Friday, January 13, 2012

Ben McCulloch's Command in Arkansas

Gen. Ben McCulloch, C.S.A.
January of 1862 (150 years ago) found Brigadier General Ben McCulloch's command in winter camp in Northwest Arkansas.
McCulloch was already a hero in Texas, where he had gone from Tennessee in 1835 to link up with David Crockett's men. A case of the measles kept Ben and his brother from reaching their planned rendezvous with Crockett in time and actually saved the future general's life by preventing him from being one of the men who died with the famed Tennessean at the Alamo. He did go on to command a cannon at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence in 1836.

Over the next 25 years, Ben McCulloch developed a reputation as a Texas Ranger, soldier and political leader. Commissioned a colonel by Southern president Jefferson Davis, he accepted the surrender of U.S. forces in Texas on February 16, 1861. Sent almost immediately to serve in Arkansas and the Indian Nations of what is now Oklahoma, he was given his general's star on May 11th.

McCulloch defeated the Union forces at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, in August of 1861 and by that winter had his men in position in the hills and valleys of the Ozark plateau of Northwest Arkansas. He left his camps there and went to Richmond to meet with authorities in the Confederate capital about the situation west of the Mississippi, the condition of his men and his ongoing disagreements with Missouri general Sterling Price.  The two men did not get along.

Cannon at Pea Ridge National Military Park
An account of this trip appeared in Southern newspapers in January:

...The purpose of Gen. Ben McCulloch's visit to Richmond is to superintend the procuring of arms for his command, now performing the duty assigned by Government of protecting the Indian territory and the northwestern border of Arkansas from incursions of the enemy from Kansas. Although injurious criticisms have been made by journalists who write without a knowledge of the facts, his movements and objects are well understood and appreciated by his troops and approved by the Government. He has co-operated with Gen. Price in Missouri, as far as he could do so consistently with the duty assigned him of guarding the frontier, and, so far from his army remaining inactive at present, the recent fight of a portion of it under Col. McIntosh bespeaks anything but indifference to the cause or a disposition to shrink from the dangers of the campaign.

McCulloch returned to Arkansas following his trip to Richmond and both he and Price, along with General Albert Pike, would serve under General Earl Van Dorn's command in the coming Pea Ridge Campaign and at the Battle of Pea Ridge.

You can read more about Pea Ridge at

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