Isaiah Jefferus Kimberlin Civil War Spy


Isaiah Jefferus Kimberlin was not a Texan at the time the Civil War errupted across this country. Like so many, he came here after the war and also like so many, he was running; I found his story very interesting.

Isaiah served in General Joe Shelby’s brigade during the war; he was a spy (Shelby’s story itself is well worth some study.), and like so many others he found himself in some very hot water. Here’s what happened:

In the winter of 1862, Shelby was doing his best to create havoc in the state of Missouri, and he sent Isaiah, who was posed as a cripple, into the town of Sedalia to gather information.

“We were on a cavalry raid into Missouri in the winter of 1862 for the purpose of battle with the enemy and to check their movements to the south. I was serving as a spy and went into the town of Sedalia, Missouri, and through the enemy’s camp disguised as a cripple.

“That night I made my way back to where I had hid my firearms in a hollow log, about fourteen miles from Sedalia, arriving there after sunup the next morning. I concluded that before I got my pistol and returned to my command, I would go to a house and get something to eat.” Read More…

Apparently Isaiah was seen entering the house. Then, as luck would have it, about that same time a Union  scouting party came through the area and was told that “a Reb” was inside the house.

Upon discovering Isaiah, the captain of the party ordered him shot at once, believing that since he was not in a Confederate uniform he must be a bushwhacker. It took some fast talking, but Isaiah Kimberlin was finally able to convince the captain that he was indeed a Confederate soldier and should be allowed a trial.

Bad luck continued to follow Isaiah who was taken back into Sedalia where he was recognized as having been crippled just the day before. Immediately, the cry of “Spy!” was heard across the town.  The prisoner was taken to a blacksmith’s shop where his guard ordered that a twenty-four-pound cannon ball be chained to his ankle. Then…he was put in prison where he was sentenced to die.

You have to remember that this was still relatively early in the war, and I suppose it was decided to make this case into an example for other would-be spies so before killing him, “they” decided to take his photo.

“My case was acted on by the appointed court-martial and sentence passed,” Isaiah continued, “whereupon, the guard concluded that they would take me to a picture gallery and have some tin pictures taken to represent the form of shooting on the day of the execution. So several tintypes were taken to send back home to show the penalty of a spy.

“When through, they went out the door. I saw one of the pictures laying on the table, and the picture man was back in his little dark room. I picked up the picture and thought I would destroy it, but on second thought, I held it in my hand under my ball and chain.

“When I turned the corner of the street as they were marching me back to the prison, I looked a few rods in front of me; and I saw an old lady about 50 years old that I knew; and she recognized me at once. I looked her in the face and told her all I could with my eyes, and I rubbed up against her as I passed and gave her the picture.

“She clasped it in her hand and never spoke a word to me, or me to her; and she took the picture home with her and sent it to my wife; and I’ve got it yet.”  Read More…

Obviously, Isaiah Jefferus Kimberlin did not intend to die if he could help it, and he worked frantically to free himself for the next week. The night before he was to be executed, he and four others successfully escaped via a tunnel they had managed to dig. Isaiah then faced a 250 mile walk to rejoin his brigade which had left that area.

By the time he had covered the miles, Isaiah was too sick to fight and was sent to a hospital and then to the home of the General’s friends in Sherman, Texas for more recoup time. Finding that he liked Texas, Isaiah Jefferus Kimberlin moved his family here after the war. Today, if you dig deeply enough into the history of Sherman you will find the name of Isaiah Jefferus Kimberlin referred to as “a cattle king at the turn of the century.”

Photos: Shelby from Google Images
Kimberlin from

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for and marketing small-town Texas.
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