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JIM: Russell Co. History -The Bloodless Battle of Russell Springs

A Christmas story, a civil war re-enactment of sorts, of adult boys 'war' with both kinds of real arms - roman candles AND firecrackers - was not only the talk of Russell County, but made headlines in the Adair County News in Columbia, too. Headliners in the affray were Gen. J. C. Popplewell, Gen. R.G. Woods Lieut. Gen. Cleo Shirrill, Sgt. Avery Stephens, Col. Levy Smith, Gen. Welby Absher, and Col. Hale. A fascinating and true page out of Russell County history re-discovered and carefully edited by JIM, self-exiled in his own Elba - in a place called 'Ohio,' wherever that is.
Click on headline for complete account of 'The Bloodless Battle of Russell Springs'

by JIM

One of the lesser-known aspects of Russell County history is the Bloodless Battle of Russell Springs, fought a few days before Christmas fivescore and six years ago - a tale fraught with surprise attacks, strategic retreats, arms negotiations, and conflict unresolved. An account of the affray appeared in the <Adair County News bearing the date December 25, 1907:

"Great events cast their shadows before them. So the shadow of Christmas was thrown over the little town of Russell Springs last night so dark that the superstitious persons of the town were up till midnight listening for Gabriel to 'toot' his trumpet.


"The North end of town under the command of Gen. J.C. Popplewell made a charge with roman candles and fire crackers on the South end, which was not prepared for a battle, and Gen. R.G. Woods ordered a hasty retreat in every direction.

"The retreating army gathered at Snow & Popplewell's Store and obtained arms to meet the North, [and] a battle followed in which Lieut. Gen. Cleo Shirrill of the South was severely wounded.

"The South then invested another retreat, in which Sergeant Avery Stephens made two close pursuits and was taken through three degrees of "Bird gang" by the left wing of the South's army under Colonel Levy Smith.

"The last retreat was made by Gen. Woods who made a center table out of his coat-tail while being pursued by Lieut. Gen. Welby Absher and Colonel Hale.

"The boys are hardly satisfied with the results of last night and rumors of war are heard in every direction, and it is probable that there will be hot times tonight if [the] fireworks last."

(When the Generals Popplewell and Woods weren't leading their respective armies into battle, they slipped into their alter egos as businessmen of Russell Springs. J.C. Popplewell comprised one half of the firm Snow & Popplewell, "Dealers in General Merchandise, Dry Goods, Groceries, Hardware, Buggies, Wagons, Harness, Fertilizer and Undertaker Goods." Rice Garland "R.G." Woods, a native of Garrard County, Ky., came to town in the late summer of 1906 as cashier of the just-opened Bank of Russell Springs, a position he held until departing for Kinross, Iowa, in late 1909. He also served as Secretary of the Russell Springs Fair Association for two or three years. In 1942, General Popplewell put aside all things ephemeral and took up the mantle of eternity, as did General Woods the following year.) - JIM


This story was posted on 2014-03-29 15:30:43
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