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

Union County Lynching of 1873

In the spring of 1873, four unidentified African Americans were reportedly murdered by other black residents in Union County in response to a hideous attack they allegedly committed on a white woman. Newspapers across the nation printed the report, based on a letter written by county resident Thomas Warren to a friend in Clay County, Missouri. In 1870, Warren, a native of Missouri, was a farm laborer living near Van Buren (Crawford County) with his wife and two children. Warren reported that in mid-March 1873, a pregnant married woman in Union County started off on horseback to stay with a neighbor for several days. When she arrived at the neighbor’s house, no one was there, and she started to ride …

Union Occupation of Arkansas

At the Arkansas Secession Convention in May 1861, only Isaac Murphy, among seventy total delegates, refused to repudiate Arkansas’s bonds with the United States. The total delegation was representative of the wishes of many Arkansans, but Unionist sentiment ran deep in some regions, and eagerness for secession was not wholly unanimous among ordinary Arkansans expected to rally to the Confederate cause. During the war, these same ordinary Arkansans were pressed by Union and Confederate armies for conscription and forage, and devastation wrought by irregular partisans hastened a complete breakdown of civilized society in many parts of the state. Union forces were successful in reestablishing law and order as they pushed into Arkansas but were largely restricted to the area around their …

Unionists

Unionists were Arkansans who remained loyal to the United States after the state seceded from the Union during the American Civil War, often suffering retaliation from Confederate forces and guerrillas. A significant number of Arkansas Unionists served in the Federal army, and loyal Arkansans formed a Unionist government in 1864. Of the more than 111,000 African Americans held in slavery in 1860, the overwhelming majority should be considered Unionists, and thousands flocked to the protection of Union armies at their first opportunity. As the possibility of disunion arose following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Arkansans were not wholeheartedly in favor of secession. Arkansas had been a state for only twenty-five years and had benefited from the presence of …

United Confederate Veterans (UCV)

When the Civil War ended in 1865, thousands of Confederate veterans returned home to Arkansas. Many of these veterans remained in the state and slowly rebuilt their lives after four long years of war. A national organization for Confederate veterans was not established until 1889, when some Confederate veterans’ groups met in New Orleans, Louisiana, and organized the United Confederate Veterans (UCV). It was the counterpart to the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a national organization of Union veterans that had been established in 1866, although the UCV never had the political power or the prestige of the GAR. However, the UCV did have the power to directly affect the lives of its members at a local level. The …

United Sons of Ham of America

aka: Sons of Ham
United Sons of Ham of America (USH) was a popular African-American secret society in the South during Reconstruction. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Sons of Ham was established on October 7, 1865, and was considered the city’s first black benevolent fraternal organization, starting with twenty members meeting in a wood-frame building. The goals of the society were to encourage industry, brotherly love, and charity by providing support to the widows and orphans of its deceased members. The Sons of Ham enforced a strict moral code that included no gambling or drinking. Although the organization proclaimed itself to be non-political, an annual convention held in 1871 closely resembled a state legislative session in which bills were introduced and passed and …

Upham, Daniel Phillips

Daniel Phillips Upham was an active Republican politician, businessman, plantation owner, and Arkansas State Militia commander following the Civil War. He is perhaps best remembered, and often vilified, for his part during Reconstruction as the leader of a successful militia campaign against the Ku Klux Klan in the Militia War from 1868 to 1869. D. P. Upham was born in Dudley, Massachusetts, on December 30, 1832, to Clarissa Phillips and Josiah Upham. His mother died less than a week later at age 29. His father remarried Betsy Larned in March 1836, and the couple had four sons. Upham received his education at Dudley’s public schools, and he married Massachusetts native Elizabeth (Lizzie) Nash on February 15, 1860. The couple eventually …

USS Arkansas (Civil War)

Not to be confused with the like-named Confederate ship the CSS Arkansas, the USS Arkansas served the U.S. Navy during the Civil War as a supply and tender vessel, helping to maintain communications and supply with the blockade fleet along the Texas gulf coast. Constructed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1863 as a commercial barkentine-rigged, wooden-hulled, screw steamer originally named Tonawanda, this vessel measured 191 feet in length and thirty feet at the beam. It weighed 752 tons and drafted nineteen feet of water. It carried a crew of eighty-eight enlisted sailors and officers. Propelled by one vertical condensing engine capable of operation at high or low pressure, with a cylinder diameter of forty inches and a thirty-inch stroke, it averaged …

USS Baron De Kalb

aka: USS St. Louis
Named for Baron Johann De Kalb, a Bavarian nobleman who served as a major general in the Continental army during the American Revolution, the sternwheel casemate gunboat Baron De Kalb saw extensive service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including operations on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Built in 1861 in Carondelet, Missouri, by the innovative ship designer James B. Eads under orders from U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs and originally christened the St. Louis, the 175-foot Cairo-class vessel displaced 512 tons and drew six feet of water. Its armaments consisted of two eight-inch smoothbore cannon, four forty-two-pound rifled cannon, and seven thirty-two-pound …

USS Cincinnati

The sternwheel casemate gunboat Cincinnati saw extensive service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including the expedition up Steele’s Bayou and operations on the White River during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Built in 1861 in Mound City, Illinois, by the innovative ship designer James B. Eads under orders from U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, the 175-foot Cairo-class vessel displaced 512 tons and drew six feet of water. Its armaments consisted of six thirty-two-pound and three eight-inch smoothbore cannon, four forty-two-pound rifled cannon, and one twelve-pound howitzer. Under operational control of the army and piloted by permanently assigned civilians, the Cincinnati joined the Western Gunboat Fleet in …

USS Clara Dolsen

The USS Clara Dolsen was a massive sidewheel paddleboat built in 1861 and used by Confederate forces until its capture by the U.S. Navy during the 1862 St. Charles Expedition. The Clara Dolsen was a 939-ton sidewheel paddleboat built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1861 for Captain William T. Dunning, A. P. Stewart, and S. B. Edwards of New Orleans, Louisiana. Its hull was constructed at the Leatherbury yard, and its machinery was manufactured by C. T. G. Dumont. The Clara Dolsen was 273 feet long and forty-two feet wide, and it was powered by five boilers and twenty-eight-inch cylinder engines. Its paddlewheels were thirty-six feet in diameter with fourteen-foot buckets. The ship was acknowledged as “one of the largest, handsomest, …

USS Conestoga

The first of two vessels named Conestoga, this converted sidewheel steamer saw extensive service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including operations on the Arkansas, White, Black, Tensas, and Ouachita rivers during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Originally built in 1859 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, as a sidewheel steamer displacing between 297 and 572 tons, the Conestoga was purchased by the U.S. Army Quartermaster on June 3, 1861, and converted into a wood-clad gunboat for service with the Western Gunboat Fleet on the Mississippi River and various tributaries. Although under the army’s operational control, the vessel was commanded by Lieutenant S. Ledyard Phelps of the U.S. Navy. Initial duties …

USS Cricket

The USS Cricket was a sternwheel steamboat built in 1860 and purchased by the U.S. Navy in 1862 for Civil War service in western waters, including extensive activity in Arkansas rivers. Cricket No. 2, as the boat was originally named, was constructed in 1860 at California, Pennsylvania, for R. Hamilton of Hanging Rock, Ohio, and John Kyle of Cincinnati, Ohio. The vessel was 151 feet long and 27.7 feet wide. It ran between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Cincinnati, Ohio, and, during the summer, between Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky, under the command of Captain S. B. Hempstead. The Union navy bought the ship on November 18, 1862, at Cairo, Illinois, and converted it to a tinclad gunboat with the addition of one-and-one-quarter-inch …

USS Fort Hindman

The USS Fort Hindman was a Union paddle-wheel steamer that operated along rivers in the Trans-Mississippi during the Civil War. Named for the Confederate fort captured at Arkansas Post in January 1863, the Fort Hindman participated in numerous actions during the war. The ship that became known as the Fort Hindman was purchased by the Federal government on March 14, 1863. Known as the James Thompson when it entered service, the ship was renamed the USS Manitou the same month. Lightly armored, the ship also carried a total of six eight-inch guns. In April 1863, the ship joined the Mississippi River Squadron and was commanded by Lieutenant Thomas O. Selfridge, the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. In July …

USS Glide

The first of two vessels named Glide, this sternwheel tinclad saw service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including operations on the White River against Fort Hindman, during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Built in Shousetown, Pennsylvania, in 1862 and purchased by order of Rear Admiral David D. Porter at Pittsburgh on November 17, 1862, the Glide went down the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois, to be fitted out as a tinclad. It was commissioned on December 3, 1862, with Acting Lieutenant Selim E. Woodworth in command. The Glide displaced 137 tons and carried six twenty-four-pound howitzers. On January 3, 1863, the Glide began service on the lower …

USS Lexington

The USS Lexington was a timberclad city-class gunboat in the U.S. Navy that saw extensive service on the Mississippi River and tributaries within Arkansas during the Civil War. It was the third vessel in the history of the navy to be commissioned with this name. Built as a side-wheel steamer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1861 and purchased by the U.S. Quartermaster Department on June 8 for conversion to a gunboat in Cincinnati, Ohio, the USS Lexington measured 177 feet and seven inches in length and thirty-six feet and ten inches at the beam. It weighed 448 tons and made seven knots with a battery of one twelve-pounder howitzer, four eight-inch guns, and one thirty-two-pounder and two thirty-pounder Parrott rifles. Under Commander …

USS Louisville

The USS Louisville was a Federal ironclad gunboat that saw service on rivers in the Western Theater during the Civil War, including in Arkansas. The Louisville and other ironclads in the Western Theater were constructed to be part of the Union navy’s blockade of the Confederacy. By taking control of the Mississippi River, Federal forces would effectively cut the Trans-Mississippi off from the rest of the Confederacy and help starve both sides economically. To help accomplish this task, an inland naval flotilla was established in the North to join additional Union ships moving up the Mississippi River. The Louisville was a City-class ironclad constructed by James Eads at Carondelet, Missouri. Under contract with the War Department, Eads began construction of …

USS Marmora

The USS Marmora was a stern-wheel steamboat that served as a U.S. Navy warship in and around Arkansas during the Civil War. The Marmora was built at the William Latta yard at Monongahela, Pennsylvania, in 1862 for Captain James McDonald, who had it constructed after running another boat of the same name. The 207-ton stern-wheel steamboat was 155 feet long and thirty-three feet and five inches wide, with a four-foot, six-inch draft. The ship’s twin Watson and Monroe boilers sported an innovation, with each having three eleven-inch and three eight-inch flues. Its wheel, which was twenty feet in diameter, worked twenty-four-foot buckets. The U.S. Navy bought the vessel on September 17, 1862, after McDonald had taken it on a handful …

USS Monarch

The sidewheel steam ram Monarch saw extensive service with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Rivers Ellet’s Ram Fleet as part of the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including operations on the White River against Fort Hindman, during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Originally built as a towboat in Fulton, Ohio, in 1853, the Monarch was purchased by the U.S. Army and commissioned at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in April 1862. The Monarch joined Ellet’s Ram Fleet in May, with Captain R. W. Sanford in command. The Monarch’s first service consisted of scouting Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River. Afterward, the vessel participated in the Battle of Memphis on June 6, along with the …

USS Mound City

The USS Mound City was a Union naval vessel that served during the Civil War primarily in and around Arkansas on the Mississippi and White rivers in operations during and after the Vicksburg Campaign. It is most famous for the loss of a majority of its crew as a result of “the deadliest shot of the war.” Built as a Cairo-class ironclad in August 1861 under the supervision of James Buchanan Eads and named for Mound City, Illinois, this vessel was received by the U.S. Navy on December 5, 1861, and placed under Commander Augustus H. Kilty. As a screw-driven, steam-powered sternwheeler, the USS Mound City measured 175 feet in length and fifty-one feet at the beam. It weighed 512 tons, …

USS New Era

The sternwheel steamer New Era saw extensive service with the Union’s Western Gunboat Fleet during the Civil War, including operations on the White and Mississippi rivers during the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. At least three wartime vessels of this name participated in Union naval operations at various times. Consequently, details of its service are somewhat muddled. Built in Wellsville, Ohio, in 1862, the New Era served on the Ohio River until it was purchased for service on the western rivers. The 137-foot vessel displaced 157 tons and drew four to six feet of water. Its armaments included six twenty-four-pound howitzers. Purchased by the U.S. Navy at Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 27, 1862, …

USS Queen City

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter authorized the U.S. Navy’s purchase of the wooden-hulled, side-wheel commercial ferryboat the Queen City from Samuel Wiggins of Cairo, Illinois, for $16,000 at Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 13, 1863. The navy retained the vessel’s original name, which honored the city of Cincinnati, and commissioned it as the USS Queen City on April 1, 1863. Converted for use as part of the so-called tinclad fleet and assigned identification number 26, the USS Queen City was one of the few tinclads actually to carry iron plating. Fitted with 1.25 inch iron plating, the USS Queen City weighed 212 tons and carried a crew of sixty-five sailors and officers. The ship’s identification number is visible on the pilothouse …

USS Queen City, Sinking of

The USS Queen City was captured and sunk during an engagement on the White River in June 1864. It is the only example of a warship’s being captured by land forces in Arkansas. The Union stationed the Queen City on the White River in eastern Arkansas to protect barges going up the river to DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and to combat any Confederate troops in the area. DeValls Bluff was vital to the Union forces in occupied Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the time, because much of their supplies were brought up the White from the Mississippi River and placed on a railroad in DeValls Bluff that then carried the goods to Little Rock. If the White were closed to …

USS Rattler

The USS Rattler was a Union side-wheel tinclad steamer that served along the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Ouachita rivers, among others. The ship is best known in Arkansas for its role in the battle to capture Fort Hindman. The Rattler was constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1862. Originally named the Florence Miller, the ship was purchased by the Federal government on November 11, 1862, and was renamed and commissioned in December. Acting Master Amos Longthorne served as the first commander of the ship. The ship was armed with two thirty-pound Parrott rifles and four twenty-four-pound guns. Joining the Mississippi River Squadron, the Rattler participated in the action against Fort Hindman in January 1863. A Union army under the command of Major …

USS Tensas

aka: Tom Sugg [Steamboat]
The USS Tensas was originally the steamboat Tom Sugg, which was captured by Federal troops during the Little Rock Campaign of 1863 and refitted as a tinclad gunboat before again returning to private service in 1865. The Tom Sugg was a sixty-two-ton sidewheel paddleboat built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1860. The vessel was ninety-one feet and eight inches long and twenty-two feet and five inches wide. By 1862, the steamboat was being used by Confederate forces in Arkansas, and in the spring of 1862, Captain John W. Dunnington “armored” it with cotton bales and mounted an 8-inch cannon on its bow so that it could be used against Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest. While there are …

USS Tyler

The 180-foot-long A. O. Tyler, a Mississippi and Ohio river packet named for its original owner, was the largest of three side-wheeled steamboats purchased by the United States War Department for conversion into river gunboats at the beginning of the Civil War. Navy commander John Rodgers, the purchaser of the craft, felt it inappropriate to call the boat Tyler since former President James Tyler was a leading secessionist, preferring instead to refer to the boat as Taylor for unionist Zachary Taylor. However, the name Tyler remained official. During the first year and a half of the war, the gunboat was under U.S. Army control as part of the Western Gunboat Flotilla—yet was staffed by naval officers—to provide artillery support for General …