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Tinker Dave Beaty tells why he rose up against Champ Ferguson

 Tinker Dave Tinker's Grave
Tinker Dave Beaty

By DALE WELCH
Special to the Herald-Citizen

Tinker Dave Beaty was the leader of a band of guerrillas in this Upper Cumberland region who fought for the Union cause.

The son of George and Lydia Ann Wilson, he was born in 1817 and lived and farmed in the Buffalo Cove area of Fentress County until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In testimony given during the trial of his staunch Confederate guerrilla enemy, Champ Ferguson, Tinker Dave said:

"About 10 or 12 days after the Mill Springs fight, about the 1st of February, 1862, several of Bledsoe's men came to my house and told my wife to tell me I must take sides in the war or leave the country. They took some of my property, some saddles and other things belonging to me. When they left and as they were going down to cross the creek, I fired on them, wounding one man and a horse. I was in the field at the time, a short distance from the house, with my two sons and a neighbor.

"After this they kept running in on us every few weeks, Ferguson, Bledsoe and others, killing and driving people off. I told my boys that before I would leave home or run away, I would fight them to Doomsday and if they killed me, let them kill me.

"So, I took my sons and raised a company of men to fight them. Sometimes I had as many as 60 men, sometime as low as five. Things went on this way until Gen. Burnside went into East Tennessee, whence he wrote me a letter saying that he wanted me to go in the mountain forks and bushwack the Rebels and keep the roads open, saying that I could accomplish much good for our cause in this way.

"I have the letter at home now. We were not getting any pay but the Government furnished us with all the ammunition we needed. I don't know how many men we bushwhacked and killed but I suppose we killed 25 or more during the War," said Tinker Dave at Champ Ferguson's trial.

Tinker Dave and Champ met each other many times on the battlefield. By the close of the war they had known each other for approximately 20 years. The last time they met, it almost cost Tinker Dave his life.

About three weeks after the fall of Richmond, Va., Ferguson and five of his men came to Tinker Dave's home while he was eating supper. After demanding that Beaty give up his arms, they ordered him on his horse and told him they were going to take him to Pleas Taylor's place, a man whom both Ferguson and Beaty feared and respected.

Once mounted, the captors guarded Beaty three on each side. It was Beaty's notion that he would never make it to the Taylor place. He knew they were going to kill him after he got out of sight of his home.

It was also Beaty's notion to escape. Champ had been riding on Beaty's left. Beaty had been watching him closely, waiting for a break. Beaty thought that if he could turn his horse suddenly and slip out, they wouldn't shoot at him for fear of hitting each other, and before they could get turned around, he could have a head start.

Tinker Dave said in testimony against Ferguson:

"I wheeled my horse like a flash, and one of them instantly snapped a cap at me. They then turned and fired about 20 shots at me as I dashed down the road. Three of these shots took effect, one in the back, one in the shoulder and one in the hip. I, however, got away from them and did not show them the Taylor place.

After the war, Tinker Dave went back to his farm and lived it is said a peaceful life. He died in 1876, and is buried in the Beaty-Lacy Cemetery in western Fentress County.

A complete listing of Tinker Dave Beaty's Independent Scouts appears in Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers of Tennessee, Microfilm #395/Roll #199, in the State Archives. All men owned their own horses. The record gives the names of the men, their rank and age and notes about sick leave, capture and death and the value of each horse.

Each record also states that they were mustered in on Jan. 25, 1862, and discharged on June 1, 1865. To conserve space, only their names and important notes about capture or deaths are included here:

'Independent Scouts'

Members are: Thomas Allred, Claiborne Beaty, David Beaty, Fleming Beaty, George Beaty (captured March 31, 1862, and died in Richmond, Va., on March 24, 1865, as a prisoner of war), Harvey Beaty, James Beaty, George Beaty, John Bowles Sr., John Bowles Jr.;

John Conatser (leg broken), Austin Choate Sr., Christopher Choate Sr., John Choate, Sabe Choate, Thomas Choate, William Crabtree, Peter Cravens, Dow Culver, Tom Culver (killed Nov. 21, 1863), Sherwood Delk, Wade H. Erwin;

James Farrell, John Francis, Tom Franklin, Jack Frogg, Harrison Guffey, Martin Gwinn, Bob Hatfield, Eli Hatfield, Emanuel Hatfield, Marion Hatfield , Job Hix, James Hix, John Hix, Wilburn Houge Solomon Houge, Madison Hoover, John Huff, Mac Huff, James Husk, Miller Husk, Bill Johnson (in Rebel army before; had one horse captured by enemy), F.M. Johnson;

John King, Henry Livingston, John Livingston, P.T. Livingston (had one horse captured by enemy), John Moodey, Jonathan Moodey (killed Feb. 10, 1863, the day he joined), Peter Moodey, Eli Mullinox, John Mullinox, John Padgett (in Co. D, 2nd Tennessee Cavalry, till Nov., 1864);

James Piles, Sherwood Piles (deserted 11th Tennessee Cavalry in 1863), Sampson Ramsey, William Reagen (killed on Dec. 25, 1864), Joseph Reeder (killed on Dec. 11, 1863), George Roberts, Bud Robins;

John Scroggins, Harvey Shilling, James Shilling (killed on Jan. 4, 1865 by Jones brothers for the brutal murder of their brother, a young boy, while drunk; served as a second lieutenant until death), Reuben Skinner, Asa Smith, Hijah Smith (killed March 3, 1864; never in company, but mistaken by Rebels for his brother, Asa);

John Smith Sr., John Smith Jr., Wash Smith, John Sproul, Burton Stephens, William C. Smith (also in Company D, 2nd Tennessee Infantry; killed on Nov. 13, 1864), David Stephens, George Stephens, Isaiah Stephens, Jackson Stephens (killed Feb. 24, 1864), John Stephens Sr., John Stephens Jr., Russell Stephens;

John Taylor (taken prisoner and starved to death on Oct. 24, 1863), Kiah Taylor (taken prisoner, stripped and shot on Dec. 19, 1863), Cullom Threat, Dean Threet (killed on July 22, 1864), George Threat (served in Rebel army until 1862), James Threat, William Tipton, Jack Turner, John Turner;

Drury Upchurch, Henderson Upchurch, John Whitehead, Elijah Williams, Hardy Williams, Jack Williams, Berry Wilson, John Winningham Sr., Seth Winningham, Isaac Woods, Silas Wright, George York and Mitchell York.

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NOTE: Do you have an interesting story that has been handed down by or about your ancestors that you would like to see in "Chimney Corner Tales'? Contact Dale Welch at 303 Tayes Ave., Monterey, Tenn. 38574. His phone number is (931) 839-2949; or you can e-mail him at dawelch@usit.net.

Published Friday, May 22, 1998 3:51 PM CDT

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Posted with permission from Dale Welch
This page was last updated on 09/21/98.