Entries - Time Period: Civil War through Reconstruction (1861 - 1874) - Starting with D

Dardanelle and Ivey’s Ford, Actions at

The actions at Dardanelle and Ivey’s Ford were fought as Confederate troops from southwest Arkansas tested the strength of Union outposts scattered along the Arkansas River in a last attempt to challenge Union dominance of the river valley. On January 14, 1865, Colonel William H. Brooks led a Confederate force of 1,500 men consisting of his cavalry regiment, Colonel Robert C. Newton’s cavalry regiment, and Colonel Ras. Stirman’s cavalry brigade to the Arkansas River to assess the strength of Union garrisons along the river. The same day, a detachment of 276 Union men of the Cavalry Division, Seventh Army Corps, under Major J. D. Jenks of the First Iowa Cavalry Regiment disembarked from a small flotilla of Union steamboats and …

Dardanelle, Capture of

The Capture of Dardanelle marked the opening action of Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s summer operations north of the Arkansas River, much of which focused on trying to thwart shipping operations on the White River and raiding the Memphis to Little Rock Railroad. After the failure of Union Major General Frederick Steele’s Camden Expedition into south Arkansas, Federal troops consolidated at Little Rock (Pulaski County), DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Helena (Phillips County), and Fayetteville (Washington County). Scattered Union detachments were stationed at places such as Dardanelle (Yell County), Clarksville (Johnson County), Norristown (Pope County), and Lewisburg (modern-day Morrilton in Conway County) to operate against guerrillas and raiders preying on U.S. shipping and communications along the …

Dardanelle, Skirmish at (August 30, 1864)

  A short and brutal clash between a Federal unit from Arkansas and Confederate irregulars operating near Dardanelle (Yell County), this skirmish is typical of the engagements that were seen in the summer of 1864 in the state. After the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, most organized Confederate forces returned to southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Some cavalry units continued to operate behind Union lines and were joined by irregulars or guerrillas. While the Federal commanders in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and other Union outposts focused much of their attention on the Confederate forces in southern Arkansas, some efforts were made to find and destroy these units operating nearby. By engaging these Confederate forces, the Federals prevented the enemy …

Dardanelle, Skirmish at (September 12, 1863)

  A small engagement occurring after the Action at Devil’s Backbone, this skirmish was part of an effort between Union forces in northwestern Arkansas to link up with their comrades moving toward Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Helena (Phillips County). The Action at Devil’s Backbone was fought on September 1, 1863, when a Union force under the command of Major General James Blunt defeated a Confederate unit under the command of Brigadier General William Cabell. The Union commander on the field at Devil’s Backbone, Colonel William F. Cloud, returned to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) after the battle, where he remained until September 9. On that date, Cloud took 200 men of the Second Kansas Cavalry and a section of artillery …

Dark, John William (Bill)

John William (Bill) Dark was a bushwhacker in north-central Arkansas during the Civil War. From June 1862 to January 1863, he served as captain of Company A, Coffee’s Recruits, a guerrilla band that attempted to thwart Federal advances in northern Arkansas, as well as to conscript state troops. Dark soon gained the reputation as a cruel and ruthless plunderer who preyed on citizens of Searcy, Izard, and Van Buren counties. Bill Dark was born in Arkansas sometime around 1835. Most of his short and violent life remains shrouded in mystery, and what is known about Dark comes through oral history. He was apparently a handsome and literate young man with long red hair. In 1850, the first time his name …

Davidson, John Wynn

John Wynn Davidson was a United States army officer who led the cavalry contingent of the Union army that captured Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1863 and who subsequently feuded with Major General Frederick Steele about Federal policy in the state. John Wynn Davidson was born on August 18, 1824, in Fairfax County, Virginia, the son of William B. Davidson and Catherine Davidson. His father was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Seminole wars in Florida, and his grandfather was a general officer in the American Revolution. John Wynn Davidson followed his father into the army, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1845. He served frontier duty in Kansas and Wisconsin before fighting in …

Des Arc and DeValls Bluff, Capture of

aka: Capture of DeValls Bluff and Des Arc
Des Arc (Prairie County) and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) became two important Union military outposts between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Helena (Phillips County). The capture and protection of these towns was a high priority for Federal commanders from 1863 until the end of the war. The towns were first captured by Federal troops in January 1863. An expedition was launched up the White River on January 13, 1863, after the capture of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). Under the command of Brigadier General Willis Gorman, troops captured St. Charles (Arkansas County) on the first day of the expedition. Leaving the USS Cincinnati and several units behind, Gorman continued up the White River, and on January 18, the Federals captured DeValls …

Des Arc Bayou Expedition

aka: Searcy Expedition
aka: West Point Expedition
  As the Union’s Army of the Southwest marched across southern Missouri and northern Arkansas after the Battle of Pea Ridge under the command of Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis, numerous expeditions were sent out in search of supplies for the men and animals and a route to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). This expedition failed to find either, which would eventually lead Curtis to continue his trek and capture Helena (Phillips County), where resupply could be accomplished by ships on the Mississippi River. By May 1862, Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr, commander of the Second Division of the Army of the Southwest, was searching the area northeast of Searcy (White County) to find supplies and information about Confederate forces …

Des Arc Bayou, Action at

The Action at Des Arc Bayou was fought in the early morning hours of July 14, 1864, as a detachment of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry attacked the camp of a detachment from the Tenth Illinois Cavalry that had set out to confront and harass Shelby’s troops in northeast Arkansas. Shelby had taken control of all Confederate forces in northeast Arkansas in May 1864, and his troops had been raiding throughout the region, destroying a Union garrison at Dardanelle (Yell County), sinking the U.S. gunboat Queen City as it lay at anchor at Clarendon (Monroe County), and attacking trains on the Memphis to Little Rock Railroad that ran troops and supplies between the Arkansas capital and the large Federal base …

Desertion (Civil War)

According to historian Mark Weitz, Arkansas ranks fifth out of the eleven Confederate states with significant (defined as more than 3,500) numbers of deserters. North Carolina is first on the list with 24,122, followed by Tennessee (12,308), Virginia (12,155), Mississippi (11,660), and Arkansas (10,095). Desertion was a common problem faced by commanders on both sides of the Civil War, although the issue has not been fully explored by military historians and exact numbers are hard to determine. Causes of DesertionMyriad reasons exist for desertion during the Civil War. Early in the war, some Confederate units in Arkansas deserted when rumors spread about local Native Americans raiding towns and scalping citizens; the soldiers left their units feeling that their place was …

DeValls Bluff, Affair at (December 13, 1864)

Union forces guarded a number of important outposts across the state in 1864, creating an important line of defense against possible Confederate attacks from the southwestern corner of the state. In an effort to gather intelligence about enemy movements and possible threats more effectively, Federal commanders used patrols and guards in locations where their troops would not be expected by the Confederates. Even while the information gathered was not particularly important, Union officers passed any intelligence up their chain of command, allowing their commanders to make informed decisions. This affair is an example of such an incident. Brigadier General Christopher Andrews commanded the Federal garrison at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) in late 1864 and worked to gather information about the …

DeValls Bluff, Affair at (May 22, 1864)

One of the most dangerous missions Union soldiers could be assigned was to gather forage outside Federal outposts. Vulnerable to attack while they worked to gather food and other supplies, they often proved to be easy targets for Confederate units. This event shows how easily these groups could be surprised by the enemy. With hundreds or thousands of men in small garrisons across the countryside, Union supply lines strained to feed them all. Horses and mules had to be fed as well, so Union commanders often tried to gather as much forage nearby for their livestock as possible. West of the important Federal outpost of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), the Grand Prairie offered quality grazing opportunities for livestock. On May …

DeValls Bluff, Affair near (November 2, 1864)

aka: Affair at Hazen's Farm
With Union outposts scattered across the state during the Civil War, small parties of Federal troops became prime targets for Confederate forces and guerrillas. The need to gather necessary forage and other supplies forced Union troops outside the confines of their fortified positions, sometimes leading to their capture, as in this engagement. In November 1864, a company of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry was tasked with guarding the railroad between DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and what is now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Posted about seven miles to the west of DeValls Bluff under the command of Captain Nelson Claflin, the Federals were in a vulnerable and isolated position. On November 2, 1864, Claflin dispatched eleven of his men from their …

DeValls Bluff, Skirmish at (December 1, 1863)

A small inconsequential action, the December 1, 1863, Skirmish at DeValls Bluff was typical of the warfare the Union army faced as it manned isolated posts throughout Arkansas. As regular Confederate troops withdrew from central Arkansas, guerrilla groups continued to attack these outposts. DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) was an important Federal outpost on the White River. Supplies were transported up the White River to the Union garrison in the town, where they were loaded onto railcars for transport to the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. The troops stationed in the town protected both the river landing and rail station, as well as a large military hospital and other logistical infrastructure. The troops also patrolled the surrounding countryside for both regular …

Devil’s Backbone, Action at

aka: Action at Backbone Mountain
aka: Action at Jenny Lind
The Union victory at Devil’s Backbone secured the North’s capture of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on September 1, 1863. Although fighting continued in the region, Fort Smith remained a Union base until the war’s end. After driving other Confederate forces farther south into Indian Territory in late August 1863, Union Major General James G. Blunt rapidly turned toward Fort Smith. Blunt’s troops skirmished with Confederate Brigadier General William L. Cabell’s brigade southwest of Fort Smith on August 31. Cabell decided to retreat southeast and sent his baggage and ordnance wagons off that evening. Discovering this Confederate retreat the next morning, Blunt took an infantry regiment and captured Fort Smith without incident, while Colonel William F. Cloud led about 700 Union …

Disease during the Civil War

Disease was a major problem among the armies serving in Arkansas during the Civil War. Large numbers of men living in close confines made the spread of illness likely. As many as 700,000 members of the military across the country lost their lives during the war, and approximately two-thirds of them died from disease. Outbreaks of disease were common in the state even before the beginning of the war. In 1855, a yellow fever epidemic struck Helena (Phillips County), and minor outbreaks of other diseases such as cholera and typhoid were common. The lack of major centers of population and difficulty of travel, however, prevented many large-scale epidemics before the Civil War. The state had a number of doctors in …

Dobbins, Archibald

Archibald S. Dobbins was a planter and a colonel in the Confederate army who spent most of the war leading cavalry units in Arkansas and Missouri. Archibald Dobbins was born in 1827, in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of David Dobbins and Catherine (Gilchrist) Dobbins; he had at least six siblings. His parents were farmers, and he grew up near Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. In 1850, Dobbins married Mary Patience Dawson. By the early 1850s, he had moved to Arkansas to establish himself as a planter. He purchased land in Phillips County, as well as land across the Mississippi River in Coahoma County, Mississippi. He became wealthy and established himself as part of the Helena (Phillips County) community. Dobbins did not …

Dockery, Thomas Pleasant

Thomas Pleasant Dockery attained the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army, commanding Arkansas troops in a number of important engagements on both sides of the Mississippi River. He enjoyed a reputation as a gallant and aggressive commander. One private under Dockery’s command recalled, “It was one of Colonel Dockery’s hobbies to volunteer to take some battery or storm some difficult stronghold.” At his death, the Arkansas Gazette observed that Dockery “was a broad-gauged man. He was as brave and gallant a soldier as the Confederacy produced.” Born in North Carolina on December 18, 1833, to Colonel John Dockery and his wife, Ann, Thomas Dockery eventually moved to Arkansas, settling in Columbia County, where his father established a large …

Dodd, David Owen

During the Civil War, seventeen-year-old David Owen Dodd of Little Rock (Pulaski County) was hanged as a spy by the Union army. He has been called the “boy hero of Arkansas” as well as “boy martyr of the Confederacy.” His story has inspired tributes such as the epic poem The Long, Long Thoughts of Youth by Marie Erwin Ward, a full-length play, and even reportedly a 1915 silent Hollywood movie, which has not survived. Historical markers, monuments, annual reenactments of his execution, and the naming of the David O. Dodd Elementary School in southwest Little Rock are among the state’s recognitions of his life and death. David Owen Dodd was born on November 10, 1846, in Lavaca County, Texas, to …

Dooley’s Ferry Fortifications Historic District

The Dooley’s Ferry Fortifications Historic District features a series of redoubts and trenches that Confederate soldiers constructed in 1864 and 1865 to protect the approaches to Texas via the Red River during the waning days of the Civil War. In mid-September 1864, Major General Sterling Price led a force of 12,000 men—including most of the Confederate cavalry serving in the state—on a raid into Missouri, leaving the remaining Confederate troops in Arkansas under the command of Major General John Bankhead “Prince John” Magruder. Magruder faced the challenge of defending southwestern Arkansas as aggressive Federal patrols probed the region in the absence of Maj. Gen. Price and the Rebel cavalry. His ability to defend the region was further complicated by a …

Dorsey, Stephen Wallace

Stephen Wallace Dorsey was a soldier, a U.S. senator from Arkansas, and an entrepreneur involved with railroads, ranching, mail delivery contracting, and mining. Ambitious, smart, and handsome, Dorsey was a prominent and successful man throughout his lifetime. His achievements, however, were frequently surrounded by controversy and scandal. The son of Irish immigrants, Stephen Dorsey was born on a farm in Benson, Vermont, on February 28, 1842. He was the seventh of ten children born to John and Mary Dorsey. When he was a teenager, Dorsey and his family moved to Oberlin, Ohio. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, Dorsey enlisted as a private in the First Ohio Light Artillery. He fought under generals James A. Garfield and …

Dove [Steamboat]

As part of the Union’s Mississippi River Squadron, the steamer Dove served as a chartered vessel on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, including expeditions on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department during the Civil War. Dove displaced 350 tons, but specific details about its construction and acquisition by Union forces are not known. In the 1850s, Master John Box operated Dove as a passenger and commercial transport on the Arkansas River between New Orleans, Louisiana; Napoleon (Desha County); and Fort Smith (Sebastian County). On March 30, 1864, the Dove transported Union troops up the White River to Gregory’s Landing (Woodruff County) for Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews’s operations …

Du Bocage

aka: Judge J. W. Bocage Home
Du Bocage (French for “of the Bocage”), also known as the Judge J. W. Bocage Home, at 1115 West 4th Street in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) is a well-preserved example of late Greek Revival architecture in Arkansas. Completed in 1866, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Joseph William Bocage, born on the island of St. Lucia in 1819, was raised and educated in North Carolina and came to Chicot County, Arkansas, around 1836, intent on training to become a doctor. This proved to be unsuitable, and he moved to Pine Bluff to read law with James Yell, nephew of Governor Archibald Yell. At the time, there were only eight houses in the city. He …

Dunnington, John William

John William Dunnington was a Confederate naval and infantry officer during the Civil War. After serving in the U.S. Navy early in his career, he joined the Confederate navy. He served for approximately nine months in Arkansas and took part in the Engagement at St. Charles and Battle of Arkansas Post. Dunnington was rare in that he held the rank of officer in both the Confederate army and navy during the war and served both east and west of the Mississippi River. John W. Dunnington was born on May 18, 1833, in Christian County, Kentucky, to Francis Dunnington (1798–1835) and Elizabeth Cobey Dunnington (1799–1848), both of whom were natives of Maryland. Dunnington’s brother, Francis C. Dunnington, served on Nathan Bedford …

DuVal, Elias Rector

In the late nineteenth century, physician Elias Rector DuVal (sometimes rendered Duval) was a leader in the drive to modernize medicine in Arkansas. In the 1870s, he cofounded the Arkansas State Medical Association (ASMA) and the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS). E. R. DuVal was born on August 13, 1836, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to William DuVal, who was a trader, and his wife, Harriet Tabitha Doddridge DuVal. The family included three sisters and two brothers. In 1835, DuVal’s sister Catherine DuVal married Elias Rector. Rector was a U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas and Indian Territory and later served as superintendent of Indian Affairs. Educated in the local schools, DuVal graduated from Arkansas College in Fayetteville (Washington …