Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Arkansas

We start the fourth quarter of 1863’s summaries not with the US Regulars, which has been the pattern in the past quarters, but with the volunteers from Arkansas. Unionist volunteers that is. Apparently the clerks at the Ordnance Department adopted a pure alphabetical arrangement… sort of that is. Below Arkansas are listings for USCT under the heading for Alabama. Give them a break, as Sesame Street was still over 100 years away.

At any rate, there is one line for Arkansas in this quarter:

  • 1st Light Battery: At Fayetteville, Arkansas with six 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. Captain Denton D. Stark remained in command of this battery, then supporting Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison’s Arkansas Unionists garrisoning Fayetteville. In the previous quarter, we noted this battery was dispatched by section from Springfield to Fayetteville. Elements of the battery participated in the pursuit of Confederate General Joe Shelby’s raid in October. Stark led a section that saw action at Cross Timbers, Missouri, on October 15. But December found all the sections in Fayetteville.

In the previous quarter, we noted the presence of a section of mountain howitzers with Harrison’s 1st Arkansas Cavalry. These troops were also at Fayetteville. And I believe the cavalry retained use of the mountain howitzers at that time of the war. But there is no return here.

For later reference, the 1st Arkansas Light Battery (African Descent) would organize in June 1864. Then later that battery became Battery H, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery. We shall reserve a spot for them in future summaries.

Turning to the 1st Arkansas Battery’s report, we look at the ammunition and other ordnance on hand. No smoothbore ammunition needed, so we skip past Page 3’s first leaf. Then we turn to the Hotchkiss projectiles listed on the right side of Page 3:

  • 1st Light Battery: 463 Hotchkiss time fuse shells for 3-inch rifles.

On to page 4’s left side and more Hotchkiss:

  • 1st Light Battery: 1194 Hotchkiss percussion fuse shell, 942 Hotchkiss case shot, and 237 Hotchkiss canister for 3-inch rifles.

Yes, that’s a lot of rounds! We can skip the Parrott, Schenkl, and miscellaneous columns. That brings us to the small arms:

  • 1st Light Battery: 20 Enfield muskets, 28 Colt .44 revolvers, and nineteen horse artillery sabers.

And for the muskets, the battery reported a sizable number of cartridges:

  • 1st Light Battery: 1000 ball, .54 inch caliber. I’m not the small arms expert, but Enfields were .577. So either the Arkansas were making due with the wrong ammunition, or this is a transcription error.

No such issues in regard to the revolver ammunition on the next page:

  • 1st Light Battery: 1,800 cartridges for army caliber (.44-inch).

But to the right of that we have an entry with a question regarding the miscellaneous articles:

  • 1st Light Battery: 50 yards of slow match.

During the Civil War, slow match was a common issue item. In fact, a regulation ammunition chest would hold 1.5 to 2 yards of slow match (in addition to friction primers and 3 to 4 portfires). And, yes, technology had progressed, by the start of the Civil War, so that artillerists didn’t have to stand around with a linstock to ignite the powder. “Didn’t have to” is the operative phrase here. There’s a lot of uses for slow match aside from firing the cannon. But in this case, was there any better option?

The 1st Arkansas does not report any friction primers. Fifty yards would have given the gunners eight yards, plus some left over, per gun. The battery reported a total of 2,836 rounds on hand. That translates, with fifty rounds per chest, into 57 ammunition chests (rounding up for a partial). If we factor 1.5 yards of slow match per chest, we should have 85 yards. But only fifty yards are reported. Still not enough per regulation. But perhaps sufficient until the shipment of friction primers arrived from Missouri?

My point isn’t that “authentic” Arkansas light battery reenactors should be lighting off their cannon with slow match. Rather that we should not insist all the batteries in the war had equal supplies. In this case, we might conclude the Arkansas failed to count the friction primers on hand… or that they were using slow match in lieu of friction primers. Either way, it adds to the other facts that define the historical situation – bad record keeping, or poor logistical support. Both were in play in Arkansas at the end of 1863.


November 3, 1864: “They attacked my pickets and commenced bombarding the town”: Arkansas unionists defend Fayetteville

Northwest Arkansas has, in my opinion, not received its due attention from historians.  Several major military campaigns took place in that hilly section of the state, in particular those leading to Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove.  And for those of us interested in Southern Unionism, there was a strong movement in that portion of the state… so strong that several regiments were recruited.   The 2nd Arkansas Cavalry (Union) served in Brigadier-General John Sanborn’s brigade and saw action across Missouri as that command chased Major-General Sterling Price in the fall of 1864.  During that same time, the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (Union), under Colonel M. La Rue Harrison, maintained posts in Northeast Arkansas, using Fayetteville as a base of operations.

Fayetteville was a waystop on the Old Wire Road (prior to the telegraph, the Military Road between St. Louis and Fort Smith ran through Fayetteville) between Jefferson City and Little Rock.  As one of the few roads leading into the Boston Mountains, this waystop made Fayetteville an important objective.  In addition to military activity during the two campaigns mentioned above, the Confederates made an attack on the town in April 1863.  So Fayetteville had seen its share of action.  In the fall of 1864, it would see more.

Confederate Major Buck Brown and Colonel William H. Brooks operated in Northwestern Arkansas with around 1,500 men.  Harrison reported,

These bands during the summer have given Union citizens great annoyance, constantly plundering and driving them from their homes, until the rebel rule in the surrounding country has been for a time almost complete.

However, against the Federal garrison, Brown and Brooks had not done much, save cutting of telegraph lines and harassment of foraging parties.  While Price’s men were marching through Missouri, those Confederate forces attempted some diversions, as Harrison recalled:

Since the commencement of Price’s raid these desperadoes had become more bold and seriously threatened for some time the post of Fayetteville and the Government supply trains. On the 20th of October, while I was passing with a train through Benton County from Cassville, Mo., with an escort of 170 men, I met and attacked 600 men under Buck Brown, who was awaiting my approach. The engagement lasted for over two hours, when the rebels were routed in confusion, with a loss of several killed and wounded. Before my arrival I learned that Brooks, with 800 men, was lying in ambush at Fitzgerald Mountain, and at midnight passed around his camp, leaving it five miles on my left, and arrived in safety with my train at 1 p.m. on the 25th. Brooks then invested the town of Fayetteville with his forces, expecting thereby to starve the garrison into submission, but in this he was deceived. By reducing my issues to seven ounces of bread per day I found that my stores would hold out for twenty days, and felt assured that ere that was exhausted assistance would come. My only trouble was forage. It was impossible to send out my train without the most imminent danger of its capture. I therefore procured gunny-sacks for each teamster and mounted man, and watching the safest opportunities sent out my men as often as possible under an experienced officer.

For just over two weeks, Fayetteville was under a state of siege … loosely defined.  There was a sharp engagement on October 27 involving 500 of Brown’s Confederates an a foraging party sent out of Fayetteville. Then on October 28, the Confederates mounted a direct attack on the town, suffering nearly fifty casualties while inflicting only seven on the Federals.


The situation came to a head on November 3.  From the Cane Hill area, Price dispatched Major-General James Fagan and the remainder of his division to reinforce Brown and Brooks.  Harrison detected this move, but there was little he could do but brace:

Price detached Fagan with 5,200 men and two pieces of artillery, which force was joined on the march by 1,500 men under Brooks and Brown. They attacked my pickets and commenced bombarding the town with all their boasted chivalry, not giving me the least time to remove families (mostly their own at that) nor demanding a surrender. The bombardment was kept up with one 6-pounder rifled gun and one 12-pounder field howitzer until nearly sunset. Three times the order was given to charge the works, but each time the men on coming within range of my rifles shrank from the assault and fled to a safe position. At sunset the retreat of the enemy commenced and was continued during the whole night by divers routes, the majority, with the artillery, returning to Cane Hill; at sunrise on the 4th instant only about 600 remained to cover the retreat. By the admissions of the enemy and reports from prisoners their loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners was about 100 (over 75 being killed and wounded). My loss was 9 wounded–1 mortally, 8 slightly. The strength of my command during the engagement was 958 volunteers and 170 militia; total. 1,128.

Major-General Samuel Curtis’ Army of the Border arrived after that and Harrison’s command joined the pursuit of Price.

Though not a major action by any definition, this Second (or was it Third?) Battle of Fayetteville featured Arkansans fighting Arkansans.   Beyond that, was there ever a larger battle in which a force predominantly composed of Southern Unionists fought a regular Confederate force, as on November 3, 1864?

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 43, Part I, Serial 83, pages 398-400.)

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.