A LEADER OF A SOUTHERN BAND OF MEN ATTEMPTS
TO FORCE A UNION MAN TO JOIN HIS FORCES
By S. C. Turnbo
The great war in the United States from 1861 to 1865 proved the domineering spirit and bad disposition of hundreds of men of both sides where they had an opportunity to show their authority. They were abusive and cruel to those they had in their power. It was not uncommon to meet these overbearing fellows In the armies of both the north and south, but It was usually the case these men did not belong to the regular army, but numbered among the guerrillas and outlaws who carried on an irregular warfare.
One day In the month of August, 1903, I received a letter from L. D. Row of Pruit, Boone County, Ark., dated July 30th giving a story of war days which runs as follows.
J. M. Booth come from near Jonesborrough, Tenn., in 1853. Being then 13 years old he lived with his father, Joseph Booth, on the east side of White River at the mouth of Yocum Creek in Taney County, Mo. in 1860 J. M. Booth married Miss Agnes Russell whose parents lived near Springfield, Mo. They lived together 31 years, raised a family of 7 children, 3 sons and 4 daughters. Like numbers of other old timers of the White River Valley, Mr. Booth has passed through some very interesting and exciting scenes in the forest while hunting game and encountered serious trouble during war times. His father died before the war broke out and he was living on the old farm with his young wife when the bloody conflict began between the states.
In the summer of 1861 about 25 men rode up where he was at work near the house and requested him in no polite terms to join their band. The men were in charge of a rough man. "You must join my company." said the commander. "I cannot accept your proposition, It said Mr. Booth. "Why not?" yelled the captain. "Well, says Mr. Booth, "my reasons for not enlisting in your company is that you claim to be southern men and you are opposing the government of the United States and I believe in the union of states and cannot afford to go with a company of men who are warring against the stars and stripes." The remarks were spoken in a mild way but the leader flew into a rage and without further interrogation, he rammed the muzzle of his gun against his breast and shouted, "Now, damn you, join us or I will put daylight through you in a moment." To this Mr. Booth said, "Sir, you have the advantage of me now and you can pull the trigger when you get ready. I will die rather than join your company." At this the enraged leader saw that he could not compel the man to enlist in the band through abuse and the influence of the gun and he cooled down for he found that bulldozing made matters worse and tried to reason the case with Mr. Booth and talked to him in a kind way and advised him like a father giving admonition to his son. When Booth would not give way to his pleadings he said, "We are going across the country, and shall be gone about two weeks. When we return if you do not come and join our company I will have my men shoot you on sight." And thus they left him.
Mr. Booth knew he had met desperate men and was convinced that they would carry their threats Into action unless he joined the company, and he would face death rather than do it. He knew he could not remain at home in safety and he come to a decision at once. His beloved wife was at the house ignorant of what had passed between himself and the commander of the band of man and leaving his work he went to the house and told his wife what had happened and the noble and brave hearted woman was ever ready to protect him with her life if necessary. He informed her that they would have to get out of there for it was impossible for him to remain at home and they would go up north where she would be more safe and he would enlist in the union army. With their hurried conversation he told his wife to prepare provision enough to last 3 or 4 days, get all the household goods in shape to load into the wagon as soon as dark come. They would take part if not all. He had a crib full of old corn and a fine crop of corn just in silk and tassle. To loose this would be a severe loss, but life was at stake and it was more dear to him than a crib of corn and a field of roasting ears. Then if he was killed his poor wife would be left alone to face all the misfortunes and afflictions that would be forced on her and he loved her too well to think of leaving her to battle with the sore trials she would be compelled to meet. As soon as night spread its dark mantle over the hills and valleys they loaded their bedding, wearing apparel and provision into the wagon, yoked a fine yoke of oxen and hitched them to it and soon left their home and what they left there to go to destruction. It was a bad night and a tearful leaving to them but such Is war and its awful results. The weather was warm and cloudy. A heavy rain had fallen the night previous to their departure and the streams were swollen. The oxen moved along slow it seemed to the anxious couple that the cattle traveled as slow as snails and as the wagon wheels run over the rough road It appeared that the jolts and resulting noise could be heard for miles and the man expected to be overtaken by a band of bushwhackers and killed and his dear wife would be left at the mercy of a heartless foe, but they were not molested. Finally they passed the Miliken Bald Hill then they reached Cedar Creek and crossed It in safety. It was daylight when they reached Beaver Creek at the Mat Laughlin ford which they found past fording. They halted near the bank of the creek and waited until the following morning for the stream to run down and still it was not fordable. Mr. Booth and his wife were discouraged. They were satisfied they would be pursued and they decided that they must get away from there. They must either cross the creek or go another direction. Just then they heard the clatter of horses feet on another road that lead down to the same ford where they were camped. It proved to be a lone rider and as he galloped up he never halted and rode into the creek and passed over. The water at the deepest place run over the horses back but it was only a few feet across the deepest part and Booth and his wife decided at once to attempt to cross over. They tied their clothing and bedding all into one bundle and Booth yoked the cattle and hitched them to the wagon and into the creek they went. The oxen were large and stout and they took the running gears of the wagon to the opposite shore. In the deepest part of the ford the wagon bed floated off the wagon and down it went in a rush with Booth and wife and their effects in it. The preservation of the life of his wife was uppermost in his mind. There was no time for consultation and he leaped into the water and took hold of one corner of the wagon box and attempted to swim to the shore with it. A few rods down stream the creek made a bend where a bunch of sycamore trees stood at the edge of the water from the limbs of which a cluster of grape vines hung down into the water. These vines were about 15 feet from the shore. Then these vines turned from where they were hanging in the water and lead to the shore to where they were growing from the bank above the water. It was evident that Booth could not reach the shore before the current carried him and his wife and the wagon box with its contents into the tangled mass of vines. When he saw this he told his wife to jump Into the water close to him but she must not take hold of him. The brave and trusting woman instantly obeyed and as she struck the water her husband released the wagon box and he caught her and swam with her safely to the shore. The water carried the wagon box swiftly against the cluster of grape vines and held it there until the bottom or floor of the box become detached and floated out. The side pieces of the box by some means closed around together and held the bundle of clothes and bedding securely between them and tore loose from the vines and lodged against a drift a few yards below the sycamore trees. Booth and his wife landed on the same side that the oxen taken the remainder of the wagon out on where they had stopped in the road close to the creek. Man and wife were in sore distress and as they were not able to get their bed clothes and wearing apparel from the drift while the water was up they drove the oxen with what was left of the wagon to an acquaintance who lived only a few miles away and the family furnished them with food, dry clothes and bedding and lumber for a new wagon box. As soon as the water subsided sufficiently, Mr. Booth and his friends fished the bedding and clothes out of the water and carried them to his friends house and dried them. This was all they saved. In a reasonable time they reached Mr. Russells house where Mr. Booth left his wife and went on to Springfield where he enlisted in the federal army. At the close of the war he received an honorable discharge and Is now living on Bee Creek near the line between Boone County, Ark, and Taney County, Mo."
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