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Talbot, William

William Talbot was a sailor aboard the USS Louisville who received a Medal of Honor for his handling of the vessel’s nine-inch cannon during the 1863 Battle of Arkansas Post. William Talbot (his Medal of Honor papers identify him as Talbott) was born in Liverpool, England, in 1814. At age sixteen, he immigrated to the United States, arriving at Bath, Maine, in August 1830. He got married on September 4, 1834, and he and his wife, Priscilla, would have five sons and a daughter. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States on July 7, 1848. In 1860, he was forty-six years old and worked as a rigger in West Bath, Sagadahoc County, Maine. Talbot apparently enlisted in the …

Tappan, James Camp

James Camp Tappan was a Confederate general, lawyer, and politician from Helena (Phillips County). He is best remembered for commanding a brigade of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill’s Arkansas Division. James Tappan was born on September 9, 1825, in Franklin, Tennessee, the son of Benjamin S. Tappan and Margaret Bell Camp Tappan. He was the oldest of thirteen children. He received his education at Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Yale University in Connecticut, graduating in 1845. He then studied law in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and joined the bar of that state in 1846. In 1848, Tappan moved to Helena and began practicing law there and married his wife, Mary, in 1854. Tappan served a term in the Arkansas legislature as a …

Terry, Seymour W.

Seymour W. Terry was an officer in the U.S. Army during World War II and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. An Arkansas native, Seymour W. Terry served as a first lieutenant in the 382nd Infantry Regiment, part of the Ninety-sixth Infantry Division. Seymour Terry was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 11, 1918. Terry attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Seymour Terry’s division, the Ninety-sixth, trained in Hawaii in 1944 before being deployed to the Philippines in October 1944. Following the campaign in the Philippines, Lieutenant Terry and his regiment participated in the Battle of Okinawa, during which he led an attack …

Thach, John Smith

John Smith Thach was one of the most influential naval aviators of the mid-twentieth century and is credited with the creation of the Thach Weave, one of the most significant tactical advances in the history of aerial combat. He was awarded the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Medal for developing this tactical maneuver, which remains a standard of military aviation. Jimmie Thach was born on April 19, 1905, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to schoolteachers James H. Thach and Jo Bocage Thach. He grew up in Fordyce (Dallas County). Thach followed in the footsteps of his brother James, Jr. (who also rose to the rank of admiral) and attended the United States Naval Academy. After his graduation in 1927, he …

Thayer, John Milton

John Milton Thayer was a lawyer and politician. During the Civil War, he was a major general in the Union army who served extensively in Arkansas. A native of Massachusetts, Thayer is most associated with Nebraska, where he served as both a senator and governor and commanded troops from that state during the war. Thayer was born in Bellingham, Massachusetts, on January 24, 1820; he was the youngest of nine children. Thayer’s parents, Captain Elias Thayer and Ruthe Staples Thayer, owned a farm. Thayer worked as a school teacher before entering Brown University, from which he graduated in 1841. He married Mary Torrey Allen in 1842; they had six children. Joining the bar in Massachusetts the same year he graduated …

Thomas, William

William H. Thomas, a native of Wynne (Cross County), was an American soldier in World War II who was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in battle against the Japanese in the Philippines. William H. Thomas was born in Wynne on January 13, 1923, to lumber mill worker John Thomas and Jessie Thomas. The Thomas family, which included two daughters and four other sons, apparently moved around the Arkansas Delta, as the family lived in Trumann (Poinsett County) in 1930 and in Brinkley (Monroe County) by the mid-1940s. William Thomas, who had worked as a farmer and timber worker, attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1943 but was turned away because of a heart condition. He succeeded …

Thompson, M. Jeff

Meriwether “Jeff” Thompson was a brigadier general in the Missouri State Guard who served and led troops in Arkansas during the Civil War, ultimately surrendering the troops in the northeastern part of the state in 1865 after earning a reputation as a wily commander. Meriwether Thompson was born on January 22, 1826, in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the son of U.S. Army paymaster Captain Meriwether Thompson and Nancy Slaughter Broadus Thompson. As a youth, Thompson would skip school to accompany a black deliveryman named Jeff on his rounds, which led his family to begin calling him by that name. His friends soon followed suit, and after moving to Missouri in 1847 he had his name legally changed to M. Jeff Thompson. …

Thruston, Henry Clay

Henry Clay Thruston was a Confederate soldier who fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge and in the Camden Expedition, as well as in General Sterling Price’s Missouri Raid of 1864. Thruston is perhaps best known for reportedly being the tallest Confederate soldier of the Civil War at over seven and a half feet tall. Later in life, he worked for P. T. Barnum’s circus, being advertised as the world’s tallest man. Information is sketchy about the early life of Henry Clay Thruston. He was born in South Carolina in either 1830 or 1833, with the exact day variously recorded as May 4 or May 5. His father, Street Thruston, served in the American Revolutionary War, and he had four …

Tinker, Frank Glasgow

Frank Glasgow Tinker was a distinguished American mercenary pilot for forces of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). A graduate of DeWitt High School and the Naval Academy, Tinker was the top American ace for the Republican Air Force during the Spanish Civil War. Frank Tinker was born on July 14, 1909, in Kaplan, Louisiana, the son of Frank Glasgow and Effie Tinker. He had two sisters. The family moved to DeWitt (Arkansas County) on July 3, 1924. Tinker graduated from high school in DeWitt in 1926 and, at the age of seventeen, joined the U.S. Navy. Tinker spent three years in the navy before receiving a prestigious appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. After graduating …

Totten, James

James Totten was an officer in the U.S. Army and was the commander of the Little Rock Arsenal during the Arsenal Crisis of 1861. He later served in the Civil War, commanding units in both the Trans-Mississippi and Western theaters. James Totten was born on September 11, 1818, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His father, William E. Totten, was a doctor who later served at the Little Rock Arsenal and had a private practice; there is no information on Totten’s mother or siblings. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1841. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he was promoted to first lieutenant in 1847. In 1849–50, Totten served in Florida to help suppress the Seminole Indians. Totten was promoted …

Turner, Frederick Cornelius Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Cornelius Turner Jr. was a commander of U.S. Army Forces at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium. During his military career, he served in South Vietnam on three separate occasions, during which time he commanded a detachment of Armed Door Gunners, a company in the Twenty-seventh Infantry Regiment, and was a senior advisor to South Vietnamese Regional and Popular Forces in Long An province. In 1969, he returned to his alma mater, Arkansas State University (ASU), to serve as an assistant professor of military science and tactics, making him the university’s first Black faculty member. Frederick Cornelius Turner Jr. was born in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) on June 15, 1937, to Frederick Turner …

Van Dorn, Earl

A noted Mexican War veteran and Indian fighter, Earl Van Dorn was the Confederate general defeated at the Battle of Pea Ridge and at Corinth, Mississippi. Following the defeat at Pea Ridge, he stripped Arkansas of badly needed Confederate troops, leaving the state nearly destitute of defenders. Earl Van Dorn was born near Port Gibson, Mississippi, on September 17, 1820, to Sophia Donelson Caffery, a niece of Andrew Jackson, and Peter Aaron Van Dorn, a lawyer and judge. He married Caroline Godbold in December 1843. They had one son, Earl Jr., and one daughter, Olivia. Some believe that Van Dorn fathered other children through adulterous affairs prior to, and possibly during, the Civil War. Graduating fifty-second of fifty-six cadets from …

Velazquez, Loreta

In late spring of 1861, a Cuban woman named Loreta Janeta Velazquez adorned herself with a Confederate uniform and fake facial hair, assigned herself the rank of lieutenant in the Confederate army, and adopted the name of Harry T. Buford. According to her own account, Velazquez embarked on a remarkable career as both a Confederate soldier and spy during the turbulent years of America’s Civil War, partially in Arkansas. As professor Jesse Alemán points out in the introduction to Velazquez’s memoir, there are historical inaccuracies in the memoir (which was put together by Velazquez and her editor, C. J. Worthington) that cast some doubt on Velazquez’s authenticity. However, Alemán stresses that the memoir holds its own as a Civil War …

Von Berg, Charles Ludwig “Old Scout”

Carlos Ludwig von Berg was a German immigrant, a Civil War soldier, a postwar scout during the last Indian Wars, and an artist and guide who settled in the Fayetteville (Washington County) area later in life. He was featured in the 2012 documentary Up Among the Hills: The Story of Fayetteville. Carlos Ludwig von Berg was born on October 18, 1835, in the Duchy of Baden, where his family members were foresters. His first schooling was in Karlsruhe, followed by the University of Heidelberg. His studies were interrupted by the 1848 revolutions that caused his family to flee to Switzerland. He returned to Heidelberg but in 1854 immigrated to the United States. He traveled west, and he took up trading …

Walker, Lucius Marshall (Marsh)

An antebellum plantation owner in St. Francis County and nephew of President James K. Polk, Lucius Marshall (Marsh) Walker served as a Confederate brigadier general in the Western Theater and Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. He is most famous for his death in a wartime duel with Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke during the Little Rock Campaign. Marsh Walker was born in Columbia, Tennessee, on October 18, 1829, the third child and eldest son of Jane Maria Polk Walker and James Walker, who was a Jacksonian political operator and entrepreneur. Walker received an at-large appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1846, graduating fifteenth out of forty-four cadets in the class of 1850. Brevet Second …

Ward, John [Medal of Honor Recipient]

John Ward was an African-American U.S. Army scout born in Arkansas who received a Medal of Honor for his actions in a battle with Comanche Indians in Texas in 1875. John Ward was born in Arkansas in 1847 (the exact location is unknown), and his parents were either both black and Seminole or they were African Americans who lived among the Seminole; given his birth date, he may have been born during the forced removal of the Seminole from the southeastern United States. The Ward family was among several hundred black and Seminole people from the Seminole Nation in the Indian Territory who received permission to immigrate to northern Mexico in the late 1840s, where the African Americans were safe …

Wassell, Corydon McAlmont

Rear Admiral Corydon McAlmont Wassell was one of the first national heroes of World War II. His service for the United States in early 1942 earned him the Navy Cross and praise from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his story inspired a movie starring Gary Cooper. Cory Wassell was born on July 4, 1884, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of Albert and Leona Wassell of Little Rock. He studied medicine at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences), where he obtained a medical degree in 1909. He did postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, he practiced in Tillar (Desha and Drew counties) for a short time. Wassell married a …

Watie, Stand

Stand Watie was a Cherokee leader who signed the Treaty of New Echota, which led to the tribe’s removal from its homeland in the southeastern United States to the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Watie also fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, becoming the only Native American to achieve a general’s rank on either side during the war. Stand Watie was named Degadoga, which means “he stands,” when he was born on December 12, 1806, near New Echota, Georgia, the son of Oo-wa-tie, who was a full-blood Cherokee, and Susanna Reese, who was half Cherokee. When his father took the name David Watie after his baptism in the Moravian Church, he renamed his son Isaac S. …

Watkins, Travis Earl

Travis Earl Watkins was an Arkansas native who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and the Korean War. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor for gallantry during a four-day engagement with North Korean soldiers. Travis E. Watkins was born on September 5, 1920, in Waldo (Columbia County) to salesman Joe E. Watkins and Angie Watkins. By 1930, the couple had divorced, and his mother had returned to her native Texas, living at Winters in Runnels County with her sons Travis (age nine), Tris (eight), and Truman (five). The family later moved to Troup, Texas, and in 1939, Watkins joined the army. He served in the Pacific during World War II, earning a Bronze Star during the …

Watson, Wilson Douglas

Wilson Douglas Watson was an Arkansas sharecropper who joined the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the fighting at Iwo Jima in February 1945. Wilson Douglas Watson was born on February 16, 1922, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to Charles Watson and Ada Belle Posey Watson. He was the oldest of five sons and two daughters, and he received a total of five years of schooling amid his labors on the farm. By 1940, the family was living in the Tyronza Township in Crittenden County, sharecropping a farm for Tom Sellers of Earle (Crittenden County). Wilson Watson registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, and he enlisted in …

Wheeler, Henry

Henry W. Wheeler was an Arkansas native who earned a Medal of Honor for valor while fighting with a Maine regiment during the 1861 Battle of Bull Run in Virginia. Henry W. Wheeler was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on September 23, 1841, the son of Hiram Wheeler and Elizabeth Wheeler. His father may have been working as a carpenter during construction of the second U.S. military installment at Fort Smith when Wheeler was born, but the family had returned to his father’s native Maine by 1860; at that time, Hiram Wheeler recorded 1,800 in real property and $2,000 in personal property in Bangor. Henry Wheeler, age eighteen, was working as a clerk, and the family included a second …

White, Hercules King Cannon

Hercules King Cannon White was a Civil War soldier and guerrilla, a prominent figure in the Brooks-Baxter War during Reconstruction, and a six-term mayor of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Hercules King Cannon White was born on April 4, 1845, in Louisville, Kentucky, the fifth of nine children of James M. White and Dorcas Trimble White. When the Civil War began, he ran away from home and, in March 1861, joined Company E of the Second Kentucky Infantry (CS), but his father found him and had him released from service on the grounds that he was only fifteen years old. The youth soon joined Company C of the First (Helm’s) Kentucky Cavalry, and he was captured at Louisville on November 26, …

Williams, Jack

Jack Williams was a U.S. Navy corpsman from Harrison (Boone County) who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in ministering to wounded U.S. Marines during the fighting on Iwo Jima in 1945. Jack Williams was born on October 18, 1924, in Harrison, the son of blacksmith and machinist William O. Williams and Dorothy Lee Williams. He had a younger sister, Fern. The Williams family lived at 420 North Second Street in Harrison, and Jack Williams worked at the Lyric Theater. He attended Harrison High School, where he was a member of the Future Farmers of America. He graduated in 1943. Eighteen-year-old Williams registered for the World War II draft on December 23, 1942. He did not …

Williams, Jeff

aka: Thomas Jefferson Williams
Thomas Jefferson (Jeff) Williams was a farmer, preacher, and Union officer in the Civil War. He serves as an example of mountain Unionists, and his experiences show how the Civil War affected farm families in northern Arkansas. Jeff Williams was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of Nathan Williams and Rebecca (Jackson) Williams, a Cherokee Indian. During his childhood, the family moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. Williams married Margaret Ann Hill there in 1832, and the couple had thirteen children. Williams saw Arkansas for the first time in the spring of 1838, when he and two of his brothers formed part of a Tennessee militia company that escorted several hundred Cherokees west to Indian Territory. Six years later, following …

Wilson, Winston Peabody “Wimpy”

Winston P. Wilson was a major general in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Winston Peabody “Wimpy” Wilson was born in Arkadelphia (Clark County) on November 11, 1911, to Winston Wilson and Eunice Cotton Wilson; he had a brother and a sister. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) during Winston’s childhood, and he attended Little Rock High School. He obtained the nickname “Wimpy,” as football coaches would yell “Win P. Wilson!” to get his attention. He enlisted in the Arkansas National Guard in 1929 and graduated from high school the same year. Wilson attended Hendrix College while also serving in the 154th Observation Squadron as a mechanic. Wilson graduated …

Wolfe, Paul

Paul Wolfe was a lawyer and World War II veteran who later became the circuit judge for the Twelfth Judicial District of Arkansas (Scott and Sebastian counties) and was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to organize and chair a committee to write what became the textbook for the new National Council of State Trial Judges under the administration of the American Bar Association. He also served as a member of the Arkansas Model Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. Paul Wolfe was born on January 5, 1908, in Weir, Kansas, to John Walter Wolfe and Myra Este Vasser Wolfe. His first name was Harry, but he preferred to use his middle name, Paul. The Wolfe family moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) …

Wood, John Shirley

Drew County native Major General John S. Wood served for over thirty years in the United States military. He fought in both world wars and is considered by many military experts to have been one of the best divisional commanders of World War II. John Shirley Wood was born to Arkansas Supreme Court justice Carroll D. Wood and Reola Thompson Wood on January 11, 1888, in Monticello (Drew County). While attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), he was the quarterback and captain of the football team. He graduated in 1907 with a BS in chemistry. In 1908, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, lettering in football, wrestling, and boxing. After his 1912 graduation, …

Yancey, John Howard

John Howard Yancey was one of Arkansas’s most colorful war heroes. His actions in the South Pacific in World War II and the Korean War garnered him two Navy Crosses, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. He was a champion of civil rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Arkansas. John Yancey was born on April 27, 1918, in Plumerville (Conway County) to Mary and John Benjamin Yancey, who owned a gas station; his younger brother, John Benjamin Yancey Jr., became a Little Rock (Pulaski County) police officer. He attended what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) but left college in 1942 to join the Marine Corps as World War II was beginning. After basic …

Yell, James

James Yell was a lawyer, state legislator, and major general in the Arkansas State Militia during the Civil War. Never holding an active field command, he was removed from his position early in the war because of his allegiance to state troops rather than the Confederate government. He did not see action in the war. James Yell was born on March 10, 1811, in Bedford County, Tennessee. He was the son of Pearcy Yell and Jane Gist Yell, and he was the nephew of Archibald Yell, Arkansas’s first congressman and second governor. Receiving some education, he taught school for three years and also served as a magistrate in Tennessee. He married Permelia Young in Bedford County in 1832, and the …