The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In writing of the blood curdling scenes of the Civil War as they occurred along White River during that awful conflict between the men of North and South I almost shudder while thinking of it. We have written an account of a number of men who were killed, robbed or tortured. It is almost impossible to collect all the facts belonging to these bloody incidents and no doubt many horrible things were done that a record of It was never written and will never get into print. Among these stirring scenes of blood and death is one which took place soon after peace was declared or in the month of May, 1865, which I give here as told me by reliable authority. A man of the name of Henry Darrest or "Doss" as he was commonly known settled on Shoal Creek in Taney County, Missouri, a few years before the breaking out of the war. The land he lived on is above the town of Protem and is called now the Andy Shelton place. Darrest was a son-in-law of the old man Sims, his wife’s name was Mary Ann. Some time before the close of hostilities between the north and south Darrest moved south of the river in what is now Crocket Township in Marion County, Arkansas. Two of Mr. Darrest’s brother-in-laws John Sims and Peter Sims, the latter of which was only 12 years old, lived with him or near him. The uncle Billy Holt farm which is on the north side of the river just above the mouth of Shoal Creek was deserted as it was nearly impossible for the family to remain there until after peace was restored. During the spring season of 1865 the Holt residence was occupied by a small body of federal soldiers. One day in May four of these soldiers got into a canoe at the Holt landing with the intention of going across to the south side but soon after leaving the shore someone who is supposed to be a brushwhacker began to shoot at them and they turned back toward the landing. The man who was at the top of the bluff continued to fire but overshot them but finally he drew aim lower and a ball struck the water behind the canoe and bounced and took effect in the back of one of the men named Jim Huff which gave him a severe wound. His comrades landed the canoe in haste and conveyed him to the Holt residence and in a day or two part of the men after robbing the house of bed clothes and wearing clothes some of which belonged to uncle Billy Holt who had been dead several years, they started to Forsyth and soon after arriving there the wounded man died. It seems that the other men either remained there or stayed close by with the intention of getting revenge for the death of their comrade. One day Henry Darrest, John Sims, Peet Sims and a man of the name of John-son got into a canoe at the Ned Coker residence or where they had stood for they were burned down during the war and started across to the north side. Darrest was going home to round up a few hogs he had left and the others were going along to assist him. They were not suspecting trouble for peace was declared and nearly all the confederate soldiers had surrendered. But it seems that Huff’s friends were determined to kill some-body for the loss of their soldier mate. It was very wrong in the man who shot at the federal soldiers from the top of the bluff for innocent parites had to suffer for It. It is supposed that when the Southerners left the bank of the river that the federal party were on the watch and went to the bank of the river above the Holt residence where they knew the men would land the canoe and lay in ambush for them. Mr. Darrest was paddling or guiding the canoe. The river was swollen several feet past fording. As the men in the canoe was nearing the north shore the federal soldiers opened fire on them. Darrest was shot three times and fell out of the canoe into the water and lodged against a willow 20 feet below where he was killed. John Sims was wounded and leaped into the water and attempted to swim back to the south bank but was shot and killed before he had swam but a few yards and his body was swallowed up by the swift muddy water. Peter Sims the boy was slightly wounded and he dropped down in the bottom of the canoe and lay flat on his stomach to avoid other bullets as much as possible. Johnson was not touched and he jumped into the water behind the canoe and caught the stern end of the craft with his left hand and with his right hand he exerted all his strength in keeping the canoe between himself and the enemy as a barrier to avoid the bullets and while doing this he kept pulling and working to reach the south shore. It was a critical moment for the bullets come in a shower and splintered and perforated the sides of the little dugout. Peet Sims received several slight wounds in the shoulder but he never flinched but lay as quiet as if he were dead and while Johnson was midway between the two shores struggling in the water In pulling the canoe along under great difficulties the enemy shot the end of one finger off that he used in holding to the end of the canoe but he held on with the remaining fingers and succeeded in landing the canoe a few feet below the spring that runs out of the river bank at the lower end of the old Ned Coker farm. Though the enemy continued to load and shoot at them all the time while he was crossing and young Sims had received more wounds in the shoulder and some in the back which put him past getting up on his feet when the canoe was landed and as soon as Johnson noticed this after he landed the canoe and while under a heavy fire he picked up the wounded boy In his arms and carried him up the bank and layed him down behind a tree. They were now comparatively safe for the enemy had no means to cross the river and they ceased firing and retired. After Johnson had rested a-while he picked up young Sims and carried him to safer quarter and hurried off for assistance and the wounded boy was taken to a house where he was oared for until he recovered from his wounds. In 3 or 4 days after the enemy had gone and the water in the river had fallen R. S. (Dick) Holt, W. A. (Bill) Pumphrey and others procured a canoe and began a search for the bodies of Darrest and John Sims and discovered the body of the former at the willow tree as mentioned above. They lifted the dead man into the canoe and taken it down this "river" to the Bill Coker farm where they dug a grave on the river bank opposite the mouth of Shoal Creek and buried it in a vault without a coffin but they covered the body over with pieces of plank before filling in the dirt. The remains of John Sims was never found except a few human bones and some remnant clothes that was discovered on an island opposite the old Joe Magness place one mile above the mouth of Big Creek that was supposed to be his. These were found In the sand several months after Sims was killed.

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