Enjoy your Ozarks' History.
On April the 16th, 1862, Union Gen. Curtis met the 4th Iowa at Forsyth, Missouri, where he at once ordered a review of his new regiment. According to biographer Lt. William Force Scott, “the men aligned themselves along the very muddy road, in a prolonged and pouring rain. The companies were drawn up in parade line; and the general and his large staff went splashing by at a gallop, both reviewers and reviewed being hidden in rubber ponchos and hardly able to see each other through the storm. That was the detachment’s introduction to Gen. Curtis, and the work of the regiment was laid out at once.”
Detachments were sent east and south toward the White River, with orders to destroy any saltpeter works then operated by the Rebels at different places along the river. Capt. Drummond's command of the 4th Iowa Cavalry was temporarily placed under the command of Col. McCrillis, of the 3rd Illinois.
After a march of one day in the heavy rain, it was learned that work was going on at a nitrate cave on the White River, near the mouth of Little North Fork, eighteen miles farther south. This particular cave was known as Bean Cave three miles above Talbot's (Talbert/Talburt) Ferry. This ferry was named for the pioneer family of three brothers, Fed, Sim, and Wat, Talbot. Talbot’s Ferry was one of the first ferries fairly well known in the Ozarks on the White River, and it was a strategic point of access for the Union. The Union detachments ordered in the attack of Talbot’s Ferry were commanded by Lt. Perkins, Lt. Heacock, Capt. Tullis, and Lt. Hart. The decision was made by Col. McCrillis to send Capt. Drummond, with Companies Q and K of the 4th Iowa, to destroy the property.
The forced march was mired in a series of thunderstorms and the darkness of the night. Their destination was achieved soon after dawn. Their trek took them from their station in Ozark, Missouri, to current day Lutie, Missouri. They discovered their assumed ferry crossing at Dubuque, Arkansas, on the White River was hindered because the river was engorged from the recent rains. While in Ozark County, they journeyed through Locust, Missouri, and onward through Three Brothers on the old Salt Road, Hwy. 5 North. After reaching the old Military Road, at the juncture of Tucker Cemetery Road, in Whiteville, they turned west and headed toward the Denton Ferry Road on the White River.
By the next morning, the Confederate saltpeter cave and powder-works came into their view on the face of the hill rising from the present day Marion County bank of the White River. About 50 Rebel “Butternuts” guarding the place showed themselves boldly, and indulged in very “saucy remarks” and “crude invitations” to “come over” and secure their nitrate.
According to Lt. Scott of the 4th Iowa Cavalry, the term “Butternuts” was a good-natured attempt applied by Union soldiers to the countrymen of the Southwest. Almost without exception these southern soldiers wore clothes made of coarse homespun cloth, dyed by the women from the bark of the butternut tree. The color was a dirty yellow or faded brown, often an amusing complement to the sallow complexion and yellowish hair of the wearers.”
The Union companies did not find the “Butternuts” action and comments amusing. Also, they found no ford across the swollen river and therefore supposed themselves to be safe on the Baxter County side of the White River. Orders were given by Capt. Drummond to temporarily commandeer (steal) some boats a few miles up the river. Forays of soldiers were set along the river to give a cover for the men in retrieval.
As three canoes were retrieved, successive fire from eight of the best riflemen along the river bank gave their comrades temporary safety. Once the canoes were brought down, the cover of fire was once again initiated as the command was given to cross the river to destroy the property, especially the powder-works. The Confederate guard pulled away after a slight skirmish. The Federal soldiers attacked the property and burned some of the buildings. No one was hurt among Drummond’s men, and he returned to the main column on the Denton Ferry Road on the 19th.
|Colonel Lafayette F. McCrillis|
The same day Col. McCrillis ordered 2nd Lt. Heacock, with his own company to march rapidly upon Talbot's Ferry, on the White River, and seize the ferry. Heacock marched his men three miles down the river from the Bean cave and reached the ferry. Heacock discovered a company of armed “Rebel Butternuts” stationed on the opposite bank, guarding the ferryboat, owned & operated by Capt. Jesse Mooney C.S. A., which was anchored there. This ownership would prove to be a point of contention for the Union, and it placed a large target squarely on the back of Captain, and soon to be Major, Jesse Mooney for the duration of the Civil War.
Next Post...The Conclusion: Crude Invitations of the Civil War, Part III