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 narrative was chronicled by William Force Scott who wrote The Story of a Cavalry Regiment: the career of th