The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Among the ghastly scenes of war days is an account furnished me by Ben Hager, a non-commissioned officer who served in the federal army and who was raised in Madison County, Arkansas. Mr. Hager said, "I want to give you a brief history of the death of ten southern men, part of which belonged to the confederate army and the others were sympathizers with the south. Some of them were young men, others had sons in the southern army. I cannot call to mind any of their names now, nor do I know who killed them, but they were all killed on the Breaks of Richland Creek some five or more miles west of Huntsville, Arkansas. I understood that their executioners gave them their choice of being shot to death or be sent to prison in the north, and it is said that they preferred death rather than suffer with cold and rough treatment in the federal prisons in the cold climate. Brave men, they met a horrible fate, but such is war, its destiny and results and the best of men of both sides were slain as well as others. After the ten men had been dead three weeks, I was ordered to take a detail of soldiers and bury the bodies. Three of the men on my detail were Ham Guthrie, Harry Silvie, and Sam Alderson. After we managed to procure a hoe and a shovel, we rode to the place where we were told that the dead men were left and found that the ten bodies had been thrown into a rail pen which contained wheat straw. They lay in a pile on straw and had been covered over with the same material. The bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition and when we taken the straw off them they presented a sickening sight and we could hardly handle them. We dug a grave as best we could with the tools at hand and after we had got it deep enough, we spread a blanket down in the bottom of the grave, then we carried the bodies from the pen one at a time and placed them carefully on the blanket until we had formed a layer in the bottom of the grave, and we had to place the remaining dead on their dead comrades until we had put them all in the grave and after this, service was performed, we spread another blanket over them and filled in the dirt and left the new-made grave holding these victims of war."

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