Alenia Dressor McCord was reared in the Bethel community, now Reno, about eight miles northwest of Greenville and was a child during the turbulent years of the Civil War.
She told her granddaughter, the late Alenia McCord, many family stories. Miss McCord is remembered by many as a teacher at Vandalia High School. One of her stories was about an event that would become known as the "Vandalia Raid."
In the early 1860’s the Bethel community was then full of Southern sympathizers, who were also known as Copperheads. One time the Dressor children went to visit their cousins who lived in the Elm Point community, no more than four miles from their home.
The usual entertainment was to attend the revival meetings. This particular evening, a revival was being held in the Presbyterian Church at Elm Point.
Here is where Grandmother McCord’s story begins: “The old minister who was conducting the revival was a notorious Copperhead. A short time before this, the federal authorities at Vandalia had taken several civilians as prisoners. They were planning to remove the prisoners to another town when a large contingent from Bond County, many from Greenville, marched on the town to rescue them.”
At the edge of Vandalia, they were fired upon and apparently ran most of the way back to Greenville. Many of them were jailed at Greenville, but the old minister had escaped. When the minister shouted, “What shall we do to be saved?” a voice from the rear was heard with the advice, “Throw down your gun and run like you did at Vandalia!”
Lemuel Adams, a former soldier from Bond County, knew some of the people involved in what he called the "invasion of Fayette County," and published information about it in his book, "Voices of the Prairie Land."
He wrote: “Thomas N. Hunter, who lived five miles southwest of Greenville, was said to have been a colonel, John H. Heston, a major and Andrew J. Ray, a captain in the Bond County branch of the vigilante group.
“One evening just after dark, a company of men mustered by Ray rode east toward Vandalia to meet up with other men and organize. They passed through Greenville, and no attempt was made to detain them.” Their numbers increased as their journey led them closer to their goal.
“At Vandalia, the group halted outside the town to plan their attack when they heard rumors that a regiment of federal officers was coming. It didn’t take long before some of them got a little jumpy. Then a panic swept the group; and first one, then another, scattered for home.
Col. Hunter and Maj. Heston had also reached Vandalia. “When they saw their army dissolving, they departed for home by a circuitous route and were seen by some in Dudleyville.”
One man by the name of Grigg didn’t even take time to saddle his horse. He struck for home, and it was told made 16 miles in just under two hours.
Andrew Ray, whom Lemuel Adams describes as a person with a forceful character, did not, as Adams put it, appear to be a bad man and was counted among the old settlers of Bond County. His farm, which was located a few miles west of Greenville, was a prosperous one, and his livestock well cared for. However, Ray was possessed with the idea that the Civil War was somehow depriving him of some of his rights.
Following the Vandalia Raid, Ray and his sons, John and William, were arrested for inciting a riot. All those who rode with them were put behind bars. Bail was set and they were all finally released on bail, paid in part by their neighbors. Adams said that the case dragged on for years and was finally dismissed.
Tevis Greathouse of Vandalia, who Andrew Ray described as a drunken raving Copperhead, was hired as attorney for the men. He later had to sue them for his attorney’s fees of $100.
In a separate incident, an indictment of Ray and 18 others was filed in April 1864 in Bond County Court charging them with attempted murder of George Boyer, a soldier.
Copies of the indictment found in Fayette county records show that in addition to Ray and his sons, John and William, another son, Andrew J., age 20, was involved in the affair, along with James B. Rutherford, Martin Day, Jeremiah Coyle, Perry Reid, John Plog, Frank and George Hochderffer, William Price, Orlando Hay, Thomas Brown, George Bush, John Trieb, Tillman and Birdine Carroll and John Pain.
These men all lived as neighbors in Bond County in close proximity to the camp of the Clingman Gang near Sanner Ford. A check of the Bond County census indicates that several were fathers and sons, with the oldest being James B. Rutherford, who was 67 at the time of the indictment.
During this period in our county’s history, the Clingman Gang kept things stirred up and the people in terror. They were credited with stealing horses, assault, murder and the burning of several bridges in the county, including the Ramsey Creek bridge.
The memories of the "Vandalia Raid," as told in a grandmother’s story of long ago, are an important link back to the history of the county during the Civil War.