War of 1812

The War of 1812 was the first conflict that the involved the United States after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. While it did not have a direct impact within the state’s current borders, the war did influence events that would continue to shape Arkansas for decades.

Modern-day Arkansas was at that time part of the Missouri Territory, which was renamed from the Louisiana Territory on June 4, 1812, when the new state of Louisiana joined the Union. The population in Arkansas was recorded at just over 1,000 in 1810, and the area did not have any major towns or cities. The territorial government in Missouri created the first county in the future state in 1813 with the establishment of Arkansas County. The U.S. military had a limited presence in the Arkansas portion of the territory during this period. A fort was located at Arkansas Post when the U.S. government took control of the area in 1804. Renamed Fort Madison from the Spanish San Estevan, it was abandoned in 1810 due to erosion. With little federal military assistance, the settlers in Arkansas formed militia units for mutual self-defense. By 1806, a company of infantry and a company of cavalry had been organized by residents in the Arkansas Post area.

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the James Madison administration became exasperated by the seizure of seamen and the stoppage of American ships by Great Britain. As a result, the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, beginning the War of 1812. Arkansas County had a regiment of militia that was organized into two battalions and a mounted rifleman contingent.

In May 1813, part of the militia in Arkansas County was called into active service. Serving for about three months in Missouri, the men patrolled but did not see any action. They returned home, where they created a petition for their pay. The militia did not see any additional service before the end of hostilities in 1815. Edmund Hogan, future commander of the Arkansas Territorial Militia and legislator, served in the militia during the war.

Arkansas became its own distinct territory in 1819 when Missouri prepared to join the union as a new state. Settlers, many of whom were veterans of the War of 1812, continued to move into the new territory. In recognition of their service, some veterans received land grants from the federal government. Two million acres in the Arkansas Territory were set aside for these grants, with another two million in Michigan and two million in Illinois. The Michigan land was replaced by land in Missouri. Thousands of acres of land were distributed in this manner to veterans of the war and their families, though many of these land grant titles ended up in the hands of speculators.

For additional information:
“Arkansas Militia 1804–1836.” Arkansas Military Journal 3 (Winter 1994): 1–218.

Edwin McReynolds, Missouri: A History of the Crossroads State. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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