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

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. …

Power, Albert

Albert Power is one of four people to receive a Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7–8, 1862. Power received the honor for his deeds at the Leetown sector of the battlefield on March 7. Private Power was one of five Medal of Honor recipients from his unit, the Third Iowa Cavalry, during the course of the Civil War. Albert Power was born in Liberty, Ohio, on June 18, 1842. Power enlisted in the Third Iowa Cavalry, Company A, at Keokuk, Iowa, on August 31, 1861. Power became a part of General Samuel Ryan Curtis’s Army of the Southwest at the rank of private. Appointed on Christmas Day 1861, Curtis was given one task—to …

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 …