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

Arkansas Mounted Rifles [Civil War]

After Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861, state troops were mustered into the Confederate army in early July. Among them were two regiments, the First and Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles. These two regiments were formed into a brigade of Arkansas units under the command of Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, who oversaw the organization of these two special regiments at a rendezvous point near Bentonville (Benton County). He intended to use the Arkansas Mounted Rifles as a unique battalion that could not only ride with regular cavalry on horseback but also dismount and fight as infantry. McCulloch also felt that the Arkansas Mounted Rifles would make excellent scouts, given their familiarity with the territory. Their duties in the …

Arkansas Peace Society

The Arkansas Peace Society was a loose affiliation of local anti-Confederate groups that formed in response to Arkansas’s secession from the Union. These groups operated like secret societies in several north Arkansas counties until late in 1861, when local militias and the Confederate government of the state began carrying out large-scale arrests of perceived traitors in the region. The Arkansas Peace Society was quickly broken up, though north Arkansas contributed approximately ninety percent of soldiers from the state who fought for the Union, while jayhawkers and bushwhackers also roamed the area with some intensity. The upland counties of northern Arkansas, where slavery was not a major component of the local economy, contained a large number of people opposed to the …

Arkansas Post, Battle of

aka: Battle of Fort Hindman
aka: Battle of Post of Arkansas
The Battle of Arkansas Post, also known as the Battle of Fort Hindman, was a Civil War battle fought January 9–11, 1863, as Union troops under Major General John A. McClernand sought to stop Confederate harassment of Union shipping on the Arkansas River and possibly to mount an offensive against the Arkansas capital at Little Rock (Pulaski County). In the fall of 1862, Confederate officials ordered construction of fortifications on the Arkansas River. They selected high ground at a horseshoe bend in the river near the territorial-era village of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) and constructed a large, square, heavily armed fortification. It was called Post of Arkansas by Confederates and Fort Hindman by the Union side. Brigadier General Thomas J. …

Arkansas River and Prairie Grove, Skirmishes at

Two related skirmishes that took place in northwestern Arkansas, these events were part of Confederate efforts to disrupt Union occupation activities. While ultimately inconsequential, these actions frustrated Federal commanders and led to more active campaigning in the state in an effort to stop Confederate forces. On the night of April 6, at least 500 Confederates crossed the Arkansas River near Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Colonel William Judson of the Union District of the Frontier claimed that they were Missourians working to disrupt agricultural efforts in the state. Union troops from the Fort Smith area engaged the Confederates that night, with six Federals being killed. On the evening of April 7, 1864, a party of Federal soldiers from the First Arkansas …

Arkansas River, Scout to

aka: Skirmish at Threkeld's Ferry
  While northwestern Arkansas was tentatively under Union control by early 1863, many Confederate partisan units still maintained a noticeable presence in the area. Large-scale campaigning in the region had evolved into regular scouting and reconnaissance missions, which many times developed into brutal small-scale skirmishes. On February 5, 1863, a force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart consisting of 100 troopers from his own Tenth Illinois Cavalry and an additional 125 men from the First Arkansas Cavalry moved out of Fayetteville (Washington County) on a scouting expedition south to the Arkansas River. When the force reached the river (probably on February 7), approximately four miles below the mouth of Frog Bayou, it received intelligence revealing that a small Confederate force was …

Arkansas State Troops (CS)

aka: Army of Arkansas
On May 20, 1861, the Arkansas Secession Convention passed an ordinance creating an Army of Arkansas with a First Division in western Arkansas and a Second Division in the eastern part of the state. These were placed under the command of a major general, with brigadier generals heading the two divisions. The Army of Arkansas was to be controlled by the state Military Board, which the convention had formed five days earlier with the power to call out the militia and use it as needed to defend the state. Despite that, the convention elected James Yell as major general, Nicholas Bartlett Pearce of Benton County as brigadier of the First Division, and Thomas H. Bradley of Crittenden County to lead …

Ashley’s Station, Action at

aka: Action at Jones' Station
aka: Action at DeValls Bluff
The Action at Ashley’s Station was Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s attack on Union hay-cutting operations west of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and the final action of a summer of Confederate raiding against Union targets in northeast Arkansas. In the summer of 1864, DeValls Bluff was a major depot for Federal cavalry stationed along the White River. Union authorities contracted with civilian hay cutters to operate in the Grand Prairie west of the White River stronghold and supply fodder for its thousands of horses and mules. On August 20, 1864, Shelby set out from camps around Searcy (White County) with 2,000 to 2,500 men to strike the railroad from Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County), believing he would …

Atkins, Jerry (Lynching of)

Jerry Atkins, a black man, was murdered in Union County on November 21, 1865, for having allegedly murdered two school-age children. The lynching was notable for the viciousness it exhibited, a brutality that foreshadowed later lynchings in the state and nation, as well as the fact that it was witnessed by federal troops still occupying the state following the Civil War. Little information exists regarding the lynching. According to an account of the event in the Goodspeed history of the area, Atkins waylaid and murdered two siblings on their way to school on November 7, 1865. The two children were Sarah K. Simpson, who was thirteen years old, and Jesse G. Simpson, eight. The diary of George W. Lewis of …

Augusta Expedition (December 7–8, 1864)

Fearing that several Confederate guerrillas and partisan bands were operating in northeastern Arkansas, Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews dispatched 100 men under Captain Joseph H. Swan to Augusta (Woodruff County) to capture enemy groups believed to be there. The expedition resulted in no combat, but intelligence was gathered regarding the movement of Confederates and the deprived condition of the civilian population. For Union troops stationed in northeastern Arkansas, constant rumors of the movement of guerrilla and partisan units kept Union troops busy. During November and early December 1864, Andrews, commanding the Second Division, Seventh Army Corps at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), had received reports on the movements of small enemy units under the command of Howell A. “Doc” Rayburn and …

Augusta Expedition (January 4–27, 1865)

In an effort to continue to conduct expeditions into northeastern Arkansas to disrupt Confederate and guerrilla activities, Union colonel Washington F. Geiger was dispatched with 1,050 men to occupy Augusta (Woodruff County) on January 4, 1865. Wet and cold conditions made travel difficult. Nonetheless, Geiger occupied the town from January 11 to January 24, 1865. Holding it for thirteen days, Geiger returned to Brownsville (Lonoke County); he had not engaged the enemy, but he captured seven prisoners and gained supplies from the region. The fatiguing task of occupation duty often meant moving troops to demonstrate projection of force capabilities, gathering intelligence, and/or acquiring supplies. Concerned about the movements of small Confederate and guerrilla groups in northeastern Arkansas in late 1864 …

Augusta, Skirmish at

Attempting to locate and destroy Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby somewhere in the Little Red River valley, Union forces under Colonel Washington F. Geiger engaged in a small skirmish in the town of Augusta (Woodruff County) on August 10, 1864. The small Confederate force fled the city. The presence of Brig. Gen. Shelby’s command in northeastern Arkansas plagued Union forces there. After two failed expeditions to destroy Shelby, Union major general Frederick Steele outfitted Brigadier General Joseph R. West in August 1864 with 3,094 men to locate and destroy Shelby, who was believed to be in the Little Red River valley. Brig. Gen. West divided his command into two provisional brigades. The first, commanded by Col. Geiger of the Eighth …

Bailey’s, Affair at

aka: Affair at Crooked Creek
A brief encounter between a Union scouting party and a band of Confederate guerrillas, this skirmish was one of many used by Federal forces to disrupt enemy efforts in northwestern Arkansas during the Civil War. Colonel John E. Phelps of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) received orders from Brigadier General John Sanborn to move from Cassville, Missouri, into Arkansas in an effort to interrupt Confederate efforts to launch a raid into Missouri. On January 17, 1864, Phelps led two companies of his regiment into Arkansas and arrived at Berryville (Carroll County) the next day, joining three more companies already in the town. Due to a large number of sick and absent men, Phelps remained at Berryville until January 20, when …

Batesville Expedition

While escorting a treasury agent to Batesville (Independence County), a detachment of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) commanded by Captain William F. Orr defeated various Confederate units around the area of Independence County in late March and early April 1864. Accomplishing their mission, known as the Batesville Expedition, the unit returned to its base at Rolling Prairie (Boone County) with no reported losses. Surprising Confederate forces in Batesville on Christmas Day 1863, Union colonel Robert R. Livingston occupied the town with no real resistance, reestablishing the Union presence there. An outstanding victory for Livingston, the Federals soon discovered that yet again they lacked the strength to occupy Batesville continually due to supply issues. The necessity to maintain a strong link …

Batesville, Skirmish at (February 4, 1863)

On December 31, 1862, General John S. Marmaduke and 8,000 cavalry launched a raid into Missouri from near Lewisburg (Conway County) in the Arkansas River Valley, only to meet defeat at Hartsville, Missouri. The Confederate retreat back into Arkansas took them to Independence County, retracing the steps of Brigadier General Samuel Curtis’s army eight months earlier. Gen. Marmaduke established his troops at Oil Trough (Independence County), and Colonel Joseph O. Shelby set up camp at the farm of Franklin Desha. Both bivouacs were south of the White River, but Marmaduke’s headquarters were at the Cox house in Batesville (Independence County). Union forces in Missouri gathered at West Plains, Missouri, on January 29, 1863. The next day, Brigadier General John Davidson …

Batesville, Skirmish at (May 3, 1862)

On March 6–8, 1862, one of the most important Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River was fought at Pea Ridge (Benton County) in northwest Arkansas. The Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis defeated the Confederate army of Major General Earl Van Dorn, with the result that Missouri remained in the Union and the path into Arkansas was open to the Union army, hampered only by Confederate units who were trying to block the paths south and east of Pea Ridge. Gen. Curtis was following his orders to take his large army of more than 20,000 and seize Little Rock (Pulaski County), thus securing Arkansas for the Union. His Army of the Southwest contained regiments from …

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 …