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

Salem, Capture of Wagon Train at

This engagement involved Union forces escorting a wagon train of Unionist Arkansans to Missouri. Guerrillas attacked the wagon train, inflicting heavy casualties. Unionist families fled to Federal outposts during the Civil War, seeking sanctuary from both Confederate sympathizers and guerrillas. After Jacksonport (Jackson County) fell to Union forces, families from the surrounding area began to take refuge at the town under the protection of the Federal troops. The town also served as the headquarters of the District of Northeast Arkansas under the command of Colonel Robert Livingston of the First Nebraska Cavalry. In an effort to relieve some of the pressure that the refugees were placing on his resources, Livingston ordered the families sent to Rolla, Missouri. Departing Jacksonport in …

Saline Bottom, Skirmish at

This skirmish served as a prelude to the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry in Grant County and was part of the Camden Expedition, a Federal operation undertaken by Major General Frederick Steele’s Seventh Army Corps to assist Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Red River Campaign in Louisiana. On March 23, Steele moved out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) toward Camden (Ouachita County), intending to re-supply prior to his scheduled rendezvous with Brigadier General John Milton Thayer’s Fort Smith (Sebastian County) column at Arkadelphia (Clark County) on April 1. After this, they planned to join Banks at Shreveport, Louisiana, to form a joint movement toward Texas. The link with Thayer, however, did not occur until April 9, south of the Little Missouri …

Saltpeter Mining

Potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, is a naturally occurring mineral that is vital to the production of gunpowder. Found in limestone caves in the Arkansas Ozarks, it became one of the state’s most important chemical industries during the Civil War due to the Confederacy’s demand for arms. Although this resource was a definite advantage for the Confederacy, problems with labor, security, and transportation made Arkansas’s saltpeter mines an ultimate failure. Saltpeter deposits were known by early Arkansas settlers long before the Civil War in Madison, Searcy, Independence, Marion, and Newton counties. A geographical survey was conducted by Dale David Owens from 1857 to 1860. His findings were published in 1860, and, by 1862, the Confederacy, looking to arm itself for the …

Sarber, John Newton

John Newton Sarber was a Union soldier who remained in Arkansas after the Civil War and served in the state Senate, where he introduced a number of influential bills, including those creating the public school system and what is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). He also served as U.S. marshal of the U.S. Western District Court at Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Logan County was originally named Sarber County in his honor. John Newton Sarber was born on October 28, 1837, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stephen and Lucille Sarber; he had one brother and two sisters. His mother died giving birth in 1849. The abolitionist family moved to Kansas Territory in 1855. Sarber and his father …

Scatterville, Skirmish at

  During a raid of northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri in the late summer of 1864, a battalion of Union cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris defeated a Confederate recruiting party and a group of guerrillas at Scatterville (Clay County) on July 28, 1864. After the skirmish, the Union forces burned several structures in the town. In an effort to clear northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri of small bands of Confederate regulars, guerrillas, and general bushwhackers who had been menacing the countryside, Burris left New Madrid, Missouri, with a battalion consisting of the Second Cavalry Missouri State Militia and the First Cavalry Missouri Volunteers on July 21, 1864. From July 21 to July 26, Burris’s battalion …

Schnable, John Adams

Lieutenant Colonel John Adams Schnable was a noted Arkansas architect and engineer who designed and built Spring Mill and two rock bridges over Salado Creek in Independence County, as well as the Jacksonport (Jackson County) courthouse in Jackson County. He was a Civil War veteran and one of the few German immigrants who fought on the side of the Confederacy. John Schnable (name spelling varies) was born on June 11, 1817, in the German Confederation shortly after its creation in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna. Researchers are unsure about the names of his parents. He was directly involved in the Revolution of 1848 and, as a result, migrated to the United States and arrived in Virginia in 1851, where …

Searcy County, Skirmish at

The July 4, 1864, Skirmish at Searcy County was a Union response to the operations of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby north of the Arkansas River after the Camden Expedition in 1864. During most of the summer, Shelby and his men had operated freely behind Union lines, causing much havoc, but this engagement was a rare Federal victory. After the conclusion of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Shelby received orders to move northward across the Arkansas River and behind Federal lines. The Confederates were tasked with gathering recruits and stopping lawless bands roaming the area from preying on civilians. Shelby also used this opportunity to make strikes against Federal outposts and generally make himself and his men …

Searcy, Affair at

A small engagement fought during a scouting mission by Union troops, this action is typical of the type of fighting during this point of the war in the state. Federal outposts worked to keep their supply lines open and disrupt any enemy movements by sending out multiple scouting parties. Colonel Oliver Wood commanded the Federal post at Brownsville (Lonoke County) and worked to ensure that Confederate forces in the area remained off balance and unable to launch an effective attack on the men stationed in the area. Scouting parties also gathered food from the surrounding countryside to supplement the meager rations issued to the Union troops. In May 1864, Wood accompanied a scouting party as it searched for enemy troops …

Searcy, Fairview, and Augusta Expeditions

aka: Attack on Steamers Celeste and Commercial
  The purpose of the Searcy, Fairview, and Augusta expeditions was to aid Union forces previously engaged in conflict with Confederates northeast of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and then to pursue Confederate general Joseph O. Shelby. Brigadier General Joseph R. West departed Little Rock on August 27, 1864, with 600 cavalrymen to assist Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Clark and his 800 men of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry. Prior to West’s arrival, Clark’s men had engaged Shelby’s forces on August 26 at Cypress Bayou, four miles north of Austin—now called Old Austin (Lonoke County). He then followed Shelby’s rear guard to Bull Bayou, where ten Confederates and two Union soldiers were killed. Because he had not heard from Union forces and his …

Searcy, Skirmish near (August 13, 1864)

Starting in May 1864, Brigadier General Joseph Shelby was in sole command of all Confederate forces north of the Arkansas River; he actively recruited local men of fighting age and mustered his force effectively to harass Union garrisons and supply lines along the White River. Within Shelby’s Iron Brigade, munitions were in short supply and were acquired through raids on the enemy. By mid-July, a detail led by Colonel Thomas H. McCray and his brigade had procured for Shelby more than 800 firearms and badly needed ammunition from a transport on the Mississippi River. Successful hit-and-run tactics over the summer sufficiently frustrated Union command at Little Rock (Pulaski County) and warranted more than one expedition mounted to deal with Shelby. …

Searcy, Skirmish near (September 13, 1864)

    After the Union’s Red River Campaign of 1864 failed, most military action in Arkansas was limited to guerrilla maneuvers and quick cavalry strikes for the remainder of the war. By this time, Confederate forces across the state were too small and thinly concentrated to mount an effective frontal assault on Union-held areas. Local Union commanders were focused more on protecting their own garrisons and maintaining a hold on Arkansas’s rivers than on conquering additional territory, which would bring logistical problems of protecting longer supply lines and imposing local order. This was the climate in which Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. (Jo) Shelby operated following his promotion on May 27 as commander of Confederate forces north of the Arkansas …

Secession Convention

On May 6, 1861, a body of men chosen by Arkansas voters in an election held on February 18, 1861, voted to remove Arkansas from the United States of America. Arkansas’s secession ultimately failed in 1865 due to the military defeat of the Confederacy. States’ rights versus the national government had a contentious history prior to 1861. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 suggested that states retained powers to protect citizens from the federal government, and the Hartford Convention of 1814–1815 paved the way for the Doctrine of Nullification that South Carolina unsuccessfully invoked in 1832. States’ rights debates—notably among U.S. senators Daniel Webster, Robert Y. Hayne, and John C. Calhoun—led to a theoretical acceptance of this …

Second Arkansas Cavalry (CS)

The Second Arkansas Cavalry was the name of several Confederate units that served during the Civil War. These units are not to be confused with the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, which served for much of the war as an infantry regiment. The first unit to be organized as the Second Arkansas Cavalry was based on the Second Arkansas Cavalry Battalion. After the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862, the battalion was created from independent companies in northern Mississippi. This unit consisted of five companies from Calhoun, Bradley, Jefferson, Dallas, and Ashley counties. In May 1862, the battalion consolidated with the Sixth Arkansas Cavalry Battalion, which consisted of four companies from Drew, Crittenden, and White counties, along with two …

Second Arkansas Cavalry (US)

Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861, but support for the Confederacy was not universal among the population. In the mountains of north-central Arkansas, groups of men formed secret societies to resist Confederate authority (known collectively as the Arkansas Peace Society). Hundreds more fled to southern Missouri to escape persecution by secessionist forces. In other parts of the state, far from the Union lines, people were forced to bide their time and keep quiet. As a distinct minority in a state frenzied by war, many Arkansas Unionists could ill afford to have their true sympathies known. During the summer of 1862, the Union army made its way to Helena (Phillips County) after an abortive attempt to capture Little Rock (Pulaski …

Second Arkansas Infantry (African Descent) (US)

aka: Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry
The Second Arkansas Infantry (African Descent) was one of the many African-American units formed following the Emancipation Proclamation. The regiment was raised under the commands of Lieutenant Colonel George W. De Costa and Major George W. Burchard in early 1863 and was composed primarily of freed slaves in the Arkansas River Valley. Before the unit could officially report for muster as part of the District of Eastern Arkansas, it found itself engaged in the Battle of Helena. On the morning of July 4, 1863, Confederate forces under the command of Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes organized a three-pronged attack on the fortified Union position at Helena (Phillips County). The attack would ultimately fail, securing eastern Arkansas as a Union supply stronghold …

Second Arkansas Infantry (CS)

The Second Arkansas Infantry was a Confederate regiment that saw service in the Western Theater during the Civil War. It is not to be confused with the Second Arkansas Infantry Battalion, which fought in the Eastern Theater. The Second Arkansas was formed in the summer of 1861. Former congressman Thomas Hindman of Helena (Phillips County) obtained permission from Confederate secretary of war LeRoy Walker to recruit an infantry regiment. The state was responsible for providing the arms for the unit. Ten companies were raised by June 1, with six at Helena and four at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The companies were from Phillips, Jefferson, Bradley, and Saline counties. Support from state authorities never materialized, and Hindman personally provided the funds …

Second Arkansas Infantry (US)

The Second Arkansas Infantry Regiment served in the Federal army during the Civil War. Comprised of white Unionists, the unit served almost exclusively within Arkansas. Efforts were made to organize units of white Unionists in the state with the arrival of Federal forces in 1862. The Second Arkansas began recruitment in September 1863 in Springfield, Missouri. The unit recruited Unionists who fled Arkansas, as well as pro-Union men who remained in the northwestern corner of the state. Recruiting for the regiment was slow, and when the organized companies met in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in January 1864, only four companies were able to meet the minimum number of men required. Even before these units moved to Fort Smith, the regiment …

Second Arkansas Infantry Battalion (CS)

The Second Arkansas Infantry Battalion was a Confederate unit that served in the Eastern Theater during the American Civil War. It was one of only three Arkansas units to serve in Virginia, along with the First and Third Arkansas Infantry regiments. Decimated during the Seven Days Battles, it saw its survivors discharged or transferred into the Third Arkansas Infantry. In September 1861, three independent companies organized at Hot Springs (Garland County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and El Dorado (Union County). On the recommendation of recruiting officers for the First Arkansas Infantry, they journeyed to Virginia to join that regiment. When the three companies arrived, the First Arkansas had the required ten companies. On October 29, 1861, the three new companies …

Seventeenth Arkansas Infantry (CS)

The Seventeenth Arkansas was a unit that served in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. The unit saw service in Arkansas and in the Western Theater of the war. Another unit was also known as the Seventeenth Arkansas Infantry for a period. The regiment organized on November 17, 1861, with eight companies from Washington, Sebastian, Madison, and Hempstead counties. The unit never gained two more companies to grow to full strength. Frank Rector was elected as the first colonel of the regiment. Assigned to Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch’s division in the Army of the West, the regiment served in a brigade under the command of Colonel Louis Herbert. The regiment’s first action came on February 18, 1862, at …

Seventh Arkansas Infantry (CS)

The Seventh Arkansas Infantry was a regiment that served in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Spending most of its service in the Western Theater, the regiment served for the duration of the war. After Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861, military units began to organize across the state. Companies organized in communities and moved to a number of camps to create larger units. Ten companies from northeastern Arkansas organized at Smithville (Lawrence County) into the Seventh Arkansas on June 16, 1861. The companies in the new regiment were from Jackson, Independence, Marion, Izard, Fulton, White, and Randolph counties. The first colonel of the regiment was Robert Shaver, an attorney from Lawrence County. The unit …

Shallow Ford, Skirmish at (August 30, 1863)

A Civil War engagement during the Little Rock Campaign, the Skirmish at Shallow Ford was fought as Federal forces crossed Bayou Meto. Confederate forces tried to hold the enemy back but were ultimately unsuccessful. Confederate colonel Robert Newton and his cavalry brigade were tasked with covering the Shallow Ford crossing of Bayou Meto to obstruct Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele. In late August 1863, Newton’s brigade moved around the area near the ford in response to multiple reports of Federal movements. On August 29, he received word that no sign of Union troops had been found in the immediate vicinity. He moved his command near Shallow Ford, where they camped that night. The next morning, …

Shallow Ford, Skirmish at (September 2, 1863)

A brief and inconsequential Civil War skirmish, this engagement was part of the Little Rock Campaign and saw Federal troops working to establish a foothold near the capital city. Confederate forces worked to prevent Union troops marching out of Helena (Phillips County) from capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County). However, the losses suffered at the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena—coupled with a disorganized command structure—hampered defensive efforts. Confederate units were shifted around to meet the Federal threats, but the lack of troops prevented every avenue of approach to the city from being consistently guarded. Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry brigade was posted east of Little Rock with other units in an effort to watch Federal movements. Shelby was …

Shaver, Robert Glenn

Robert Glenn Shaver was a former Confederate officer who raised Arkansas troops for the war, a commander who was wounded in battle, and a former outlaw who once fled the United States to escape punishment. Robert Shaver was born on April 18, 1831, in Sullivan County, Tennessee, exactly on the line between Virginia and Tennessee. He was the third of four children born to David and Martha (May) Shaver. He attended school at home, and from 1846 to 1850, he attended Emory and Henry College in Virginia. Shaver and his parents moved to Arkansas in 1850, settling east of Batesville (Independence County) in Lawrence County (now Sharp County). On June 10, 1856, Shaver married Adelaide Louise Ringgold. Before she died …

Shelby, Joseph Orville

aka: Jo Shelby
aka: J. O. Shelby
aka: Joseph O. Shelby
Joseph Orville Shelby was a Confederate major general from Missouri who is recognized as perhaps the most accomplished Confederate cavalryman in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. He was involved in most of the Civil War campaigns that took place in Arkansas. Joseph Orville Shelby was born on December 12, 1830, in Lexington, Kentucky, to a wealthy, aristocratic family that boasted veterans of the American Revolution. In 1852, he moved to Waverly, Missouri, and established a rope-making operation that soon made him a wealthy man. The slave-owning Shelby was actively embroiled in the border war with abolitionist Kansans, taking part in cross-border raids in the late 1850s. As civil war became imminent, Shelby raised a company of troops, the Lafayette County Cavalry, at …

Shiloh Meeting Hall

aka: Shiloh Church
Located on the banks of Spring Creek in downtown Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), the historic Shiloh Meeting Hall—formerly called the Shiloh Church and the Odd Fellows Lodge—is one of the oldest buildings in northwestern Arkansas. Built in 1871, it has served as a gathering place for church congregations, fraternal organizations, and civic clubs, and it has hosted many community events. The two-story frame building was a collaborative project of the Shiloh Regular Baptist Church (also known as the Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church), Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Springdale Masonic Lodge No. 316. Land was donated by the Reverend John Holcomb, who was a minister, an elder, and an influential member of the Shiloh …

Sixth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (CS)

aka: Capital Guards
The Sixth Arkansas Infantry was a military unit that served in the Confederate army from 1861 until its surrender in 1865. The Sixth served almost exclusively in the western theater and became known as one of the finest units in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Formed from ten companies on June 10, 1861, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Sixth Arkansas Infantry consisted of units from Pulaski, Arkansas, Dallas, Calhoun, Ouachita, Lafayette, Columbia, and Union counties. The original field officers were Colonel Richard Lyon, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorn, and Major Dawson L. Kilgore. On June 19, 1861, the regiment marched to Pocahontas (Randolph County), where its training commenced. In July 1861, the regiment joined the Second, Fifth, Seventh, and …

Smith, Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson Smith was a Union major general during the Civil War, commanding a division during the capture of Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post and during numerous other campaigns. Born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on April 28, 1815, Andrew Jackson Smith was the son of Samuel Smith and Anne Lacey Wilkinson Smith. Entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1834, Smith graduated four years later and received a commission as a second lieutenant and served with the First Dragoons. Smith slowly rose through the ranks over the next two decades, serving on the western frontier and in the Mexican War, including with the Mormon Battalion. Smith married Ann Mason Simpson on October 17, 1844, in St. Louis, Missouri. …

Smith, Edmund Kirby

Edmund Kirby Smith was a Confederate general during the Civil War. Seeing service in both the Eastern and Western Theaters of the war, he is best remembered for serving as the commander of the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi, which included Arkansas. Edmund Kirby Smith was born on May 16, 1824, in St. Augustine, Florida, the son of Joseph Lee Smith and Frances Kirby Smith. His father, a lawyer by training, served as an army officer during the War of 1812 and for several years after the conflict before resigning his commission in 1821. He became the judge for the eastern district of the Florida Territory the same year. Edmund was the youngest child in the family, with an older …

Smith, Sarah Jane

An enigmatic figure who left few documentable details of her life or wartime experiences, Sarah Jane Smith was a Confederate sympathizer who sabotaged Union military telegraph wires and poles on two known occasions near Springfield and Rolla, Missouri, in 1864. The known details of Smith’s life are limited to information gleaned from court documents, due to her illiteracy (she signed her statement to the provost marshal with an “x”) and lack of a fixed residence. Although several secondary sources describe Smith as a smuggler and saboteur of two years’ duration, there is no documentation of her involvement in any smuggling activity or in any sabotage activities other than the two incidents chronicled in her trial records. Born in approximately 1846, …

Smith, V. V.

aka: Volney Voltaire Smith
The last Reconstruction Republican lieutenant governor, known for attempting a coup d’état aimed at displacing a sitting governor, Volney Voltaire Smith was also the most distinguished nineteenth-century figure to have died in the state insane asylum. V. V. Smith was born in 1842, apparently in Rochester, New York. His father was Delazon Smith, a noted Democratic newspaperman and politician. Delazon Smith attended Oberlin College and then wrote an exposé on it for its support of abolition, was lost for eleven months while on a diplomatic assignment in Ecuador (thus becoming known as “Tyler’s Lost Commission”), and served less than three weeks as one of Oregon’s first U.S. senators. V. V. Smith’s mother, Eliza Volk, died in 1846. Two years later, …

Smithville, Skirmish at (June 17, 1862)

  After securing Missouri for the Union by routing the Confederate Army of the West at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, the Union Army of the Southwest under General Samuel Curtis moved into northeast Arkansas and occupied Batesville (Independence County) on its mission to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). There, Curtis divided his force in the region, and the Fifth Illinois Cavalry (US) moved into Pocahontas (Randolph County) from Doniphan, Missouri, to reinforce a Union division under General Frederick Steele. From there, a battalion of the Fifth Illinois under Major A. H. Seley was sent to the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County and a strategic location along the Military Road that connected …

Snyder, Oliver P.

Oliver P. Snyder was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Second District of Arkansas in the Forty-Second and Forty-Third Congresses, serving from 1871 to 1875. Oliver P. Snyder was born in New Madrid County in Missouri on November 13, 1833, to Jeremiah Snyder and Elizabeth Randolph Snyder. He completed a basic course of study before moving to Arkansas in 1853. There, he continued studies in both science and literature as well as the law. He was soon admitted to the bar, opening a practice in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). As the Civil War drew to a close, Snyder, who had originally opposed secession, entered the political arena, winning election to the Arkansas House of …

Southern Memorial Association of Washington County

The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County (SMA) was formed in 1872 to care for Confederate graves in northwestern Arkansas. The result was the construction of the Confederate Cemetery at Fayetteville (Washington County), which remains under the group’s care. The Southern Memorial Association may be the oldest organization of its type in continual operation. The Southern Memorial Association of Washington County was organized on June 10, 1872, to collect scattered Confederate graves in northwestern Arkansas into one central location, the Confederate Cemetery at Fayetteville, for more effective grave stewardship. On June 10, 1873, the one-year anniversary of the group, the association dedicated the cemetery, which contained about 500 relocated graves at that time. Because soldiers from Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and …