The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The dividing ridge between the breaks of Lower Turkey Creek on the north and the McVey hollow and Cedar Creek on the south is known as the Chainlink Mountains. The summit of these hills in places is narrow with sides steep and rough. As one passes along the crests of these hills low gaps and high mound like formations are seen. These Chainlink hills are timbered with black oak, post oak and blackjack interspersed with glades and bald points. At one spot the gap in the chain is quite low with scattering post oak trees and numerous flat rocks which show just above the surface of the ground, As we stand in this gap and face southward we have a view of the small valley of Cedar Creek which empties into Big Creek. Beyond this is the distant hills south of White River. To the right is a high hill covered with timber which is a part of the Chainlinks. To the left is a small spot of rough prairie which extends up to the timber that grows on another hill similar in shape to the one just refered to. To the north a short distance stands the noted Turkye Bald Knob. Further on is the hills of Turkey Creek and Little North Fork. There is a hollow that runs into Turkey Creek that was known to the early settlers as White River Hollow, which took its name from a trail that was made by the settlers in early times in passing from the settlements on Little North Fork to White River and from the latter stream to the former water course. The trail leads up this hollow and over this gap and down Cedar Creek to Big Creek and down this stream to the river. In the early days, the settlers used this pathway so frequently that it was kept beat out but at the present date it is but little used and is almost obliterated with time and lack of travel. At the present days there is a wagon way from Dugginsville to Lutie which leads up the slope of the hill ¼ mile west of this gap. Dugginsville is on Cedar Creek one mile south of here. The gap we refer to is in Ozark County, Missouri. Now let us go south of White River in Marion County, Arkansas. In a hollow that leads into Trimble Creek at the Bill Trimble place is a spring of water that runs out -of the ground at the base of a hill near the Charley Hodge place. This water is on the road leading from Peel to the mouth of Trimble Creek, This spring took its name from Allin Trimble who give it the name of "Mountain Spring" and was a great resort for men in war days. Now sets in our story. In the month of May, 1863, a number of southern men assembled at this spring to go on a raid into Ozark County. Their leader was Bill Cain who lived on Jimmie’s Creek. I am told that there were 30 men who were armed and equipped sufficiently to put up a good fight with the enemy of equal numbers. They were all mounted and when they were ready for the start they marched to the river and forded it and after passing Big Creek they struck through the rough hills and went to Pond Fork and across the ridge to North Fork and up this stream to the mouth of Little Creek. A company of mounted federals troops were temporarily stationed on Beaver Creek in Douglas County. These men were in charge of Capt. Bill Piland with Lieut. Bill Evans as second in command. It took only a few hours for the union soldiers to get word of the approach of the confederates and Piland hurried off with his men which were 26 in number to find out what the southern fellows were up to. After the Southerners had rode around a while on Little Creek they decided to go back to White River and traveled the most of the night. On reaching the ford of Little North Fork just above the mouth of Pond Fork they halted to rest before the break of day. After resting a while they resumed the march and traveled down the creek to the mouth of Turky Creek and turned and went up this stream to the Mud Spring. By this time the sun was an hour or more high. The morning was clear with a heavy dew. After leaving Turky Creek they followed the trail that leads up White River hollow to the gap in the Chainlinks that we mentioned at the beginning of this account. By this time the confederates were tired and their horses were jaded and hungry and they halted in the low gap to rest in the shade of the trees and let their horses graze. The officer in charge was careless and negligent and failed to post videts to be on the look out for the enemy. They were not expecting the enemy to overhaul them and would rest awhile and travel on at their leisure. But they all paid dearly for their idleness. The men turned their horses loose to fill themselves on the luxuriant growth of grass and they scattered in every direction. Part of the men lay down on the grass. Others rested at the foot of the trees. One man read a newspaper that had fell into their hands while on Little North Fork and some of the men were giving eager attention to the reading. They were loose in discipline or they would have been vigilant and watchful to the highest degree for the approach of the federals. They made a sad mistake in not doing this. In the meantime the company of union cavalry hurried to meet the southern fellows and when they reached Little Creek they found they were gone back to-ward White River by disappearing down North Fork and they made haste to pursue them. By some means the union men learned that the southern men had halted on the Creek to camp late in the night and they layed a trap for the unsuspecting Southerners, but they never caught them. When the federals had reached the mouth of Turkey Creek it was sunrise and the trail of the confederates were easily followed up Turkey Creek and up White River hollow on account of the heavy dew and the tracks the horses made. The officers in command of the squad of federals were cautious and kept two men in advance of them and when these two men approached in sight of the gap they heard the southern men laughing and talking. Carefully and cautiously they went a little closer where they got a glancing view of their position and condition without being observed. It was a grand moment to make a dash and charge and the two videts turned and went back to their command and made their report. Capt. Piland ordered his men to dismount and after making a detail of two or three men to look after the horses he advanced with the remainder of his men in a slow and cautious manner up the hollow a short distance, then leaving the trail and turned to the left and went on until they reached the glade in view of the confederates and halted and fired on them. We have said that the southern men were very negligent in their duty and we will say now that the federals were certainly wild with excitement. I am told that they fired 100 shots more or less from their guns and pistols without killing or wounding a man while the confederates were in the gap. With the exception of a hole shot in the top of Harve Yocum’s hat not a man was touched. When the volley was fired by the soldiers in blue it was a surprise to those in grey. The noise of the outburst of small arms and the whistling of the bullets that struck the rocks and ground near the men created a panic and a route. They left their guns and made a wild rush for safety. A few of the confederates made for their horses and succeeded in mounting them and went off on a wild race over the rough stony ground. I am told that John Copelin darted for his horse and got astride of him while the animal was trotting and galloped away under a heavy fire but not a ball touched him. This shows that the federals were as poor marksmen as the southern force were slack in being slipped up on. As the southern men scattered in their exciting rush to escape, the federals did likewise in pursueing them. Asa Yocum ran down the hill into the head of Cedar Creek pursued by the second officer in command of the federals. When Mr. Yocum had run 250 yards his strength was exhausted and he stopped under a post oak tree to surrender and handed the officer his pistol breech foremost which the man took and raised it and pointed the muzzle of the pistol at Yocum’s head and shot him just over the left eye. I am told that Mr. Yocum struggled in the agony of death a half an hour before his final moments come. The federals captured 19 head of horses with their equipments and a number of guns and pistols. They also captured 5 prisoners the names of which were Jim Friend, son of Peter Friend, John Carroll, son of Tom Carroll, Mike Yocum, son of Mike Yocum and brother of Asa Yocum, Bob Mitchell and Jerry Davis—the last named died in a northern prison.

Asa Yocum had a number of friends among the federals and when they found that he was killed they regretted it. I was told by a southern man that was with them at the time that while they were coming down North Fork below the mouth of Little Creek they stopped at the residence of Sam and Joe Piland. Joe was sick and was at home on furlough and in bed. Some of the southern men threatened to kill them both but Asa Yocum interfered and begged for their lives and they were not hurt. As usual in war when a man is killed by the enemy his body is left where it falls so it was in Mr. Yocum’s case. The body was left lying in the grass in the shade of the post oak tree *here he gave up his life. But some of the man were kind enough to tie a handkerchief to a limb of the post oak tree that hung over the body to direct the family and other friends where the body lay. The southern men did not know Mr. Yocum was killed and when some of the confederates who were running at the top of their speed heard the report of the pistol they knew it was Yocum’s but they supposed he had shot a, federal. But when the most of the retreating men had reached the river and their old friend had not made his appearance they were convinced that he was killed. On the following day after the Southerners were attacked, Harve Yocum, brother of Asa Yocum, Bob Davis, John Copelin and Tomps Copelin returned to the scene of the attack and made a search for him and Harve Yocum discovered the dead body of his brother lying under the bows of the post oak tree as mentioned. Yocum and Tomps Copelin remained with the body and Bob Davis and John Copelin went back to the Asa Yocum farm to notify Asa’s wife and children where the body was discovered and Mrs. Yocum dispatched a messenger with a blanket to put over the remains to shield them from the flys as much as possible. Mrs. Eliza Yocum, the bereaved woman, in company with Mrs. Nancy Yocum, widow of Bill Yocum, "Tine" Copelin, wife of John Copelin, and Winnie Copelin, wife of Tomps Copelin, and Jim Copelin, son of Tomps Copelin, and Lindie Friend, daughter of Peter Friend., and Paton Bevins started with a cart drawn by a yoke of cattle which were guided by Jim Copelin to bring the body of her dead husband home. It was a trying time. This awful war brought death and destruction in every direction where its influence reached and the poor women and children underwent sore trials, tearful eyes and despairing hearts, but it was war and they were forced to abide by its results. Mr. Yocum was shot near 9 o’clock in the morning and his body was found near 24 hours after his death and by the time they arrived on the scene of death with the oxcart it was in an advanced state of decomposition and very difficult to handle. They taken the body down Cedar Creek to its mouth then down Big Creek to the river where they crossed it at the Poll Clark ford and arrived at home with the body at sunset. They were unable to take off the bloody clothes and put on better ones or take his boots even but were compelled to bury the remains as they were brought home. A grave had been dug and a rough coffin had been prepared. The scene of the burial in the dusk of the evening as the dead man’s wife and children and other friends as they collected around the coffin to pay their last respects to the dead here on earth was weired, tearful and piteous. The body received interment in the cemetery near the dead man’s residence. One beautiful day in September as I stood in the low gap where the encounter took place between the two war parties I thought of the dark shadow that enveloped the hills and valleys of Ozark County at that time and I thanked God that the days of blood and death of Civil War is gone and God grant that it may be gone forever and that ties of friend-ship and love between the people of both sections of our great United States may grow closer together as time passes on.

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