Finding the Civil War Lost of Howell County
Wed, 09/20/2023 - 10:18am admin
Many years ago, I started to try and account for the people of Howell County who disappeared during the Civil War. I’ve mentioned several times that our population in 1860 was 3,169 souls. Thus far, I’ve been unable to come up with 100 names still here in 1865. Where did all the people go?
Unionists were forced out at the beginning of the war by Missouri State Guard troops in various ways. Some of the Union's sympathetic men were hung, shot, kidnapped, or incarcerated for their loyalties. Their families, women, children, and elderly were robbed, had their homes burned, and were forced to flee because of the men in their households. During 1861, West Plains Unionists like Mary Monks and the Newberry family fled to Rolla, the nearest Federal outpost. Later, in 1862, after Springfield was retaken by the Union Army, many, including the wife of Hutton Valley’s Ben Alsup fled to relatives there. Of the three women mentioned, two were dead from exposure and disease by the middle of the war.
The military-age men of Howell County regardless of their loyalties, were required to enlist in the army on one side or the other. By 1863, both sides were combing the countryside for boys and men to conscript into their armies. Neutrality was not allowed, and a sure way to be shot or hung by both sides.
The men who fought in the Union Army had their service pretty well documented, including injuries and death from battle or disease. Southern records are not as good, and often what happened to a soldier cannot be determined.
I recently discovered the fate of a man I hadn’t accounted for in, of all places, a St. Louis newspaper. The Daily Missouri Republican in May 1862 carried a report from one of their correspondents under the pen name of Cyril. His letter to the newspaper was written from Salem, Arkansas, where he was traveling with the General Curtis’ Army of the Southwest, which was driving across southern Missouri from western Missouri. They reached West Plains and on their way to Salem, Arkansas, got into a fight in a swamp on the South Fork River northeast of Salem. On May 11, 1862, Cyril wrote:
“Visiting the graveyard south of the town yesterday, I observed a row of six graves on the right side of the road going to town that proved to be the graves of six of the rebels killed in the battle. The others either fell into the hands of Colonel Wood’s men or were buried elsewhere. As it has hitherto been unknown at the North who the killed were, the names of these six rebels may be of some interest. I copied them from the little pieces of board placed at the heads of the graves, on which they were written with a lead pencil, and the inscription added, ‘killed in battle, March 13, 1862.’ The names were as follows: G.L.F. Hughes, of Ozark County, Mo.; L. D. Hood; Peter Scales; Joseph W. Hutchinson, of Phelps County, Mo.; H.P. Johnson, of Texas County, Mo.; and Wm. D. Smith, also of Texas County, Mo.
I had already accounted for the fate of L.D. (Lorenzo Dow) Hood in the Battle of South Fork also called the Battle of Salem. Hood enlisted in the 4th Missouri Infantry a short time before he was killed, and none of the family knew the circumstances of his death. They did know the reason he enlisted. His twenty-one-year-old son John had been murdered in Hutton Valley in November 1861 by Union troopers. As a result, L.D. Hood joined the Confederacy and was killed near Salem, Arkansas less than a half year later.
Historian Henry Smith of Hutton Valley gives the circumstances of John Hood’s death: “The settlers were going on with their farming and stock raising, as there was an abundance of grass for their stock, until the Civil War came on, which caused things to get terribly torn up. A very large majority of the people sympathized with the South which made it very hard on what few Northern sympathizers there were; and to make it worse a young man named John Hood was visiting the young folks of the Miller family, both the Miller and Hood families being for the South, but someone discovered a company of Union soldiers coming down the valley, which excited and scared young Hood, who started running. The soldiers chased him, trying to get him to stop, but he was so scared he didn't do it. So, they shot and killed him, and of course that set everything aflame. There were only four Union men in this part of the county, Ben Alsup and his son, Zack; Mr. Estes, who lived at the now Marion Hinds place and my father. They came and got Ben Alsup and took him off South. His son went over into Douglas County where there were lots of Alsups and stayed till the war was over. Then the Bushwhackers came and took all the Union folks had, stock and household goods, and burned their homes and fences and told Mr. Estes and my father if they started North, they would follow and kill them."
Common to father and son Hood was who killed them. Colonel Samuel N. Wood of the Union Sixth led the expedition into the field west of Hutton Valley where John was run down and shot in the back. Colonel Wood also led the Battle of Salem where Father Lorenzo Dow Hood was killed and buried. Wood had made friends with Ben Alsup in Hutton Valley on his way to attack the Howell County Courthouse in February 1862, and purchased grain and bacon for his troops. That act on Alsups’ part led to his arrest by Confederate troops and imprisonment in Little Rock.
It is informative and ironic that the following paragraph from correspondent Cyril reads, “Wood’s battalion has rendered an excellent service in all the counties south of Rolla the past winter, and he is held in high esteem by his officers and men. It was a generous impulse, full of courage and humanity that led him to say, when the rebels carried off his friend Benjamin Alsup of Howell County, that, ‘He would go to Little Rock but what he would bring back Ben Alsup.’ He went from Houston, Texas County, when he was commander of the post, as far as West Plains on this generous errand, but received counter orders, and his pursuit was abandoned. Alsup is still a prisoner at Little Rock.” He remained there until Little Rock fell later in 1863 and was taken further south and was imprisoned for the duration of the war for selling supplies to the Union Army.
L.D. Hood’s name on Cyril’s list is followed by another without their home county, but both turn out to be from Howell County. Peter Scales of West Plains enlisted in Captain Nicks’ Company B of Coleman’s Confederate Fourth Missouri Infantry at West Plains on March 1, 1862. Twelve days later, he was killed in battle. His compiled service record shows he was a farmer and thirty years of age. It also says, “Engaged South Fork White River, was killed there with a piece of shell in head, March 13, 1862.”
This battle, the largest of the war in Fulton County, Arkansas, was fought for four hours and featured a mountain howitzer fired by Colonel Wood and his men, the source of a shell fragment that killed Peter Scales. There were sixteen Union casualties and over one hundred Confederate. One of the men operating the cannon under Colonel Wood’s command was shot and killed at his side. On the Southern side Captain Posey Woodside of Oregon County was seriously injured in the battle and reported dead. Lieutenant Colonel Wood had 250 troopers under his command, and 130 Union troopers of the Third Iowa Cavalry led by Major William Drake. They made their way into Arkansas via Mammoth Spring, then known as Spring River Mills. As they passed through, they killed two and wounded four of Coleman’s Confederates, and camped for the night. At daylight on March 13, the troopers headed for Salem and blew through the Rebel pickets into an abandoned camp in a swampy area northeast of Salem. There, they collided with Coleman’s men and those of Confederate Captain J. Posey Woodside and Colonel Archibald MacFarlane, who were there attempting to consolidate their forces into one Confederate regiment of a thousand men. It was a brutal fight with charges and countercharges in the swampy woods until both sides were exhausted. Up to this point, Wood had always enjoyed the advantage of far superior numbers, and this time he met his match. After running low on cannon ammunition, he loaded up his injury and made for the Missouri border. He did not return to Howell County.
I’ve always considered West Plains, Missouri, and Salem, Arkansas to be sister cities joined by the South Fork River. There was considerable commerce between the two towns before, during, and after the war.
I’ve not found the actual location of the burial place for these six soldiers. I’ll be doing some more research there. In the process of hunting, I’ve discovered another Howell County man killed in this battle. More on that later. In the meantime, the fate of another Howell Countian is found - only a few thousand more to go.