Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written ten nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Civil War Springfield, Wicked Springfield: The Seamy Side of the Queen City, and Murder and Mayhem in Missouri.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bloody Conspiracy Theorists

I remarked several months ago about the tendency that many people have to claim a connection to notorious figures from the past. I think I was speaking specifically at the time about the exaggerated idea that Jesse James spent a lot of time in and around Joplin, Missouri, when the best evidence seems to suggest that he did not. But, of course, it's not just groups or whole towns that claim dubious connections to notorious historical figures. Individual persons do so also, probably to an even greater extent. For instance, it's not unusual at all to run on to someone who claims to be related to Jesse. I've met enough such individuals that I'm convinced that not all of them could possibly be correct.
In addition to claiming unfounded kinship to notorious individuals, a lot of people also seem to want to rewrite history where renowned historical figures, both famous and infamous, are concerned. For instance, I suppose there are still people around who refuse to believe Elvis is dead. I know there are people who don't believe Jesse James was really killed in St. Joseph in 1882 by Bob Ford. Likewise, there are people who don't think Bloody Bill Anderson was killed in Ray County in 1864. People seem to love an intriguing mystery, and if none exists, they'll create one.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Skirmish at Ft. Lawrence

On the early morning of January 7, 1863 (some sources mistakenly say January 6), a skirmish that occurred at Fort Lawrence in what was then Taney County served as a prelude to the Battle of Springfield the next day. Fort Lawrence was just a blockhouse manned by the local Enrolled Missouri Militia. It was located on Beaver Creek, and the place was sometimes referred to as Beaver Creek Station or just Beaver Station. It was located in a part of Taney that later became southwestern Douglas County (near present-day Rome). When the E. M. M. at the fort were surprised by a force under Colonel Emmett McDonald, who was temporarily detached from the larger force under General John S. Marmaduke that later attacked Springfield, many of the militiamen took to flight at the sound of the first gun. The Enrolled Missouri Militia in general contained a lot of reluctant warriors. The E. M. M. was created in the summer of 1862 as a sort of home guard force to supplement the already exisisting Missouri State Militia Cavalry and to free up the MSM to pursue guerrillas or meet other threats throughout the state. Since service was compulsory for all able bodied men not already in the Federal military, the creation of the E. M. M. drove many Southern sympathizers into Confederate service or into the bush as guerrillas. Many others, however, went ahead and joined the E. M. M. rather than reveal their true sentiments and became dubious warriors for the Union cause. When it came time to do battle, though, they often fled at the first fire or, in some cases, even went over to the other side. For this reason, the E. M. M. was derided as the "Paw Paw Militia" in some parts of Missouri. I'm not saying the E. M. M. at Fort Lawrence were Southern sympathizers, but, like a lot of their comrades, they apparently weren't any too eager to do battle.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unionist Arkansawyers

First, I want to call attention to the fact that I did not entitle this post "Unionist Arkansans." I hate that term. When I hear it, I always think the speaker must be from Kansas or someone who is trying to put on airs. People from Arkansas, at least not if they are old-time hillbillies, don't call themselves Arkansans.
Anyway, now to the real topic of this post. As a Missouri native and a somewhat serious student of the Civil War, I always think of my home state as a place that witnessed a particularly bitter form of guerrilla warfare and a place where the civilians suffered more than their share of depredations. There was, of course, a good reason for this. Missouri stayed in the Union, but its people were bitterly divided in their political sentiments. As a slave-holding border state, Missouri had many Southern sympahtizers, despite its inclusion in the Union.
I sometimes tend to forget that Arkansas to our south was just as bitterly divided, at least in the northern counties. Even though Arkansas seceded from the Union, many of the hillfolk in the northern counties were Union sympathizers, and they were treated just as badly as their counterparts in Missouri by the roving bands of guerrillas and quasi-Southern soldiers that infested both states. After describing the deplorable situation that Union citizens in southwest Missouri faced in the summer of 1862, a correspondent of the New York Times, writing from Springfield, turned his attention to Missouri's neighbor to the south. The condition in northwestern Arkansas, he said, "is still worse. In Carroll, Washington and other Counties, there are hundreds of Union men; but they are at extreme peril of property and life. The rebel Conscription act, and roving bands of plunderers, have compelled many of them to leave their homes, to find their way within our lines as best they might."

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