Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Crude Invitations to the Civil War, Part 2

Note: I will be posting an Ozark Civil War series on this post for the next several weeks.  These articles can also be found on the Baxter Bulletin every Monday.  Some articles in the Bulletin have been edited down to fit the word count requirements for the newspaper.  These articles will be posted here every Tuesday; they are posted here in their entirety with pictures & links.
Enjoy your Ozarks' History.

On April the 16th, 1862, Union Gen. Curtis met the 4th Iowa at Forsyth, Missouri, where he at once ordered a review of his new regiment. According to biographer Lt. William Force Scott, “the men aligned themselves along the very muddy road, in a prolonged and pouring rain. The companies were drawn up in parade line; and the general and his large staff went splashing by at a gallop, both reviewers and reviewed being hidden in rubber ponchos and hardly able to see each other through the storm. That was the detachment’s introduction to Gen. Curtis, and the work of the regiment was laid out at once.”
General Samuel R. Curtis in 1862
Detachments were sent east and south toward the White River, with orders to destroy any saltpeter works then operated by the Rebels at different places along the river. Capt. Drummond's command of the 4th Iowa Cavalry was temporarily placed under the command of Col. McCrillis, of the 3rd Illinois.

After a march of one day in the heavy rain, it was learned that work was going on at a nitrate cave on the White River, near the mouth of Little North Fork, eighteen miles farther south. This particular cave was known as Bean Cave three miles above Talbot's (Talbert/Talburt) Ferry. This ferry was named for the pioneer family of three brothers, Fed, Sim, and Wat, Talbot. Talbot’s Ferry was one of the first ferries fairly well known in the Ozarks on the White River, and it was a strategic point of access for the Union. The Union detachments ordered in the attack of Talbot’s Ferry were commanded by Lt. Perkins, Lt. Heacock, Capt. Tullis, and Lt. Hart. The decision was made by Col. McCrillis to send Capt. Drummond, with Companies Q and K of the 4th Iowa, to destroy the property.
Overlooking the White River near Talbot's / Talbert's / Mooney's / Denton Ferry
The forced march was mired in a series of thunderstorms and the darkness of the night. Their destination was achieved soon after dawn.  Their trek took them from their station in Ozark, Missouri, to current day Lutie, Missouri. They discovered their assumed ferry crossing at Dubuque, Arkansas, on the White River was hindered because the river was engorged from the recent rains. While in Ozark County, they journeyed through Locust, Missouri, and onward through Three Brothers on the old Salt Road, Hwy. 5 North. After reaching the old Military Road, at the juncture of Tucker Cemetery Road, in Whiteville, they turned west and headed toward the Denton Ferry Road on the White River.

By the next morning, the Confederate saltpeter cave and powder-works came into their view on the face of the hill rising from the present day Marion County bank of the White River. About 50 Rebel “Butternuts” guarding the place showed themselves boldly, and indulged in very “saucy remarks” and “crude invitations” to “come over” and secure their nitrate.

According to Lt. Scott of the 4th Iowa Cavalry, the term “Butternuts” was a good-natured attempt applied by Union soldiers to the countrymen of the Southwest. Almost without exception these southern soldiers wore clothes made of coarse homespun cloth, dyed by the women from the bark of the butternut tree. The color was a dirty yellow or faded brown, often an amusing complement to the sallow complexion and yellowish hair of the wearers.”
The Union companies did not find the “Butternuts” action and comments amusing. Also, they found no ford across the swollen river and therefore supposed themselves to be safe on the Baxter County side of the White River. Orders were given by Capt. Drummond to temporarily commandeer (steal) some boats a few miles up the river. Forays of soldiers were set along the river to give a cover for the men in retrieval.

As three canoes were retrieved, successive fire from eight of the best riflemen along the river bank gave their comrades temporary safety. Once the canoes were brought down, the cover of fire was once again initiated as the command was given to cross the river to destroy the property, especially the powder-works. The Confederate guard pulled away after a slight skirmish. The Federal soldiers attacked the property and burned some of the buildings. No one was hurt among Drummond’s men, and he returned to the main column on the Denton Ferry Road on the 19th.
Colonel Lafayette F. McCrillis
Colonel Lafayette F. McCrillis
The same day Col. McCrillis ordered 2nd Lt. Heacock, with his own company to march rapidly upon Talbot's Ferry, on the White River, and seize the ferry. Heacock marched his men three miles down the river from the Bean cave and reached the ferry. Heacock discovered a company of armed “Rebel Butternuts” stationed on the opposite bank, guarding the ferryboat, owned & operated by Capt. Jesse Mooney C.S. A., which was anchored there. This ownership would prove to be a point of contention for the Union, and it placed a large target squarely on the back of Captain, and soon to be Major, Jesse Mooney for the duration of the Civil War.
Major Jesse Mooney C.S. A.
Next Post...The Conclusion: Crude Invitations of the Civil War, Part III

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Crude Invitations to the Civil War, Part 1

     Note: I will be posting an Ozark Civil War series on this post for the next several weeks.  These articles can also be found on the Baxter Bulletin every Monday.  Some articles in the Bulletin have been edited down to fit the word count requirements for the newspaper.  These articles will be posted here every Tuesday; they are posted here in their entirety with pictures & links.
Enjoy your Ozarks' History.

    Many people may give little notice to the Ozarks when taking survey of the Civil War.  Even though this region was considered sparsely populated, the bloody conflict raged through this area.  The local Twin Lakes Region on the Missouri-Arkansas state line was plagued with scouts, skirmishes, and raids that were staged from the Union counties of Missouri.  The main counties that harbored the Unionists were made up of Ozark, Howell, Taney, Christian, and Greene Counties.

  Bandits, Jayhawkers, and Bushwhackers fed their own lust by taking advantage of the weak and defenseless. Raiding was so common by roving bands of guerrillas that is was difficult to determine, at times, which side they were on. For this cause, the term “Bushbuzzard” became a combined term of “Bushwhacker” & “Jayhawker.” The pendulum of justice was set off course many times by agitators stirring for blood feud and neighbors attempting to recompense a just vengeance. Yet, the atrocities great war that embroiled south of our state-line occurred equally in Southern Missouri counties. 

   The victims of this war were not only those enlisted to defend their colors but it also ensnared those left behind to fend for their families. Women and children paid a severe price by armies commandeering their precious commodities and provisions to feed their troops.  Homes were plundered and burned, livestock stolen, and fields were laid fallow in this bloody season.  Old men and sick soldiers paid the ultimate price through torture and/or execution for the alliances they carried or the information they knew.  Union officers who gathered spoils from Northern Arkansas bragged in the Official Reports about “eating off the fat of Dixie.”

     In reviewing the records of time, Baxter County did not exist until 1873 and was previously divided into Marion, Izard, and Fulton counties.  Many of the men in this area of Northern Arkansas were conscripted in the Arkansas 27th Infantry during the late summer of 1862.

     The northern White River region in Arkansas was ferreted out by the Confederacy because of the vast amounts of potassium nitrate lying in the strata of local bluffs and caves.  This nitrate or saltpeter was a key component used in producing gunpowder.

     An urgent communique was sent on August 7th, 1861, from the ‘Fighting Bishop’ Major-General Leonidas Polk, C.S.A. to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
The Papers of Jefferson Davis & Official Reports stated Polk talked with two chemists who reported good amounts of nitrate were to be found on the White River but the current mines in operation could not produce the amount needed for the Confederate Army.  Additionally, private mine owners were charging 25 cents per pound when the actual cost was only 10 cents per pound.  Therefore, the Confederate Government took over the production of gunpowder along the White River operation.  These nitrate/saltpeter caves were a great asset to the Confederacy.  Nevertheless with these great assets, the White River became a strategic target.
The ‘Fighting Bishop,’ Major-General Leonidas Polk, C.S.A. & the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis.
      One of the first encounters in the Baxter/Marion County area took place on the White River.  Its genesis originated in February, 1862, when the 4th Iowa Cavalry received initial orders to leave their state and rendezvous at Benton Barracks in St. Louis.  Their goal was to become a part of General Curtis’s Army of the Southwest in the extreme northwestern county of Arkansas. 

This is their story:

By March 10, 1862, initial training was over, and the regiment mounted and prepared to move over 300 miles to the extreme northwestern portion of Arkansas.  The Cavalry trudged through their first stage, about one hundred miles, to Rolla, Missouri.  The way was encumbered by inexperience, pouring rain, and bad roads.

     From Rolla, the 4th Cavalry progressed down the road through Waynesville, Lebanon, and on to Springfield, Missouri.  After a few days in Springfield, the detachment continued on to Arkansas traveling the Military Road which passed by the battlefield of Wilson’s Creek; a few years later, this would also be called the Old Wire Road due to the telegraph lines that were threaded along its path.  Soon afterward, they were assigned as Union reinforcements on March 26 on the Pea Ridge Battlefield.  After arriving there, General Curtis believed the 4th Iowa was no longer needed so they marched back to Springfield.  The men were enamored by the never-ending debris on the battlefields, shattered trees and buildings, and the abundance of fresh graves.    
Hugh Ferguson 4th Iowa  Cavalry
Company A
    After arriving in Springfield, all the companies of the 4th Iowa were encamped in tents west of town near present day Campbell Street.  The weather was not favorable for camping with constant clouds and rain.  The mud produced from these torrential downpours was so deep it was difficult to traverse the road by foot, horse, or wagon.  In the meantime, the 4th Iowa Cavalry practiced drills and field maneuvers while lending a hand in picketing and scouting.  The unavoidable exposure to the wet and cold in the camp, indiscretion in diet, and the onset of illness soon afflicted many in the regiment.

    On the April 14th, four companies of the 4th Iowa Cavalry broke camp at Springfield and marched southward toward Forsyth on the Ozark Road.  The weather had grown milder although there were still occasional heavy rains then the rain began to shine.  The Union soldiers noted the thousands of peach trees, green grass, and the charming beauty of the Ozarks.  Nevertheless, the die had been tossed, and the Civil War on the White River was rapidly making its first approach with crude invitations.

Next Post: Crude Invitations of the Civil War, Part II

Davis, Jefferson. The Papers of Jefferson Davis: 1861. Crist, Lynda Lasswell, Editor. LSU Press, Jan 1, 1992.

Scott, William Forse. The Story of a Cavalry Regiment: The Career of the Fourth Iowa Veteran Volunteers from Kansas to Georgia, 1861-1865 (New York: G. P. Putnam), 1893.