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.

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