Marker #2644 Final Civil War Surrender / Reconstruction-Era Banditry

Historical marker #2644 in Nelson County chronicles events surrounding the effective conclusion of Civil War hostilities in Kentucky after four years of bloody conflict and the continuation of tensions ignited by that war well into the Reconstruction era.

On the morning of July 26, 1865, sixteen men walked into the small hamlet of Samuels Depot. They were Missourians formerly under the command Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill. Only a few weeks earlier, on June 6, Quantrill had died after being paralyzed in a clash with Union forces outside Wakefield, Kentucky. Without their leader and with the Confederacy defeated, the guerrillas who entered Samuels Depot came to surrender. Members of the Samuels family, including Wilson Samuels, T. W. Samuels, and William T. Samuels, along with other local residents, helped negotiate the surrender of these men to Captain Robert Young of the 54th Kentucky Mounted Infantry Regiment (U.S.A.).

Paroled by Captain Young, most of Quantrill’s men turned westward for home. However, when they arrived in Missouri, leaders in the embattled state did not accept the terms of their Kentucky paroles. Intent on prosecuting the horrific violence of earlier guerilla activity and quashing lingering pro-Confederate sentiment within the state, Missouri’s leaders aimed to arrest and try the men for their wartime activities. While some of the Missourians scattered, others banded together again to form another illicit band of outlaws. Two of those men were Frank James and Jim Younger. They would go on to form the infamous James-Younger Gang.

It's important to remember that the Civil War concluded in many places, at different times, after Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. The dissolution and defeat of the Confederacy’s most prominent military organization did not end the conflict. Seventeen days later, General Joseph Johnston surrendered Confederate forces in North Carolina. Guerrilla bands, naval vessels, and other smaller detachments surrendered throughout North America and the Atlantic World during the summer of 1865. Rather than having a single endpoint, the Civil War concluded episodically.

The surrender at Samuels Depot is one of those endings. It is also a telling one that forecasted the incomplete, and violent, resolution of the American Civil War. When the Missourians who returned home were threatened with criminal prosecution for their wartime activities, they recognized that it would be difficult to return to a normal life. Instead, they returned to banditry. These men, including Frank James, Jim Younger, Bud Pence, and Donnie Pence, all were instrumental members in forming the James-Younger Gang, along with former Confederate guerrilla Jesse James. Over the next decade, from 1866 to 1876, the James-Younger Gang participated in robberies in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Minnesota.

When Frank James and the other Missourians surrendered at Samuels Depot, it was the first step in a long history of violence that rippled out from the Civil War. Wartime guerrillas, like the men who served with Quantrill, penetrated the customary boundaries between home and public life during the Civil War. In Kentucky, Missouri, through the Deep South, and in Appalachia, guerrilla violence brought the military conflict home to white and Black Americans. They attacked individuals they deemed traitors to their nation (either Union or Confederacy), executed dissidents, murdered African Americans who sought their own freedom, burned homes, pillaged pantries, ambushed patrols, and sabotaged transportation networks and lines of communication.

While the James-Younger Gang is a well-known example of western, postwar outlaws, they were part of a much wider pattern where former guerrillas used violence, theft, and intimidation to resist the transformations wrought by the Civil War. Visiting the “Final Civil War Surrender” is therefore an opportunity to bridge the gap between the history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and postwar westward expansion. As such, the events at Samuels Depot should not be considered a solitary end point of the Civil War, but rather an important moment in a longer narrative about violence and conflict in the American heartland before and after 1865.

The marker reads:


On July 26, 1865, at this site,
the Samuels family facilitated
the surrender of 16 Confederate
guerrillas formerly under the
command of William C. Quantrill
to Union authorities. They were
the last organized Confederates
to surrender in Ky., over 3 mos.
after Lee’s surrender at
Appomattox. Immediately paroled,
they returned to Missouri.


Authorities in Missouri refused
to recognize the paroles as
legitimate. 5 of those who
surrendered at Samuels Depot
became founding members of the
infamous James-Younger Gang. As
outlaws, they used murder and
bank & train robberies to wage a
terror campaign against
Reconstruction across the central
United States.

Dedicated September 13, 2023.



160 S St Gregory Church Rd., Samuels, KY 40013 ~ The Samuels House, which is still in the Samuels Family, operates today as a private bed & breakfast.