Volume 6, Number 7 - Spring 1978

The Battle of Dug Spring
by Leonard J. Williams

In 1917, when I was seven years old, my father, Alba Williams, purchased a part of the Jim McCullah farm on Crane Creek, one and one-half miles up the creek above Crane, Missouri. This is the scene of the "Battle of Crane Creek." At that time there were several veterans of the Civil War still living in the community along with several women who were living in the area during the war.

In 1952 my wife, Mildred, and I purchased the home farm of Jim McCullah. We have lived on that farm since then. In 1965 we purchased the Albert Wise farm which joined us on the west. Our son, Dan Williams, now owns most of this farm and lives on it. These two farms give us over a mile of the Crane Creek Valley where most of this battle took place.

I hope that this article will supplement what Dr. Kemp has written and will preserve for posterity some of the local information that has been handed down.

Those of us who live here have always heard of two small battles being fought here. The one Dr. Kemp wrote about happened on February 14, 1862. The battle that I have written about happened in August, 1861.


The "Battle of Dug Spring" took place on the Wire Road about 3 miles southwest of Clever, Missouri, in Christian County, on August 2, 1861 about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. In this skirmish Captain Fred Steel’s Infantry, Captain D. S. Stanley’s Dragons, and Captain Totten’s Battery with two 6 pound cannons, attacked General Rains’ Secessionists. The Secessionists were driven south back down the Wire Road.

Night came so the fighting ceased until the next morning, August 3, 1861. Dug Spring is only six or seven miles up the Wire Road from Crane Creek. The Secessionists had ridden to Crane Creek to camp for the night. General Ben McCullah and his army were camped along Crane Creek. The Federal troops came on down the Wire Road this August morning hunting the Secessionists.

According to local stories when daylight came on August 3, 1861, the Federal troops appeared on the hills east of Crane Creek and began firing on the Southern soldiers camped along the creek. The Southerners were building camp fires and were in the process of cooking breakfast when shots rang out and bullets began landing causing great confusion. And the rush was on!

Southern soldiers were scattered up and down the Wire Road for several miles. General Rains with six companies of the Missouri Militia was in front farthest up the road at Dug Springs. General

McCullah’s army was camped for several miles up and down Crane Creek. Mr. Arthur Gardner, my neighbor for years (now deceased) told me that his father, Huse Gardner, told him that General McCullah had 5,000 men camped along the Creek. Mr. Huse Gardner was a soldier for the North during the war. General McCullah had sixteen cannons in his cavalry. Soldiers were camped on down the road south in the Osa community and farther down in the Flat Creek area. This Southern army has been estimated as high as 20,000 men but best estimates are that there were 12,000 men more or less a few hundred.

Feeding 12,000 men was a huge task, especially when very little was brought along and there was little money for the Southern army to spend. Anything that could be found was taken to feed the men and the many horses used by the army. Elijah Williams (my grandfather) was a soldier in the Union Home Guard. Mary Elizabeth Wiley Williams (my grandmother) was at home on the farm in the Mars Hill community with her small children. This was five miles southwest of the Crane Creek camp. Forage wagons from the Secessionists came to her farm and hauled wagon loads of corn out of her barn. Nothing was said about paying anything for it.

While the Secessionists were in control in the community they helped themselves to what they found. Hogs were shot and hauled away. Cattle were


driven to the camp and butchered. While the local men were away women and children had raised crops. The soldiers were happy to find roasting ears, ripe apples, and even chickens that they could cook.

One local story says that some local women had sugar but no coffee. They took some sugar to the camps along Crane Creek to trade for coffee. A trade was made, but the next morning when the coffee was boiled, it was weak. The grounds had been boiled many times before.

Mr. Henry M. Cheovens was a soldier in Price’s Army. He kept a diary of his actions during the summer of 1861. Speaking of this community he wrote the following: "Camped at Crane Creek. Pretty place. Apple orchards and corn field open to us. Found several tons of lead which had been buried." Mr. Cheovens was wounded at the "Baffle of Wilson’s Creek".

Back to our battle at Crane Creek, the Secessionists were taken by surprise, but they fought back. They were soon routed and began moving back south down the Wire Road. There are several stories about this retreat. One story says that the South had a wagon load of lead which was too heavy to haul in a hurry, so it was dumped in Crane Creek. This was later found by the Northern army and used. Another story says that the South had three wagon loads of corn which was too heavy to travel with on the run so the endgate of the wagon was raised four to five inches and this let the corn spill out on the ground as the wagons lumbered down the road. This kept the North from getting it.

Mr. George Gwinn told me that he was a buy at home in our community during the war. He wasn’t old enough to be a soldier but he was big enough. His mother was afraid the ‘Bushwhackers’ might take him and kill him. So he would ride into the woods and brush in the day time and sneak home at night to get food and some sleep. One-half mile southwest of my home is a large sink-hole some 100 feet across at the top. This is now completely grown over with large oak timber. Mr. Gwinn said that he would ride into this timber-covered sink-hole and tie his horse down in it below the rim. Then he would sneak to the top of the hole on the north side, lie on the ground, and watch over the Little Crane Creek valley where he could see the Wire Road with soldiers, wagons, etc., traveling up and down.

On this August 3rd morning General Lyon came to the McCullah Store which is less than one mile north of my place. He did not have the Secessionists pursued very far down the Wire Road. His scouts advised him that he was being led into a trap, so he and his men returned to Springfield. A few days later the Southern Army moved back up the Wire Road to Wilson’s Creek and on August 10, 1861 the "Battle of Wilson’s Creek" was fought.

Regarding the February 14, 1862 "Battle of Crane Creek," local historians say that a band of Secessionists under the command of Thomas "Hawkeye" Livingston had been scouring around in Lawrence County and had picked up some Northern sympathizers. On February 13, 1862 they rode down the Crane Creek at the Wire Road to camp for the night The prisoners were W. N. Davis, Hardy Marsh and Joshua Marsh. These prisoners were left when the Secessionists fled south that Valentine day morning. This baffle was about three weeks before the "Baffle of Pea Ridge."

For several months after the "Battle of Wilson’s Creek" the Secessionists were in control of this area of Stone County. Any man who was a Northern sympathizer was fair game for the South. Some men fled north, some were killed, some were taken prisoners and some were able to hide in caves, attics, or other secret places. Property of Northerners was taken. Homes were burned and crops hauled away. Horses, cattle, and hogs were good picking. Livestock was hidden in timber or caves to keep the enemy from taking them.

On August 28, 1861, a band of Secessionists made a raid into Galena and took some prisoners. They captured John Cox and his son, James and Clemuel Davis and his son, Samuel. These men were marched to my home on Crane Creek where they were guarded through the night. During the night, Bill Cox, another son of John Cox, was captured and brought to the camp.

The next morning the Cox brothers were turned loose because they were just boys. The men were told that they were going to be killed. They could get on their knees and pray or run for their lives. John Cox was killed while he prayed. Clemuel Davis was shot, wounded and stoned to death. Samuel Davis ran, was shot, but only wounded and he got away. The Cox boys went to the Union Army and fought with them to the end of the war. Bill Cox knew the men who had killed his father and he was able to say, when the war was over, that not a single one of them was still alive. This lets us know that the feuds started during the war continued many years after the war was over.


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