Cyrus Bussey (1833–1915)

Cyrus Bussey was a Union general during the Civil War who fought in the 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge in Benton County and later exercised commands at Helena (Phillips County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Fort Smith (Sebastian County).

Cyrus Bussey was born on October 5, 1833, in Hubbard, Ohio, to Methodist preacher Amos Bussey and Hannah Tyler Bussey. The family moved to DuPont, Indiana, four years later, and at age fourteen Bussey began working as a clerk in a dry goods store; two years later, he established his own mercantile business.

In 1855, he moved to Bloomfield, Iowa, and married Ellen Kiser the same year; they would have three daughters. He was elected to the Iowa State Senate in 1860, serving two years. After the Civil War began, he was appointed aide de camp to Iowa governor Samuel J. Kirkwood, a position he held until mustering in as colonel of the Third Iowa Cavalry Regiment on August 10, 1861.

Bussey joined Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest in February 1862 as it chased Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard into northwestern Arkansas, flanking Brigadier General Ben McCulloch’s Confederates out of their winter quarters at Cross Hollow. He and the Third Iowa accompanied Brigadier General Alexander Asboth’s expedition that occupied Fayetteville (Washington County) in late February.

Bussey commanded a small cavalry brigade when he and Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus attacked McCulloch’s column at Leetown on March 7, 1862, the first day of the Battle of Pea Ridge, killing McCulloch and effectively removing half of Major General Earl Van Dorn’s Confederate army from the fight. Several members of Bussey’s Third Iowa Cavalry were reportedly scalped by Native American troops fighting with McCulloch.

Curtis’s army occupied Helena in mid-July, ending the Pea Ridge Campaign, and Bussey held brigade and division commands during the occupation of the Mississippi River town. He led 2,000 cavalrymen in the abortive November 16–21, 1862, expedition from Helena against Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). Bussey took command of the District of Eastern Arkansas on January 11, 1863, as much of the infantry at Helena joined operations against the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Bussey, too, moved east of the Mississippi, taking command of the Army of the Tennessee’s Second Cavalry Division on April 6, 1863, but soon left that post to head the Union cavalry operating around Vicksburg. He fought in several engagements following Vicksburg’s July 4, 1863, capitulation.

Bussey returned to Arkansas on November 3, 1863, taking command of the First Division of Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army. He was promoted to brigadier general on January 4, 1864. Bussey was based in Little Rock and tasked with improving the defenses of the approaches to the capital; a fortification near Benton (Saline County) was named Fort Bussey in his honor. He took command of the Third Division of the Seventh Army Corps at Fort Smith on February 6, 1865, addressing the base’s refugee crisis and raising home guard companies to protect civilians farming in the area. Bussey was breveted a major general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865. He mustered out of military service on September 30, 1865.

Following the war, Bussey was a merchant in St. Louis, Missouri, and New Orleans, Louisiana, serving six years as president of the Chamber of Commerce in the latter city and being noted as a chief proponent of the creation of a jetty system to protect the mouth of the Mississippi River there. An active Republican, he was a delegate to the party’s national conventions in 1868 and 1880. Bussey was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Interior in 1889.

Bussey ultimately set up a law practice in Washington DC, where he died of pneumonia on March 2, 1915. He is buried in Section 3, Grave 1432, in Arlington National Cemetery.

For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin C., and A. M. Gibson. Fort Smith: Little Gibraltar on the Arkansas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

Civil War Reminiscences of Cyrus Bussey, 1864 (MS-606). Special Collections. Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa. Online at (accessed April 7, 2023).

“Cyrus Bussey.” Find a Grave. (accessed April 7, 2023).

“Cyrus Bussey.” Iowa Legislature. (accessed April 7, 2023).

“Gen. Bussey Dies in Washington.” Des Moines Register, March 3, 1915, pp. 1, 2.

“Gen. Cyrus Bussey, Noted Iowan, Is Dead.” Des Moines Tribune, March 3, 1915, p. 3.

Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 4. Des Moines: Emory H. English, 1910.

Shea, William L., and Earl J. Hess. Pea Ridge: Military Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

Stuart, A. A. Iowa Colonels and Regiments. Des Moines: Mills & Company, 1865.

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Generals. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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