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

Palarm, Battle of (Reconstruction)

The Battle of Palarm was a skirmish in the Reconstruction-era Brooks-Baxter War in which supporters of Joseph Brooks attacked the steamboat Hallie (a light-draught fast packet) on the Arkansas River near present-day Mayflower (Faulkner County), killing several militiamen loyal to Elisha Baxter. The election of 1872 was rife with irregularities but resulted in Elisha Baxter assuming the governorship of Arkansas. However, following a series of legislative and legal maneuvers, losing candidate Joseph Brooks won a legal ruling declaring him the winner. On April 15, 1874, Brooks and a group of armed followers confronted Baxter at the Old State House and threw him out, leading to several weeks of armed confrontations in what became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. The Hallie …

Palmer’s Folly

aka: John C. Palmer House
Palmer’s Folly was an elaborate Italianate-style residence built near Blackton (Monroe County) in the Arkansas Delta by prominent Helena (Phillips County) lawyer John C. Palmer in the early 1870s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 4, 1976, the building burned to the ground in May 2013 while it was being restored. John Coleman Palmer was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 12, 1823. He studied law and graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington in 1845. In September of that year, he moved to Helena and established a law firm. A year later, he served as a sergeant in the Phillips County company of the First Arkansas Mounted Rifles during the Mexican War, fighting at the Battle …

Parks, William Pratt “Buck”

William Pratt “Buck” Parks was a captain of a heavy artillery battery at the Battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. Following the Civil War, Parks became a prominent leader of agrarian protest in Arkansas. The 1860 Census shows William Pratt Parks living in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the residence of Joshua and Susan Jones, along with four younger siblings. A newspaper article appearing in the Arkansas Gazette on May 16, 1911, listed Parks as being enrolled at St. Johns’ College when it first opened, in October 1859. Parks served as a private in the Pulaski County Field Artillery Battery (Arkansas state troops). This battery, originally organized in late 1860 as the Totten Light Battery, became the Pulaski County Field Artillery …

Pea Ridge Campaign

The Pea Ridge campaign was arguably the most significant campaign of the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi region. The Union Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis defeated the Confederate Army of the West led by Major General Earl Van Dorn in the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862, and played a pivotal role in claiming Missouri for the Union and opening Arkansas to Union occupation. Missouri was high on the wish lists of both the Federal and Confederate governments in 1861. Federal Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon drove pro-secession elements out of St. Louis, Missouri, then chased Major General Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard to the southwest corner of Missouri and fought the Battle of …

Pea Ridge, Battle of

aka: Battle of Elkhorn Tavern
The Battle of Pea Ridge played a pivotal role in securing Missouri for the Union and opened Arkansas to Union occupation. It played a large role in preserving Missouri’s tenuous loyal-state status. After the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri, August 10, 1861, the command structure on both sides in Missouri underwent major overhauls. Union Major General Henry W. Halleck chose Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis to command the force that fought at Wilson’s Creek, the newly christened Army of the Southwest. The Confederates also had command issues. Major General Sterling Price and Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch feuded bitterly, and President Jefferson Davis chose Major General Earl Van Dorn to revive the Confederacy’s fortunes in the new Military District of …

Pearce, Nicholas Bartlett

Nicholas Bartlett Pearce commanded the First (western) Division of the Arkansas Army in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) on August 10, 1861, and served subsequently as a Confederate commissary officer. Nicholas Bartlett Pearce was born on July 20, 1828, in Princeton, Kentucky, to farmers Allen Pearce and Mary (Polly) Morse Pearce; he had four sisters and one brother. He reportedly graduated from Cumberland College in 1845 and then attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in the class of 1850, ranking twenty-sixth in a class of forty-four. Entering the service as a second lieutenant, he saw service in Texas and Utah and, in June 1855, while stationed at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), married Nancy …

Pearson, John Albert

John Albert Pearson Jr. was the last man to be appointed as an officer in the Confederate States Marine Corps during the American Civil War and may have been the only Arkansan to serve as a Confederate marine officer. John Albert Pearson Jr. was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on November 5, 1845, the son of John and Mary Pearson. His father had created the prototype for the first revolving pistol from designs by Samuel Colt, and Pearson was learning the gunsmith trade when the Civil War began in 1861. Pearson, though only fifteen years old, joined the Third Arkansas State Troops on May 21—fifteen days after Arkansas seceded from the Union. Pearson was with the Third Arkansas when …

Pemiscot Bayou, Skirmish at

Throughout Mississippi County and the adjacent Missouri counties of Dunklin and Pemiscot, bands of guerillas harassed Union forces, raided farms and communities, and terrorized the citizenry with acts of violence during the Civil War. Composed primarily of Confederate deserters and civilian sympathizers, these combatants hid within the dense swamplands and canebrakes that dominated the landscape, making it difficult for Union forces to pinpoint their exact locations. Determined to disperse these groups and limit their activities, Major John W. Rabb spearheaded an expedition from New Madrid, Missouri, to Mississippi County on April 5, 1864. At 11:00 p.m., with a force of approximately 200 men, he embarked on a steamer and sailed down the Mississippi River to Barfield’s Point (Mississippi County), where …

Perry County War of 1881

The Perry County War is the common name given to a brief period of violence that erupted in Perryville (Perry County) in the summer of 1881. The general lawlessness, including the murder of the local newspaper editor, resulted in the governor sending the militia to calm the situation. In actuality, the 1881 events were a second eruption of an ongoing settling of political differences in Perry County dating back to the Civil War. Like many counties in Arkansas during the Civil War, Perry County was divided by conflicting loyalties. The mountainous western sections of the county aligned with the Union, while whites in the eastern half, where most of the enslaved people lived, held Confederate sympathies. These philosophical differences continued …

Perry County, Skirmish at

The December 3, 1864, Skirmish at Perry County was one of many military events of the Civil War to occur within the Arkansas River Valley, exemplifying the contentious nature of the Union’s occupation of the area around the Arkansas River. The only known surviving document is a report by Colonel Abraham H. Ryan of the Third Arkansas Cavalry, headquartered in Lewisburg (Conway County) at the time. According to this report, Lieutenant Robert W. Wishard conducted a scouting expedition into Perry County (the exact location is not given) and encountered Rebels affiliated with the companies of John A. Conly and a man named Franz. The resulting fight left five Confederates dead, including a lieutenant, and one Union private dead. Wishard pursued …

Petit Jean, Skirmish at

On July 10, 1864, Federal forces of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (Union) engaged Confederate forces of an unidentified unit on the Arkansas River near the mouth of the Petit Jean River. The Union commander reported Confederate casualties. Previously, by the end of 1863, the western half of the Arkansas River in the state was under Union control following the Confederacy’s loss of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County). Major General Frederick Steele established Federal garrisons at various points along the north side of the river. Steele also authorized raising local Union regiments, and one of these was the Third Arkansas Cavalry, which served for extended periods at the river port of Lewisburg (Conway County), near the present …

Phelps, John Smith

As the Civil War military governor of Arkansas and a longtime Missouri congressman, John Smith Phelps began his involvement with Arkansas before the Civil War. A stalwart Democrat, he raised a Union regiment and fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge prior to his appointment as military governor. Cotton politics and personal illness doomed his attempt to establish a Union government in 1862 and led to his removal in 1863. John S. Phelps was born on December 22, 1814, in Simsbury, Connecticut, to Elisha Phelps and Lucy Smith Phelps; he was one of five children. His father was a sometime congressman (1819–1821, 1825–1829). After a public school education, young Phelps attended Washington College (subsequently Trinity College) in Hartford, Connecticut, but …

Pickett, Alexander Corbin (A. C.)

Known personally and professionally as A. C. Pickett or Colonel Pickett, Alexander Corbin Pickett was a lawyer in Jacksonport (Jackson County) and later Augusta (Woodruff County), organizer of the Jackson Guards (CS) in the Civil War, and later a colonel in the Tenth Missouri Infantry (CS). Following the war, Pickett was head of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Woodruff County during Reconstruction. A. C. Pickett, whose birth date is unknown (sources range from 1820 to 1823), was the sixth of the nine children of Steptoe Pickett and Sarah Chilton Pickett who survived into adulthood. Originally from Warrenton in Fauquier County, Virginia, the Picketts came to Mooresville, Alabama, around 1820, just as the area was opening to settlement. Pickett and …

Pierce, Henry Niles

Henry Niles Pierce was the fourth bishop of the Episcopal missionary jurisdiction of Arkansas and Indian Territory, and the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. Henry Niles Pierce was born on October 19, 1820, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to Susan Walker Pierce and Benjamin Bentley Pierce, a tanner, currier, and deacon of First Baptist Church. Pierce attended Portsmouth High School and graduated from Brown University in 1842. He studied theology under Dr. Francis Vinton and Rev. George W. Hathaway, both of Rhode Island. Initially, Pierce intended to become a minister of the Baptist faith practiced by his family; however, his personal beliefs aligned more closely with those of the Episcopal Church. Upon his physician’s recommendation to seek a …

Pike, Albert

Albert Pike was a lawyer who played a major role in the development of the early courts of Arkansas and played an active role in the state’s politics prior to the Civil War. He also was a central figure in the development of Masonry in the state and later became a national leader of that organization. During the Civil War, he commanded the Confederacy’s Indian Territory, raising troops there and exercising field command in one battle. He also was a talented poet and writer. Albert Pike was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1809. He was one of the six children of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. He attended public schools in Byfield, Newburyport, and Framingham, Massachusetts. …

Pike, Edward M.

Edward M. Pike was a sergeant in the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Regiment who received the Medal of Honor for rescuing an imperiled cannon during the 1862 Action at Hill’s Plantation in Arkansas. Edward M. Pike was born on July 1, 1838, at Raymond, Maine, the son of wealthy farmer Harrison N. Pike and Susan A. Pike. He was the oldest of their five sons and two daughters. By 1860, the family had moved to Bloomington, Illinois. After the Civil War began, Pike served in the Union army, as did several of his brothers. Twenty-four-year-old student Pike enlisted as an orderly sergeant in Company A of the Thirty-Third Illinois Infantry Regiment on August 21, 1861, at Bloomington. The Thirty-Third Illinois served …

Pine Bluff Expedition (February 26–28, 1865)

aka: Skirmish at McMilley's Farm
  Following the fall of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Union forces in October 1863, Union commanders at the Pine Bluff garrison began expeditions aimed at scouting and securing areas around the city to remove remaining Confederate forces. Ordered to command an expeditionary force to scout the area north of the Arkansas River between Pine Bluff and a farm near the Wabbaseka (Jefferson County) area, Captain George Suesberry moved a force of sixty men from Pine Bluff to that area. During the movement, there was a brief engagement with Confederate forces. Late in the evening of February 26, 1865, Capt. Suesberry moved his force of sixty men across the Arkansas River to the northern bank with the intent to continue …

Pine Bluff Expedition (January 15–18, 1865)

  Ordered to lead an expedition to repair downed telegraph lines from the Union-held city of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Lieutenant Charles Temple of Company M, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, moved his Union forces along the roads and farms around Pine Bluff from January 15 to January 18, 1865, returning to the Thirteenth Illinois Headquarters in Pine Bluff. During the expedition, there was no hostile contact with Confederate forces. On Sunday, January 15, 1865, Lt. Temple, along with an escort of thirty soldiers from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry and a telegraph repair crew, began a movement along the Little Rock Road to repair telegraph lines that had been cut. The party advanced some twelve miles, at which point it discovered a …

Pine Bluff to DeValls Bluff, Scout from

aka: Skirmish at Pine Bluff (February 11, 1865)
The scouting expedition in February 1865 between Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) was typical of many such operations carried out by the Union army during the duration of the war. Facing minor organized resistance, the Federal troopers easily defeated the small guerrilla bands opposing them. Skirmishes such as this were typical in the last days of the Civil War in Arkansas. Captain John Norris of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry received orders to depart Pine Bluff on February 9 and proceed to DeValls Bluff. Accompanying the captain were seventy-five men, as well as a number of horses deemed unfit for active service. Although the area between the two Union posts was regularly patrolled by Confederate and guerrilla …

Pine Bluff, Action at

The Action at Pine Bluff was fought on October 25, 1863, when Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke’s Confederate cavalry division attacked the small Union garrison under Colonel Powell Clayton that had occupied Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) following the capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on September 10, 1863. The purpose was to return the strategic initiative to the Confederacy. Marmaduke led a force of some 2,000 Rebels out of Princeton (Dallas County) on October 24 to assault the 1,200 to 1,500 Union troopers of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and the First Indiana Cavalry, which were posted at Pine Bluff with their six artillery pieces. Marmaduke planned for Colonel Robert C. Newton’s division to approach Pine Bluff from the southeast while …

Pine Bluff, Affair near

  The Federal army expended considerable energy in maintaining control of Jefferson County and the surrounding area after the occupation of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in late 1863. By 1865, patrols to discourage guerrilla bands who routinely created havoc were dispatched on a regular basis. These patrols, such as the one dispatched on March 4, 1865, were often on a mission to repair vital telegraph lines. At noon on March 4, thirty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry under the command of Captain John H. Norris left Pine Bluff with orders to repair the area telegraph lines. After being hampered by high water, they discovered that the telegraph wires were intact. Earlier, Norris had received information that Confederate guerrillas were …

Pine Bluff, Seizure of U.S. Subsistence Stores at

The capture of Federal army supplies at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) marked one of the first military actions in the state during the Civil War. Occurring before Arkansas officially left the Union, this seizure of supplies was not an operation of the Confederate army but rather of volunteer troops. With the secession of South Carolina in late 1860 and other Southern states in early 1861, Arkansas called a secession convention to determine if the state would follow. The Little Rock Arsenal was seized by volunteer forces in February 1861, before the convention could meet. After the convention convened in March, the first session ended with a vote to remain in the Union and a proposal to send the question to …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (January 9, 1865)

aka: Pine Bluff Expedition (January 7–9, 1865)
Federal outposts across Arkansas continued, in early 1865, to send out regular patrols to ascertain the movements and intentions of the enemy in an effort to keep organized resistance to a minimum. This engagement took place on January 9, 1865, during a Federal effort to capture a number of mules held by Confederate forces near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). On January 7, Captain John Toppass of the Seventh Missouri Cavalry (US) received orders from his superiors to launch a scouting expedition to capture mules held nearby by the enemy. Organizing a group of 150 men, including fifty troopers from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry and 100 from the Seventh Missouri, the patrol departed from Pine Bluff at 7:00 p.m. the same …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (July 22, 1864)

With the return of the Union forces to Little Rock (Pulaski County) after the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces took the initiative in southern Arkansas. While Federal units held Little Rock, Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and other settlements along the Arkansas, White, and Mississippi rivers, Confederate units operated with ease between these settlements. Confederate forces took advantage of the relative isolation of Federal outposts to operate unchecked in the countryside between occupied cities. Union commanders responded by sending out patrols to disrupt Confederate organizational efforts. The Ninth Kansas Cavalry served in the District of the Frontier until July 2, 1864, when the unit received orders transferring it to Little Rock. The Kansans did not make a positive impression on their new …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (July 30, 1864)

By the summer of 1864, Federal forces held Little Rock (Pulaski County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and several other posts along the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. While most Confederate forces in the state were concentrated south of the Arkansas River, small units operated behind Union lines in an effort to disrupt and harass Federal occupiers. This skirmish is typical of the type of action fought during this period of the war in the state. Communication between Union commanders in Little Rock and the garrison at Pine Bluff relied on a telegraph line stretching between the two cities. On July 29, 1864, Second Lieutenant James Teale of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry led forty men from Pine Bluff to repair the telegraph …

Pine Bluff, Skirmish at (June 17, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Monticello Road (June 17, 1864)
A brief encounter between forces near Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), this skirmish is typical of the majority of fighting in the state. Two patrols from opposing forces brushed against one another in an effort to gain intelligence, leading to a short fight. Colonel Powell Clayton of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry commanded the Union post of Pine Bluff and regularly sent out patrols to gather information about Confederate movements in the area. Three patrols returned to Pine Bluff on June 16, 1864, one of which reported a Confederate cavalry brigade camped near “Connersville” (probably Cornersville in Lincoln County) and enemy pickets watching the road to Monticello (Drew County). These were the only Confederate forces reportedly in the area. One of the …

Pitman’s Ferry, Skirmish at

On October 27, 1862, Union Colonel William Dewey surprised Confederate Colonel John Q. Burbridge’s Brigade at Pitman’s Ferry (Randolph County). Dewey’s rapid combined-arms attack temporarily won control of the ferry and allowed for the reconnoitering of the Pocahontas (Randolph County) area. This was the last major Civil War engagement in Randolph County. The location of Pitman’s Ferry on the Current River made it an important possession for the antagonists in Arkansas. Settled by William Hix about 1803, the location served as the key entry point from Missouri on the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) into northeast Arkansas. Purchased by Dr. Peyton Robinson Pitman before Arkansas statehood, Pitman’s Ferry had a strategic importance …

Pittman, Samuel Pinckney

Samuel Pinckney Pittman came to prominence in northwestern Arkansas as a Confederate veteran, civic leader, Washington County official, memoir writer, and advocate for agricultural and educational interests. Born to James and Mary Pittman on June 27, 1836, ten miles southwest of Fayetteville (Washington County) in what is now Prairie Grove Township, Samuel Pinckney Pittman grew up on the family farm. He received an education at Ozark Institute in Mount Comfort (Washington County). After his father’s death in 1847, Pittman continued to farm and raise livestock. In 1858, Pittman married Sarah Boone. They had a son named William in 1859; he died of typhoid fever at the age of eighteen. Their daughter, Mary was born in 1866; she died in 1904. …

Pocahontas Expedition

 The Pocahontas Expedition was an attempt to gather intelligence regarding the location of Confederates in northeastern Arkansas. During the expedition, Union soldiers conducted a raid in Pocahontas (Randolph County) on August 24, 1863, that resulted in the capture of Brigadier General Meriwether “Jeff” Thompson of the Missouri State Guard, thus temporarily hampering Confederate actions in the region. While the Union army struggled to win control of the northern half of Arkansas during the Arkansas Expedition (Little Rock Campaign) from mid-July to August 1863, Confederate regulars and guerrillas continually struck targets and occupied cities in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. Consequently, Union forces in Missouri raided Arkansas to disrupt guerrilla activities and challenge invading Confederate commands. In August 1863, Union Brigadier …

Poe’s Battalion, Arkansas Cavalry (CS)

Poe’s Arkansas Cavalry Battalion was a Confederate cavalry unit that served in the Trans-Mississippi Department, entirely in Arkansas, during the American Civil War. It participated in military engagements at Mount Elba, Easling’s Farm, Poison Spring, Marks’ Mills, and Hurricane Creek, as well as undertaking scouting and picketing duties in southern Arkansas. During Price’s Missouri Raid in 1864, it was one of the few cavalry units left behind to keep watch over Federal troops in Arkansas. The unit was organized in November 1863 by a former Saline County judge, Major James T. Poe of the Eleventh Arkansas Infantry. Poe had journeyed home from Louisiana to remove his family farther south from Saline County after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) …

Poison Spring, Engagement at

The Engagement at Poison Spring was an April 18, 1864, battle in which Confederate troops ambushed and destroyed a Union foraging expedition. After black Union troops had surrendered, many were killed by the Confederate troops. After capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in September 1863, Federal forces held effective control of the Arkansas River, and both Confederate troops and government were concentrated in the southwestern part of the state. In the spring of 1864, many of the Union troops were involved in the Arkansas leg of a two-pronged attack to gain control of northwest Louisiana and east Texas. Union Major General Frederick Steele moved his troops south from Little Rock on March 23, 1864, for what …

Poland Committee

aka: Select Committee to Inquire into Conditions of the Affairs in the State of Arkansas
The Poland Committee was a congressional committee established by the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate the situation in Arkansas in the aftermath of the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. It was chaired by Representative Luke P. Poland of Vermont. The group’s findings were ultimately submitted by President Ulysses S. Grant to his attorney general, George H. Williams, for further action, but Congress overrode the administration’s response to the report. The subsequent resolution is generally seen as marking the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas. The Brooks-Baxter War had roots in the contested 1872 gubernatorial election. On the one side was Joseph Brooks, a “carpetbagger” and reputed radical leader who ran as the head of the Reform Republicans, the faction that supported …

Polk, Lucius Eugene

General Lucius Eugene Polk, who for a brief time made Arkansas his home, was a nephew of Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk (the “Fighting Bishop” whose responsibilities included Arkansas) and also a distant relative of President James K. Polk. His greatest claim to fame, however, was rising from the rank of private in the Yell Rifles at the outbreak of the Civil War to the rank of brigadier general under Major General Patrick Cleburne late in 1862. He achieved this command post while being wounded numerous times in the course of the war. Lucius Polk was born on July 10, 1833, in Salisbury, North Carolina, to William J. Polk and Mary Rebecca A. Long. He was one of twelve children. When …

Polk’s Plantation, Skirmish at

  On May 25, 1863, Confederate and Union forces engaged in a skirmish on and near Polk’s plantation, roughly six miles west of Helena (Phillips County). The fighting was part of the Federal army’s ultimately successful campaign to hold Helena for the Union. Union troops had occupied Helena since summer 1862, but Ulysses S. Grant’s need for men in his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the spring of 1863 weakened the town’s garrison. Confederates under the command of General Theophilus Holmes, aware of Grant’s actions, wanted to retake Helena. A Federal scouting mission departed from Helena on the morning of May 25 and clashed with Confederate pickets along Little Rock Road. The Union forces consisted of roughly 150 cavalrymen from …

Pope County Militia War

The Pope County Militia War was a conflict between the Reconstruction government of the state and county partisans, some of them former Confederates, who opposed Reconstruction. It entailed the assassination of many local officials and is often seen as a prelude to the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. Pope County, lacking a large slave economy, had been divided in terms of loyalty during the Civil War, and those divisions ran high even after the formal end of hostilities. In 1865, Governor Isaac Murphy appointed Archibald Dodson Napier, a former Federal officer, as sheriff of Pope County. On October 25, 1865, he and his deputy, Albert M. Parks, were both shot from ambush as they rode horseback along the old Springfield road …

Post-bellum Black Codes

aka: Black Codes
Immediately after the Civil War, Southern states passed onerous laws to maintain their legal control and economic power over African Americans in response to the 1865 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ended slavery. Under slavery, whites had disciplined blacks mostly outside the law. After emancipation, fearing blacks’ revenge, slave owners sought to institute a comparable level of legal control over former slaves. While some Black Codes were not harsh, most were: African Americans could not serve on juries; could not sue or testify against whites; were prohibited from owning farms; and were forced to sign unequal labor contracts. The U.S. Congress immediately responded to the Black Codes by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, …

Pott’s Hill, Action at

aka: Skirmish at Big Sugar Creek
The Action at Pott’s Hill, also known as the Skirmish at Big Sugar Creek, on February 16, 1862, was the first engagement between Union and Confederate armies in Arkansas during the Civil War. The action was a precursor to the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862. As Brigadier General Samuel Curtis’s Union Army of the Southwest marched south toward Arkansas in February, pursuing Major General Sterling Price’s Confederate Army of the West, the Union front met the Confederate rear guard just across the Arkansas border, north of Pea Ridge (Benton County). Curtis, who had sent his men on a forced march south in search of the fleeing Confederates, was determined to engage Price’s army as soon as possible. …

Powhatan Jail

The Powhatan Jail was built in 1873 in Powhatan (Lawrence County) and is one of the few nineteenth-century jails still standing in Arkansas. The jailhouse was constructed as a companion building to the nearby courthouse. Originally, it was built with six cells, each quite large. The cells, built from strap iron and assembled by a riveted structure in a lattice pattern, were shipped in from Ohio by steamboat. John D. Edwards designed both the Powhatan Jail and first courthouse. This jail is thought to be the first jailhouse in Lawrence County built from locally extracted stone. The jailhouse’s design is common for nineteenth-century architecture, with the front third of the building intended to have a jail keeper’s residence. However, the residence …

Prairie D’Ane, Skirmish at

aka: Battle of Gum Grove
The Skirmish at Prairie D’Ane was an April 1864 battle in which Confederate troops tried to stop a Union advance into southwestern Arkansas. It was the second engagement of the Camden Expedition. After capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in September 1863, Union forces were in control of much of the state. From these two occupied cities, Federal troops could launch an attack into southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and eastern Texas. In March 1864, the Union launched an attack on northwest Louisiana and eastern Texas from Arkansas and New Orleans, Louisiana. The attack launched from New Orleans became known as the Red River Campaign, while the invasion launched from Little Rock became known as the Camden …

Prairie Grove Campaign

Spring 1862 was one of despair for Confederate Arkansas following the defeat at Pea Ridge (Benton County) and the capture of Helena (Phillips County) by the victorious Union army under the command of Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis. The arrival of Major General Thomas C. Hindman as commander of the Trans-Mississippi region in May brought a glimmer of hope, as he immediately began rebuilding the army protecting the state, encouraged the use of guerrilla warfare against the Union invaders, and established Confederate factories to provide much-needed supplies. Throughout the summer and fall, the armies in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas jockeyed for position and skirmished with each other, culminating with the Prairie Grove Campaign, which determined the fate of Missouri …

Prairie Grove, Battle of

The Battle of Prairie Grove was the last time two armies of almost equal strength faced each other for control of northwest Arkansas. When the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi withdrew from the bloody ground on December 7, 1862, the Union forces claimed a strategic victory. It seemed clear that Missouri and northwest Arkansas would remain under Federal protection. Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s Union command remained in the Cane Hill (Washington County) area after the engagement there on November 28. This encouraged Major General Thomas C. Hindman to attack the Federal troops with his Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) thirty miles away. The Southern army crossed the Arkansas River on December 3 and marched …

Prentiss, Benjamin Mayberry

Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss served as a major general in the Union army during the Civil War. He most notably served as the Federal commander at the Battle of Helena and was captured leading his division at the Battle of Shiloh. Benjamin Prentiss was born in Belleville, Virginia, on November 23, 1819, to Henry Leonidas Prentiss and Rebecca Mayberry Prentiss. At the age of seventeen, he moved with his family to Marion County, Missouri, where he worked as a rope maker. In 1841, he moved to Quincy, Illinois, where he joined the militia and was active in the conflict between local citizens and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Prentiss was married twice. He and his first …

Price, Sterling

Sterling Price was a farmer, politician, and soldier who served as a general from Missouri in Arkansas during the Civil War. Most notably, he commanded the Confederate Department of Arkansas during the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Federal forces and during the Camden Expedition. Born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on September 20, 1809, into a wealthy planting family, Price attended Hampton-Sydney College for one year and then studied law. Sterling’s parents, Pugh Price and Elizabeth (Williamson) Price, had three other sons and a daughter. Around 1831, Price accompanied his parents west to Missouri. There, he married Martha Head on May 14, 1833, and was active in a number of enterprises, most notably tobacco farming. Residing near Keytesville …

Princeton, Skirmish at (April 28, 1864)

  After Union major general Frederick Steele abandoned Camden (Ouachita County) and led his army back to Little Rock (Pulaski County), Confederate cavalry forces pursued the Federals as Confederate infantry units struggled to cross the Ouachita River. This action at Princeton (Dallas County) was a prelude to the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry on April 29–30, 1864. Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. Shelby dispatched the First Missouri Cavalry Battalion on April 28 to determine if the entire Union force had evacuated Camden. Before Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Elliott, commander of the First Missouri, departed, he sent scouting parties in several directions to find the Federals. Upon reaching Tulip (Dallas County), Elliott was contacted by one of his patrols under the command of Lieutenant …

Princeton, Skirmish at (December 8, 1863)

The December 8, 1863, Skirmish at Princeton was part of a Union reconnaissance mission out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to assess Confederate force strength and movement south of Princeton (Dallas County). The mission was led by Colonel Lewis Merrill under orders of Major General Frederick Steele, commander of Union forces in Arkansas. Merrill was told that Parsons’s Confederate cavalry brigade was camped near Princeton with artillery. Steele sought to have the enemy troops driven away from that position and wanted information about their positions, troop strength, and apparent intentions. Merrill was ordered to “exercise [his] own discretion as to when and how to advance, and also as to what was necessary to be done.” Concerns about the political and …

Prisoners of War (Civil War)

Arkansas was the site of more than 700 military engagements during the Civil War. Soldiers from both sides were often captured by the enemy to become prisoners of war. Additionally, many Arkansas troops serving in other states were captured during the war. The first troops captured in Arkansas were members of Battery F, Second United States Artillery, in addition to other men stationed at the Little Rock Arsenal. Captain James Totten, opposed by volunteer militia companies from across the state and without orders from his superiors in Washington DC, surrendered the arsenal on February 8, 1861, to prevent bloodshed in the streets of Little Rock (Pulaski County). The troops at the arsenal were escorted by the Little Rock Capital Guards …

Pulaski Light Artillery Battery (CS)

aka: Totten Artillery Company
While Arkansas militia laws in the antebellum period authorized the formation of four militia companies of artillery, cavalry, infantry, and light infantry in each county, few such organizations existed. Pulaski County was an exception to this, and in the years before Arkansas’s secession, there were four volunteer militia units there, including the Totten Artillery, later renamed the Pulaski Light Artillery. While their service was brief compared to other Arkansas units during the Civil War, the men of the Pulaski Light Artillery played a pivotal role in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, on August 10, 1861. On February 14, 1861, Captain William C. Woodruff composed a letter to Colonel Craven Payton of the Thirteenth Regiment, Arkansas State Militia, informing him …