Volume 2, Number 4 - Summer 1965

Officers and Directors

Civil War

Guerillas, Jayhawkers, Bushwackers
From Elmo Ingenthron Manuscript

Following the battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove changes in methods of warfare in the upper White River Valley took place. Prior to this, regular army officers directed operations according to the rules and regulations of war. Civilian populations regardless of their loyalties, seldom suffered from or feared a soldier.

Now the rebellion became a civil war. Every man joined one side or the other or became a "bushwacker."

The detached units of the armed forces obeyed no laws and the officers sometimes failed to be soldiers. This was guerilla warfare.

The term guerillas often referred to detached units of the regular armies operating as predatory bands behind the army lines or in areas of dispute. The term "bushwacker" applied to those who swore no allegiance to either side and often united into bands of outlaws preying on both sides. The term "jayhawker" once applied to predatory bands in Kansas, but through common usage came to be applied to anyone doing looting. As the Civil War progressed in this region "guerilla," "bushwacker," and "jayhawker" became synonymous in their meaning and usage. The term "bushwacker" was perhaps the most degrading and was often applied to anyone practicing the art of ambushing. "Jayhawking" became synonymous with stealing and was often used by commanding officers of both sides in their orders forbidding looting by their troops. Toward the end of the great conflict there were really just two classes of people, those loyal to their own side and the enemy.

Farmers occupied the upper White River watershed. They depended on the lands to provide food and clothing. The dye for the cloth for which the women spun the thread, wove the cloth, and made the garments came from the hulls of the butternut, a species of walnut. During the rebellion they had no other color.

Often outsiders, especially the soldiers from Illinois and Iowa, referred to the people as "Butter Nuts." So did the newspapers and reporters.

After General Herron’s command moved to Forsyth, a continuous flow of "butter nut" refugees came to the Union garrison. This is according to the diaries of Benjamin F. McIntyre and C. W. Huff. They note on March 6, 1863, concerning families from as far as Searcy, Ark., "never saw such large families of children as they bring. None of them have less than six and some number as high as 15 ... They come to us muddy, wet to the skin and nearly frozen..."

An 1883 history of Greene County says, "There were hard times... among all in Southwest Missouri. The Confederate sympathizers were preyed upon by those among the Federal soldiers that were vicious and unprincipled... the lot of the Union families was but little better..."

Col. Weer, encamped at Carrolton, Ark., said "The Union people here are in deplorable condition, robbed of everything, the men secreted in the thickets to save their lives. The guerillas will shoot every Union man they see."

A Confederate intelligence officer wrote, "They (Federals) have murdered every southern man that could be found, old age and extreme youth share at their hands the same merciless fate."

The exploits of the guerillas, bushwackers, and jayhawkers with their accompanying acts of murder, robbing, arson and sometimes torture, made the regular army the safest place to be. Few prisoners were taken in the White River country during the last two years of the war.

In the upper reaches of the White River watershed lived the notorious rebel chieftains, Buck Brown and Tuck Smith.

When on July 4, 1864, Col. La Rue Harrison, at Fayetteville, dispatched Major Galloway to either capture Brown or run him out of the country, Brown not only eluded Galloway, but killed two Union soldiers and carried away 240 mules.

Tuck Smith raided the wedding of a federal guerilla, Benjamin Johnson, taking place on the Middle Fork of the White River, July 29, 1864. Smith drove the federal, his bride, and guests, to the woods and ate the wedding dinner.

But the Upper White River Valley likely never had another Civil War bushwacker that obtained the notoriety of Alfred Bolin. His atrocities will live long in the White River annals of internecine warfare. He grew up in that part of Christian County, once a segment of Taney County. He espoused the cause of the South and soon became the head of a gang of border ruffians. Among their favorite haunts was the area between Forsyth and Carrolton, Arkansas. It is said that Bolin committed many of his robberies at Murder Rock, four miles south of Kirbyville.

An account of his capture in the Civil War Diary of B. F. McIntyre, when stationed at Forsyth, on Feb. 1863, says in part, "A young man belonging to the 1st Iowa Cavalry, named Zack Thomas,


dressed as a "butter nut" met Bolin at the house of a woman, living 12 miles below here. Thomas inveigled himself into the graces of Bolin who thought him a young "butter nut" of the neighborhood. Bolin approached the fire, stooped down over it to place a live coal in his pipe for the purpose of lighting it. Young Thomas seized a broken plowshare, struck the monster in the head, causing his death. His body was brought to this place and exposed to view of any who might wish to gaze upon it...hundreds came..."

The legendary accounts of Alfred Bolin’s body without his head being buried at the base of a large tree on Swan Creek, not far from Cole Spring, is probably correct.

One of the most unusual Union patriots of the upper White River Valley was Capt. John R. Kelso, a school teacher, who reportedly spoke fluently five languages. He served in the Fourth State Militia as a Lieutenant, and later as Captain in the 8th Missouri Militia. He was a fanatic in his Unionism. He thought all Confederates to be traitors, guilty of treason and deserving death. It is said he killed many a man without cause. It is also said that he always carried a book in his saddle pockets. He read as he waited to drop the rebel. In 1864 he was sent to Congress from the Springfield Congressional District. He later moved to California.

A rebel guerilla chieftain was Alfred Cook a member of one of Taney County’s most prominent families. They settled on Swan Creek in the mid 1830’s With the outbreak of the Rebellion, Alfred Cook joined the cause of the South and became fanatical in his behavior. He soon became head of a band of rebel guerillas. His region of terror was pretty well confined to Taney and adjoining counties. He was captured on Jan. 12, 1865 by Lt. Willis Kissee, his counter part on the Federal side.

Among other guerillas, bushwackers, or jayhawkers as their enemies might choose to call them, who operated in the area were: Rebel Calvin Dunnaway, Union Capt. Cockran, Rebel James Ingraham, Union Martin D. Hart, Rebel Col. Sidney D. Jackman, and Rebel Captain Railey.

At the War’s end the entire region lay in shambles and ashes, surrendered, but still unconquered, it was the No Man’s Land of the Upper White River Valley.

(Note. This is a condensation of a chapter of the History of the Upper White River Valley that Elmo Ingenthron is writing. Please remember that of necessity I omitted many of the interesting features. jrm)


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