Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 5

Note: This post is the last of the 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 here in their entirety with pictures & links.

Enjoy your Ozarks' History.


The Union now had their claim on a sick soldier, Maj. John Woodward Methvin, in the military prison in Springfield, Missouri. On the 12th of November, 1862, Methvin made a request for paper & pen to write a letter for his appeal of a parole. 

This letter, currently on file at the National Archives, is the last documentation in Methvin’s own hand. Methvin appealed to the Provost Marshall for his release stating, “I was brought here on the 20th of October, last, and my health being somewhat impaired since I came here.  I therefore ask parole with such bonds & terms as your honor may suggest.  My certificate of appointment was taken from me at Ozark by the Adjutant or Sergeant Major of that place if you can do anything for me that would better my situation.  The favor will be properly appreciated. I am, lieutenant, with much respect, your obedient servant.” His request was not granted, and the decision was made that he should be transferred to infamous Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis, Missouri

According to other Confederate POWs of that time, the trip from Springfield to Rolla was a weary trek, and most men were made to walk most of the way, and the roads were also very rough. There were no tents, and the prisoners were compelled to lie on the ground every night without shelter. Sometimes it would rain, and in the morning they would find themselves wet, muddy, and nearly frozen. Those who were sick, injured, or incapable of walking from Rolla to St. Louis were allowed to board the railcars in Rolla, since this town was the terminus for the railroad into the Ozarks. By the time the exhausted soldiers reached St. Louis, complete fatigue had set in.
According to one captured Confederate, “The weather being extremely cold we had a very disagreeable trip indeed, nothing to eat for twenty- four hours, and when we reached St. Louis we were as hungry as wolves. We had to stand in the street for over an hour before we could be admitted to the prison, during which time one poor fellow took a congestive chill and died. Before our admission we were searched, and deprived of our money, knives, papers, and in fact everything we had about us, (except my journal, which they were unable to find.) We were then shown to our quarters, the upper room in the round building-a very dark, gloomy place, and very filthy besides.”

There were about eight hundred prisoners in Gratiot, and more coming in every day from all parts of the country. There were only two stoves for over a hundred men. When awaking on the next morning, it was discovered that Gratiot is a very hard place, much worse than Springfield. Again a prisoner would testify, “the fare is so rough, it seems an excellent place to starve. Am not particularly fond of any prison, but must say that I give Springfield the preference over this.”  

The prisoners were only allowed two meals a day, and the cooks kept busy, even working in the dark. Some two or three hundred prisoners would eat at a time, and the tin plates and cups were never washed from the first to the last table. Breakfast consisted of one-fifth of a loaf of baker's bread, a small portion of bacon, and a tin cup of stuff they called coffee. For dinner the same amount of bread, a hunk of beef, and a pint of the water the beef was boiled in, which was called soup. Sometimes a couple of boiled potatoes were portioned out. Knives, forks and spoons were not allowed, and all ate with their hands. Many would leave the table as hungry as they went to it.  

It was in this institution that Maj. Methvin was confined. The hospital, which is the highest room in the prison, contained a great many sick at this time. The Sisters of Charity would visit them daily, ministering to them, and supplying them with such delicacies as their poor appetites could receive, and their weak conditions required. 
Initially in Arkansas, Maj. Methvin was sick with pneumonia, and subsequently, he grew worse. In the last days of his imprisonment, Methvin contracted meningitis and died. Methvin passed from this life, away from his family and friends.   Death records from Missouri newspapers made mention that he died on the 10th of December, 1862. Major Methvin was buried at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. A monument was placed in the cemetery for him on the 19th of July, 1864. His body still rests there to this day.
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
Maj. J. W. Methvin
27 ARK. INF.
C. S. A.
Upon hearing the sad news, numerous friends of Major Methvin made eulogizing comments concerning such a kind and considerate man. He was a highly respected citizen before the Civil War, and the soldiers held him in great esteem. Methvin was known to defend his men’s rights in his regiment; he also put his life on the line several times in the battle. They truly admired and respected him as an officer in their regiment. In speaking of his death, Silas Turnbo said, “the Confederate Army lost a true and brave soldier and Arkansas a noble citizen.” 

Rest in peace Maj. John Woodward Methvin. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 4

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.

Before reading Part 4, make sure to read Part 1, 2 & 3.

As the skirmish of Mountain Home quickly ensued, the divided Americans exchanged deadly blows in revenge of their loyal friend, Maj. Methvin, and the property stolen from defenseless women. According to the Official Reports, “Lt. Mooney[Union], seeing he was cut off from the column, ordered a charge, which was made with such impetuosity and gallantry by his little band that he succeeded in carving his way through their lines without the loss of a man, though the lieutenant himself was severely wounded. In the melee, some of our men were dismounted, but all succeeded in riding out a horse; if not their own, an enemy’s.” 

The soft lead that had splintered into Lt. Reuben Pickett Mooney’s hand was quickly extracted and bandaged. He would not be permanently maimed, and he would fight in other battles in this bloody struggle. This incident served to remind him of the frailty of life as his 40th birthday was approaching by the next week, the 25th of October. Nevertheless, he would have the opportunity to spend his birthday celebration with his wife at his home in Christian County, Missouri. The following week he would be transferred to the 4th Regiment Cavalry in Greene County, Missouri.  Lt. Mooney would honorably serve the Union for the duration of the war until he resigned his commission on July the 4th, 1865. Mooney would eventually live to be 90 years old.

After the mayhem had subsided on Tucker Flats, the Confederate losses seemed considerable. Union estimates were not exact, but the reports claimed that not less than 10 Confederate men were killed and 20 were wounded. As the skirmish subsided, the Union had captured 25 soldiers with their weapons. Unfortunately, Maj. Methvin’s hope of immediate rescue quickly eroded away.
According to historian Mary Ann Messick, 14 brave men were laid to rest on this prairie a few yards from a small spring on Tucker Flats. The dead were buried where they had fallen. These fallen soldiers had experienced the hardships of war, the dearth of necessities, and the lack of water. Now, their struggle had been quickly snuffed out so close to home on Marion County soil.

The custom of the time would be for the captured prisoners of war to bury their fallen comrades. By the early morning light, picks, shovels, and spades were issued out for the burial detail. The soldiers were buried with as much respect that was allowed, since the Union cavalry was in earnest to cross the Missouri line to safe haven. The fallen would rest in the raps of death on the slope of the Arkansas rolling prairie they had once called home. It only seemed poetic to leave them there by this cooling spring.
Group picture with Eugene Reed (center) owner of the property, the Wiggins Battery, and myself (left) at the location of the skirmish & the Reed Confederate Cemetery.
It was only the last evening, the village of Mountain Home had been robbed of their fall harvest, livestock, and provisions for the coming winter. Now, their circumstances were tragic, and the future looked foreboding.

On the morning of October 18th, 1862, the Union cavalry carried their stolen bounty off Tucker Flats and headed north. By the morning light, it was tallied that they had captured 25 men and the same number of arms. Maj. Methvin’s only chance of salvation would be at least three days away. In the lapse of time, his journey would pull him far from rescue and the reach of his friends. 
As the cavalry headed back north, they were no longer pursued with their plunder, and they would make it back to Ozark, Missouri, in two days, on the 19th. The 125 men of the raid from the 14th Missouri Calvary rested and fed their wearied horses. The 100 men of the Missouri Enrolled Militia, from Douglas and Ozark County in Missouri, went to their respective post, Fort Lawrence, in Douglas County. At least 50 of these militia men would face a battle in a few weeks. In this next battle, they would lose & surrender on their own soil at the Battle of Clark's Mill, near Vera Cruz, in Douglas County Missouri. This historic county seat, Vera Cruz, was located approximately 10 miles east of the current county seat of Ava and 30 miles north of Gainesville. 

Once at post headquarters in Ozark, Maj. Methvin, C. S. A., was placed in the custody of the Provost General. The next morning, the 20th, the decision was made to transfer him to the prison in Springfield, Missouri. Before the transfer was made, Methvin was stripped of his officer’s commission papers. This was another disappointing blow because the rank of a Confederate major was worth up to forty Union privates.  Therefore, without his papers, the necessity for the Union to use him as a bargaining chip in the trade of prisoners was miniscule; he no longer had status or rank.

While Maj. Methvin lay sick with fever in the military jail, no pardon was issued on his behalf at the Ozark Post in Christian County, Missouri. The decision was made to transfer him to the military prison in Springfield, Missouri, on the 19th of October. His journey further into the North had just begun. Over the next few months, Maj. Methvin would not only feel as a castaway, alienated from his family & friends, but his distance from them would increase.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 3

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.

Before reading Part 3, make sure to read Part 1 & 2.

A tinder ear and wanting eye was always turned toward the Military Road. It was the 16th of October, 1862, and many of Marion County villages & families were anticipating the arrival of their husbands and sons. Some of the families located on Rapp’s Barrens had become familiar names to the area, such as: Casey, Crawford, Dodd, Foster, Goforth, Goodall, Howard, Huston, Russell, Talbolt/Talbert, Trammel, and Walker. These families still lived on this open prairie that once flourished with corn, cotton, and tobacco. Now, they still had key resources that would make them a prime target for a Union raid. They would ultimately arrive at the Casey house, which also doubled as the local post office the past four years. 
Old Military Road on Hwy. 126 South going toward Buford, Arkansas.
The peace of this well knitted community was quickly interrupted as the 14th Missouri Calvary & Missouri State Militia from Douglas & Ozark Counties bore down in plundering resources needful for their unit. Hastily, the Union Calvary made a raid through Mountain Home and the surrounding barren. The booty was easily taken with only women, children, and old men to plead and protest. Additionally, the majority of men who could protect them, with the weapons and gunpowder, were still three days away. 

Once the materials were stolen, the final inventory tallied 50 heads of horses, 5 wagons and teams, and a considerable amount of other property useful to the army. Since their livestock, implements, quilts, and rations were stolen, the families on the prairie would find daily survival a constant struggle.

In making the raid throughout the small village, Maj. Wilber approached the Casey house to see a horse drawn hack (buggy) driven by a Confederate officer who was transporting an ailing soldier; it was Maj. J. W. Methvin. He had made the arduous journey from Pocahontas in only six days lying in the bed of the hack. It was determined that Methvin had contracted a severe case of pneumonia. He was within a day’s journey from being reunited in the safe haven of his family and comfortable quarters. Methvin was captured and soon realized his circumstances and timing of a reunion with his wife and children started growing dark and doubtful.
After the setting of the sun, about 8:00 p.m., Maj. Wilber ordered a retreat back to Missouri via the Military Road, and the hoof beats of the cavalry pounded away from the small dogtrot home of Col. Casey. The retreat went smoothly and the cavalry made their way to another nearby prairie known as Tucker Flats or Tucker Barrens. Today this area is known as the Tucker Cemetery Road. 
In Maj. Wilber’s report, he stated, “I placed our train of horses, mules, and wagons in the advance, with sufficient guard for its protection, and kept my main force between it and the advancing enemy. The most perfect order was maintained. Every man was at his post, and everything was in readiness to give the enemy the warmest reception possible.” 

Tucker Cemetery Road on Hwy. 62 between Mountain Home & Gassville, Arkansas.
As the unit was approaching the last section of road on Tucker Flats, it became relevant that Col. Shaler was still a few days behind. Therefore, the decision was made to bivouac (camp) for the night, and make their final retreat by day light. About a half mile before the junction of the Old Salt Road, Hwy. 126, the soldiers discovered a place to camp. The camp was positioned on the prairie grassland and followed the gentle slope northwards a few hundred yards along a fresh spring of water. The tall tufts of Bluestem and Indian grass made excellent bedding for the soldiers and nourishing provender for all of the 275 horses, of which 50 were stolen. They most likely believed they were far enough below the grade and view of the road to not been seen. For safety’s sake, a rear guard, comprised of 25 men, was quickly dispensed under the guidance of Lt. Reuben Mooney, Company D, 14th Regiment.  
Overview of Tucker Prairie with arrow pointing to the sight of the skirmish.
In the meantime, the alarm went out through Mountain Home and the prairie about the Union raid, and some of furloughed men from the Arkansas 27th found themselves mustering their forces. It was now a desperate hunt for the militia that stripped Mountain Home. About 40 Confederate soldiers made their way to Tucker Flats on the Military Road. As they creped upon the 225 Union soldiers, they made their plans to separate the Yankee unit from their rear guard. Under the cover of night, the small band of Marion County men were endeavoring to rescue Maj. Methvin and repossess the precious fall harvest, livestock, and implements. 

As the Rebel soldiers advanced across the prairie, they hid themselves in the thickets of crimson sumac and tall clusters of Turkey-foot grass. About 2 o’clock in the morning, October 17th, a Rebel yell was unleashed and the rear guard was attacked by a small band of brave southern soldiers. As the hammers slammed down into the percussion caps of their rifled muskets, the soft lead Minie balls whizzed throughout the Union camp. The Rebels gained a position between the rear guard and the main Union force. The camp was quickly roused from its slumber and immediately came to arms. The fight had begun, and the cooling spring nearby Old Military Road would soon flow with crimson. 
Tucker Prairie, sight of the skirmish.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The First Raid & Skirmish at Mountain Home, Part 2

Note: This post is the second 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.


Looking back at the Civil War, we can see how the wheels of circumstances can come together in the most disappointing ways. These places of confrontation can sometimes be overlooked, and those at a disadvantage are many times the victims. As the Confederate men from the Arkansas 27th were making their transit to Yellville, the Union expedition into Northern Arkansas was in full array.

In the Union Official Reports, Maj. John C. Wilber, of the 14th Missouri Cavalry, left his post the 12th of October, 1862, at 6 p.m. for an expedition into Marion County, Arkansas. The headquarters in Ozark, Christian County, Missouri, supplied a detachment of 125 men of the 2nd Battalion, from the 14th, and 100 men of the Missouri Enrolled Militia, stationed at Fort Lawrence. The latter were local men from Ozark & Douglas Counties in Missouri. Orders were given to advance by rapid marches and proceeded to the White River, opposite Yellville.

Maj. Wilber’s intention was to “surprise the force at that place [Yellville], and by a vigorous onset, get possession of the town, burn the supplies collected there for the army of McBride, secure all the property possible for the use of our army, and then fall back to Ozark by forced marches.”
Upon crossing the state-line in Taney County Missouri, it was found again impossible to ford the White River near Dubuque, Arkansas, due to recent rains. Adjustments were made to continue east and then south, through Ozark County, cross the state-line, and approach Yellville by going on the Military Road and cross the White River by ferry. 

As the Union troops rode their horses into Arkansas, notice was given to Secesh (Secessionist/Rebels) swarming the woods. These Secesh scouts were posted on all the bluffs & hills. Maj. Wilber commented, “These scouts were watching our movements, arid couriers flying in every direction, giving intelligence of our approach and collecting forces. They had been warned of our advance several times before, and were rapidly collecting to oppose our little band.” Nevertheless, advancement was made over the next three days.

On the night of the 15th, camp was made on George Pierson’s farm, at Pierson’s Ford on the north side of the White River above the mouth of Jimmie’s Creek; today, this area is called Oakland, Arkansas. From this location, the ford seemed to be impassable, yet the Pace Ferry was only one mile away. This camp was also within close strike of Talbot’s Ferry, the range being within about 10 miles. Interestingly enough, this location was also nearby the residence of a free black man, Willoughby Hall, who would give assistance to the Union in the near future. Namely, he will serve as a guide and give intelligence to Capt. Milton Burch of the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry within the next two months. It is probably this act that would prove treacherous, and would culminate in the loss of Willoughby Hall’s life. 
John Estes was a member of the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry from March 7, 1862, to Feb. 4, 1863.
He was part of the expedition meant to capture Yellville.
Image Courtesy Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
Maj. Wilber posted pickets on every conceivable path to his small camp, and sent out large numbers of patrols on the Salt Road southward to not only guard their endeavors but also gather intelligence. Soldiers blanketed the area including the range of three large hills, known today as the Three Brothers. Information started trickling in. Some of the women in the area were interviewed, and some would say they were interrogated. These ladies knew their husbands and sons in the Arkansas 27th had left Pocahontas and were in transit to Yellville. Though the timing might have been sketchy, the locals lead Maj. Wilber to believe a surprise attack was imminent and would be volleyed from Yellville that night. 

After a Confederate soldier was caught, Wilber decided not to take any chances with failure of his mission. He hastily ordered a detachment of 50 men to ride through the night and secure the Talbot’s Ferry, in order to oppose anyone trying to transverse the White River at that location. If anyone got in their way, they were to be arrested under the providences of martial law.

On the next morning, the 16th, Maj. Wilber broke camp and moved his remaining force of cavalry to the prairie of Talbot’s Barrens, and they descended on the small village of Mountain Home. This was a strategic location to await news from the spies who were sent to gather intelligence on Col. Shaler’s Confederate Infantry heading west. While at Mountain Home, news was received that Col. Shaler was heading to Yellville by forced marches and was one day’s march away. The Union scouts gave the Confederate logistics as a total of 2,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry, and four pieces of artillery.
On learning this information, Maj. Wilber determined it would be foolish to cross the White River and have the unfortunate circumstance of being stranded from his headquarters.  The swollen river was too dangerous to ford without the ferry. He also believed “an overwhelming force was moving rapidly up to cut any retreat.” 

In hindsight, the truth was skewed and greatly exaggerated. The main body of the 27th was bivouacked near Melbourne, Arkansas. On the next day, the 17th, they would make it to Piney Bayou, near present day Boswell in Izard County, Arkansas. 

In the next few hours, dire decisions would be made that would alter the lives of many homesick men.