Fading memories of the Civil War
As a young person I had little interest in my family’s history – something I regret a great deal now. I remember only the outlines of some of the stories and little “factoids”, not the identities of the central characters.
So far as I know, none of my ancestors lived in McDonald County, Missouri before or during the war, but it is possible that my great-grandmother Eliza Jane Carnell followed her husband south from Cass County, Missouri to be near him when he was in the military. She is likely the one who swallowed her wedding ring to keep it away from either soldiers or bushwhackers. A good story, but I don’t know for sure. Her husband, John Leonard Carnell was based at a camp in Maysville, Arkansas, and fought at the Battle of Cane Hill. Since it was close to Pea Ridge, it is likely he fought there too, but no proof. We do know that they fled to Sherman, Texas after the war and were likely acquainted with the Younger and James brothers.
I have so many unanswered questions like: Why did my great grandfather, Nimrod Porter Bunch move his family from Sarcoxie (the oldest town in SW Missouri) to Johnson County and remain there for some time thereafter? My grandfather was born there in 1865 and was old enough to remember the difficulties of bringing a herd of hogs across the many waterways between there and McDonald County where they settled on Big Sugar Creek at White Rock.
Was he a Confederate? Likely, but unknown. His brother, James Henry Bunch fought on the Confederate side and is featured in an online story called “Big, Mean and Ornery” by Dr. Barbara Inman Beale. My mother knew him and remembered how he liked to trip children like her with his cane. Apparently, he was ornery to the end.
One great-grandmother managed to raise and butcher a hog in times of great want. She hid her efforts from a gang of bushwhackers by covering the carcass under the laundry. The same tools were needed for both projects – a big iron kettle of boiling water being the most obvious and the clothing was used to hide the parts of the hog, so she was able to deceive the intruders.
Another interesting story was about some shirttail relatives who lived near Rocky Comfort. With the men all gone to war, an old woman died. The remaining women managed to construct a coffin but transporting it to the graveyard was a problem. They had no horses or mules, so they hitched a cow to a sled, loaded the coffin, and set off to the burial site. At some point, the sled tipped over, the coffin fell off and shattered. It was not told how they coped from that point, but they did manage to complete their task.
It has been reported that by the end of the war, only eight families still lived in McDonald County. With both the Union and Confederate armies and countless bushwhackers roaming the countryside, it is not too surprising that it was left an empty land. I wish I had paid more attention to the stories, but my memories have faded too much.
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