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.
Enjoy your Ozarks' History.
Before reading Part 3, the Conclusion, make sure to read Part 1 & 2.
Originally, the “Butternuts” did not appear to be regular soldiers. Heacock attempted to have a small conference with the guards in the hope of securing the ferry without a skirmish. After young lieutenant failed in his negotiations, and seeing that his counterparts were unreasonable and considered themselves on the rebel side in the war, Heacock brought out his men and fired several volleys upon them. The Confederates immediately returned fire, and a lead mini-ball struck Heacock in the forehead and killed him instantly on the Baxter County side of the White River.
Lt. Heacock’s First Sergeant, Chaney, succeeded to the command, and retired his men, sending back a report to Col. McCrillis of the tragedy of Lt. Heacock. The other 4th Iowa companies were then ordered forward under Capt. Drummond, with a howitzer “to pound the Rebel works on the White River.” After hammering the works with the howitzer, the day wore on with no success. As the shadows of night advanced, Capt. Drummond gave orders to return to camp and regroup for the next day. 2nd Lt. William A. Heacock, age 23, was the first member of the 4th Iowa Cavalry to be killed in action, and the company was demoralized.
According to the records of the Gratiot Street Military Prison, operated in St. Louis, Missouri, by the Union Army, a few minutes after the incident, a local man by the name of Capt. Jesse Mooney, C.S.A., was identified and spotted performing an amazing deed of jumping on his horse and safely swimming across the swollen river. This exploit was noted and would almost cost him his life in the future. To the Union officers, this would make him culpable with the murder of Lt. Heacock. In the future, Capt. Mooney will have a different account of his death-defying feat and the man who pulled the trigger.
The next morning the rebels returned to their post on the opposite bank, and the Union opened fire upon them again. Along with the small-arms, the howitzer was again used to pummel the bluff of the former powder-works. After the “Butternuts” were finally driven back, Col. McCrillis noted, “the White River was fully engorged from the rains, and a crossing was deemed too dangerous, even with the boat.” He therefore ended the expedition and moved across the county eastward, towards Bennett’s Bayou, and then turned north to rejoin the Union Army at Rockbridge, Missouri. The army moved slowly northeastward, the cavalry was constantly active in front and on the flanks, until safety was reached. This was the first strike at the Confederate powder-works on the White River.
According to local historian Mary Ann Messick, there were three local people killed who were working at the powder-works. Mr. Charles Davis, his 16 year old daughter, Charlotte, and an unnamed gentleman were left dead in the melee. Later that evening at the Davis home, Mrs. Davis waited for the husband and daughter to return that even for supper in vain. The next morning she arrived at the destroyed works to discover the body of her husband, daughter, and neighbor. Alone, she hauled the bodies across the river to a nearby field located on the bluffs near present day Monkey Run, Arkansas, and scratched out shallow graves for the dead.
With the retreat of the 4th Iowa, the widow and bereaved mother, Mrs. Davis, returned to the powder-works cave and continued the alchemy of producing gunpowder. Upon hearing of the destruction, the Marion County Provost Guard approached the shock ridden and tearless lady, and she relayed her sad account. She requested the officer in charge to say a few words over the graves, in which the officer graciously granted. She guided the officer to her family’s new resting place. As he spoke the 23rd Psalms over the freshly etched ground, Mrs. Dais finally gave way to her grief and bathed the rocky soil with her tears. This abandoned cemetery is today known as the Old Dilbeck Cemetery.
Lt. Heacock’s body was carried back through Ozark County toward Rockbridge, Missouri. The 4th Iowa finally crossed into the safe Union haven of Douglas County, Missouri. His body was temporarily buried nearby at Lawrence’s Mill, also known as Vera Cruz. According to Lt. Scott, “Lt. Heacock’s death stirred a great deal of feeling in the regiment. Heacock was much admired for his fine, brave spirit, and he was the first man of the regiment killed in battle. His popularity, his courage, the picturesque scene and manner of his fall, and his being the first man killed, all contributed to make his death the most impressive of all that occurred in the regiment during the war.”
After the Civil War, Lt. Heacock's body was exhumed, brought back to his family, and buried at the Highland Cemetery, in Mahaska County, Iowa.
The Great War had finally started on our local banks of the White River. There were no winners for those left behind, and the raids, destruction, and deprivation had just begun.
|Lt. Heacock's Tombstone|
C. & S. J. HEACOCK
TABOT'S FERRY, ARK.
April 19, 1862
2nd Lt. Co. F
4th IA Calvary
23y 2m 15d