John and a male slave road on horseback from the southwest corner of Williams Township, where he lived in 1860, to the county courthouse in Warsaw, Missouri, a trip of about fifteen miles one way. A journey on horseback of twenty to thirty miles in one day is considered to be a good day's journey. While in Warsaw, Tyree and his slave saw two or three Confederate Cavalry companies gathering in town. The Confederate troops were under the command of Colonel Walter S. O'Kane and had stopped in Warsaw to have their horses shod. When John arrived back home late in the evening of June 18th he sent his male slave home and then road to the encampment of Captain Cook, the union commander of Company A of the Benton County Home Guard Infantry. In spite of being a slave holder Tyree reported to the Union Captain what he had seen earlier in the day at Warsaw. Captain Cook believed the battle would not be joined until the morning and sent men out to recall the soldiers on furlough and to prepare for an attack.

John then started for home, while in route he was met by the Confederate troops near the old Balltown Bridge and was taken in for questioning. Tyree was recognized by one of the Confederates as a person whom had been seen in Warsaw earlier in the day. Tyree was charged as a spy, tied to a tree and executed. The battle of Cole Camp ensued in the early morning of June 19th. Some sources reported over 200 Union soldiers were killed and half as many taken prisoner by the Confederate troops. Other sources more accurately put the casualties for the Union as low as 35. The Confederate losses have been reported as nine killed and three wounded. Many men from Benton, Pettis, Morgan and Moniteau Counties lost their lives that day and left wives, children, parents and siblings behind to mourn and bury the dead. John Tyree left behind his wife Mary, two daughters, and grandchildren. His sister Obedience had died some fifteen years prior to John's execution. However, Obedience was survived by her husband Thomas Dillon and their children, the nieces and nephews of John Tyree.

Over a century passed before the grave of John Tyree was located. In 1975 Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Stocking were conducting research on the Carrico family and were told about three graves on the old Henry Harms' farm. The Stockings uncovered the tombstones of John Tyree, his wife Mary and their granddaughter Elizabeth Brown. It has also been reported around 1900 a young boy named George Harms dug the gun pellets from the tree to which Mr. Tyree had been tied and executed. The location of these pellets is now unknown.

We can never be completely sure of the events which happened over one hundred and fifty years ago, but the execution of John Tyree has been well documented in the History of Benton County, History of Cole Camp and variety of other sources from Benton County. Much of the information presented in this summery was taken from these sources and is summarized here for the benefit of other Dillon and Tyree researchers. When researching these families no mention of John Tyree's execution was ever mentioned. I have put this summary together to pay tribute to John's sacrifice and to help expand the information about these families and their lives and deaths.

Tyree Cemetery: From Sedalia, take U.S. Highway 65 south toward Lincoln, MO. Just before you reach Lincoln turn East on Firsch Avenue, Firsch will turn into County road N.W. 250. Follow N.W. 250 until you reach County road N.W. 300, follow 300 East until you reach State road "F". Follow "F" south until you reach Road 250. The cemetery will be on the North side of road 250, almost to the end of road 250. The description is the graves are "beneath the ancient gnarled cedar, atop a high wind swept hill, overlooking the confluence of Indian and Williams Creek.". This researcher has never been to the graves. The directions are interpreted using a map of Benton county cemeteries and a current atlas. Please contact me if these directions are incorrect.

Battle of Cole Camp: Take Highway 52 East out of Cole Camp, MO. About two miles from the town you will go under a railroad underpass, look to the right for a windmill about one mile from the road.

Sources: 1850 and 1860 Benton County, Mo Census, 1830 Franklin County, Virginia Census, Benton County History, Cole Camp, Missouri History, Virginia Marriages, Another Job Done-Cemeteries of Benton County, Annals of Benton County, various Benton county court records on microfilm located at the Missouri State Archives.

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