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

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 …

Bocage, Joseph William

Judge Joseph William Bocage was a prominent pioneer settler of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He served as attorney for the Second Judicial District from 1844 to 1849 and as judge of the county court. In 1847, he prosecuted the first trial in Jefferson County to result in an execution. He was a successful planter, lumberman, inventor, manufacturer, and building contractor. Late in his life, he served as mayor of Pine Bluff. Joseph Bocage was born on May 8, 1819, on the island of St. Lucia in the French West Indies. His father, William Coit Bocage, owned a large sugar and coffee plantation, a mercantile, and a shipping business. He died at the age of twenty-one, when Bocage was an infant. …

Bogan, West (Trial of)

Bound in slavery on a cotton farm near Helena (Phillips County), West Bogan fought and killed his subjugator, Monroe Bogan, with an ax the morning of December 15, 1863. After many months in jail and a court sentence to hang, Bogan’s case was presented by Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt to President Abraham Lincoln on the fresh legal grounds of the Emancipation Proclamation. Bogan was ultimately seen as having acted in self defense and freed, but the rest of his life remains a mystery. Two weeks after the murder, West Bogan was discovered by plantation neighbors hiding among the thousands of former slaves in the contraband camps around Helena. They handed him over to Union troops. Bogan was held at a Helena …

Boggs’ Mills, Skirmish at

  A short engagement in rural Yell County, this skirmish is notable for pitting Arkansas Confederate troops against a combined Federal force consisting of both white and African-American troops from Arkansas. By January 1865, major Confederate offensive operations had ceased in the state. But while most Confederate units remained in southern Arkansas, small units of cavalry continued to operate in Union-held territory alongside guerrilla bands. Without access to regular supplies, these units were forced to forage and otherwise acquire supplies to the best of their abilities. Boggs’ Mills, located about twelve miles from Dardanelle (Yell County), served as both a location for the grinding of corn and a place for Confederate units to gather and organize. Federal forces were well aware of …

Boles, Thomas

Thomas Boles was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represented the Third District of Arkansas in the Fortieth, Forty-First, and Forty-Second Congresses from 1868 to 1871 and then again from 1872 to 1873. Thomas Boles was born on July 16, 1837, near Clarksville (Johnson County) to John Boles and Mary May Boles. One of eleven children, he was educated in the local common schools and was a teacher for a few years before becoming sheriff of Yell County in 1858. The following year, he was appointed deputy clerk of the Yell County circuit court, a position that motivated him to study law. Admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1860, he started a practice in Danville (Yell …

Boone-Murphy-Moore House

The Boone-Murphy-Moore House, now located at 714 West 4th Avenue in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), was built in 1860 by Thomas A. Boone. The home played a significant role during and after the Action at Pine Bluff in 1863. Serving as the Union headquarters during the Civil War, the Boone-Murphy-Moore House was utilized as the residence of Federal commander Colonel Powell Clayton. The small wooden-frame home is a one-story, single-pile weatherboard house with one-story additions to the east and west. It is raised slightly above grade on concrete pier foundation (alteration) with a tin shingle gable roof and shed roofs on the additions. The house has flat-roofed porches with turned posts and sawn brackets that flank the building on …

Boudinot, Elias Cornelius

Elias Cornelius Boudinot was a mixed-lineage Cherokee lawyer, newspaper editor, and lobbyist. He was active in civic life and Democratic Party politics in Arkansas during the Civil War era, serving in the Confederate Cherokee forces and the Confederate Congress during the conflict. In the following years, he maintained close connections with leading Democratic politicians in Arkansas while engaging in legal, economic, and political activities. Elias Cornelius Boudinot was born on August 1, 1835, in New Echota, Georgia, to Elias Boudinot, who was Cherokee, and his white wife, Harriet Gold. He was one of six siblings. After the assassination of his father in 1839 in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the Gold family raised the Boudinot children in the East. Boudinot returned …

Bowen, Thomas Meade

Thomas Meade Bowen was a Civil War officer for the Union, president of the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention, and an Arkansas Supreme Court justice. He was involved in the extremely factionalized Republican Party during Reconstruction in Arkansas. After serving on the Arkansas Supreme Court, Bowen accepted an appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant to become governor of the Idaho Territory. Bowen returned to Arkansas shortly after and then moved to Colorado to pursue mining ventures. There, he also served in the Colorado State Senate. Thomas Bowen was born on October 26, 1835, near Burlington, Iowa. He attended Mount Pleasant Academy and began practicing law at age eighteen in 1853. In 1856, Bowen was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives. …

Bradley, Thomas H.

Thomas H. Bradley was a planter, state legislator, and brigadier general of the Arkansas State Militia. Given his initial opposition to secession, however, he was unsuccessful with his command during the Civil War. Thomas Bradley was born on July 25, 1808, in Williamson County, Tennessee; records show he had perhaps five siblings. The son of farmers Thomas Bradley and Margaret Bradley, he became a merchant in Franklin, Tennessee. In 1835, Bradley joined the First Tennessee Volunteers to serve in the Second Seminole War. While in the military, he served as both a major and the regimental adjutant. In 1836, he moved to Crittenden County and became a planter. His holdings were located roughly eighteen miles upriver from Memphis, Tennessee. He …

Branchville, Skirmish at

  By late 1863, the area surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was routinely occupied by violent guerrilla bands. When local citizens asked for assistance, Major General Frederick Steele dispatched Colonel Powell Clayton and his Fifth Kansas Cavalry (US) to secure the area. After repelling a major attack on the city on October 25, 1863, Clayton mainly patrolled the surrounding area to maintain control locally. His units occasionally clashed with enemy forces; one such clash was the 1864 Skirmish at Branchville. Around midnight on January 18, 1864, a detachment of some 600 troopers from the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, First Indiana Cavalry, Seventh Missouri Cavalry, and four pieces of light artillery, under the command of Col. Clayton, rode out of Pine Bluff …

Brindletails [Political Faction]

Dissention within the Republican Party of Arkansas began following the 1868 constitutional convention. The schism in the Arkansas Republican Party, like in the national party, threatened to end the party’s political dominance in the state. Two groups within the state party—the Minstrels (aligned with the national regular Republican leadership) and the Brindletails (aligned with the Liberal Republican movement)—emerged. The Minstrel faction, allegedly named due to the past profession of one of its members, relied on newcomers (often pejoratively labeled “carpetbaggers”). Joseph Brooks, who broke with Governor Powell Clayton and the political machine under his control, formed a faction of the Republican Party known as the “Brindletails,” named because his voice was said to sound like a Brindletail bull. Brooks criticized …

Brooks-Baxter War

The Brooks-Baxter War, which occurred during April and May 1874, was an armed conflict between the supporters of two rivals for the governorship—Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter. The violence spilled out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into much of the state and was resolved only when the federal government intervened. The result of the war, recognition of Elisha Baxter as the governor, brought a practical end to Republican rule in the state and thus ended the era of Reconstruction. Questions concerning the results of the state’s 1872 gubernatorial election brought about the Brooks-Baxter War. In that election, Joseph Brooks—a carpetbagger with a radical reputation and the leader of the party faction known as the “Brindletails”—ran as a Reform Republican, supporting …

Brooks, Joseph

Joseph Brooks was a Methodist minister who came to Arkansas during the Civil War. He played a prominent role in post-war Republican politics. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1872 and was one of the participants in the subsequent Brooks-Baxter War. Joseph Brooks was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 1, 1821. Nothing is known of his parents or his early family life. He attended Indiana Asbury University in Greencastle, Indiana, now DePauw University, and after graduation entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was ordained in 1840 at the age of eighteen. His first assignment was as a circuit rider, traveling across an assigned territory to preach. He later rode circuit in Iowa, then moved to Illinois, …

Brown, Fountain

Fountain Brown was a Methodist preacher who was the first person to be charged and found guilty of violating the Emancipation Proclamation. Charged with having sold several of his slaves back into slavery after they had in fact been freed by President Abraham Lincoln’s order, Brown found himself at the center of a case that reflected the changes that came with the war. For a brief time, it was a celebrated legal matter leading to an active postwar effort to secure a pardon for the physically ailing Brown. Little is known about Fountain Brown’s early years. He is thought to have been born in 1806 or 1807, but the location is unknown. A one-time resident of Tennessee, he had been …

Brownsville, Skirmish at (August 25, 1863)

A brief and inconsequential engagement during the Federal campaign to take Little Rock (Pulaski County), this skirmish took place near the present-day city of Lonoke (Lonoke County). Confederate forces engaged Union troops to delay the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s forces as they moved westward. The movement of the Federal army on Little Rock was hampered more by sickness than by Confederate forces. Nevertheless, the enemy engaged Union forces with increasing frequency as they approached Little Rock. With the bulk of Steele’s infantry slowly making their way across the Grand Prairie, Union cavalry forces scouted ahead of the main body of troops. On the morning of August 25, 1863, a brigade of Union cavalry under the command of Colonel …

Brownsville, Skirmish at (July 13–14, 1864)

  On July 13, 1864, a detachment of Confederate forces from Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s command moved toward a camp near Brownsville (Lonoke County). Colonel Oliver Wood of the Twenty-second Ohio Infantry (US) reported that Confederates numbering around 150 attacked his picket line but were driven away. Due to the small number of men under Wood, he decided not to move beyond the defenses until the next day, as an immediate response would have left the camp vulnerable to attack. By afternoon of July 14, Wood had followed the Confederates fifteen miles southeast of Brownsville to Snake Island. At that point, the Confederates divided into smaller forces and separated, whereupon Wood decided to halt. Union forces captured five guns, and …

Buck Horn, Skirmish at

On May 5, 1864, Brigadier General Joseph Shelby was ordered from his position south of the Arkansas River to “occupy the valley of White River and to prevent its navigation in every possible manner and fashion.” Colonel Robert R. Livingston (US), who maintained a small detachment in Batesville (Independence County), had left Colonel John Stephens in command of the city, but in a letter dated May 11, 1864, Livingston advised Stephens of probable evacuation: “I may deem it best for you to evacuate Batesville, and should you find it necessary to do so, fall back upon this point,” being Jacksonport (Jackson County). Shelby and his Confederate troops moved from Clarksville (Johnson County) and crossed the Arkansas River at Dardanelle (Yell …

Buckskull, Skirmish at (November 20, 1864)

After attempting to clear communication lines in Missouri, Lieutenant Colonel George C. Thilenius of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia led a raid into Arkansas to catch Confederate colonel Timothy Reeves at Cherokee Bay (Randolph County). Near Buckskull, on the Arkansas-Missouri border, Thilenius’s command killed two guerrillas believed to be members of Reeves’s command before charging the undefended town of Buckskull to find no opposing force. Located where the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) passes into northeastern Arkansas, Buckskull sits on the Arkansas-Missouri line near the Current River and across from the town of Pitman (Randolph County). As Pitman’s Ferry was critical for movement of men and materials between northeastern Arkansas …

Buckskull, Skirmishes at (October 1 and 10, 1863)

  On September 28, 1863, Captain William T. Leeper with elements of the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry moved into Randolph County, Arkansas, to engage guerrillas in the area. On October 1 and October 10, skirmishes occurred on the Arkansas-Missouri border near Buckskull due to its location near Pitman’s Ferry on the Current River. Traffic crossing the Current River just south of the Arkansas state line on the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) made Pitman’s Ferry a major entrance point in the region. Over time, the towns of Pitman (Randolph County) in Arkansas and Buckskull on the Arkansas-Missouri border developed around the location. Periodically, Confederate forces were stationed in this region to …

Buckville Cemetery

The community of Buckville (Garland County) was inundated by the waters of Lake Ouachita in the 1950s; the remains lie under the lake’s surface. The Buckville Cemetery is the only reminder of the town that occupies its original location. The cemetery, which is located in northern Garland County off Buckville Road about two miles south of Avant (Garland County), was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 27, 2007. The town of Buckville developed in the years following the Civil War. A post office was established in 1884, and a thriving community existed by the 1900s. A decline began by the 1920s when Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L) embarked on the construction of three dams on the …

Buffalo Mountains, Skirmish at

  In the autumn of 1863, Colonel Joseph O. Shelby launched a raid from Arkansas into his home state of Missouri. After meeting organized Federal resistance at the Action at Marshall, Missouri, Shelby returned to the relative safety of Arkansas. This skirmish was one of the final engagements between Shelby and Federal forces during the raid. Shelby and 600 men from his brigade departed from Arkadelphia (Clark County) on September 22, 1863, and moved northward to the Arkansas River. Engaging Federal forces as they appeared, Shelby crossed the Arkansas River on September 27 and moved into Missouri on October 2. Moving through the countryside capturing supplies and dispersing small Union garrisons, Shelby and his men were finally stopped by a …

Buffalo River Expedition

  By 1863, much of northwestern Arkansas was loosely controlled by Union forces but still home to many Confederate partisan forces. In many instances, isolated areas in the mountains were used as sites by these and others for the manufacture of saltpeter, an ingredient necessary for the production of gunpowder. On January 9, 1863, following orders issued by Brigadier General Francis J. Herron, Major Joseph W. Caldwell led a detachment of 300 Union troopers of the First Iowa Cavalry into the mountains in the direction of Kingston (Madison County) in search of Confederate activity. They rode out of Huntsville (Madison County) at 8:00 a.m., arriving in Kingston at 2:00 p.m. Here, Caldwell forwarded recently acquired information to Herron concerning area …

Bull Bayou, Skirmish at

During an expedition to attempt to catch Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby in the Little Red River valley, Union forces under Colonel James Stuart engaged in a small skirmish at the bridge on Bull Bayou on August 7, 1864. Defeated, the unidentified Confederate force fled. Frustrated by the inability of Union troops to catch Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby, Union major general Frederick Steele dispatched a third expedition to destroy the Confederate leader on August 6, 1864. Placing Brigadier General Joseph R. West in command of 3,094 men, Steele envisioned a movement toward the Little Red River and possibly beyond until the enemy was defeated. West divided his force into two provisional brigades commanded by Colonel Washington F. Geiger of …

Bunch, Bradley

Bradley Bunch was a longtime Arkansas legislator, Carroll County judge, and the first historian of Carroll County. In addition, he is known as the fourth-great uncle of Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States, whom he markedly resembles. Bradley Bunch was born on December 9, 1818, in Overton County, Tennessee, the eighth child of Captain Nathaniel Bunch and Sally Wade Ray Bunch of Virginia. Between 1838 and 1841, his father, a “farmer-blacksmith-mechanic,” moved with his family in stages to Carroll County, Arkansas, settling on the headwaters of Osage Creek near Dinsmore in what subsequently became Newton County. Bunch’s sister Anna (1814–1893) married Samuel Thompson Allred in Tennessee prior to the move; this couple became the great-great-great-great (fourth-great) …

Burrowsville, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Tomahawk
  The Skirmish at Burrowsville during the Civil War was part of a larger attempt to drive Confederate and guerrilla forces from northern Arkansas. The overall effort was deemed to be a success by Federal commanders, but their success was somewhat embellished in their official reports. In early January 1864, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, commander of the District of Southwest Missouri, received reports of a major Confederate force massing in Newton, Searcy, Izard, and Carroll counties. Sanborn ordered units of the First and Second Arkansas Cavalries (US), along with part of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, to move into the area and flush the enemy out in an effort to push the Confederates south to the Arkansas River. As part …

Butlerville Lynching of 1882

On June 1, 1882, three African Americans named Joseph Earl, Taylor Washington, and Thomas Humphreys were hanged in Butlerville (Lonoke County) for allegedly attacking a young girl named Annie Bridges. Public records reveal very little about the girl or her alleged attackers. There was a thirteen-year-old girl named Sally Bridges in Butler Township of Lonoke County in 1880. She was living in the household of George and Mary Phillips, and her relationship to them was listed merely as “Home.” If the victim’s first name was Sally and not Annie, there is information indicating that her mother had died in Hot Springs (Garland County) in 1878. There was a fourteen-year-old boy named Taylor Washington living in neighboring Prairie County with his …

Byrd, Henry

Henry Byrd was one of Arkansas’s most prolific antebellum portrait painters. His portraits present Arkansas’s merchants, planters, and professional gentlemen, along with their wives and children, as they wished posterity to see them. Henry Byrd was born in Ireland in 1805, one of seven children born to William Byrd and Anne Garrett of Belmount Hall, County Tiperary. He immigrated to America and was naturalized through the port of New York City in November 1835. He established himself as a painter and resided at 164 Delancy Street in New York City. During his years in New York, Byrd married Sarah J. Updike, and they had two children while still in New York. Sometime during the late 1830s, the family migrated south, …

Cabell, William Lewis

A talented and respected Confederate brigadier general, William Lewis Cabell performed most of his Civil War service in the Trans-Mississippi Department in Arkansas. He served several terms as mayor of Dallas, Texas, between the mid-1870s and mid-1880s. The exact meaning of his nickname “Old Tige” is not clear, but it may refer to his tenacity and stern discipline. William Lewis Cabell was born in Danville, Virginia, on January 1, 1827, to Sallie Doswell Cabell and lawyer and military officer Benjamin Cabell. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1850 and served initially as a second lieutenant in the Seventh U.S. Infantry. Following his promotion to first lieutenant in June 1855, Cabell served as regimental quartermaster …

Cache Bayou, Skirmish at

On July 6, 1862, dismounted members of Company “I” of the Third Iowa Cavalry turned back a Confederate attempt to halt the Federal Army of the Southwest’s movement into eastern Arkansas. A significant skirmish occurred that day at Cache Bayou approximately fifteen miles north of Clarendon (Monroe County). After encountering a barricade along the Clarendon Road, the Iowa cavalrymen pushed through the obstacle and effectively forced the Confederates to retreat across the Cache River. The Federal victory at Cache Bayou allowed the barricade to be removed successfully, thus permitting the army’s continued trudge south into Arkansas. The Federal movement during the summer of 1862 occurred as part of the orders of Major General Henry Halleck—Federal supreme commander in the West—to …

Cache River Bridge, Skirmish at

On May 28, 1862, a reconnaissance under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hiram F. Sickles of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry prevented Captain Richard Hooker’s Confederates from completely destroying the Cache River bridge near Augusta (Woodruff County). Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn’s departure from Arkansas to the Western Theater with the bulk of Arkansas’s defensive capabilities left the city of Jacksonport (Jackson County)—and the rest of the state—unprotected. Hastily attempting to build a substantial Confederate defense of Arkansas, Major General Thomas Hindman—the newly appointed commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department—commissioned a number of local officers, such as Capt. Hooker in Jackson County, to raise units across the state. These units were encouraged to harass the Federals wherever they were found while …

Caddo Mill, Skirmish at

On December 14, 1863, a detachment that consisted of two companies from the Second Kansas Cavalry headquartered at Waldron (Scott County) surprised and overwhelmed a fifteen-man camp of Confederate forces near Caddo Mill (Montgomery County). On December 13, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Owen A. Bassett sent a detachment of forty men, led by Lieutenants P. Cosgrove and B. B. Mitchell from the Second Kansas Cavalry headquarters located at Waldron, toward Caddo Gap (Montgomery County). In an attempt to maneuver away from a detachment of General Joseph Shelby’s Confederate cavalry, the two lieutenants continued to Farrar’s Mill. At Farrar’s Mill, they received a report that fifteen Confederate soldiers were encamped a short distance ahead near Caddo Mill. The Union detachment completed the …

Camden Expedition

Part of the Red River Campaign, the Camden Expedition resulted from Union brigadier general Frederick Steele’s orders to strike south from Little Rock (Pulaski County) and converge with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s column in northwest Louisiana before marching to Texas. Because of poor logistical planning, horrible roads, and strong Confederate resistance, Steele abandoned this plan to occupy Camden (Ouachita County). Losing battles at Poison Spring (Ouachita County) and Marks’ Mills (Cleveland County), Steele became unable to supply his army and retreated toward Little Rock. The Confederates caught Steele while he was crossing the Saline River engaging in the last battle of the campaign at Jenkins’ Ferry (Grant County). In 1864, the Trans-Mississippi Theater presented several problems for Union general-in-chief …

Camden Water Battery

The Camden Water Battery was part of a system of Civil War fortifications that Confederate soldiers built in late 1864 to protect the city of Camden (Ouachita County) and block any Union movements toward Shreveport, Louisiana. In mid-September 1864, Major General Sterling Price led a force of 12,000 Confederate men—including most of the cavalry serving in the state—on a raid into Missouri, which left only a few infantry divisions around Washington (Hempstead County) to defend southern Arkansas. Those troops were under the command of Major General John Bankhead “Prince John” Magruder, who faced the challenge of defending southwestern Arkansas as aggressive Federal patrols probed the region in the absence of Price and the Confederate cavalry. Magruder’s ability to defend the …

Camden, Skirmish at (April 15, 1864)

The Skirmish at Camden on April 15, 1864, occurred after Union brigadier general Frederick Steele had forced Major General Sterling Price’s troops and cavalry out of Camden (Ouachita County) on April 12. Realizing his opportunity, Steele marched his army approximately forty miles to the east toward Camden. This would prove to be an important turning point within the Red River Campaign for the Union troops. In the early hours of April 15, the Thirty-third Infantry of Iowa began its march toward Camden, still eighteen miles away. Its first movement on the Confederate lines forced a battery on the main road to cease firing, allowing the troops to continue advancing toward the city. By 10:30 a.m., the Thirty-Third Infantry had marched …