Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Batteries from Iowa, Kentucky, and Kansas

Following the order presented in the summary statements, the next set of volunteer batteries came from Iowa, Kentucky, and Kansas.  Yes, not exactly alphabetical, but we’ll go with the clerk’s ordering.

At the time of the report, in December 1862, Iowa had only three batteries accepted for service (a fourth battery was not mustered until the fall of 1863). All three are listed on the summary with only two showing reports.

There were three volunteer batteries from Kentucky were in Federal service in December 1862, according to Dyer’s Compendium.  And Dyer’s identifies two of those as lettered batteries.  But there are only two entry lines in the summary of that period, and those are listed as numbered, implied independent, batteries.  So we have questions to address for Kentucky’s batteries.

For the summary, Kansas was represented by five entries.  Three are batteries identified by commanders and two are artillery assigned to cavalry. I contend that a full, proper study of the Kansas artillery is a book waiting to be written. Many of the batteries were formed as companies within infantry or cavalry regiments (which, like Texas, was a delineation that was often blurred).  And regimental commanders were very reluctant to release those to formal artillery organizations.

And one more twist to consider with these entries – most were not received in Washington until 1864!  Those preface notes out of the way, here are the entry lines for the batteries and their cannons:

0043_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

Starting with the Hawkeye State:

  • 1st Iowa Independent Light Battery: The location annotation does not make sense to me.  The battery was with Sherman’s ill-fated expedition to Vicksburg, landing at Chickasaw Bayou.  It reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers (as they had on hand at Pea Ridge earlier in the year).
  • 2nd Iowa Independent Light Battery: No report.  The 2nd was posted between LaGrange and Germantown, Tennessee at this time, part of the Thirteenth Corps.
  • 3rd Iowa Independent Light Battery: Helena, Arkansas.  The 3rd reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers. The battery was assigned to the District of Eastern Arkansas, Department of Missouri, but soon to be collected into the Vicksburg campaign.

Now over to the Bluegrass State, and the aforementioned confusions:

  • 1st Kentucky Independent Light Battery:  Located at Gualey Bridge, (West) Virginia with six 10-pdr Parrotts.  This was Captain Seth J. Simmonds’ battery, assigned to the District of the Kanawha.
  • 2nd Kentucky Artillery?:   This entry line has the notation “not in service.”  My guess is this references the 2nd Kentucky Heavy Artillery Regiment that never got organized.

Not listed on the return, but worth noting are the lettered Kentucky Batteries (sometimes identified as with the 1st Kentucky Artillery Regiment, but most often just the letter and state designation):

  • Battery A: This was Captain David C. Stone’s battery, supporting the Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland and in action at Stones River.
  • Battery B: Also known as Hewett’s Battery, and (to add more confusion) in some reports as the 2nd Kentucky Independent Battery.  Commanded by Lieutenant Alban A. Ellsworth.  Also saw action at Stones River in the Center Wing, Fourteenth Corps.

Allow me to hold off a more detailed discussion of the important service of those two batteries, conspicuously omitted from the summary.

Now Kansas, where more questions follow.  Let me “swag” some proper identifications here:

  • Allen’s Battery:  No report.  I think this references Captain Norman Allen and the 1st Kansas Independent Battery.  The battery saw action at Prairie Grove, as part of the Army of the Frontier, with four 12-pdr howitzers (according to my notes).
  • Blair’s Battery:  Fort Scott, Kansas.  Four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  This should be Lieutenant Edward A. Smith’s 2nd Battery Kansas Artillery.  The name references Captain Charles W. Blair, the battery’s first commander.
  • Hopkins’ Battery:  Captain Henry Hopkins’ 3rd Kansas Battery.  The battery had three 6-pdr field guns and one 12-pdr field howitzer.  The battery was also at Prairie Grove.
  • [Illegible] Ninth Volunteers:  This appears to reference a section under 2nd Lieutenant Henry H. Opdyke, of the 9th Kansas Cavalry.  The section had two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  They saw action in the Prairie Grove campaign.
  • 2nd Cavalry:  Fort Smith.  Two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  Another detachment within a cavalry formation.  This one under Lieutenant Elias S. Stover.

Not mentioned is another artillery section, also of two 12-pdr mountain howitzers, in the 6th Kanasas Cavalry.

So again, we have a lengthy “first page” in the summary, due to setting the context of the numbers.  The summary certainly illuminates the holes in the summary statements… and why I prefer to present “as is” and then circle back for validation.

Moving on to the smoothbore ammunition tallies:

0045_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

By the batteries:

  • 1st Iowa: 6-pdr field gun – 400 shot, 320 case, and 80 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shell, 160 case, and 42 canister.
  • 3rd Iowa: 6-pdr field gun – 410 shot, 325 case, and 85 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 129 shell, 86 case, and 36 canister.
  • 2nd Kansas: 6-pdr field gun – 196 shot, 236 case, and 108 canister; 12-pdr field howitzer – 46 shell, 170 case, and 72 canister.  Also reporting a large quantity of mountain howitzer ammunition – 124 case and 34 canister.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry section: 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 41 shell, 116 case, and 57 canister.
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry section: 12-pdr mountain howitzer – 80 case and 8 canister.

So we have one more question – why the 2nd Kansas Battery would hold on to mountain howitzer ammunition?  Perhaps, as they were operating alongside some of the cavalry with the smaller howitzers, the ordnance handlers in the 2nd Kansas assumed some oversight in ordnance matters.

The only battery we’ve discussed today with rifled guns was the 1st Kentucky (Simmonds’) Battery with 10-pdr Parrotts.  Accordingly, we look to the Parrott columns on the corresponding pages:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_1

The Kentuckians had 490 shells, 455 shot, and 60 canister of the Parrott make.

The 1st Kentucky also had a quantity of Schenkl rounds for their Parrot rifles:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_2

Yes a lot of work for me to snip that, for one entry – 69 Schenkl 10-pdr shells.

I suspected the small arms section would be interesting, given the varied service. But it is somewhat pedestrian compared to others:

0046_Snip_IA_KY_KS_3

The 1st Iowa reported eight cavalry sabers and fifty foot artillery sabers.  The 1st Kentucky had nine Army revolvers and 26 cavalry Sabers.  Then we have the Kansas troops:

  • 2nd Kansas – 129 Army revolvers and 24 cavalry sabers.
  • 3rd Kansas – 53 Army revolvers and 17 cavalry sabers.
  • 9th Kansas Cavalry section – one cavalry saber.
  • 2nd Kansas Cavalry section – 21 Navy revolvers and one cavalry saber.

I’d half suspected and expected the Kansans to have some odd assortment of long guns.

Once again… the old Unexploded Civil War Shell problem

For those who are just getting caught up from the sesquicentennial, the Civil War ended 150 years ago… give or take a few weeks.  But that is not to say that we’ve heard the last of the Civil War.  In fact, we might still hear – if someone is unlucky, unwise, or both – explosions from the war.   And if that same someone is unlucky, unwise, and/or both, they might get the grim designation of being the last casualty of the Civil War.

Recall the story of Sam White, relic collector and one who disarmed shells.  From all sources, White was experienced at disarming shells and had done such for years.  But on February 18, 2008, White did something that triggered a shell (an XI-inch Dahlgren by some accounts I’ve seen).  Some have said White was “cutting corners” in his process.  I don’t know that for sure.  Regardless, a projectile designed to sink a ship went off.  White lost his life.   As I’ve said many times before, I hope that the legacy of Sam White is that people take the proper precautions and do not become lazy about safety with regard to live Civil War ammunition that is encountered.

And the story of Sam White needs to be recalled from time to time.  Particularly since stories of unexploded shells appear frequently enough.  On Saturday (May 23), a shell found on the Manassas Battlefield prompted an evacuation.  And yesterday, a bomb disposal team destroyed a James rifle projectile found on the Prairie Grove Battlefield.  So I don’t think this is a subject we can just relegate to the history books.

As I look over social media today, not naming names just yet, I see some rather disconcerting comments made.  Many are upset that a historical artifact was destroyed.  They have complained that the means and effort to disarm the shell were simple and could have been done with little risk.  That, I think, is a bad response.  While the loss of the historical artifact is bad, what is worse is that people are offering “advice” that will (not may, but WILL) lead to another accident.  It is as if Sam White’s accident is forgotten.

Let’s be perfectly clear here.  Black powder is an unstable compound.  That’s what gives it an explosive effect.  While black powder, like most munitions, has predictable traits, that does not diminish the danger. Black powder is sensitive to heat, flash, friction, or compression.  A lot of little things can set off black powder.  Recall some of those incidents on Morris Island with shells exploding prematurely due to “rasping” of the powder in the shell?  Yes, more than flame and hammers can set off black powder.

Same could be said for C4 explosives that the military uses today.  There were times in my Army days that I carried C4 or other explosives.  But I listened to my trainers and observed the precautions necessary.  I’ve carried black powder in my cartridge box and stored it with my reenacting kit. But I’ve always respected it.   And so we all should.

Something from the news story from Arkansas bears noting.  Jessee Cox, superintendent of the Prairie Grove Battlefield Park indicated that he had no chance to consult with other parks or other sources as to what should be done to preserve the shell… safely.  THAT, my friends, is where the problem is.  As Cox said, “There’s no 800 number to call and get those answers.”

There are plenty of people out there who could have provided those answers.  I go back to my military training in that the unexploded ordnance teams (UXO) are very knowledgeable on these matters.  There are programs in place to protect and preserve historic artifacts when found (i.e., that used by the team at Andrews Air Force Base).   Indeed, the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal units based out of Charleston and Norfolk did much to determine the best way to handle these historic artifacts and render them safe.   My point is there are specific guidelines and practices to be observed when disarming black powder-era ordnance.   No offense to the back-yard relic hunters out there, but we don’t need “now watch this” to turn into a disaster.  Expert advice should be offered to the authorities who confront these situations. Not hearsay.

Now I don’t fault the Bentonville Bomb Squad for doing their job here.  They were doing exactly what their training called them to do.  My beef is with the training.  There should be a protocol to consult when historic artifacts are encountered.  That protocol should include contact information to subject matter experts on black powder-era ordnance.  That would ensure safety in the first place – for the general public and the teams handling the items.  The disarming of the old ordnance requires types of equipment that may not be on hand.  So that protocol should also include how such equipment may be requisitioned, loaned, or otherwise acquired if needed.  In short, a solution to the problem… not just a “blow it in place” response.

But above all… those of us Civil War enthusiasts must stop downplaying the danger and risk involved.  These are weapons designed to kill and maim.  Those weapons didn’t lose that potential by simply sitting in the ground or on some shelf or on some monument (!) for several decades (scroll to the bottom on that link).  So those weapons should be respected for what they potentially still can… and sometimes will… do.

“… serious defects in our military system.”: Hindman reflects after a lost campaign

With nightfall at Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862, fighting ebbed and eventually ceased. Major General Thomas Hindman faced a dire situation. Low on supplies and lacking substantial reinforcements to continue battle, he could not hold the position fought over during that day’s battle. Taking stock of the situation, Hindman opted to retire back into the Boston Mountains towards his base of supply. This withdrawal was a strategic setback for the Confederacy, relinquishing a substantial portion of Arkansas to the Federals and a launching point for operations into Missouri.

As expected for a commander in the wake of such defeat, Hindman sought out reasons he was marching south instead of north. In his lengthy post-battle report, he wrote:

After a battle the mind naturally passes in review all the circumstances connected with it. I hope the expression here of such reflections as now present themselves to me will not be deemed improper. Undoubtedly there are serious defects in our military system. Chief among these is the rule of electing to the lowest commissioned office and promoting to those above in companies and regiments. It combines mobocracy and primogeniture in such proportions that it seems almost a miracle that anything of discipline or efficiency survives. As a substitute, I would propose this, that whenever a vacancy does occur in a company or regiment, an examining board of three capable officers be appointed by the division or corps commanders; that, without regard to rank or restriction to the command, all persons desiring the vacant place be invited to appear before the board within a given time to be examined as to character and qualification, and that the board recommend and the division or corps commander immediately assign to duty the one found best qualified and most meritorious, conditioned that he shall not draw pay till the assignment be approved by the War Department.

Hindman stopped short of direct criticism of the company grade officer. But clearly he found some fault and had it at the fore of his mind when writing these words in the days before Christmas.

The proposal was not, at least from 150 years perspective, very radical. Indeed it is not far removed from the system used by the U.S. Army and several foreign armies at other times. The practical problem with Hindman’s proposal is that it would likely lead to a semi-permanent board to review a steady stream of candidates for an army’s worth of vacancies.

But Hindman continued to suggest more changes with respect to management of junior officers:

As auxiliary to this, division or corps commanders should be authorized to order before a similar board any regimental or company officer deemed incapable, neglectful, or otherwise unfit, and, on the report of the board against him, to suspend him from duty and cause the place to be immediately filled, as in the case of any other vacancy, and on the approval of the proceedings by the War Department. The delinquent officer should invariably be put in the ranks as a private soldier. I would apply these provisions to all the staff officers of corps, divisions, brigades, and regiments, with the further regulation that persons assigned to staff duty, where bond is required by law, may execute the same before the commander of the division or corps. Great delays and detriment to the service result from the existing arrangements as to that matter.

Hindman felt the need to purge not only failing junior leadership, but also staff officers. Put a musket in their hands and have them fill a spot in the line.  I’d submit the issue ran deeper than Hindman expressed in his report – into the noncommissioned officer ranks – but either he was less concerned with that health metric or just didn’t “get down to the troops” enough to sense it.

The deficiencies Hindman alluded to, without naming names or providing specifics, were a function of a rapidly built army using both volunteers and conscripts.  Certainly we might discuss the American military experience in the World Wars, Korea, or Vietnam and see some of the same issues.  Nor, back to the Civil War context, was the Federal army immune to the issue of junior leadership.  And on the reverse side of the coin, in more recent American wars fought mainly with smaller, all-volunteer ranks, the problem is not so much weeding out the poor performers but rather retaining the talent.

Yet, I do wonder if the Confederate army had more “surface area” with respect to the selection of company-level and staff officers.  In a society which enforced patronage and fealty within a hierarchy system, the selection of leaders could be somewhat predictable.  I might be generalizing in that regard.  But it would make for an interesting study.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 144-5.)

150 Years Ago: Sound of the guns at Prairie Grove

NOTE:  This post is focused on the Federal artillery at the battle of Prairie Grove.  For more background information on the battle, I refer you to Civil War Daily Gazette’s entry or the Civil War Trust resource page for Prairie Grove.

On this day (December 7) in 1862, one of the westernmost battles of the Civil War took place at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. We don’t often think of artillery in the Trans-Mississippi, yet just as at Pea Ridge the “King of Battle” played an important role.

After the long, rapid march from Springfield, Missouri, Brigadier General Francis Herron advanced from Fayetteville towards the advanced position of Brigadier General James Blunt at Cane Hill to the southwest. Before he could link with Blunt, Herron ran into Confederate Major General Thomas Hindman’s defensive position outside Prairie Grove.

Prairie Grove 417
View Shoup’s Lines at Prairie Grove

Hindman chose good ground to defend. On the right side of the line, facing the advance of Herron’s Federals, were four batteries – Blocher’s, Marshall’s, and West’s Arkansas batteries along with Bledsoe’s Missouri battery. All told, these batteries fronted six 6-pdr field guns and four 12-pdr howitzers.

When Herron’s column reached Illinois Creek, they came under the Confederate guns. First throwing Captain David Murphy’s Battery F, 1st Missouri Light Artillery over a ford, Herron then moved the remainder of his force over. Rapidly, Herron established a gun line by adding the other three batteries under his command. These were Lieutenant Joseph Foust’s Battery E, 1st Missouri; Captain Frank Backof’s Battery L, 1st Missouri; and Lieutenant Herman Borris’s Battery A, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery. Twenty guns in total – four 10-pdr Parrotts, six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, six James Rifles, one 6-pdr field gun, and three 12-pdr howitzers.

In his battle report, Foust described the initial phase of the action:

Arriving at the ford of the creek, I was ordered to halt out of sight of the enemy, and to advance and open the battery upon a signal to be given from Captain Murphy’s battery.

We went into action at the signal, under a terrible fire from the enemy while crossing the ford. About the third round the enemy’s guns were silenced. Another battery on our left having got our range, we were compelled to change position to the front….

In his report, Murphy elaborated further about the fire effects noting, “The fire was so well directed that the enemy retired, minus caissons, horses, and one piece disabled.” With the Confederate batteries silenced, and their infantry taking cover, Herron advanced his infantry. Backof’s and Foust’s batteries moved forward to support this assault.

Prairie Grove 444
View of the Confederate position from Herron’s line of advance

Backof wrote:

After silencing the enemy’s battery on the hill in front of us, I advanced 200 yards, flanked on the left by the Twentieth Wisconsin Volunteers and by the Ninety-fourth Illinois on the right, and sustained an effectual artillery fire at the enemy’s position (which they moved several times) for three hours. In the same time [the infantry] made a charge…on the hill and through the woods surrounding; meanwhile the shells of my battery did great execution amongst the enemy.

But the Federal infantry found themselves outnumbered when they closed with the Confederates on the hill. When the infantry fell back, Backof covered the retreat with canister. In the melee two of Backof’s guns were disabled (though he later reported only one out of action at the end of the day). His losses were one man killed, two wounded, and eight horses.

Prairie Grove 404
Confederate artillery position at Prairie Grove

Also in this forward position and facing Confederate attacks, Foust wrote:

At this time the enemy attempted to charge our lines, when the whole battery opened on them with canister, and they fell back in confusion. The infantry attempted to charge the hill, but were repulsed by an overwhelming force of the enemy, when we again forced them back with canister. Again the infantry attempted to carry the hill, but were driven back the second time, when we covered their retreat once more with canister, driving the enemy back again to the wood. The enemy seeing the battery without support, made a great effort to take it, but were driven back by the battery.

Herron summarized the defense of these guns,

Never was there more real courage and pluck displayed, and more downright hard fighting done, than at this moment by the above-named batteries. Advancing to within 100 yards of the guns, the rebels received a fire that could not be withstood, and retreated in disorder, receiving, as they ran, a terrible fire, causing great slaughter among them.

Foust would lose also eight horses, along with two men killed and six wounded. Herron would single out Foust for heroism during the repulse of the Confederate attacks.

At this phase of the battle, action shifted to the Federal right flank. Blunt had “moved to the sound of the guns,” quite literally, and arrived to smash into the Confederate left. There three Federal batteries also played an important role there, first defeating the Confederate artillery and then breaking up the infantry. Just as on Herron’s side of the field, the Federal artillery not only outnumbered the Confederates, they outgunned them with six 10-pdr Parrotts, four James Rifles, five 6-pdrs, and one 12-pdr howitzer. In the thick of the action, Captain John Rabb of the 2nd Indiana Battery, recalled,

A heavy musketry fire was then brought to bear on my command. I answered with canister. For fifteen minutes my men stood firm, firing their pieces with terrible precision, making roads in the ranks of the enemy, which were quickly filled by fresh men from the rear. Three times they advanced in heavy force upon the battery, but were driven back to the wood with heavy loss.

Prairie Grove 455
Overlook of the west side of the Prairie Grove battlefield

In the engagement, Borris reported firing 320 rounds from his two cannons. Foust fired “562 rounds of shot, shell, and canister.” Muprhy’s gunners fired 510 shells and solid shot. That is a lot of iron going downrange… particularly for a “small” battle in the Trans-Mississippi.

Prairie Grove is one of the best preserved battlefields outside of the National Park System. It is a bit out of the way, but worth the drive to visit. For those who haven’t, I’ve posted many of the historical markers on the battlefield in HMDB as a virtual tour.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 100, 106, 112, 124,128-9, and 136.)

150 Years Ago: General Herron “… will move… and will make good time…”

As fall rapidly turned to winter during December 1862 on the borderlands of Missouri and Arkansas, armies were again on the move. If you are unfamiliar with the battles of Cane Hill and Prairie Grove, Eric at Civil War Daily Gazette has a series of posts offering an excellent overview of the campaign (but he is not, as of this writing, up to Prairie Grove yet).

His post from December 1 included a map depicting the operational dispositions of the armies at this time 150 years ago. Major General James Blunt occupied an isolated and seemingly tenuous position in the little village of Cane Hill in northwest Arkansas. With Major General John Schofield out of the field due to an illness, Blunt commanded the Army of the Frontier from this advanced position. The only support he could call upon was over 150 marching miles to the north outside Springfield, Missouri where Brigadier General James Totten commanded about 6,000 troops.

On December 2nd, Blunt ordered Totten to move up in support:

Hindman and Marmaduke are concentrating their whole force, 25,000 strong, at Lee’s Creek, 25 miles from this place, on the route to Van Buren, and 15 miles from the latter place, and in my opinion intend advancing upon me here. I desire you to move as much of your force as possible, especially the infantry, to my support, as I do not intend to leave this position without a fight. You should move by forced marches via Fayetteville, and keep me constantly advised of your position and movements. Answer by telegraph to Elkhorn as soon as you receive this.

Now there’s fighting spirit! Don’t give up the position without a fight! Needless to say, Blunt’s estimates of the force opposing him were far on the high side. Still he was in a precarious position and needed support.

But Blunt’s orders didn’t find Totten. He was absent. But instead Brigadier General Francis Herron answered the call:

Your telegram just received. Will move both divisions entire at noon to-day, and will make good time to your position. The Second Division is camped at Crane Creek, the Third at Wilson Creek. Will keep you well posted of my movements. The distance from here is so great that it may be necessary for you to fall back a short distance, but I will do my best to make that unnecessary.

No worries about supplies or guerrilla activities. No complaints about the roads being impassable. The only reservation Herron offered was with respect to the distance. And even then, he put the best forward.

So on this day in 1862, two divisions under Herron, comprised of men from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and even some Arkansas unionists, took up the line of march. Later in his official report, Herron summed up this movement:

After leaving Wilson’s Creek, in accordance with the orders from General Blunt and yourself, I moved my command by forced day marches, the distance being too great for day and night movements, and, traveling at the rate of 35 miles per day, reached Fayetteville Sunday morning, the 7th, at 3 o’clock. Resting one hour, I pushed on….

Keep in mind the season and the setting of Herron’s march. These are the short days of December, in the sparsely settled Ozark Plateau. The men were not marching the Macadamized Valley Turnpike. Nor were they marching with well stocked trains in their van. Herron’s estimate on the rate of march may be a little high. I’d estimate the marching distance at 110 or 120 miles, a bit less than the 140 miles he suggested with that rate of march. (And for good comparison, draw a 120 mile radius from Washington or Richmond or Nashville. Maybe there were less troops west of the Mississippi, but they had more ground to cover.)

In “pushing on” Herron had another 15 to 20 miles before reaching Blunt’s last reported position. His troops wouldn’t reach that point, however, having to stop and fight a battle on December 7th.

Say what you will of Jackson’s Foot Cavalry in the Shenandoah or Sedgewick’s Sixth Corps marching up to Gettysburg, Herron’s march ranks among the most rapid operational movements of the war.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 22, Part I, Serial 32, pages 102, 805, and 807.)

A Unionist’s records: Private Henry Abbott, 1st Arkansas Cavalry

My fellow blogger Robert Moore is knee deep studying Shenandoah Unionists.  Great stuff.   An example of the full spectrum of colors that typifies the sesqucentennialist* study of the Civil War.   We learn more about the war when we consider these stories, which lay beyond the well defined boundaries that have so long defined the study of the war.

While Robert looks to the Virginians, my interest, perhaps due to my Trans-Mississippi roots, is towards those from Arkansas.  Not counting US Colored Troops units raised in the state, four regiments of cavalry, three regiments of infantry, six battalion-sized formations, and a battery of artillery fought under Arkansas designations.  That’s a sizable number considering Arkansas was not a populous state at the time (by comparison, the state raised 48 militia and volunteer infantry regiments for the Southern cause). Estimates are 10,000 Arkansans served in blue.

Most of the Unionist units had their roots in the northeastern part of the state.  Perhaps similar to the “hill-folk” of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, those living in the Ozarks of Arkansas were not staunch secessionists.  After early setbacks for the rebel cause in that sector, many families there complained of attacks by pro-Confederate raiders.  Many families fled their homes, seeking relief inside Federal lines.  Once there, many of the able body men began enlisting in the Union cause.  For those wishing to get a contemporary account of this unionist sentiment, there is Loyalty on the Frontier by Albert W. Bishop.  (Bishop was a Wisconsin officer, appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry.   So consider his intent and perspective when reading that account.)

Among the first Arkansas union regiments organized was the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (Union).  On May 31, 1862, the War Department authorized the formation of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry, drawing upon the Arkansans entering the Federal ranks.  The regiment spent most of the war patrolling and scouting.  At Prairie Grove, their first major battle, on December 7, 1862, members of the regiment were caught up in a route of adjacent Federal cavalry.  But the regiment performed well in the battle of Fayetteville the following April.  For the remainder of the war the unionist cavalry served to counter guerrilla activity.  While not an illustrious unit, the 1st Arkansas Cavalry served well.

Given that brief introduction to the regiment, let me focus one of those Arkansas unionists – Private Henry Abbott.  One of the service record cards provides several leads at to Abbott’s story:

Six foot two, with blue eyes, fair complexion and light hair… must have been a favorite with the ladies….   According to the records, Abbott was a farmer from Washington County. Abbott was twenty years old when he enlisted at Fayetteville (Washington County seat) in January 1863.  The date, I think, is important.  Barely a month after Prairie Grove, the Federals then occupied many key points in the hills of northeast Arkansas.

Subsequent record cards indicate Abbott served in the regiment without unaccounted absence.  Most interesting to me, he was detached for duty in a howitzer section (likely mountain howitzer) for much of his service.  He received his muster out in October 1864.

So what factors may have influenced Abbott’s choice to enlist in the Union cause?  Given the lead of Abbott’s pre-war residence and profession, a logical start point is the Census of 1860.  The only Washington County entry that *might* represent Abbott is that for a “James Abbott” who worked on the Sam Olde farm just northwest of Prairie Grove.  The entry matches Henry Abbott’s reported birth year.  Still, more circumstantial information than hard fact.

Of more interest to me, the record search for “Henry Abbott” also produces this record card:

Yes, that is for a Confederate unit – Company E, 17th Arkansas Infantry.  This Henry Abbott enlisted (I presume) in February 1862 for 12 months. Enlistment point was Bentonville, which is just north of Washington County.  The enlistment date is too early for the Conscription Act.  According to the record cards, Abbott was home sick practically from the date of enlistment.  There is no record of him getting paid.  No records exist for this “Henry Abbott” service in the Confederate army past October 1862.

So… are these Federal and Confederate Henry Abbotts one and the same?  Not enough information to say.  But one has to wonder.

At a minimum, one Henry Abbott of Washington County, Arkansas – an able body male of conscription age – waited to join the Federal army in early 1863.  A documented Southern Unionist….

—————————————-

* Yes, sesqucentennialist, as opposed to the centennialists.  If it hasn’t been invented already, let me be the first.

Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove Battlefield Guide

Usually I prepare for a battlefield visit with some “read a-heads” both to refresh my knowledge and to seek out new aspects of the campaigns.  I’ll add to that any tour maps, plots and waypoints for associated sites off the beaten path, and of course a trip plan for the driving part of the tour.

For my recent “trans-Mississppi” visit, I was a bit pressed on time.  Since I’d grown up out that way, visited those battlefields many times before, and been reading about the battles since I was hub-high to a regulation 6-pdr carriage, I cut my preparations short.  Boldly, I chose to go with one guidebook:  Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, from the Hallowed Ground battlefield guide series.   My faith in that single work for preparation was vindicated during two solid days of battlefield stomping.

The co-authors – Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garret Piston, and William L. Shea – have all produced, in recent years, important works on these three battles.  (Piston and Hatcher covered Wilson’s Creek; Hess and Shea co-wrote on Pea Ridge; and Shea independently wrote on Prairie Grove.)  Beyond that, I’ve heard each speak on the battles before.  In fact I’ve surveyed one of Piston’s Civil War classes and attended one of his tours of Wilson’s Creek.  I had high expectations about the content of the guide, and was not disappointed.

To be honest, this is not a guide for three battles, but rather three full campaign guides in one cover.  In some regards when first taking up the guide, I felt the sections were somewhat “digests” of the larger works.  Not a knock, but rather refreshing that I had a “field reference” every bit as authoritative as the three larger volumes –  summaries of three full campaign histories in a handy paperback.

The book follows the same format as other Hallowed Ground works.  If you are not familiar, the book presents a tour for each battlefield.  The tour stops are broken down in a logical order, not necessarily the order of events or the order of the park driving tour.  The narrative for each stop includes clear directions, orientation to the site, explanation of the events, analysis, and additional vignettes adding to the story.   My one complaint with the series in general is the maps.  While sufficient for field work, I’ve been spoiled with the full color, high quality maps from the “map-books” and the Civil War Preservation Trust’s site.

A concern I had was the fusing of three battles, from separate campaigns, into one book.  Well, this is a guide book, not a narrative, so some jumps are expected.  But I found the introductory sections for each campaign made up for that.  Such was handy when traveling between the battlefields, linking the towns and place-names passed along the roads to the historical events.   Since all three campaigns were tied to the Wire Road, the inclusion of a section discussing (and offering additional tour stops) the road further aided my understanding of the road network and terrain.

Touring Wilson’s Creek, the guide took me well off the tour road on the excellent trail system inside that park.  The guide did not take as much advantage of Pea Ridge’s trail system, but made up with an eleven stop tour outside the battlefield (which I could not completely tour due to time constraints).  The Prairie Grove section completely covered that battlefield and offered nine more campaign stops.  Finally the last section covers the Wire Road from Springfield to Fort Smith.  In all these sections could easily stand alone in a single guidebook.

I’d spent many weekend days in graduate school pacing out Wilson’s Creek.  I’ve camped on the ground at Prairie Grove during reenactments.  And I’ve tramped about Pea Ridge as a boy scout.  But I must admit, this Battlefield Guide offered a number of new perspectives and more than a handful of previously unseen locations.  It will be in my kit bag for the next (hopefully not so far off this time) trip back to those Trans-Mississippi battlefields.

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