Interview with a Witness
By: Jordan with Matt Howard
When I heard that an actual witness to the controversy in Missouri shortly before the Civil War was living in a town near mine I jumped on the chance to ask him a few questions about his experiences on his old farm that were depicted in the book:
Me: Shortly into the book you were attacked by Frank “Buck” James, what went through your mind before you realized that he was just playing?
Matt: I believed I was going to die! They repeatedly dunked my head into the creek and I was scared for my life. Then when Jesse started to back talk to the soldiers that frightened me more! Thank heavens Buck was one of them or else we would have been killed! Later I was angry with Jesse for laughing it off like it was a prank. Didn’t he realize that he could have killed us both?
Me: I can imagine how that would be stressful. How do you feel about the pressures to pick a side during the war?
Matt: I felt that making citizens choose sides was completely uncalled for. That’s why my family stayed neutral. It was the easiest choice since the wrong answer could end your life. Like my neighbor’s who’s house was burned down. We couldn’t imagine that happening to us with our big family and no Papa.
Me: It would be hard to get back on your feet after that. What were some of the reactions of your friends when you explained you were moving up North?
Matt: Many of them were upset because they felt that I was abandoning my home. Coming back after the war was just unthought of! I even felt that coming back was like letting them fend for themselves while I lived a decent life up in the North. It was a horrible feeling to know that my friends thought I was going against them and the fact that I had a choice and turned it down and decided to go with my family made it worse.
Me: I see that you did indeed move back to Missouri just outside of Liberty, were you accepted back into your old community?
Matt: I was not immeadiately but once people saw that I wasn’t a threat I think I was allowed a little bit more acceptance.
Me: What was your life up north like?
Matt: I wasn’t accepted there either atleast moving back here I was able to enter back into my community.
Me: How was it to have to take care of everything around the farm and protect your family and what not?
Matt: It was very difficult to juggle all those tasks but when it all came down to it we were able to manage. Farming was difficult at first because of Pa being gone and Clayton being inabled. Protecting my Ma was hardest because she and I always have separate opinions on subjects and it was hard to keep everyone’s best interests in mind.
Me: My last question for you is was it hard to choke out “The Oath?”
Matt: Oh extremely! It was hard to make promises when I wasn’t sure of my loyalties. It was the same case with my family and friends. Too many different influences and sides to choose from, and they all would have led to something tragic.
Me: Thanks for the interview Matt and we hope that life in Missouri will grow better for you as time passes.