Volume 3, Number 8
It will do to tell again, this tale told to my cousin by the late Rufe Scott, for many years a Galena lawyer. Emory Melton, Cassville lawyer, publisher, and chronicler of Barry County and the Upper White River Valley.
The story is that of an audience granted by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865), to Professor N. L. Maiden, a scholarly and cultured Virginian, whose leadership and attainments in education in Barry County in the 1880's and 1890's are sincerely venerated by Missouri schoolmen to this very day.
The story goes that Professor Maiden, who had served valiantly in the Confederate Army and had lost an arm in the Wilderness fighting, had long yearned for a face-to-face meeting with his old Commander-in Chief, - just to shake hands and, "Pay respects."
Finally at a Confederate Reunion not mentioned in the telling, Professor Maiden succeeded in gaining a place in what must have been a long reception line, but in due course he was presented to his Ex-President.
It seems that in greeting each of his old veterans, "Jeff Davis" routinely asked about their health, their instances of military service, their home at the time, and their occupation.
Professor Maiden answered briefly and respectfully.
He added, however, that he did not suppose Jefferson Davis had ever so much as heard of Cassville, Barry County, Missouri.
But, oh, yes, Mr. Davis had heard of Cassville, Barry County, Missouri. He had even spent a night there encamped at the big spring which was then and for many years later continued to be the main source of water supply for Cassville. The reason for Davis' being there was that he was in command at the time of a body of troops moving westward from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.
In the story Jefferson Davis is said to have said, "I remember Cassville distinctly, located as it is where seven valleys are joined like the spokes in the hub of a wheel, and for that reason I recall saying to myself that evening that the place would be utterly indefensible if ever heavily attacked." End of quotes, end of story.
Now, there is more truth than poetry in this story even though stories have a way of growing in their telling. This is especially true of stories well over eighty years of age. For example, another version has Jefferson Davis leading Confederate troops through Cassville. Obviously that would be the height of some thing or other. Still another has him rushing a troop of Regulars to join his onetime father-in-law, Zachary Taylor, in Mexico at the Battle of Buena Vista. That modification, however, plausible, is subject to two severe corrections: one, Davis' command in the Mexican War was a regiment of Mississippi volunteers, and, two, they all sailed from New Orleans to land on the sun-seared sandspits of the Brazos de Santiago off Port Isabel, Texas, (1). From the "Brazos", as it came to be known at the time, they continued on into Mexico and distinguished themselves in the proper way at Buena Vista, sure enough, (2) not to fail to mention other successful encounters as well, (3).
Actually, that is, actually for the actualities, Jefferson Davis, 1st Lieutenant of Dragoons, U.S. Army, did, in the fall of 1833 take a detachment down the Military Road from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, to Ft. Smith, Arkansas Territory, thence to the open lands ceded a few years before to the Creek Indian Nation, all of which was in a large area south and west of Ft. Gibson, Indian Territory, later to become Oklahoma, (4). There Davis' troops took position to keep the peace between the Indians already there and the Creek tribes re-located from Georgia and Alabama to that region by the Treaty of February 12, 1825, (5). Further, the Dragoons were to protect insofar as possible the white traders and other white sojourners in that vast and uncivilized wilderness.
After several months of tedious and at times grueling field duty, the troops went into quarters at Ft. Gibson, but only after spending considerable time and effort in extending
both the fortifications and facilities necessary to the place.
As for Jefferson Davis himself, early in 1835 after a visit to his brother's cotton plantation in Mississippi, he decided to resign his Army Commission once arrangements had been made with his brother to take up a plantation of his own nearby. Davis' resignation became effective June 30, 1835, (6).
Here ends the research.
What conclusions are allowable?
Well, all elements of this recital well considered, one might reasonably say that here is an Ozark story in which "truth" and fact are in strong mutual support.
To be sure, George Washington never slept in Cassville, the City of the Seven Valleys,-not ever. Jefferson F.* Davis did,-if only for one night.
*(He did have a middle name, you know.' (7).
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