Born: May 25, 1838 Died: November 1, 1928
Burial: Bozarth Cemetery Place: Gentry, Benton County, Arkansas
When you first drive up to the Bozarth Cemetery, you will notice a large, rectangular stone that reads "COYL." This is Quantrill guerrilla, Joseph Coyl, one of the strongest threads of Quantrill history in the northwest Arkansas Civil War fabric! Joe is named outright by one of the most known and respected of all of Quantrill's men, William Gregg, as being in on the Richfield, Missouri ambush of members of the 25th Missouri Infantry on May 19, 1863. And, due to Gregg's pinpointing Joe, we know that he actually, and truthfully, rode alongside Frank James!
On to Richfield.......
Along with Gregg, Fernando Scott, Frank James, Henry Cowherd, James Barnard, John Jackson, James Little, Moses McCoy, Fletch Taylor, Louis Vandiver and James Hendricks, Joe ambushed several members of the 25th who were coming to a bridge on their way to seek out Quantrill men thought to be in the area. A tip to the 25th, that Quantrill men were close, was a plot hatched by the guerrillas to flush out the Union soldiers after complaints had come to Quantrill's camp from a Moses McCoy who relayed stories of the harrassment of citizens by the Missouri Union. The plan worked to success!
Next, the guerrillas moved on to Plattsburg, Missouri where they overtook a small, but loaded Union arsenal. Here, they collected guns to be destroyed and a nice load of cash worth approximately ten thousand dollars! They also managed to capture Colonel James Birch, the aide to Union Gov. Hamilton Gamble. After paroling the Union soldiers and securing the fortress, the partisans had dinner with Birch in a local hotel.
Needing a place to lay low for a bit, they headed to the James Farm in Kearney, Missouri. THIS is where Joseph walks smack into Jesse James' history and where members of a Missouri militia would write Jesse's future. Patrols of the 48th and 51st Enrolled Missouri Militias arrived at the farm looking for Frank and the others. In order to squeeze information on the guerrilla's whereabouts, they hung Frank and Jesse's stepfather, Reuben Samuels, repeatedly in hopes of getting him, or other members of the horrified family, to crack and give up the location! Meanwhile, more soldiers went out to where Jesse was plowing and beat him down for information until he almost couldn't move! After not being able to withstand anymore suffering, Reuben reportedly gave in and led the Union squad to where the guerrillas were camped. All hell broke loose. A gunfight ensued and Coyl, Frank and the rest of the partisans made their escape except for one who was killed. Soon after, the following account appeared in the "St. Joseph Morning Herald"....
"The old gentleman [Dr. Samuels] protested that he knew of no armed men in the vicinity, but the Militia judged him to be speaking falsely, and at once procured a rope, placed it about his neck, gave him one good swing, and by that time, his memory brightened up and he concluded to reveal the hiding place of the rebels. He led the boys into the woods a short distance, and there, squatted upon the ground in as dense thicket, was discovered the whole band."
As well as being listed by Gregg, Joe shows up on FIVE different Quantrill rosters that were handwritten by Warren Welch.
Joe is a treasured find for the northwest Arkansas area! His naming at Richfield by William Gregg confirms a Jesse and Frank James acquaintance and a recorded past with them! No porch stories full of lengthy yarns or embellished accounts and bragging of knowing and riding with a James. This connection is sealed! Plus, it gives us foolproof fact of events that we know Joe was actually a participant of. Joseph's time with the partisans is another educational gem and one worth securing into the Civil War history of the area!
Educational tip: See family genealogy, census and stories of the Richfield, Missouri ambush in Joseph's navy blue binder in the QSCR collection