Friday, May 14, 2010

The Seizure of the Arkansas Cannon in 1861

On April 17, 1861, a mob of citizens stormed aboard two steamboats tied up on the waterfront at Cincinnati, Ohio. The vessels were the Glendale and the Ohio No. 3. On board they carried a massive shipment of armament and supplies including field guns, similar to the one shown here that is on display at Fort Smith National Historic Site.

The 23 large boxes of supplies were being shipped from New York to Arkansas to fill an order placed in February of 1863 by Governor Henry Rector. Although Arkansas had not yet seceded from the Union and would not do so until May, the governor and other key leaders of the state were doing their best to prepare for the war that they felt would unavoidably reach Arkansas. A large shipment of miltiary supplies was contracted from a firm in New York for delivery as soon as possible.

The shipment aboard the steamboats included artillery carriages, ammunition, arms and field guns. There was also a large number of training manuals for use in drilling the state's raw militia.

By the arms and other supplies made their way to Baltimore and across the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to the Ohio River, the North was up in arms over the Confederate bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. A mob stormed aboard the steamboats and seized all of the military materials, which included only part of the the total order.

The shipment was soon seized by the U.S. Marshal at Cincinnati persuant to the orders of the U.S. District Attorney there. This led to a court battle over the true ownership of the cannon and other material. It ultimately was ordered to be returned to the New York firm that had shipped it. The guns were provided to New York artillery units and went on to serve against Confederate forces during the war.

To read a full 1861 account of this unusual episode, please visit

No comments: