The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

Turnbo Home | Table of Contents | Keyword Search| Bibliography | Biography

By S. C. Turnbo

The Battle of Wilson Creek or Oak Hills as it is often called has gone into history as a hard fought struggle. A large number of gallant men on both sides yielded up their lives on this field of blood in defense of what they were sworn to support. Though while the commanders of both armies who took part on this hard contested field were fearless and no doubt did all they knew how to avert the danger threatening each others troops yet the general officers in the early part of the war were not as skillful in displaying their ability as commanders were in maneuvering their men against the enemy and taking advantage of his lines as commanders were later on in the war. Experience in war as well as being trained in other matters make men more perfect in the line of occupation they are pursuing Nathaniel Lyon and Frants Sigiel as commanders on the one side and Ben McCullough and Sterling Price on the other were well known officers and were fearless leaders. The first named commander was anxious to drive the confederates out of Missouri and the commanders of the Southern troops were fully as anxious to force the federals back toward St. Louis. Though the commanders of both sides may have erred to some extent in arranging their lines for battle. But it is not my purpose to criticise something that I know so little about. It is wrong to abuse true and brave officers and men of either side. No doubt though if the same armies commanded by the same men had met two years later as they did on that memorable morning of the 10th of August 1861 the battle if fought at all on Wilson Creek would have been carried out oh a different plan. It is no question in my mind but that those officers did their duty that day as far as they understood it. The officers who lead those brave troops, Lyon Siggiel McCullough and Price have gone to that peaceful clime where war is no more and we ought to be careful and not be too partisan in our criticism of those faithful leaders. If harsh criticism is indulged in why not let it fall on a certain class of favorites who did more harm than benefit to the side they belonged and seemed to have been kept in the army merely for ornaments and would make blunders during campaigns and in battles. These should be the men to receive criticism and also the authorities that put them there. If there were mistakes made on either side in the fight on Wilson Creek I do not think it was through neglect of duty or else I have been badly misinformed. The brave lead the brave and the brave resisted the brave. Each side was bent on victory. Neither side wanted to be repulsed. It was a field of blood and carnage until the hard fought struggle closed. One side held the battle ground and the other side retreated. To show the anxiety displayed by Gen. Nathaniel Lyon to drive the southern men from their camp on Wilson Creek Mr. Samuel Quinn informs me that he was a member of Col. Wright’s 6th Missouri Regiment on the Union side and took part in the battle. He says that about 9 o’clock on the evening of, the 9th of August General Lyon assembled his troops together and made a speech to them and said in part, "Men, those of you that are willing to make an attack on the Confederate camp and gain a victory follow meet of course the soldiers were glad of the honor of following him. An hour later we were on the march and struck the southern troops about daybreak. I will not try to enter into all the details of the battle that come under my personal observations, but will give only a few incidents", said Mr. Quinn. "Gen. Lyon was mounted on a dapple gray horse. I was in 15 paces of him when he was killed. He and his horse fell at the same moment. It was a hot time with our men when Lyon fell. After the battle was over and our troops had retreated the next in command of our men, sent a flag of truce back to the Confederate lines asking to be allowed the privilige of bringing the body of our dead commander into our lines. I was one of the detail of men that was sent back to take care of our dead general and place it in an ambulance to be taken to Springfield for interment. Our detail and a detail of men from the Confederate Army worked together in collecting the dead and depositing the bodies in a temporary resting place until such time come that they could be removed to Springfield. It was several days before all the dead were found. A number of the wounded of both sides had crawled away from the scene of blood and died. The ground where the main fight occurred presented a sad and sickening spectacle. Gen. Lyon fell in 200 yards of a cave on Brush Ridge near Wilson Creek known as Bala cave. I was told", continued Mr. Quinn, "that a number of dead soldiers were put into this cave and covered over with stones. Soon afterward the bodies or a part of them at least were taken out and identifiea." Besides taking part in this hotly contested fight, Mr. Quinn was an early settler in this same locality where the battle occurred. "I was born in the extreme northeast corner of the state of Iowa August 22, 1844. While I was an infant my parents John and Mary Ann (Brown) Quinn moved to Springfield Illinoise where my father engaged in the mercantile trade. But in 1848 he lost all his goods and house by fire. A few of the citizens made up a small amount of money and gave him which was some help to us. Shortly after the burn out my parents left Illinoise in a two horse wagon for Green County, Mo. where we located in Springfield and lived there several months." In speaking of their arrival there Mr. Quinn said, "I remember so well when we got into town. We stopped on the court square and I sit in the wagon with mother while father went among the town people to solicit employment. Father was a free mason and as soon as he let it be known that he was a member of that fraternity it taken but a few minutes to engage all the work he desired. John S. Phelps give him a job of laying the foundation of a house with stone and brick at $2.50 per day. Phelps had a son whose given name was John E. and who took a prominent part in the Civil War and commanded the Second Arkansas regiment on the federal side. After I was old enough to labor I worked a great deal for Mr. Phelps and I have a kind remembrance for the Phelps family for they treated me very kind. John Layer the famous blacksmith made father a set of tools to work with. Mr. Layer opperated a furnace and bellows in each corner of his shop and carried on an extensive business in his line of work. He had two apparatuses or swings constructed in his shop, one of which was for the purpose of shoeing unruly horses. The other was used to shoe oxen. Several negroes worked in this shop. Springfield was only a small town then but the business men did a thriving trade. I remember Bob McElroy who was a merchant there and Jake Pointer the gun smith. Father worked in Springfield until the fall of 1849 when he purchased an improvement of a Mr. Dikes who lived on head of Wilson Creek 6 miles southwest of Springfield where afterward he made an entry of 200 acres of land. This land was covered with black oak and black jack timber and hazel thickets where bushels of hazle nuts were gathered during the fall months. Two fine "cave" springs furnished an abundance of water for farm use. Here my father and John Gray established a brick yard and furnished the citizens with brick to build houses with. The names of a few of our neighbors when we first located on this land were the two Roses - Reuben and Lee, two of the Dotson men - Bill and Tom, Joel Phillips, Andrew Adams and the three Payne boys - Anderson, Tom and Sam. While the battle of Wilson Creek was being fought reconnoitreing parties of both armies met on fathers farm and fought. Part of the Confederate troops camped on Joe Sharps land on Wilson Creek. From time to time during the war each army went for the corn hay, meat and other stuff in Green County. But be it said to the credit of the regular army of both sides that as far as I know they refrained from burning houses in our neighborhood. I suppose that the reason no dwellings were destroyed was that the sentiments of the people were nearly equally divided between the northern and southern sympathizers and that the enemies of one side was afraid to burn the houses belonging to the opposite side for fear the other side would retaliate. Mr. Quinn says that his father died in Wise County Texas in 1879 and that his mother died at Hot Springs Arkansas in 1881. 12 children were born to them - 8 boys and 4 girls. After the close of the war I settled in Searcy County, Ark. and hunted in North Arkansas three years. Deer were so plentiful in the Boston Mountains that when I would be out on a camp hunt they would advance up close to camp of nights and run play and fight making a mighty noise. I always went prepared to collect wild honey as well as saving pelts and deer horns. Speaking of this reminds me of the richest bee tree I ever saw which was a large sycamore tree that stood on the side of a mountain in the valley of Hog Creek which empties into Osage Creek of White River. The soil on the side of this mountain is rich and several varieties of excellent timber grow here. John Baker assisted me to fell the tree and we taken out two home made washing tubs full of rich honey comb that held two bushels each. These were all the vessels we had with us and as the tubs did not hold all the honey in the tree we were compelled to leave the remainder in the tree. "The only strange things I have to tell you in all my hunting was the finding of three dead bucks that had died under peculiar circumstances", said Mr. Quinn. "These were found on different dates and in separate localities. One of the bucks had either sprang off of a high precipice or fell over it accidently. The deer had a fine head of horns. The cliff was so high that life was crushed out of him when he struck the stones below. This was near 25 miles west of Marshall in Searcy County. I and John Baker were together at the time of finding the dead buck. The other two bucks had died in warm weather and we discovered them by the swarms of green flies. Both deer were found hung to saplings by their horns that they had been rubbing or butting their heads and got the trunk of the saplings between their foreheads and points of their horns and rubbed downward to where the sapling was too large to free the horns and had hung there until they died. The animals had struggled so hard to free themselves that each deer had pawed and tore up the dirt and stones until there was a deep trench around the foot of the trees. The bucks had gradually perished from exhaustion and starvation. One of these bucks was found in the hills on the west side of Osage Creek and the other one was discovered on the north west breaks of the Boston Mountains.

Next Story

Turnbo Home | Table of Contents | Keyword Search| Bibliography | Biography

Springfield-Greene County Library