"Tinker Dave" Beaty Leader of Beaty's Independent Scouts during the Civil War. Photo courtesy Mrs. Temga Conner.
Depending upon one's particular viewpoint, "Tinker Dave" Beaty is one of the most famous or infamous individuals that Fentress County ever produced. There is no question that he was a guerrilla warfare expert of considerable ability. In the early part of 1862, he formed a company called David Beaty's Independent Scouts. The unit, which was formed in the vastness of Poplar and Buffalo Coves, was officially recognized by the Federal Government. They were received into Federal Service effective January 5, 1862 under the authority of Major General George H. Thomas and General Burnsides.
Extant records show that each man was required to furnish his own horse and equipment. Fentress County historian A.R. Hogue in his book "One Hundred Years on the Cumberland Mountain" is the source of most of the information we have on "Tinker's Men." Mr. Hogue writes: "The muster roll of this famous company was originally filed with the County Court Clerk at Jamestown. A certified copy was made in 1870. A part of this copy has been torn off and lost. The records in the County Court Clerk's Office were burned, when the Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1905."
The roll was certified as being correct by the signatures of "David Beaty, Captain, James Beaty, 1st Lieut., and Claiborne Beaty, 2nd Lieut." David Beaty evidently couldn't write since Mr. Hogue indicates that his mark was witnessed by Stromeir and F. Brown. Mr. Hogue shows only 23 men on the muster roll plus 12 who were listed as having died in service. However, the Rev. A.B. Wright places at least 100 men under the command of "Tinker Dave" on an October 24, 1862 raid.
The names of the known members of the Independent Scouts, as reported by Hogue are: John Smith, Jr., John Sprowl, Reuben Skinner, Wm. Tipton, George Threet, James Threet, Cullom Threet, Jack Turner, John Turner, James Turner, Drewry Upchurch, Henderson Upchurch, Silas Wright, Elijah Williams, John Winningham, Seth Winningham, Hardy Williams, Jack Williams, Berry Wilson, John Whitehead, Isaac Woods, George York, and Mitchell York. The following are listed as dying in the service: George Beaty, Tom Culver, Jonathan Moody, Wm. Reagan, Joseph Reeder, Hijah Smith, Jackson Stephens, Wm. Smith, James Shillings, Kib Taylor, John Taylor, and Dean Threet." The Last known survivor was George Stephens, "Tinker Dave's" first cousin, who died at the age of 94 years and is buried in the Watters Cemetery in Buffalo Cove.
Will Peavyhouse in his booklet "A History of Buffalo Cove" adds the names of Jacob and Dow Culver. Mr. Peavyhouse also notes: "Jackson Stephens was killed in 1864 near East Jamestown. Thomas Culver and Jonathan Moody were killed in a skirmish with Col. Hughes' Company in Buffalo Cove in Oct. 1963. Col. Hughes had started through Buffalo Cove on a foraging expedition, taking livestock, corn and anything else the Confederate Army could use. He was met in Buffalo Cove on the Burton Stephens place by Beaty's Company and the fight began. Beaty lost only two men, Thomas Culvert and Jonathan Moody. Thomas Culvert was nineteen years old and Jonathan Moody was twenty-six years old. Moody had a wife and two children. Culver wasn't married." There are many stories about the activities of Tinker Dave and his men during the Civil War. They can be found in the Autobiography of A.B. Wright, and in Will Peavyhouse's booklet. Many of these stories are of the gallantry and bravery of men who were protecting their homes. Others are stories of what the authors obviously considered to be atrocities.
Guerilla Warfare is, with the possible exception of Nuclear War, the most devastating type of war for the civilian inhabitants of an area. It usually lasts throughout the duration of conflict and, if a part of a civil war, pits neighbor against neighbor. The men involved are not disciplined troops and as a result should not be held to the same standards of conduct that would be required of regular forces. Additionally, the distinction between non-combatant and combatant is usually lost. The hate that is generated for the family of an individual who one blames for the death of one's own family member can result in what others will call atrocities. Leaders of Guerilla movements are also usually given credit for any offense against those who are opposed to their cause. Simple robbery and assault are not considered to exist.
There is no doubt that innocent people were killed on both sides during the Civil War. There is also no doubt that both Champ Ferguson (see separate story) and "Tinker Dave" ordered and carried out the execution of enemy soldiers after capture. However, both must be judged by the standards of the time and the type of warfare in which they were engaged. They were both excellent commanders of Guerilla forces.
"Tinker Dave" was born in Poplar Cove in 1823. He lived there until his death in 1883. Hogue writes that ". .. (he) was a leader in Fentress County during reconstruction days ... He was a very clever, hospitable man among his neighbors and very generally liked by them.
Many of Fentress County citizens are descendants of this Civil War leader. Many more are related to he and his men. In fact, it has been said, that any Fentress County native of three generations or more is related to Tinker Dave, one of his men, or one of the men they shot at or killed. Many of them will be related to both the Confederate and Union fighter.