Monday, February 21, 2011

Dave Poole: Missouri Guerrilla

Captain Dave Poole

       Dave Poole began the Civil War as a lieutenant under William Clarke Quantrill. He was in command of his own gang of 'bushwhackers' later in the war. He managed to maintain a fairly low profile during the first couple of years, but as things got bloodier, so did Dave. By 1864, Dave Poole was among the bloodiest. 
       At one point, his gang came upon nine Federal soldiers hiding in a schoolhouse. After killing all nine, Dave had the corpses propped in chairs at the desks. He then proceeded to teach the dead Federals for an hour using the blackboard to give demonstrations. Upon finishing the lesson, he announced that his pupils were very loyal to sit and listen the way they had. 
       He was wounded at least once during the war while serving under Quantrill near Pleasant Hill. 

William Clarke Quantrill

       On September 27, 1864, Dave Poole played a key role in the ambush of Major Ave Johnston's Federal troops. Johnston had chased Poole's men into a field with a tree-line on three sides. Johnston immediately dismounted his 155 cavalrymen to face Poole's troops who had wheeled around near the trees. 
       Upon seeing the Federals dismount, one of the bushwhackers remarked, "They are dismounting to fight! My God, the Lord have mercy on them!"

Major A.V.E. Johnston

       Major Johnston had been warned by the townspeople that Bloody Bill Anderson was on the scene in command of a large guerrilla force, but he discounted the reports. He believed he only faced about 80 men. His men were at a huge disadvantage because they carried muskets and couldn't fight on horseback. After firing, his men would be forced to reload which would take almost half a minute. The Confederate guerrilla's carried a pistol in each hand with six shots each and had learned to ride with their horses reins in their teeth. 

Bloody Bill Anderson (photographed in death)

       It appeared Johnston had the enemy where he wanted him. At that moment, Confederate guerrilla's on horseback emerged from the trees from in front and on both sides of him. There were gangs present under not only Bloody Bill Anderson, but also George Todd, Dave Poole, Si Gordon, John Thrailkill, and Tom Todd. Johnston had driven his men into a trap and they didn't stand a chance. 

The trap laid by Bloody Bill Anderson

        The result was what is called today 'the Centralia Massacre.' Despite Federal prisoners begging for their lives, blood thirsty guerrilla's shot them down. Major Johnston would be killed by a shot from a young guerrilla named Jesse James. After the battle, Dave Poole was seen hopping from body to body because they all lay in a single line. Blood would fly into the air from the wounds as he landed on each corpse. Tom Todd, a Baptist preacher protested Poole's actions. Dave's reply was in the form of a question, "How else am I supposed to count how many we killed?"
       When guerrilla leader George Todd was killed, Dave Poole took over his gang as well as his own. On May 21, 1865, he led forty of his men into Lexington, Missouri and surrendered. His career as a bushwhacker was over.
       His career as an outlaw had just began, but it wouldn't last long. On October 30, 1866, Dave Poole, his brother and three other men robbed a bank in Lexington. They made off with two thousand dollars in cash which equals about $45,000 dollars today. They missed a large sum of money in the vault because they failed to find the key. 
       The governor of Missouri ordered all men of military age to join the militia in an attempt to stop crime. Anyone failing to comply would be subject to arrest. Dave Poole and twenty-five of his former gang rode into Lexington to volunteer. This was done as a joke because everyone knew that Poole had been behind the holdup. They were turned down for service and ordered to leave town at once. One of his men, Little Archie Clement refused to leave and entered a bar where he proceeded to get drunk. The military went there to arrest him, but he refused to surrender and was killed.

Dave Poole (standing) and Archie Clement (left)

       Dave Poole would soon leave Missouri and move to Texas where he ran a ranch. He eventually moved to New Mexico and then on to Arizona where he died. He was one of the few guerrilla leaders that would survive the war. 


  1. That was really good! Can't wait for the one on Bloody Bill. By the way, does Dave Poole remind you of anyone we know?

  2. My last name is Poole and he looks just like every male in our bloodline-blue eyes, brown and or black hair and the nose eyes and facial structure are identical! In fact our family is believed to have come out of texas.,,wow a possible outlaw ancestor! Great story, any other info would be appreciated; just post on this page please