Meet Charles Edwin "Sam" Wells. Confederate

We would like to introduce Charles Edwin Wells. C. E. Wells was born on September 2, 1845. His ancestors were from Virginia having fought in the Revolutionary war. Charles served with Quantrill as a private in Lieutenant Cole Younger’s company under Colonel William Clarke Quantrill riding on the Lawrence raid.  Wells also served part of his time in General Joseph O. Shelby’s division in Elliott’s Battalion under General Sterling Price during 1861-1865 in the Missouri State Guard. Below is a postwar image of Charles Edwin Wells.  

C. E. Wells was the oldest son of George Washington Wells. G. W. Wells owned 198 acres in southeastern Jackson County eight miles south of Independence, Missouri raising cotton and wheat but owning no slaves. Before the war G. W. Wells owned a hotel in McCamish Township, Kansas which was sacked and burned by Jayhawker James Henry Lane. William McCamish married Mary Jane Wells, daughter of George Washington Wells. Marry Jane was the sister of Charles and Samuel Wells.

Following the 1st Battle of Independence on August 11, 1862 where Quantrill spearheaded the assault on the Federal garrison resulting in an overwhelming Confederate victory and another Confederate victory on August 15, 1862 at the Battle of Lone Jack where Quantrill’s men arrived during the see-saw battle turning the tide of victory in the Southerners favor, most of the Confederate officers withdrew with newly recruited soldiers and headed south to join Sterling Price.  Colonel Upton Hays remained and continued to recruit under the protection of Quantrill and his newly bolstered force of 160 men.  They set up a recruiting camp near Well’s farm along the banks of White Oak Creek. The last two Confederate victories within a week’s time marked a potential turning point in the Southern campaign in Missouri in 1862. Enlistments were brisk. The men from nearby Brooking Township and other nearby villages flocked to join up. The officers noted that they found “the woods full of men” willing and ready to join the Southern fight. The recent Confederate triumphs had made the local men eager to enlist. Recruiting had been very rapid indeed for 24 hours; in fact they came in from every direction. The woods seemed alive with men.  Sam Wells AKA "Charlie Pitts" in death after the Northfield Raid.                                                  

Word of the recruiting camp reached the headquarters of Colonel Charles Jennison and his 7th Kansas Jayhawker Regiment. Jennison called for help from the regiment of Colonel William Penick. On August 18, 1862 they approached the area and descended into the valley in a pincer movement. One regiment rode past the home of G. W. Wells. During three separate charges the Southerners turned back the Federal attacks eventually chasing them back into Kansas. Wells followed the Federal soldiers and as the battle turned against them he climbed onto a large boulder along the rocky ledge and shouted encouragement to the Southern soldiers. In their exasperation in failing to dislodge Quantrill and Hays the Federals turned their weapons on Wells killing him instantly. Following the battle the Southerners carried him back to his farm and buried him.  

Wells was a neighbor of William and John Hagan who lived just north of him in the Valley of the Little Blue. The Hagan brothers along with the parents of Frank and Jesse James and the parents of Cole and Jim Younger started the Big Cedar Missionary Baptist Church in the Valley where most the Southerners worshiped. On occasion the Reverend Robert and Zerelda James came from Clay County to visit and preach in the newly built church. A few months previous Quantrill’s men cut the telegraph lines and laid in ambush for a Federal patrol to come investigate. The first person the Federal patrol came upon was John Hagan riding in a wagon with his wife and family. In their anger at having the telegraph wires cut they ordered Hagan to get down from his wagon and follow them into the woods. They ordered Mrs. Hagan to ride on saying they were going to take her husband to Independence and make him take the oath. When Mrs. Hagan returned she found her husband murdered having been shot repeatedly. The Hagan’s were cousins of the Flanerys and Charles Edwin Wells was their nephew. The Flanery brothers all rode with Quantrill. Another cousin of G. W. Wells was George Shepherd one of Quantrill’s captains.  

On a former occasion another neighbor Dr. Pleasant Lea was on his way to the home of George Washington Wells to get a newspaper. A Federal patrol stopped him seeking for his sons Joseph and Frank Lea who rode with Quantrill. When he refused to divulge any information about Quantrill or his sons the Federals tied him to a tree breaking both his arms in their interrogation then bayoneted him to death. The Federals then rode to the doctor’s large colonial home and burned it down along with fourteen others the same day. Before applying the torch the Federals stole Lea’s furniture and shot his only remaining slave.  

During an interview with Cole Younger after the war Charles Edwin Wells was given credit for leading Quantrill’s men to safety after the Lawrence raid once they reached the hills surrounding the Little Blue back in Jackson County. Cole had this to say about his friend Charles E. Wells. “Why we were raised together at Lee’s Summit. We went through the war together. We were with Quantrill together. We rode through Mexico on mule back and went over the plains to California together after the war. Charley’s father was Captain G. W. Wells of Lee’s Summit, who was killed in battle at White Oak. Old Captain Wells and my father were two of the earliest settlers of Jackson County….It is not known, generally,” said Cole, “but Charley here was the boy who saved our necks after the raid at Lawrence. If it had not been for his knowledge of the country we would never have been able to get away. There were 1,500 men at our rear and 700 men in front of us. They thought that we were going west, but Charley said to go north. It was our only chance, and we got away, but we had to fight our way out after fighting all day under a hot August sun.” Wells told the reporter that Cole had opposed the Lawrence raid: “It is not generally known either that Cole was the only officer who voted against making the raid at Lawrence.” Cole replied, “I thought it was too dangerous, that was my only reason.”  Next is a very rare image of Sam Wells AKA Charlie Pitts.                                                                                                                            

During the outlaw period detectives searching for Frank and Jesse James after the Blue Cut Train robbery at one time believed the brothers to be holed up at the home of Charles E. Wells in Wyandotte County, Kansas. At the completion of Cole Younger’s prison sentence in Minnesota following the failed Northfield bank robbery Charles Wells offered Cole Younger a home with him in Wheeler County, Texas.  Accompanying Cole in the Northfield robbery was Charles’s younger brother Samuel Wells also known as Charlie Pitts. Samuel was killed two wks following the Northfield raid.                         

It was Samuel Wells and his mother that found the body of Cole Younger’s father murdered along the Independence to Harrisonville Road early in the war where he had been shot in the back by Federal troops. In 1914 Charles Wells was elected Justice of the Peace in Blythe, California. He died on October 26, 1923. His funeral was said to be the largest ever held in the city up to that time. Papers recorded that “Judge Charles E. Wells was held with deepest respect by every man, woman and child, and his passing has caused grief to all local residents.”

Paul R. Petersen ©Quantrillsguerrillas.com. "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay."  

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