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

Batteries A, B, C, and D (Battle of Helena)

Batteries A, B, C, and D are fortifications used by the Federal army during the Civil War to protect the city of Helena (Phillips County) from enemy attack. Along with Fort Curtis, these fortifications formed the core of the Helena defenses, most notably during the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena. When the Army of the Southwest arrived in Helena after the Battle of Pea Ridge, Major General Samuel Ryan Curtis immediately began to fortify the approaches to the city. As Helena was deep in Confederate territory, the forts were necessary to prevent the destruction of the Union army in the town. The batteries were named A, B, C, and D, with A at the northern edge of the line …

Baucum, George Franklin

George F. Baucum was a Confederate officer and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman. He served in many major battles of the Civil War’s western theater, including at Murfreesboro in Tennessee and Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. After the war, he became a prominent grocer, cotton broker, and banker who owned plantations in central Arkansas. George Franklin Baucum was born on February 1, 1837, in St. Charles, Missouri. He was the son of Daniel Baucum and Kathryn Baucum, both of whom were natives of Mississippi. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1851. Two years later, the Baucums settled in Searcy (White County). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Baucum was working as a grocer in Searcy. He joined …

Baxter, Elisha

Elisha Baxter, a Unionist leader during the Civil War and a jurist, is best remembered as Arkansas’s last Republican governor during Reconstruction. The attempt to overthrow him became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. Baxter’s victory resulted in the end of Reconstruction and the adoption of the Constitution of 1874. Elisha Baxter was born on September 1, 1827, in Rutherford County, North Carolina, to William Baxter and his second wife, Catherine Lee. She was the mother to five sons and three daughters out of William Baxter’s twenty children. His father had emigrated from Ireland in 1789 and prospered in Rutherford County in western North Carolina, acquiring land and slaves. Baxter received a limited education and sought to better himself by obtaining …

Bayou Fourche, Engagement at

aka: Battle of Little Rock
The Engagement at Bayou Fourche, also known as the Battle of Little Rock, was a Civil War battle fought on September 10, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to stop Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army from capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. With the exception of the short Action at Bayou Meto (or Reed’s Bridge) on August 27, the Union approach to Little Rock had seen relatively light resistance. As the Union army prepared for its final assault on the Arkansas capital, Steele had some 10,477 men present for duty and fifty-seven …

Bayou Meto, Action at

aka: Action at Reed's Bridge
The Action at Bayou Meto, also known as the Action at Reed’s Bridge, was a Civil War battle fought on August 27, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to hinder the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army toward Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. Though they were harassed by Confederate cavalry and partisans, the Union troops had encountered little opposition, with the exception of a sharp clash around Brownsville (north of present-day Lonoke) on August 25. A Union probe toward the Confederate works on Bayou Meto (at present-day Jacksonville) was turned back …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish at (February 24, 1865)

By 1863, guerrilla activity had become so prevalent in the territory surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) that local citizens requested that Federal forces move into the area to reduce the threat of violence. Later that year, forces under the command of Colonel Powell Clayton were ordered to Jefferson County. The city remained occupied for the remainder of the war. To secure the area, scouting patrols were regularly sent out to assess enemy activity. On February 22, 1865, Captain George W. Suesberry took a detachment of eighty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers to the north side of the Arkansas River to monitor enemy movements. Only sixty-five troopers crossed the river but were shortly joined by twenty-five additional men. As …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish near (February 17, 1865)

  On February 16, 1865, a seventy-five-man scout detachment of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US) was sent out from its headquarters at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The scout detachment, commanded by Captain John H. Norris (US), was sent to search for Confederate troops along Bayou Meto. Early in the morning of February 17, the scout detachment, fifty miles downriver from Pine Bluff, began crossing Bayou Meto. After one platoon had successfully crossed the bayou, Capt. Norris ordered Lieutenant Z. P. Curlee to take the platoon and search an area two miles surrounding the bayou. Lt. Curlee was instructed to engage any Confederate force he encountered and report to Norris no later than noon. During the scout detachment’s search of the …

Beall, William Nelson Rector

William Nelson Rector Beall served as a Confederate brigadier general from Arkansas during the Civil War. He most notably served as an agent for the Confederate government to raise funds to purchase supplies for Confederate troops held in Federal prisons. William Beall was born on March 20, 1825, in Bardstown, Kentucky, the son of Samuel Beall and Sally Rector Beall. Sally Beall was a member of the Rector family, which was prominent in Arkansas politics. The Bealls moved to Arkansas in 1840, settling in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Both of Beall’s parents died soon thereafter, orphaning him and his four siblings. Beall graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1848, ranking thirtieth in a class of …

Beatty’s Mill, Skirmish at

  By 1864, much of Conway County and the surrounding area was routinely overrun by marauding bands of Confederate guerrillas. In April 1864, Colonel Abraham Ryan and the recently formed Third Arkansas Cavalry were dispatched to Conway County to help secure the area. Col. Ryan established his base of operations at Lewisburg (Conway County). The regiment remained on almost constant watch, as it had been engaged in several skirmishes during scouting missions. On September 1, 1864, Colonel David Hamilton and a force of sixty-five troopers were dispatched upon a short scout into Yell County. On that same day, Col. Hamilton engaged an estimated force of 160 Confederates led by John A. Conly. Upon seeing the approaching enemy, Hamilton immediately ordered …

Benjamin Clayton Black House

The Benjamin Clayton Black House, located at 300 East Race Street in Searcy (White County), is one of the few remaining landmarks of early Victorian architecture in Arkansas. The original structure, built just prior to the Civil War, was a one-story, two-room house with a common fireplace. Its later form, a two-story frame house with an elaborately detailed two-story veranda, is the result of extensive modifications and remodeling begun by Benjamin Clayton Black in 1872. The yellow house stands a few blocks from the town square, serving as a colorful reminder of Searcy’s past. The Benjamin Clayton Black House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 20, 1974. In early 1866, Benjamin Clayton Black purchased four …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (July 19, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Little Rock (July 19, 1864)
  After the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and rejoined the defenses of that city. Confederate forces, flush with their success in the Camden Expedition, began to probe the Union positions in a prelude to a large-scale offensive. This skirmish was one such action. After returning to Little Rock from the Camden Expedition on May 7, 1864, the Third Missouri Cavalry was stationed about four miles southwest of the city on the road to Benton (Saline County). The unit was tasked with outpost duty, and half of the regiment was on duty every day. This routine continued until July 13, when an eight-man patrol of …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (March 23–24, 1864)

  In the spring of 1864, Major General Frederick Steele, commander of Federal forces occupying Little Rock (Pulaski County), was ordered to work in conjunction with Major General Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana to capture Shreveport and move into Texas. Steele was reluctant to participate in the scheme and departed Little Rock only after receiving direct orders to support Banks. This action was the first contact between Steele’s forces and the enemy after the march from Little Rock began. The Federal army departed Little Rock on March 23 and marched to the southwest. Cavalry units were placed at the front of the army to warn the following units if the enemy approached. The Third Arkansas Cavalry and the Second Missouri Cavalry …

Benton, Affair at

In this extremely brief exchange, a brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia was killed, with the Union soldier who killed him earning the Medal of Honor for it. With the failure of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Union forces retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) while Confederate units in southwestern Arkansas began to push northward. Major General Frederick Steele, the Federal commander of Little Rock, watched these movements with trepidation and pushed his troops to patrol the approaches to the city on a regular basis. Located southwest of Little Rock, Benton (Saline County) was the scene of numerous engagements during the war and—with its location along the Saline River—served as a dividing line between the opposing …

Benton, Skirmish at (August 18, 1864)

  After the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces were concentrated in the southern part of the state and lacked the strength to launch a full-scale assault on Union positions in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Rather, Southern units engaged in a campaign of harassment and quick strikes of little military value. The units occupied positions near the Federal lines to engage the enemy when the opportunity arose, and this skirmish is one such action. The Federal position after the Camden Expedition did not extend far outside of the Little Rock city limits. Confederate forces operated outside of the Federal lines, especially south of the city. Benton (Saline County) was an important city for both sides, as it lay near the Saline River …

Benton, Skirmish at (December 1, 1863)

After the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863, Federal forces established defensive lines around the capital city but sent patrols and forage trains into nearby communities to gather both information and supplies. One city temporarily occupied by the Union troops was Benton (Saline County). A small engagement, the inconsequential Skirmish at Benton was a Confederate attack on one such patrol. On December 1, 1863, Colonel Cyrus Bussey dispatched a patrol of forty men to scout the road between Benton and Hot Springs (Garland County). Departing at 3:00 a.m., the patrol was commanded by Lieutenant Alexander D. Mills of the First Missouri Cavalry (US). Moving out from Benton, the patrol rode about twenty-five miles before beginning its return …

Benton, Skirmish at (July 6, 1864)

  With the conclusion of the Camden Expedition, some Confederate forces in Arkansas became emboldened and began preparations for an invasion of Missouri. Other Confederate units continued to probe Federal lines around Little Rock (Pulaski County), to which Union forces responded by continuing patrols into the nearby countryside to break up possible enemy gatherings. The Skirmish at Benton resulted from one such patrol to disrupt Confederate preparations. The Fourth Arkansas Cavalry (US) was ordered on July 4, 1864, to embark on a scouting mission. Ordered to move from Little Rock to Caddo Gap by Brigadier General Frederick Salomon, the unit moved out at once. Every man in the unit was required to accompany the scout. Moving quickly through the countryside, …

Bentonville, Action at

The Action at Bentonville occurred on February 18, 1862, as Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis sought to maneuver Confederate forces from their winter encampment at Cross Hollows in the Boston Mountains. Curtis had entered Arkansas the previous morning in pursuit of Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard, troops he had chased from southwest Missouri. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest rolled forward with little opposition until encountering Confederate regulars under Colonel Louis Hebert just south of Little Sugar Creek at a place called Dunagin’s Farm. Hebert’s force of infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery, fought a stubborn rearguard action that halted Curtis’s advance, costing the Federals thirteen dead and around twenty wounded while suffering as many as twenty-six dead on the Rebel …

Bentonville, Skirmish at

  A small engagement in extreme northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was part of a larger scouting expedition launched from Cassville, Missouri. Gathering intelligence for Union forces in Missouri, this scout also disrupted Confederate operations in the area. On May 21, 1863, Colonel William F. Cloud of the Second Kansas Cavalry embarked from Cassville with his regiment on a movement into Arkansas. Crossing the state line, the expedition approached Bentonville (Benton County). A Confederate unit was in the town, and Cloud led his men in a surprise attack on the enemy. The Confederate soldiers fled in disarray, and the Federals captured fourteen of the enemy and killed one. Cloud was also able to recover three Federal soldiers who had previously been …

Berryville Expedition

aka: Carrollton Expedition
aka: Huntsville Expedition
The Berryville Expedition (a.k.a. the Carrollton Expedition or the Huntsville Expedition) took place November 10–18, 1863. Major Austin A. King Jr. of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) commanded this expedition from Springfield, Missouri, into northwestern Arkansas. He reported his activities to his commanding officer, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, who commanded the District of Southwestern Missouri. In compliance with Special Orders No. 231, Headquarters Southwestern District of Missouri, dated November 10, 1863, Major King left Springfield with a command of 200 men. This force was composed of men of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) and Eleventh Missouri Volunteer Cavalry (US). They marched to Linden, Missouri, and then southeast of Forsyth, where their wagon train was left. …

Big Indian Creek, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Big Creek
aka: Skirmish at Indian Creek
Following victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Major General Samuel R. Curtis (US), commander of the Army of the Southwest, received orders on May 2, 1862, to send a portion of his forces to march from Pea Ridge (Benton County) along the White River into northeastern Arkansas and set up headquarters at Batesville (Independence County) and Jacksonport (Jackson County). His orders were to get supplies and advance on to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Curtis gave the Second Division to Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr (US) and the Third Division to Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus (US), who commanded the Seventeenth Missouri Infantry, made up mostly of German immigrants. The April departure of the defeated Major General Earl Van Dorn (CS) …

Big Lake Expedition

This Civil War expedition took place only two months after the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and constitutes a portion of an ongoing Union effort to assess loyalty in the Mississippi River counties of Arkansas and eliminate Confederate guerrilla activity. On September 7, 1863, Colonel John B. Rogers of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry ordered Major Frederick R. Poole to lead 200 troopers and one artillery piece from Camp Lowry in the Missouri bootheel to Big Lake in Mississippi County, Arkansas, and return to camp via Pemiscot County, Missouri. When he reached New Madrid, Missouri, Poole received reinforcements that doubled the size of his command, with the addition of fifty men from the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, 100 from …

Black Hawk War of 1872

The Black Hawk War was a Reconstruction-era political and racial conflict in Mississippi County that occurred in 1872—not to be confused with two earlier incidents both called the Black Hawk War, which were clashes between Native Americans and white settlers in other states. Little is known about the event, including the origins of its name. During Reconstruction, the radical wing of the Republican Party controlled most elected offices. Many judges, prosecutors, and registrars were intensely disliked by local residents, who had little say in their own affairs and who resented the granting of civil rights to African Americans, of which Mississippi County had a sizeable population. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was very active in the area, resulting in Mississippi …

Black Union Troops

aka: African-American Union Troops
aka: United States Colored Troops
Many former African-American slaves and freedmen from Arkansas answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help put down the Confederate rebellion. Across the war-torn nation, 180,000 black men responded. An estimated 40,000 lost their lives in the conflict. Lincoln later credited these “men of color” with helping turn the tide of the war, calling them “the sable arm.” The official records from the U.S. government credit 5,526 men of African descent as having served in the Union army from the state of Arkansas. Between 3,000 and 4,000 additional black soldiers served in Arkansas during the war, including in heavy artillery, cavalry, and infantry regiments. In addition, black soldiers manned all of the batteries and fortifications at Helena (Phillips County) …

Black, John Charles

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Prairie Grove and brevet brigadier general of volunteers, John Charles (Charlie) Black later served as a U.S. congressman and as the national commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Born on January 27, 1839, in Lexington, Mississippi, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, Charlie Black was the eldest of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in 1850. …

Black, William Perkins

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Pea Ridge, William Perkins Black later served as an attorney and gained national prominence as lead counsel for the legal team that defended the accused bombers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riot case. Born on November 11, 1842, in Woodford County, Kentucky, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, William Black was the second son of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in …

Blakely House

The Blakely House was constructed as a dogtrot-style house in 1874 by the son of one of the early settlers in the Social Hill (Hot Spring County) area. Located on Arkansas Highway 84, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1976. Adam Blakely arrived in the area in the 1820s and, by 1837, owned almost 200 acres of land in the area. Over the next several decades, Blakely built a successful plantation near the Ouachita River and the waterway named for him, Blakely Creek. The house was constructed by Adam Blakely’s youngest son, Greenberry (or Green Berry) Blakely. Born on December 25, 1855, he married Martha Ingersoll (sometimes spelled Englesaw) on December 12, 1875. …

Bliss, Calvin Comins

Calvin Comins Bliss was in search of challenges when he and his new wife Caroline came to Arkansas from New England in 1854. He was involved in many business and other ventures including real estate, publishing, and politics. During the Civil War, he served for a time in the Union army, became the first lieutenant governor of Arkansas, and participated in establishing the new constitution that abolished slavery. His resourceful wife taught school and took care of the family, even traveling back across the front lines to New England in wartime. Calvin Bliss was born on December 22, 1823, in Calais, Vermont, the son of farmers William and Martha Bliss. He was the first of their four children. He attended …

Blue Wing No. 2

Originally a commercial vessel, the Blue Wing No. 2—a sidewheel paddleboat—was first used by the Confederates, then seized and put into Union service, and then captured by Confederates with a load of mail and supplies in December 1862. This capture provided the incentive for Union forces to attack Fort Hindman and Arkansas Post in January 1863. The last report on the boat, still in Confederate hands, was in April 1863, and it was likely sunk or scuttled in the summer of 1863. The Blue Wing No. 2 was a 170-ton steamboat built by the Howard company at Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 1850. The vessel measured 150 feet long by thirty feet wide and was powered by three forty-two-inch-by-twenty-two-foot boilers. Commanded by …

Blunt, James G.

aka: James Gilpatrick Blunt
James Gilpatrick Blunt had several careers and titles during his lifetime, including doctor, ship’s captain, and major general of volunteers in the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Blunt’s command saw fighting principally in the border region of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). In Arkansas, he led his troops to victory at the battles of Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Devil’s Backbone, Boston Mountains, and Van Buren. In 1864, Blunt’s troops were a part of the Union forces that repulsed General Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri. James G. Blunt was born in Trenton, Maine, on July 21, 1826. He was the son of John Blunt, a local farmer, and Sally Gilpatrick Blunt. The young Blunt satisfied his wanderlust …