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

Madison, Skirmish at

By 1865, large-scale organized Confederate resistance had collapsed in much of the state. Federal patrols from Helena (Phillips County) and other occupied cities continued to find and destroy bands of the enemy when possible. This skirmish was part of such a patrol. On February 8, 1865, Brigadier General Napoleon Buford dispatched a scouting party of men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Crebs. Numbering 175, the party departed Helena and moved to the northwest in an effort to find and engage any enemy forces in the area. During the course of the expedition, the Union troops encountered Confederate resistance on a regular basis. Crebs estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 enemy soldiers operated in eastern Arkansas at the time, …

Maledon, George

While much of his life is shrouded in legend, according to a number of sources, George Maledon was the most prolific executioner in the United States in the last third of the nineteenth century. Working as the hangman for the famed Judge Isaac Parker for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith (Sebastian County), he reportedly performed as many as eighty-one executions, although more recent historical accounts put the number at closer to fifty. George Maledon was born in Germany on June 10, 1830. He immigrated with his parents, about whom little is known, to the United States, settling in the Detroit, Michigan, area, where they joined the small German Catholic community that had …

Mankins, Peter “Old Pete”

Peter “Old Pete” Mankins Jr. was an early settler and county official in Washington County, as well as a Confederate guerrilla leader whose command operated in northwestern Arkansas during the Civil War. Peter Mankins Jr. was born in Floyd County, Kentucky, on August 1, 1813, the third of five children of Peter Mankins and Rachel Bracken Mankins. In 1833, he migrated to Sulphur City (Washington County), where his father owned property. A short, stocky man, Mankins (or “Uncle Pete” as his relatives and friends called him) developed a local reputation for considerable physical strength, which he displayed during threshing season by single-handedly lifting two-hundred-pound sacks of wheat. Mankins married Amanda Narcissus Mills in 1836, and they had ten children (one …

Marianna and LaGrange, Skirmishes at

  Part of a three-day expedition from Helena (Phillips County) to Moro (Lee County), the skirmishes at Marianna (Lee County) and LaGrange (Lee County) primarily consisted of several guerrilla-style attacks from Confederate forces on a Union detachment moving southeast from Moro toward Marianna. The two opposing forces eventually clashed in a more conventional engagement at La Grange south of Marianna later in the day. On the morning of November 8, 1862, a detachment of Second Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Southwest—consisting of detachments from the Third and Fourth Iowa Cavalry and Ninth Illinois Cavalry—began a march southeast from Moro toward Marianna, on orders from Union brigade commander Colonel William Vandever. Shortly after its departure, the detachment came under attack from a …

Marks’ Mills, Action at

The Action at Marks’ Mills took place on April 25, 1864, when Confederate troops ambushed a Union supply train, capturing all the wagons and artillery and most of the troops. Confederate soldiers were accused of massacring African Americans at this battle. After the April 18 defeat at the Engagement at Poison Spring, Union forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele continued to hold Camden (Ouachita County) while Confederate Major General Sterling Price maintained pressure on Steele from the countryside. With supplies dwindling, the acquisition of rations became important to the Union troops. The arrival of provisions from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 20 convinced Steele that more materials could be obtained there. Three days later, he dispatched …

Marlsgate and the Dortch Plantation

Marlsgate sits at the center of the Dortch plantation, located near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties). Marlsgate occupies the site of an earlier plantation house and faces Bearskin Lake, one of the many small lakes formed by the changing course of the nearby Arkansas River. Marlsgate was designed by noted Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson and was completed in 1904. Together, the house and outbuildings represent plantation life in the mid-South during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While serving as the primary residence for three generations of the Dortch family, Marlsgate was also the headquarters for farming operations of the Dortch plantation. Under the stewardship of William Dortch, approximately 100 tenant families lived on the Dortch plantation. By the …

Marmaduke-Walker Duel

aka: Walker-Marmaduke Duel
The Marmaduke-Walker Duel was fought during the Civil War between Confederate brigadier generals John Sappington Marmaduke and Lucius Marshall (Marsh) Walker. Marmaduke was originally from Missouri and was the son of a former governor. Walker was originally from Kentucky and nephew of President James K. Polk. Both graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They made their way to Arkansas during the war; Marmaduke was stationed there, while Walker was granted a transfer to Arkansas due to trouble with superiors. Disagreement arose between the two in the summer of 1863 over military actions at Helena (Phillips County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County), where Walker failed to carry out operations as planned and exposed Marmaduke and his men to enemy troops. …

Marmaduke, John Sappington

Missouri native John Sappington Marmaduke was a Confederate general who saw action in several Arkansas Civil War campaigns. While he was a capable cavalry leader, he is probably best known for killing fellow general Lucius M. Walker in an 1863 duel concerning disputes about Walker’s actions at the Battle of Helena and the Action at Bayou Meto in 1863. A Greene County town is named in his honor. John S. Marmaduke was born on March 14, 1833, approximately five miles west of Arrow Rock, Missouri. He was the fourth of ten children born to Lavinia Sappington Marmaduke and Miles Meridith Marmaduke. His father was a successful businessman and politician who held several county offices, was elected lieutenant governor of Missouri …

Mason, James W.

aka: James Mason Worthington
James W. Mason of Chicot County was the first documented African-American postmaster in the United States. He later served as a delegate to the 1868 Arkansas constitutional convention and was a state senator. James W. Mason was born in Chicot County in 1841. His father was Elisha Worthington (1808–1873), the wealthiest landowner and largest slaveholder in Chicot County. Mason’s mother was one of Worthington’s slaves, whose name is unknown. Worthington apparently carried on a longtime, public relationship with this woman. (He did, however, marry Mary Chinn of Kentucky in 1840, but she returned to Kentucky only six months later, claiming that he was an adulterer, and the marriage was annulled.) Mason’s full name, which rarely appears in any public record, may have …

Massard Prairie, Action at

The Action at Massard Prairie on July 27, 1864, exemplified the hit-and-run nature of the Civil War in Arkansas on the western border: this was a war of raids and ambushes involving small forces, not drawn-out, large-scale battles. As a Confederate victory, it also demonstrated the difficulty faced by Union units attempting to exert control over the state during the war’s later stages. Following the failure of Union General Frederick Steele’s Camden Expedition in April 1864, Confederate and Union roles on the frontier reversed. Union forces now attempted to hold the line of the Arkansas River against Confederate raids, while emboldened Confederates became more aggressive in their operations. An opportunity presented itself to the Confederates in late July 1864. In …

Maury, Dabney Herndon

Dabney Herndon Maury served in Arkansas as Confederate general Earl Van Dorn’s chief of staff at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Maury later led Arkansas troops in northern Mississippi during the Civil War. Dabney Herndon Maury was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on May 21, 1822, to Captain John Minor Maury and Elizabeth Maury. He had one brother. Maury’s father was a career officer in the U.S. Navy who died on active duty. Maury’s uncle, Matthew Fontaine Maury, became his guardian after his father’s death. Maury attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from 1842 to 1846, graduating thirty-seventh out of fifty-nine cadets in what some called one of the best classes ever to attend the academy. Maury served in …

Maysville, Skirmish at (January 1863)

A small engagement between a Union force of Native Americans and Confederate guerrillas, this action took place in far northwestern Arkansas. Following the Battle of Prairie Grove, the skirmish was an effort by Federal troops to maintain control of the area in the face of increasing guerrilla activity and protect nearby Indians loyal to the Union government. The exact date of the engagement is not recorded in official records. After the Battle of Prairie Grove, Major General John Schofield took command of the Army of the Frontier and ordered Colonel William Phillips to take his Indian brigade to Maysville (Benton County). Phillips’s brigade consisted of the First, Second, and Third Indian Home Guard, a battalion of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry, …

Maysville, Skirmish at (July 20, 1864)

While most Confederate forces in Arkansas were concentrated south of the Arkansas River by the summer of 1864, some guerrilla units continued to operate behind Union lines. A small engagement near the border with the Indian Territory, this skirmish was typical of the fighting during this period. Federal units from Arkansas worked with Union units from other states to patrol the northwestern corner of the state and keep guerrilla activity to a minimum. Cassville, Missouri, was used as both a headquarters for Federal troops and as a staging point for these missions. On July 18, 1864, Captain James Powell of the Second Arkansas Cavalry received orders from the commanding general of the District of Southwestern Missouri, Brigadier General John Sanborn. …

Maysville, Skirmish at (May 8, 1864)

A brief and indecisive engagement on the western edge of Arkansas, this skirmish was part of the war in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) that spilled into the state. Pitting Union Cherokee troops against Confederate-allied Cherokee, this skirmish is typical of the actions fought in the area at this point of the war. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, various tribes in Indian Territory disagreed about which side, if any, they should choose in the coming conflict. The Cherokee Nation split, with some members continuing to support the Federal government and others aligning themselves with the Confederacy. Both sides organized military units to participate in the war, with numerous Confederate units and three Union regiments organized. The Union …

Maysville, Skirmish at (September 5, 1863)

The September 5, 1863, Skirmish at Maysville consisted of a series of engagements over the course of a single day between Union and Confederate troops in northwestern Arkansas that ended with the complete rout of the Federal force. Originally a mission to escort a Union officer carrying messages, the movement ended with the capture of the messenger and some of his comrades. Captain John Gardner of the Second Kansas Cavalry was ordered to ride from Springfield, Missouri, to join his regiment in the field, carrying dispatches from Brigadier General John McNeil, commander of the District of Southwestern Missouri. Gardner arrived in Cassville, Missouri, on September 1, 1863, and requested an escort of troopers from the First Arkansas Cavalry (US). The …

McAlmont, John Josephus

John Josephus McAlmont was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). John McAlmont was born on December 22, 1821, in Hornellsville, New York, the son of Daniel and Samantha Donham McAlmont and the youngest of seven siblings. McAlmont left home at age seventeen, earning money by teaching school. At twenty-one, he entered Geneva Medical College in New York for its one-semester course in medicine; there, he completed a course of lectures in medicine in April 1843. (A course of lectures was all that was required to practice medicine at the time.) McAlmont established his practice in April 1844 in Kendall Creek, Pennsylvania. The community was a …

McClernand, John Alexander

John Alexander McClernand was a controversial Union army general whose frequent machinations against Major General Ulysses S. Grant during several campaigns in the Western Theater of the Civil War and inconsistent performance in battle epitomized the ambitious character traits of a “political general.” McClernand’s most significant military achievement involved the Battle of Arkansas Post in early 1863. Born to John McClernand and Fatima McClernand in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, on May 30, 1812, John McClernand grew up in Shawneetown, Illinois. Although he received very little formal education, he passed the state bar examination in 1832. McClernand also enlisted as a private in a local militia unit during the Blackhawk War of 1832. From 1833 to 1834, he worked as a commercial …

McCollum-Chidester House Museum

The McCollum-Chidester House in Camden (Ouachita County) was built in 1847 by Peter McCollum, a North Carolinian who came to Arkansas and acquired the property on a land-grant basis. It is today a museum maintained by the Ouachita County Historical Society. McCollum purchased the building materials in New Orleans, Louisiana, and had them shipped upriver to Camden by steamboat. It was the first planed lumber house in the area of Ouachita County and possibly in southern Arkansas. It boasted the first plastered walls, carpeting, and wallpaper. John Chidester, an enterprising stagecoach owner and mail contractor, purchased the home for $10,000 in gold and moved his family to Camden in 1858. Chidester wanted to expand his growing stage line farther west, using Camden …

McCook, Alexander McDonald

Alexander McCook was a Union general during the Civil War and commanded the District of Eastern Arkansas. Alexander McCook was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, on April 22, 1831. The son of Daniel McCook and Martha Latimer McCook, he had two sisters and eight brothers. McCook attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1852. After earning his commission as an officer, he spent time teaching at the academy and served with the Third Infantry Regiment on the frontier. Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1861, McCook received a commission as colonel of the First Ohio Volunteers. Seeing action at the First Battle of Bull Run, he received a promotion to brigadier general of volunteers …

McCown, John Porter

Tennessee native John Porter McCown pursued a long military career concluding with service as a major general in the Confederate army in the Civil War. After the war, he moved to Magnolia (Columbia County), where he became a respected citizen and farmer. John P. McCown was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, on August 19, 1815, one of seven children of George Wesley McCown and Mary Caroline Porter McCown. After receiving a basic education in his home state, he accepted an appointment to the military academy at West Point, where he graduated tenth in his class in 1840. After graduation, he embarked upon a long military career, initially as an officer in the artillery, participating in campaigns against western Indian tribes and …

McCulloch, Benjamin

Benjamin McCulloch served in the War for Texas Independence and the Mexican War, and as a United States marshal, before becoming a brigadier general in the Confederate army. McCulloch led Arkansas troops at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri but was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas. While not a native Arkansan, McCulloch played an important role in the state’s military history. He led Arkansas troops at both the first major battle fought west of the Mississippi River in the Civil War, as well as at the first major battle in the state. Born to Alexander McCulloch and Frances LeNoir McCulloch in Rutherford County, Tennessee, on November 11, 1811, Benjamin McCulloch was the fourth of thirteen …

McDermott, Charles M.

Charles M. McDermott was a medical doctor, minister, plantation owner, Greek scholar, charter member of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and inventor. His patented inventions include an iron wedge, iron hoe, a cotton-picking machine, and a “flying machine.” He was a regular contributor to the Scientific American, and he was among the first to advocate the germ theory of disease. Charles McDermott was born on September 22, 1808, in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. His parents, Emily (Ozan) and Patrick McDermott, owned sugarcane plantations. He had four brothers and two sisters. It was at the plantation home, Waverly, where McDermott became interested in flying. McDermott entered Yale University in 1825 and obtained a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1828. On December …

McDonald (Lynching of)

A pair of Marion County men were shot as suspected horse thieves on Christmas Day of 1870 by a trio of vigilantes from Springfield, Missouri. A man named McDonald was killed in the incident. According to a short article in the January 25, 1871, Arkansas Gazette, three men from Springfield “named Patterson, and Dodson, and a third, name unknown,” rode into Marion County in pursuit of a stolen horse. Once in the county, they apprehended a man named Otterbury, and while one vigilante guarded him, the other two detained a man named McDonald “whom they also accused as being one of their thieves.” After “some altercation,” the Missourians shot the two men after Otterbury “attempted to resist.” McDonald died of …

McDonald-Wait-Newton House

aka: Packet House
aka: 1836 Club
The McDonald-Wait-Newton House, also commonly referred to as the Packet House, is located in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The nineteenth-century house is a good example of the Second Empire architectural style and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places due primarily to its architectural significance. When the Packet House was constructed, its address was 1406 Lincoln Avenue; the road name was later changed to Cantrell. The people who built in the area had some association to the North; either they supported the North during the Civil War, or they moved south during Reconstruction, leading to the nickname of “Carpetbagger’s Row” for the homes along the road. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, “The Packet …

McDonald, Alexander

As one of Arkansas’s Republican senators during Reconstruction, Alexander McDonald played a role in the return of the state to its place in the Union. Possibly, though, McDonald’s roles as banker and railroad executive were more important to the state than his brief political career. Alexander McDonald was born on April 10, 1832, near Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, one of several children of John and Lucy McDonald. He attended Dickinson Seminary in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and also Lewisburg University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, although it appears that he did not graduate from any institution. In 1857, he traveled west to the Kansas Territory and became a businessman. Along with his brother, Benjamin P. McDonald, he ran a sawmill—variously known as “Bowen and McDonald” …

McGraw’s Mill, Skirmish at

During the winter of 1862–1863, Union sympathizers avoiding Confederate conscription officers fled their homes throughout western Arkansas and hid in the Ouachita Mountains, where they joined Confederate deserters. These bands stole supplies from the local population. Civilians in the area were uneasy with this development and urged the Confederate government to act. One of these bands was led by Andy Brown—who was called “Captain”—of Arkadelphia (Clark County). Brown’s band had eighty-three members and was most active in the Ouachita Mountains northwest of Arkadelphia, stealing horses and wagons from nearby civilians. In response to these events, a group of mounted and armed civilians organized in Arkadelphia under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William A. Crawford. Divided into two companies, the men …

McGuire’s, Affair at

A reconnaissance raid, this engagement saw Federal forces charging into the midst of an enemy encampment before withdrawing. Although the skirmish involved a daring attack, neither side reported any casualties. Major Thomas Hunt commanded part of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) stationed in Fayetteville (Washington County) in October 1863. The Federals knew that Confederate units under the command of Colonel William Brooks were operating in the area, and Hunt estimated that the enemy numbered around 1,000. The Union troops in the area numbered approximately 500. On October 11, Hunt received a demand for surrender of the town and his command from Brooks. Hunt replied that he would not surrender without a fight and immediately reinforced his picket posts and sent …

McIntosh, James McQueen

James McQueen McIntosh served as a Confederate colonel in the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles and as a brigadier general before losing his life at the Battle of Pea Ridge. James McIntosh was born at Fort Brooke, near present-day Tampa, Florida, in 1828. His father was Colonel James Simmons McIntosh of the U.S. Army. The elder McIntosh served in both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, during which he was killed at the 1847 Battle of Molino del Rey. The younger McIntosh graduated last in his class the next year from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Serving on active duty with the U.S. Army on the western frontier, McIntosh was promoted to captain of the First Cavalry …

McNair, Evander

Evander McNair was a prosperous antebellum merchant in Mississippi and Arkansas, a Mexican War veteran, and a Confederate general who ranks among Arkansas’s most successful and respected Civil War commanders. Evander McNair was born to Scottish-immigrant parents John McNair and Nancy Fletcher McNair on April 15, 1820, in Laurel Hill, North Carolina. He and his parents moved to Simpson County, Mississippi, in 1821. By 1842, McNair had established a mercantile business in Jackson, Mississippi. During the Mexican War, he served as ordnance sergeant in Company E of the First Mississippi Rifles, a regiment commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis (future president of the Confederacy). McNair fought at the Battle of Buena Vista and received an honorable discharge. After the war, he …

McRae, Dandridge

Dandridge McRae was a Searcy (White County) attorney who during the Civil War rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army and led troops in most of the major battles in Arkansas. Following the war, McRae held various state and federal government positions and was active in promoting the state. The town of McRae (White County) is named in his honor. Born on October 10, 1829, in Baldwin County, Alabama, Dandridge McRae was the eldest of eleven children born to D. R. W. McRae and Margaret Bracy McRae. His father was a plantation owner, a lawyer, and a member of the Alabama legislature. Young McRae was tutored on the family plantation. In 1845, he was admitted to …

Military Board (Civil War)

The Military Board was a three-man committee formed by the Secession Convention to raise troops in Arkansas after President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to fight for the United States following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. It served with varying measures of success throughout the Civil War. The Secession Convention passed an ordinance creating the Military Board on May 15, 1861, giving it the authority to call out volunteer troops and militia companies to defend Arkansas and to control forts and armaments in the state, though acting as an auxiliary to the Confederate government. The board would consist of Governor Henry Rector and two advisory members. The first advisory member, appointed on May 16, was Benjamin …

Military Farm Colonies (Arkansas Delta)

As the Federal army moved across Arkansas during the Civil War, thousands of newly freed slaves attached themselves to military units and eventually began to amass in Union strongholds. Helena (Phillips County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) were just two of the towns where Union commanders struggled to provide for this massive influx of refugees. As more freedmen arrived at Helena after it fell to Union forces in 1862, military officers worked to alleviate the strain these civilians put on the supply lines. Eventually, a program that saw some success in Tennessee and Mississippi was adopted by the commanders at Helena. Realizing that the freedmen were an untapped source of labor, Union officers east of the Mississippi River leased abandoned …

Military Farm Colonies (Northwestern Arkansas)

During the Civil War, thousands of Arkansas civilians became displaced and relied on either the Federal or Confederate governments to provide basic necessities. These non-combatants strained military resources, and commanders searched for ways to make these refugees self-sufficient. With many Unionist families in northwestern Arkansas, Federal commanders created a program that allowed groups to grow subsistence crops and work together to provide mutual self-defense from enemy units. The colonies in northwestern Arkansas were established around the families of white Unionists, while other colonies in central and eastern Arkansas were populated by freedmen and their families. By the spring of 1864, years of war had taken a toll on the agricultural output of northwestern Arkansas, and thousands of people were forced …

Militia Wars of 1868–1869

A series of conflicts fought across the state in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Militia Wars were a response to the wave of violence that swept Arkansas after the adoption of the Constitution of 1868. With the capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Federal forces in 1863, Isaac Murphy was selected as the provisional governor of the state, taking office in March 1864. With little influence beyond the capital and other isolated Union outposts, Murphy was unable to consolidate his power before the end of the war. In 1866, almost the entire Unionist state government was defeated for reelection. However, Murphy and the secretary of state, who were serving four-year terms that expired in 1868, survived. The …