John McCorkle

Jonathan Voss

John McCorkle Life Brief

John McCorkle was born December 12, 1838, two miles east of Savana, Andrew County, Missouri. McCorkle fought in 1861 with Sterling Price's Confederate company, but deserted with many others when they began retreating. Later in the war, John and his brother Jabez McCorkle were arrested by the Union, and took an oath of allegiance to the Union. They returned home and farmed, but were constantly harassed by Union soldiers. When threatened by Union soldiers to join the army or have their cousin arrested, he joined Quantrill's company. During the war, his brother, Jabez was killed accidentally by his own gun shot. In addition, his sister, Charity McCorkle was killed by a collapsed Union jail. He fought for three years with Quantrill and other officers, and after the war he returned to Missouri to farm. John McCorkle lived a dignified life after the war, and was highly regarded by his neighbors and a good Baptist man. John lived the rest of his life in Missouri, farming. John McCorkle wrote his memoir of his civil war experiences, Three Years with Quantrill, in 1914. Four years later, on January 14, 1918, John McCorkle died at 79.

Background/Photo Symbolism

The background of this Smore is White, to symbolize his feelings of innocence. "This was yet another relative of mine whose foul murder I was called upon to revenge" (Barton and McCorkle 158). Throughout the entire book, McCorkle is trying to prove that his actions are justified, and that he is innocent. This purity and innocence of McCorkle's conscious is represented by the white background.

The title coloring of this Smore is red. The red represents McCorkle's fiery passion for his cause. "We were determined to have revenge" (McCorkle and Barton 123). McCorkle was dead set on taking revenge for his murdered relatives throughout the Civil War. McCorkle's powerful determination is represented by the fiery red text.

The pistol in the photo is one like John McCorkle used. Most of Quantrill's men only had sidearms, like pistols. Quantrill's men, McCorkle being one of them, were known to have more side arms than any other group. The pistol also symbolizes McCorkle's quick thinking. McCorkle's quick thinking saved him from multiple dangerous situations, and helped him hold unsuspecting conversations with federal soldiers.

The second photo is of the Confederate flag. McCorkle was a Confederate guerrilla, so naturally the Confederate flag is a symbol of McCorkle. On a deeper level, the Confederate flag is a symbol of McCorkle's will and beliefs, as well as the beliefs and will of southerners. McCorkle was very steadfast in his beliefs. "In the service of the federal government and whom with the Kansas Jayhawkers, had killed and scalped a number of women and children" (Barton and McCorkle 142). McCorkle never fought a man for no reason. McCorkle fought the Union because of the atrocities the committed towards all southerners. McCorkle had firm beliefs about the Union based on facts, and this iron resolution is represented by the Confederate flag.

The third photo is an illustration of Newton's Third Law. The law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This symbolizes McCorkle's motivation. McCorkle's book seems to not only recount his experiences, but justify his actions. McCorkle explains his actions as relations to union actions. "This was yet another relative of mine whose foul murder I was called upon to revenge" (Barton and McCorkle 158). McCorkle's actions were all ruled by the murders of and threats to his relatives. These motives are a strong example of Newton's Third Law.

Three Facts

After all of their fighting, McCorkle and the rest of his company heard of the war ending in the wrong order. "A man met us and handed Colonel Quantrill a paper... It was an account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln" (Barton and McCorkle 204). The men first heard of Lincoln's assassination, and celebrated for several days. Their celebration was cut short by the report that General Lee had surrendered, and that the war had been lost.

Because they ware a group of guerrilla soldiers, McCorkle and the men had to scavenge for food from houses most nights. "We stopped at a house on the edge of timber and got something to eat" (Barton and McCorkle 149). McCorkle's renowned charisma served him well in this aspect, as good conversationalism assisted him getting food from old friends or complete strangers. McCorkle knew a stunning number of families all through Missouri and Kansas, and his conduct earned his trust in many people.

McCorkle, despite the many cruel and horrible murders and raids on federals that he took part in, was a completely different man after the war. McCorkle was not cruel or bitter following the war, but instead returned home to Missouri. In Missouri, he lived a nice, peaceful life as a farmer. Eventually, he became a Baptist and entered a happy marriage. "He became known as a Christian gentleman of strong character and a tender heart" (Barton, McCorkle, and Hattaway 17-18). His drastic change in character during and after the war is unexplainable, but very interesting.

Accomplishments

"The Federals shooting at us all the time, and one of the bullets tore the heel off my boot" (McCorkle and Barton 191). On a basic level, McCorkle survived the war against all odds. He was shot in the boot, hat, and saddle on a few occasions, but was never directly hit. To most historians, McCorkle's greatest achievement was telling his story in his book, Three Years with Quantrill. "His memoir... contains much first-hand data, and it is by far the most engaging and historically worthwhile of the published recollections by any of Quantrill's men" (Barton, McCorkle, and Hattaway 13). This book recounted all of his adventures during the war, and are in extreme detail. While there are embellishments present, his recounting is entertaining and informational. Writing Three Years with Quantrill was undoubtedly McCorkle's greatest and most lasting accomplishment.

Struggles

On a basic level, McCorkle struggled with the Union soldiers throughout the war. More importantly, McCorkle struggled with his moral decisions in the war for the rest of his life. "I... hope that my enemies will forgive me for any wrong act of mine" (McCorkle and Barton 213). McCorkle recounts throughout the book the Union atrocities which caused his actions during the war. These statements were meant as justification for his actions. These pleas for justification, and the above quote make it obvious that McCorkle struggled with his ethics.

Mentor

Quantrill was McCorkle's mentor during the war. Fighting with Quantrill's men against the Union was McCorkle's outlet for the revenge of his murdered relatives. Quantrill led and taught McCorkle, and many other men, serving an important role both in the war and in McCorkle's life. The most important knowledge taught to McCorkle by Quantrill were the morals which a good Confederate should follow. Although they did murder and raid sometimes, Quantrill held all his men to basic morals. Quanrtill never allowed innocents to be murdered or "molested" (harmed, harassed, robbed, etc.). "We do not rob people and I swear no man can accuse us of such hellish acts as this" (McCorkle and Barton 202). Quanrill made sure McCorkle learned that even during war, ethics must be retained.

Awards

Neither McCorkle or his book, Three Years with Quantrill, have received any rewards. However, the book is known well in the historical community. "His memoir... contains much first-hand data, and it is by far the most engaging and historically worthwhile of the published recollections by any of Quantrill's men" (Barton, McCorkle, and Hattaway 13).

Pastimes

McCorkle did not have much free time during the war, but spent what time he did have in two ways. For relaxation and entertainment, McCorkle engaged in conversation with many people. McCorkle "possessed an engaging manner, was a good conversationalist" (McCorkle, Barton, and Hattaway 15). McCorkle talked to many people, including many federal soldiers, whenever he could. During longer periods of rest, McCorkle farmed. When he was fighting in the war, he was farming a relative's field. "I stayed in the vicinity... working on [a] farm" (Barton and McCorkle 221). McCorkle lived the remainder of his life after the war farming with his wife and children.

Symbol

The best possible symbol of John McCorkle is Newton's Third Law. The law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This concept symbolizes McCorkle because he never acted without first being acted upon. McCorkle was abused by Union soldiers, so he joined Quantrill's company. When McCorkle's sister and sister-in-law were killed by a purposely collapsed Union jail, McCorkle fought harder. "The soldiers roughly jerked them back and riddled him with bullets, utterly ignoring the cries and pleas of the two women. This was another relative of mine whose foul murder I was called upon to revenge" (Barton and McCorkle 158). Although his actions were not necessarily morally correct, they were all reactions for the wrongdoing of the Union.

Friend or Foe?

Despite my personal disagreement with his beliefs and actions, I feel like John McCorkle would have been a friend of mine if he were alive now. McCorkle "was a good conversationalist" (McCorkle, Barton, and Hattaway 15). Good conversational skills are extremely important to me, as my two best friends are stunning conversationalists. This skill gives me the impression that McCorkle would be very interesting to talk to. In addition, McCorkle was extremely dedicated to his causes. To me, one of the most important qualities in a friend is dedication to their beliefs. I always enjoy someone who is true to himself/herself, rather than always conforming to others. McCorkle always stood his ground, once being shot at when proving an oncoming platoon was federal. Finally, McCorkle was a hardworking individual. In the war, he rode for miles on end, fought often, and stopped only for food. In his down time, he was farming. "McCorkle engaged in farming" (McCorkle, Barton, and Hattaway 12). You must be able to put hard work into a friendship in order to build it up.

Most Like

John McCorkle is most like my grandfather, Bob Voss. Interestingly, both McCorkle and Voss are my relatives, but there are many more reasons that they are similar. Voss and McCorkle have served in the military. Voss enlisted and joined the military in the 1950s, and McCorkle fought in the Civil War. McCorkle, "possessed an engaging manner, was a good conversationalist" (McCorkle, Barton, and Hattaway 15). Voss is an exquisite conversationalist as well. If you let him, Voss will talk for hours about his life or interesting topics. "He became known as a Christian gentleman of strong character and a tender heart" (Barton, McCorkle, and Hattaway 17-18). This statement, though about McCorkle, could just as well be directed towards Voss. Voss is, just as McCorkle was, rich in character with a soft spot for family.

Altruist or Egotist?

John McCorkle was an altruist at heart. McCorkle never fought for himself, but instead for his murdered relatives. "This was yet another relative of mine whose foul murder I was called upon to revenge" (Barton and McCorkle 158). He sought to avenge the deaths of his relatives, and so to right the wrongs. In addition, instead of leaving his fellow soldiers to die when they came down with measles, he stayed with them. "I saddled my horse... to consult with a physician and to procure medicines and provisions for the sick men" (Barton and McCorkle 39). McCorkle placed himself in danger of being captured to save his fellow soldiers. His repeated actions for others prove McCorkle to be an altruist.

The Fog of War

Many soldiers, especially Quantrill's men, acted much differently outside the war than they did while in the war. While some of Quantrill's men went on to become bandits and outlaws, the majority returned to normal lives. Quantrill himself converted to Catholicism before he died. So how did the "fog of war" effect McCorkle? Although it is impossible to know for certain, McCorkle did drop one hint pertaining to his change. During the war, McCorkle killed many federal soldiers and took many brutal actions. McCorkle and the rest of Quantrill's men took many actions that would be considered devious in a state of war. These actions include drawing federals into forests only to ambush them, dressing as federal soldiers, and in one instance, having both sides dismount horses, only to remount and charge, killing all but 14 of a 206 man patrol. John McCorkle seems to have taken these actions without remorse, labelling it as revenge. After the war, however, McCorkle expressed remorse for his actions. "[I] hope that my enemies will forgive me for any wrong act of mine" (Barton and McCorkle 213). McCorkle's regret shows that he would not have, under normal circumstances, conducted these actions. McCorkle went on to farm and raise a family after the war. He became known as a true gentleman, whereas he was a guerrilla in the war. His changed set of morals is unexplainable except for the symbolic fog of war.

Was McCorkle a Good Man?

The central question posed by Three Years with Quantrill is, is McCorkle a good man? Inherently, we consider anyone who kills many people a bad person, or do we? There is a saying, "history is written by the victors," that applies here. Many war heroes, such as Jim Bowie, have killed many people. These people, however, won the war. We consider many people good, and just as many people as bad, simply because of who won the war. Quantrill would probably be considered a war hero if the Confederates had won, but because the Union won, he is considered a monster. The same concept can be applied to McCorkle. Because he fought for the losing side, he is considered a monster who killed "our" soldiers. How would McCorkle be seen if the Confederates had won? Most likely, McCorkle would be seen as a good man who fought for his country. So, which side is right? The most correct answer is, neither! The final determination is left to the individual, but there are more factors to be accounted for. McCorkle did kill many men, but, he had his reasons. Multiple members of McCorkle's family were killed by Union soldiers for being "Confederate sympathizers." "It seems impossible that human beings could have been guilty of such merciless outrages as these [Union] men committed.... 'There were nine of these girls in the prison... when it fell. There were groans and screams for a long time, and Josephine Anderson could be heard calling for someone to take the bricks off her head. Finally her cries ceased'" (Barton and McCorkle 119-122). McCorkle's sister and sister-in-law were two of the nine women in the jail. This event was known as the direct cause of the Confederate's raid on Lawrence. These heartless murders, and many more fuelled McCorkle's rage. Were McCorkle's actions justified by the murder of his relatives? This question has no definite answer. McCorkle is, in the end, what you make of him.