Arkansas January 20, 2019
Not Many Know The Story Of The War That Took Place Under An Arkansas Waterfall
Deep in Buffalo River country resides a stunning scenic area known as Hideout Hollow. You may have taken the Hideout Hollow Trail during your last excursion to the Upper Buffalo District. The hollow was officially named after the Buffalo area received national park status in 1972. And it’s named after a particularly interesting event that happened way back in 1918.
Media coverage in the early 1900s wasn’t quite what it is today, so unfortunately we do not have photos of the skirmish. As we recount this interesting piece of history, please enjoy scrolling through photos of the same waterfall and area that witnessed this bizarre battle.
The Newton County Draft War (also known as Uncle Sam’s Little War in the Arkansas Ozarks) was the last of the Arkansas draft wars around World War I. Nearly every draft war around the country (including the others in Arkansas) ended in a bloody mess or arrest – this was not one of them.
It began on June 5th, 1917 when a group of local men selected for the draft decided to evade and hole in up the Ozark mountains instead. They hid out in Cecil Cove and the area that would later be dubbed Hideout Hollow. The Cecil Cove Slacker Gang (as they were called) stayed in this area without much resistance from authorities until spring the next year.
Draft resisters were finally being sought out and punished during spring of 1918. However, authorities weren’t quick to break up the Cecil Cove Slacker Gang for a couple of reasons.
One was because these men were known marksmen (this was the Ozark Mountains after all) and they didn’t want to lose policemen. Another was just due to the logistics of getting authorities there in the first place. Newton County was especially wild in the early 1900s. The area had communities but was too rugged for railroads. The only way to get to the area was by mule or on foot.
The rugged setting wasn’t the only thing that aided the Slackers’ resistance.
The nearby townspeople were the biggest reason the stand-off lasted as long as it did. Many Americans were unhappy about the thought of going to war, including quite a few folks around the Hollow. The support from the town could roughly be divided into three main reasons: religion, class inequality, and veterans.
One of the local church leaders, George Slape was quoted by a local newspaper at the time, "The Good Book says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' We didn't want our boys taking nobody's life. It ain't right cause its contrary to the Bible and the Good Lord's teachin's." The class inequality was summed up (with a perfectly Arkansan attitude) by one of the Slacker’s relatives, France Sturdgil. Sturdgil was quoted in the Kansas City Star, "We don't want our boys fightin' them rich fellers' battles and getting killed just to make lots of money for a bunch of millionaires." In addition to these feelings, many folks that had served in the Civil War were still very much alive and not eager for another war. These arguments were felt all throughout the county but were focused in this area to create a shield for the Cecil Cove Slacker Gang.
Four U.S. Marshals, special investigators and an army colonel tried peaceful coaxing and threatening the Slackers to try to break up the gang but to no avail. After this fiasco, an officer from Camp Pike in North Little Rock began campaigning the idea of bringing a group of soldiers to Cecil Cove. Could the small army navigate through the wild woods of the Ozarks to bring these men in?
Before this dramatic move could occur, the Department of War decided to use a different tactic. In September 1918, the Department offered the Slackers amnesty if they agreed to serve 60 days. This was a way to cut losses and save face since WWI was nearing its end (Nov. 11th, 1918).
The stand-off only resulted in one wound.
The younger brother of one of the Slackers took a stray bullet to the leg. Other than that, the battle wasn’t very violent. Nearly every other draft war around the states ended in a shootout that was lethal on both sides or lengthy jail sentences for evaders.
The eight remaining men of the Cecil Cove Slacker Gang surrendered and agreed to the Department of War’s terms.
The little war was considered one of the few wins for draft resisters and it was the only Arkansas draft war to be (somewhat) victorious.
Click on the highlighted trails If you’d like to hike
Hideout Hollow or the Cecil Cove Loop.
Did you know the history behind Hideout Hollow? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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