Doc Rayburn’s 11-year-old Raider

 By EDDIE BEST, Editor

White County Historical Society 2002 White County Heritage



            The White County Historical Society came across W.M. Scott’s story when it was posted at  on the Internet by a descendent.   Subsequent communication with a Scott family historian resulted in additional information on the Scott brothers.

            William Madison Scott was the fifth child of John L. Scott and Elizabeth Angelin Williams, who were married in 1832.   W.M., also known as “Buck”, was born May 4, 1845, in Jackson, Missouri.  The family moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, then in 1855 to White County, Arkansas.   John and Elizabeth Scott were the parents of 12 children.  John was born in 1806 in Tennessee and Elizabeth was born on Christmas day 1813 in Alabama.  Their children included:

            James Asa Cardil Scott – May 27, 1833 – no death date

            David Williams Scott – January 2, 1835 – May 25, 1836

            Addison Josephas Scott – September 11, 1836 – September 15, 1867

            Samuel Walker Scott – November 12, 1838 – January 11, 1840

            Mary Jane Scott – August 7, 1840 – March 2, 1858

            Lauisa Emeline Scott – August 28, 1844 – no death date

            William Madison Scott – May 4, 1845 – March 8, 1936

            Elizabeth Francis Scott (twin) – December 5, 1848 – no death date

            John Loury Scott (twin) – December 5, 1848 – November 17, 1865

            Sarah Heland Scott – May 20, 1851 – January 23, 1866

            Robert Powell Scott – May 7, 1853 – May 30, 1945

            Franklin Fearless Scott – March 24, 1855 – March 21, 1941


John L. Scott, a carpenter, and his family are listed in White County’s Red River Township in the 1860 census.   The National Archives Military Service Branch has found Confederate records only on James A.C. Scott and Josephas Scott.  But William Madison Scott and Robert Powell Scott both claimed to have served in the Confederate army and both applied for Confederate pensions.  W.M. Scott’s pension was approved in 1906, but Bob’s not until 1928 and it was contested.

            James A.C. Scott enlisted in Company H, 12th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, on July 29, 1861, serving under E.M. Gantt.  He was listed under Captain Jordan A2M on January 1, 1862, at Vicksburg.  Jim was captured at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, on February 16, 1862, and listed on a roll of prisoners at Camp Douglas near Chicago on August 1, 1862.  He was sent to Vicksburg to be exchanged on September 6, 1862, then paroled and released as a prisoner of war at Port Hudson, Louisiana, July 12, 1863. 

            A.J. Scott enlisted in Company H, 1st Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry in Searcy March 1, 1863, under Captain Coody.  In January and February of 1864, Companies E, D and H were temporarily attached to the 2nd Regiment Arkansas Cavalry commanded by Col. T.J. Morgan.  A.J. was captured in Independence County and listed as a prisoner of war at Little Rock November 11, 1864.  He was confined there from November 15 to November 20, and then forwarded to Alton, Illinois.  On December 8, 1864, he was transferred to Rock Island Barracks, Illinois, and confined there until he was transferred to Point Lookout for exchange March 13, 1865.

            W.M. “Buck” Scott wrote in his memoirs that he joined McCoy’s Company A in 1863 at age 18.  “Colonel McCray was put in command under Forrest’s Division and we got all our supplies from that division at Walnut Crossing below Memphis.  Three miles above Batesville, Col. McCray was killed in the first charge.  I was a dispatch messenger for the Colonel and after his death I did not go back to Company A.”

He stated he was with a bunch of boys when General Price’s troops captured them about two miles from West Point.  He said his two older brothers, Joe and Jim, were also captured.  Joe “was sent north” and Jim wound up in the military prison with Buck at Little Rock.  William did not mention his younger brother Bob in his memoirs.

            Jim and Buck were released near the end of the war in 1865 and returned home to West Point.  After the war, Buck had several odd jobs and moved with his mother to Oil Trough where he helped her make a crop.  Then they moved to Coffeville, Mississippi, where he served as a deputy sheriff and jailer for three years.  He moved to Texas and married Della Welch November 20, 1878.  He was approved for a Confederate pension March 28, 1906.  He became a Presbyterian minister in 1909.  Buck died in 1936 and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Marshall, Texas.


Younger brother Bob became quite well known in Dallas as an “officer of the United Confederate Veterans.”  He had led a very colorful life and maintained a scrapbook preserving his publicity.  In the early 1940s his first flight on Delta Airlines became a newspaper ad.  He also appeared on a newsreel during a Texas governor’s rally in Marshall.  This became part of a special program broadcast on PBS during the Texas Sesquicentennial celebration in April 1986.  On March 3, 1928, Bob Scott applied for a Confederate pension and was approved on May 23, 1928, claiming to have been “79 years old.”   He stated that he enlisted in the Confederate Army in the spring of 1864, was wounded and sent home in September 1864 after serving four and a half months.  He said that he served in Company C under General Price and Captain Raban.  On March 9, 1928, a letter from the War Department stated “the name of R.P. Scott has not been found on the muster rolls on file in this office of Company C, or any organization of the Confederate States Army from the State of Arkansas.  Captain Raban has not been identified.”

            Since the War Department did not identify him as a member of Company C and failed to identify him as a member of any organization of the Confederate states, further proof was needed by the State of Texas.  It was requested that Bob Scott obtain “two credible witnesses who personally knew of his service or other evidence or documents to further his claim of military service.”  It was stated that it was not enough for his witnesses to say they knew he enlisted but they must go further and “tell what he did or what they saw that proved in their minds that he was acting in a military capacity.”

            There were three supporting affidavits:

His brother William, then age 84, and living in Marshall, Texas:  “R.P. Scott told me that he had joined Capt. Rayburne’s company and stayed until the surrender.”

Joe Birdwell, age 81, of Pulaski County, Arkansas:  “I was acquainted with the Scott boys – Joe, Jim, Buck and Bob – in the fall of 1864… I saw Bob Scott in Doc Rayburne’s Company.”

Mrs. M.A. Blake, age 74, Dallas:  “…that late in the fall of 1864, she learned for a fact that Jim, Joe and William Scott who were in the Confederate Army had been made prisoners of war by the Yankee Army; that a few days after she knew for a fact that Capt. Doc Rayburne with a company of soldiers of the Confederate Army came by her father’s house and stopped and got water from their well, and that she there saw R.P. (Bob) Scott was one of these soldiers and he had a double-barrel shotgun with him … (later) I visited Mrs. Scott’s home and there was R.P. Scott, wounded, he had been shot in the jaw; that she knows that R.P. Scott was a private Confederate soldier … wounded in action at Searcy and sent home.”

Two affidavits disputed Bob Scott’s claim.

            J.M. Smith, April 1929, Marshall, Texas:  “…a man that is drawing a pension that is a fraud, R.P. Scott of Dallas, Texas; his brother says that he is several years too young … F.F. Scott has his name in the family Bible.”

            J.P. Cooper, March 1931, Dallas:  “…by one Bob Scott of Dallas … there are repeated talks by those who have known him many years that he is really not entitled to a pension, as the information goes by them that have known him for more than 30 years that he could not be, at this date, more than 79…  There is no secret that years ago this man Scott was offering $5 for someone who would make the necessary affidavit to his claim.”

            Bob Scott’s pension was approved in May 1928.  In August 1941, the Bonnie Blue Flag Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy requested and obtained the above military service data of Robert P. Scott from the State of Texas.  The request by Mrs. J. Carter Bardin, Recorder of the Crosses, established the membership into the Daughters of the Confederacy on behalf of Mrs. D.H. (Johnnie) Wood, daughter of R.P. Scott.  On November 27, 1955, a new graveside marker sent by the government to the Bonnie Blue Chapter was set at the Beeman Cemetery for Robert P. Scott.

            Robert Powell Scott died at age 92 in Dallas May 30, 1945.   He was the husband of Mary E. Johnston of Cherokee County, Texas, and father of their five children.  At his death his occupation was listed as “retired groceryman.”

            It is undocumented that Bob Scott “enlisted” in the Confederate army, as he always stated.  It is reasonable to question whether he officially served in the Civil War at the age of 11 years.  He was probably born in 1853.  He was not a “General” in the Confederate Army.  However, he was an honorary lifetime member and “General” in the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) organization. 

 There is some evidence that he did, indeed, have the opportunity to serve with the colorful Doc Rayburn.  The Marshall, Texas, News reprinted the following undated article from the Fort Smith Times-Record

            “History books do not record the story of Doc Rayburn, blond-haired Texas lad, who galloped through the days of the Civil War at the head of a band of bushwhackers, struck his little blows at the Federal Army and found his end in an unmarked grave…

            “In the early fall of 1862, Parson’s Brigade of Texans, 5,000 strong, rode into Des Arc, Arkansas, where they were to await transportation down the White River and across the Mississippi to join the Confederate Army under command of General Price, then operating east of the Mississippi.

            “Riding with the troops was Doc Rayburn, a first lieutenant in Parson’s Cavalry.   At Des Arc, Rayburn became ill of fever, was excused from his command and was left behind when his fellow-troopers embarked to join Price’s army.

            “When he recovered, Rayburn assembled and enlisted a company made up chiefly of beardless youths.  Receiving a commission to command, the Texan began his operations as a raiding band, preying on scattered groups of United States (Yankee) soldiers from that time until the end of the war.   His operations were confined chiefly to a strip of territory extending from Searcy, White County (Arkansas) to DeValls Bluff, the latter town being in possession of Union soldiers and used as a military depot…

            “Rayburn died several years after the war of tuberculosis contracted during his operations as a result of exposure.  He was buried on the outskirts of Des Arc, where for a number of years his grave was marked by a simple headboard with the inscription, ‘Here lies Doc Rayburn, a Confederate soldier.  Died in Des Arc, age 27 years.’”  He was buried in the old Oak Grove Cemetery at Des Arc, according to historian R.D. Keebel of Cabot in a program presented to the Prairie County Historical Society a few years ago. 

            In an Arkansas Historical Quarterly article entitled “Rayburn The Raider,” (Spring, 1948) he was identified as Captain Howel A. “Doc” Rayburn, “Independent guerrilla command, Arkansas.”   He was described as “an innocent looking man of barely 21 years … his long, tawny hair hung like the mane of a lion, loosely draping his shoulders, but his feminine frame barely tipped the scales at 100 pounds.  His blue eyes seemed at times to have lost every vestige of tenderness, compassion and mercy, especially for those who differed with his views.”

            White County Historical Society president Ruth Chaney, in the 1981 White County Heritage, wrote:  Howel A. Rayburn, or “Doc” Rayburn as he was generally called, was born in 1842 in Roane County, Tennessee.   When the Civil War began, he was living with his family in the Johnson County, Texas, community of Buchanan, part of present-day Cleburne.  On October 21, 1861, Rayburn entered Confederate service as a private in Company C, 12th Texas Cavalry Regiment.  The regiment transferred to central Arkansas in March 1861, and camped near Des Arc.

            When the regiment moved on, Chaney wrote, Rayburn was left behind, either sick or wounded.  While recovering, he organized his own independent company and was elected Captain.  For the balance of the war, he led parties of 15 to 400 men in guerrilla raids against Union forces in central Arkansas.

            At war’s end, he was arrested because of his guerrilla activities.  But, due to his poor health, wartime friends were able to secure his release.  He soon married but his health continued to fail.  Sometime in late 1865 or 1866, “Doc” Rayburn died in White County and was buried by friends in an unmarked grave.  This story differs slightly from the article in the Fort Smith newspaper but is similar to the account of W.M. “Buck” Scott that was published in the 2001 edition of White County Heritage.

 This picture of Rayburn obtained from the Arkansas History Commission is consistent with the description in the 1948 Historical Quarterly article.   In the photo, Rayburn wears a frock coat with a Captain’s insignia on the collar.  It is the only known image of the guerrilla leader.   Writing at the bottom of the AHC photograph identifies him as “Capt. Reyborne, C.S.A., Banditti.”  Chaney attributed the information and the photograph in her article to “a page taken from the 1981 Confederate Calendar produced by the Confederate Calendar Works, Box 5404, Austin, Texas 78763.  The calendar’s producer, Lawrence T. Jones, thanked the Arkansas History Commission and White County Historical Society member Cloie Presley for their assistance in researching Rayburn’s record.  The calendar listed several engagements involving Rayburn’s band from August 29, 1864, near Searcy to December 23, 1864, near DeValls Bluff.

            The calendar stated that Rayburn organized his group in White and Prairie counties and that they ranged in age from 16 to 20 years.  “They were of hardy pioneer stock, full of adventure and accustomed to outdoor life.  They could manage well on scant rations and meager equipment.  (It is noted from images of these lads in uniform that none appeared to have overweight problems!)  Their knowledge of politics was limited to a case of hardened belief in self-determination.  To these rough and ready young fighters the political issues of the time were simple – freedom of self-government.  They had been nurtured by parents who had fought for freedom while carving homes from the wilderness.”           

            Rayburn’s adventures in central Arkansas finally gained the attention of General Dandridge McRae, a brigade commander, a native of White County, who was influential in obtaining recognition of the unit in the Confederate Army.  The main source of supply for such units was that which could be captured from the occupying Union forces, sometimes supplemented by donations of local citizens.  These soldiers as well as their brothers fighting east of the Mississippi River sometimes went for months without pay. The slow-moving Federal supply wagons traveling over unimproved roads, fording streams, cutting trees to make corduroy passages through swamps, provided excellent targets for these daring young riders.

            Captain Rayburn’s unit earned the name of the “Phantom Unit” as they seemed to appear from nowhere to strike the Federal supply wagon trains bringing pork, hardtack, coffee, whiskey, medical supplies, weapons and ammunition.

            These lightning-like raids brought fear and uneasiness to the Federal units left in Arkansas after the main body of their army moved on to finish strangling the Confederacy.

            The weapons of these small units operating west of the Mississippi consisted of any gun that would shoot – usually one brought from home – a shotgun with a shortened barrel plus as many revolvers as could be carried on the horseman.  The statement about  the double-barrel shotgun that Bob Scott reportedly carried does seem plausible.   The guns carried into the raids were loaded, primed and ready for action.  The saddles of the horsemen, if lucky, had carriers for the shotguns.  Ammunition suitable for these varied weapons presented many problems and required ingenuity to keep the fighters supplied.

            The tactics of formalized warfare were unknown to these young volunteers.  Few had any practice or drill for either infantry or cavalry attacks.  These young men had learned to handle a weapon as part of their legacy and could ride like they were part of their mount.  Southern men usually rode off to war on their own horse. When replacements were necessary the cavalrymen returned home for another mount.  Rayburn reportedly continued to ride the same horse named “Limber Jim” to the end of the war.     An Arkansas Democrat article February 14, 1960, details many daring adventures of Captain Rayburn and his bandits. 

            Could it be that 11-year-old Bob Scott of West Point was one of them?    


From the White River Journal, April 14, 1994 –

“The Pages Turned Backward”

Compiled from White River Journal files

April 20, 1916

Letter from A Reader

In Bald Knob:


I was very much interested in your account of Doc Rayburn.  I knew him and also Capt. McCoy he killed at West Point.  His face and makeup looked like a 17 year old girl.  We worshipped him around West Point.  Wish you people would tidy up his grave.


I remember the duel.  The boys said both of them lost their nerve.  He and McCoy had a small bunch of men, and both were paying attention to the same girl.  They said Doc didn’t give McCoy any chance at all.


I still have a warm recollection of Dr. J.W. Burney that helped me to pull through a hard spell of pneumonia in the winter of 1862.  Peace to his ashes.


B.F. Brown

April 3, 1930

“Here Lies Doc Rayburn,” a Confederate Soldier, died in Des Arc, age 27.”  A hero who died unsung and unhonored, for a cause for which he gave his all, and Nature sweeping with a magic broom has long since obliterated what was once a little mound marked by a simple headboard.  (Excerpt from story on Prairie County’s most famous “gourilla chieftain” Civil War soldier written for this issue.)       nnn