Monday, April 28, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 1

Note: This post is the first of five of articles on the Civil War in the Ozarks. This series contains five installments over the next five 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 in their entirety with pictures & links.

Enjoy your Ozarks' History.


The first sharp pangs of the Civil War subsided momentarily in Northern Arkansas on the White River after the death of Lt. Heacock and the Davis family.  Scouts & spies loyal to the North sent rumors & reports of the activity across the state-line into Missouri. The Butternut Rebels quickly made inventory of the destroyed saltpeter mine & powder works, and they were quickly mobilized back into a coherent unit in producing Confederate gunpowder. This strategic spot, Bean Cave, was also known as “Barnett’s Bluff,” “Cave Bottom,” or the “Saltpeter Cave.”

On the 23rd of March, 1862, reports had reached Maj.- Gen. Henry Wager Halleck at Union headquarters in Ozark, Missouri, that the Marion County production of gunpowder, on the White River had recommenced. Additional intelligence was relayed concerning the figure of about 100 slaves working in the mining and production process, along with a company of soldiers set about to guard the premises. Request was made for a detachment of cavalry from Springfield to destroy these works, and free the slaves being employed in enemy's service. It would take eight months for the Union to gather more intelligence and to make plans for a major expedition in order to make a substantive attack on this part of the White River again.
General Henry W. Halleck
Many of the local men in Northern Arkansas, in the 27th Infantry, were currently stationed near Pocahontas, Arkansas, in the early fall of 1862. Several afflicted and furrowed-browed soldiers had reported to the infirmary as being sick. On the 9th of October, Friday, the pleasant tidings of new orders, “report to Yellville in 15 days,” rolled throughout the camp. According to S. C. Turnbo, these orders had many drastic & curative effects on many of the homesick soldiers. Mainly, it cured them of their “homesickness.”

On Saturday morning, the 10th, furloughs for sickness were being distributed. As they left camp, miraculous healings were manifesting themselves for the seemly “unfit for duty.” Eyes were set in the westerly direction to make their destination of Yellville. Some “sick” men would amazingly make the trek of 130 miles in less than seven days.  This would give them the luxury of being near home and the chance of seeing family or friends.

Five days into the journey soldiers would constantly look for any fresh spring of water. Some men would journey off the Military Road up to a half mile looking for any source of water. According to reports, evening rations of water were found to have dead lizards and toads in the bottom dregs of their tin cup. Some would be so desperate for a drop of water that they would kneel in the road to lap the last and diluted remnants from mud puddles. Others would place small sooth stones in their mouths and roll them over their tongue to extract any moisture.

For the men who were placed on sick furlough and left ahead of their regiment, they too journeyed down the Old Military Road, cutting through Northern Arkansas. They too would seek fresh springs of water and camp only a short distance off this familiar road, and their eagerness to get to Yellville would prove to be fatal to some of the hopeful soldiers.  

Among those who were reported sick, was a man of reputation, Maj. John Woodward “J. W.” Methvin, of the 27th Arkansas Infantry, Company A.  Beyond all doubt, he was sick with a severe case of pneumonia. He was so sick it was determined that he could not make the journey on horseback, and another officer offered to place him in a hack (buggy) and transport Methvin to Yellville.

The 45 year old Confederate Major, originally from Madison County, Alabama, was looking forward to seeing the wife, Corasandra (Nowlin) Methvin, who lived near the small village of Dubuque, Arkansas, on the White River; they had been married for nine years. Additionally, it had been nine months since he had seen his four children Alonzo, Josephine, Hannah, and James. Before the war, Methvin had the honor serving as the Marion County Circuit Clerk from 1858 until his enlistment in the Confederacy. While many men from Marion County joined the Arkansas 14th Infantry in the first year of the war, Methvin had brief service in the Arkansas State Troops, 5th Regiment, Company E. By the 30th of June, 1862, he had returned home to Marion County to lend his effort in forming Company A, of the Arkansas 27th Infantry; he was elected as the 1st Lieutenant.
Hardee Pattern Flag of the 5th Arkansas.

Maj. Methvin was a southern gentleman of known reputation to defend his men from other officers such as his commander, Col. Shaler, who attempted to take advantage of those lower in rank. Therefore, in his time of need and sickness, hospitality was extended back to him. He would arrive on his last leg of his journey in Mountain Home, located on Rapp’s or Talbot’s Barrens (Prairie) in only 6 days. Little did he know the plans the Union had been transpiring, and a disheartening surprise that would occur at Col. Casey’s house in Mountain Home, Arkansas, at his arrival.
Col. Casey’s house on the corner of the Baxter County Fair Grounds.

Part 2 Next Week.

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