Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 1862 - The Union Army Begins its long slow march to Pea Ridge

Historic Photograph of the Missouri Ozarks
Library of Congress
Newspaper readers across the Midwest learned 150 years ago today that the long anticipated southward movement of the Union army in Missouri was underway.
The positioning of Colonel Jefferson C. Davis and his Division (not to be confused with the Confederate President) was a sign that General Samuel Curtis was beginning a slow drift to the south that would pick up speed over the coming days and weeks:

The movement foreshadowed by the preparations at Otterville of the past week has taken place. One division under the command of Jeff C. Davis has already taken up its march for the South. They left Versailles Tuesday morning. Their destiantion is supposed to be Springfield. The division consists of five regiments, the 8th and 22nd Indiana, the 37th Illinois, and the 9th Missouri, accompanied by two batteries of twenty-four pieces, and three companies of cavalry, under the command of Major Hubbard. From the skill and energy of Gen. Davis, important results are confidently predicted. The next division under Gen. Turner is expected to leave Thursday or Friday. - Springfield Republican, January 30, 1862.
Colonel Jefferson C. Davis, U.S.A.
National Park Service

It seems remarkable today that such detailed reports were printed in newspapers in 1862, but it was a common practice. The generals of both sides learned a great deal from the newspapers of the other side.

The article also made reference to an interesting report that seemed to indicate General Sterling Price and his Confederates might not might for Springfield:

A gentleman from Green county, a few miles from Springfield, who arrived at Rolla on the 24th, says no entrenchments are being built at Springfield, and but little uneasiness is manifested by Price or his officers. There is a general cry for reinforcements, and the rebels say they are on the way, but vary as to the number.... Price expects his appointment [i.e. as a regular general] will be confirmed within two weeks, when he will be reinforced from Arkansas. Unless he can take command of the whole force, he may be obliged to retreat. He has a large number of wagons, and is putting everything in readiness to decamp. - Springfield Republican, January 30, 1862.

The article predicted the future quite well. Price would retreat from Springfield, Missouri, without a major fight and fall back into Arkansas where he linked up with the divisions of Generals Ben McCulloch and James McIntosh. Together their combined forces would form General Earl Van Dorn's new Army of the West. The long road to the Battle of Pea Ridge had begun.

I will continue posting on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days and weeks, so check back often. You can also read more on the Battle of Pea Ridge at

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27, 1862 - Gunpowder Mining in the Ozarks

Cave in the Arkansas Ozarks
In a previous post on Civil War industry in Arkansas (see Industry in Arkansas on the eve of the Pea Ridge Campaign), mention was made of the development of caves in the state as a source of raw materials for making gunpowder.

To field its armies, the Confederacy of course needed gunpowder and surveys conducted in Arkansas by Dale David Owens during the years before the war proved that the Ozarks contained some of North America's finest deposits for mining saltpeter.

Saltpeter (often spelled saltpetre in old documents) is another name for potassium nitrate. This mineral is key to the production of gunpowder and was found in the limestone caves of the Ozarks. These caves riddle the hills in the northern half of the state and by the time the Pea Ridge Campaign began to develop in late January of 1862, saltpeter mining was developing as a major industry in Arkansas:
Ozark Mountains of Arkansas

...We sometime ago gave an account of the saltpetre caves of Arkansas, and stated that machinery was being sent from this city [i.e. Memphis] for working some of the caves up White river; so successful has been the experiment that the Jacksonport Herald states that a Mr. Carlton ships about a ton and a half of saltpeter every week to Nashville, to be made into powder, and that he soon expects to ship two and three tons per week.

This account, from the Memphis Appeal, was published in late January of 1862 and was picked up by newspapers throughout the South as evidence of the growing capability of the Southern war effort.

The article mentioned the White River, one of several areas in Arkansas where saltpeter mining took place. Additional mines were located in Newton County and elsewhere. The mineral was prepared on site at mines like the one in Boxley and then carried by wagon or ox cart to the Arkansas or White Rivers. From there steamboat transportation was available to carry it own to powderworks throughout the South.

The Pea River Campaign would spell the beginning of the end of saltpeter mining in Arkansas. By firmly planting themselves in Northwest Arkansas, the Federals opened the door for raids on mining operations in the Ozarks. As a result, the importance of Arkansas saltpeter to the Confederacy would diminish rapidly following the Battle of Pea Ridge.

I will continue posting on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back often. You can also read more on the Battle of Pea Ridge at

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23, 1862 - Ben McCulloch's Proclamation to His Men

Brig. Gen. Ben McCulloch, C.S.A.
National Park Service
As he made his way back west to Arkansas from meetings with Confederate officials in Richmond, Virginia, Brigadier General Ben McCulloch of Texas issued a call to his troops to reenlist at the end of their 12 months service.
When the Southern states seceded in 1860-1861, few people believed that war - if it came - would last longer than one year. As a result, most of the initial regiments were formed for one year's service. As McCulloch returned to Arkansas in anticipation of renewed fighting, he realized that many of his men were approaching the end of their service.

As a result, on January 23, 1862 (150 years ago today), he issued a proclamation to the men in his ranks calling upon them to re-enlist. Keeping his experienced regiments in the field was vital to McCulloch and he made no bones about the need for his men to keep fighting:

Soldiers of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas!

Your country calls on you for further service. Will she call in vain? Will the gallant men who have braved death in all its forms, now shrink from peril? Never! Never will it be said of them, they deserted their country in the hour of danger! We must re-enlist, or all the blood spilt is as water poured upon the ground. Let it not be said, our brave comrades have fallen in vain. Let us try by our acts to immortalize their memories. Their spirits look down upon our deeds and demand of us, that their names be handed down to future generations as martyers in a glorious and successful cause. Our cause is just; it will succeed. Let those who doubt it go seek a home in the North. They are unfit to live among freemen. This war cannot last. Before two years will have passed we will be a free and happy people. Then, who will not be proud to say, I was a soldier in the army that won our Independence!

Brigadier General.
January 23d, 1862.

General McCulloch himself would soon become a martyer to his cause. He was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge in early March.

I will continue posting on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign over coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back often. You can also read more on the Battle of Pea Ridge at

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 1862 - Industry in Arkansas on the eve of the Pea Ridge Campaign

War Eagle Mill
War Eagle, Arkansas
The following excellent account of industry in Arkansas on the eve of the Pea Ridge Campaign appeared in newspapers across the country (both North and South) during the third week of January, 1862.
Newspapers in those days did not rely on wire services as they do today, but instead clipped interesting articles from other papers and reprinted them. I found this account fascinating because it listed such a variety of developing industries in such a variety of locations during the early years of the Civil War in Arkansas:

(From the Little Rock True Democrat)
Chimney from Rhea's Mills
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

"There is a tobacco factory in Bentonville, in Benton county, which is said to be a paying institution. The tobacco crop is getting to be an important one in the Northwest. There is a large cotton factory in Washington county. The cotton factory at Van Buren is a large affair, and in addition to spindles has cards for wool. Mr. Tobey, of Norristown, Pope county, has, or will soon have, his cotton factory in operation. There is also a cotton factory in Pike county. In Newton county they have large saltpetre works, and are turning out large quantities. In Independence, and perhaps other counties, there are fine saltpetre caves which are being worked. The rich lead mines in Newton county are rudely worked. The Bellah mines in Sevier county are also yielding lead. We are told there is copper in that region, and sulphur, and sulphuric acid can be made there. Salt is made on the White river and down near the Louisiana line. The salt works on the Ouachita are in the hands of enterprising men.

Arkansas Cave
Saltpetre was mined from caves in Newton County
"There is an unlimited supply of brine, and we are told that Messrs. Harley & Co. have commenced boiling and making salt. They hav ea foundry at Camden which turns out cannon, and sent a battery, under command of Captain Reed, to Oak Hills. We have two foundries at Little Rock, one of which furnished grapeshot for the army. At Hopefield, opposite Memphis, the machine shop of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad has been turned into an armory, and is altering and repairing guns, &c. Several extensive tanneries have been started at various points in the State, whereat hides are tanned by the process lately discovered. The Messrs. Dyer, of this city, have a soap and candle factory in operation. At the Arsenal there is an armory under the control of the Confederacy, but the necessary machinery has not yet arrived. The Arkansas penitentiary has turned out gun carriages, caissons, wagons, boots, shoes, clothing and many other things needed for the army. A manufactury of coal oil is in progress on the Ouachita river. While on this subject we may remark that that there is good coal at several points on the upper Arkansas, in Perry, Johnson, Franklin and Sebastian counties. In some places it is immediately on the river bank, and when the river rises we expect the coal trade will become an important one, provided the river rises before the cold weather ceases."

Quartermaster's Storehouse
Fort Smith National Historic Site
It is clear from this report that Arkansas was getting into the "business of war" on a large scale and individual industries were turning out anything from gunpowder ingredients to cannon. The existence of such an industrial boom in the state shows how the developing Confederate army in Northwest Arkansas was able to equip and supply itself for the coming campaign.

I will continue posting on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign during coming days and weeks. You can always read more about the battle at

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21, 1862 - Rumors in Rolla

Gen. Samuel Curtiss
National Archives
The  situation in Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri began to reach its critical point during the third week of January, 1862.
Union General Samuel Curtis still in Rolla, preparing to begin his final advance on Springfield and the Arkansas border, while Confederates in the region were still not ready for a major fight. Gen. Sterling Price was still in Springfield with the Missouri State Guard. "Old Pap," as he was called by his men, was still not a regular Confederate general, but held his rank only in his state's pro-secession militia.

Meanwhile, scouts and pro-Union citizens continued to flow into the Federal lines, bringing intelligence on the situation in Springfield and beyond. One such citizen arrived at the beginning of the third week of March with wide-ranging information on Confederate activity as far south as the Arkansas River Valley:

   ...[I]t was reported that 170 or 200 rebels were encamped at the head of Spring River, en route for Cassville.
   In regard to the number of troops in Northern Arkansas, he says he had it from good authority that there were only 500 or 600 at Cross Hollows and Cave Hill [i.e. Springs], Benton County. But a body of 5,000 men were at Tilsforth Bend, about 50 miles below Van Bergen [i.e. Van Buren], on the Arkansas river.
   Several secessionists told him that Price's forces at Springfield did not exceed 10,000.
   This gentleman met the scouts of the federal army beyond Lebanon, and other troops at different points this side. - Providence Evening Press, January 27, 1862.
Ozarks of Southwest Missouri

The report that the Missouri State Guard included 10,000 men or less was one of the first to accurately estimate Price's effective strength. Most previous reports had wildly exaggerated the strength of his force.

The citizen did, however, seriously under-estimate the number of Confederates then in Northwest Arkansas. The actual number was closer to 4,000 than the 500-600 he reported, with another few thousand Confederate cavalrymen just across the Boston Mountains in and around Van Buren and Fort Smith.

Such intelligence would continue to come in as both sides prepared for a campaign that would end in early March at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. I will continue posting on the campaign over coming weeks, so be sure to check back often. You can always learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 1862 - Prelude to Pea Ridge

Pea Ridge National Military Park
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, not just one of the largest battles west of the Mississippi, but one of the most significant actions of the entire Civil War.
As part of the commemoration of this battle that preserved Missouri for the Union, I will be posting throughout January, February and March on the Pea Ridge campaign, using as often as possible the words of the soldiers, generals and civilians that witnessed it. Be sure to check back regularly for the latest posts.

To try to set the stage as well as I can, the Pea Ridge Campaign began to develop in January of 1862 as two armies began to assemble for battle. The Union army, commanded by Gen. Samuel Curtis, was centered at Rolla, Missouri, a town about 112 miles northeast of Springfield. Curtis was determined to drive Confederate forces, particularly the Missouri State Guard under Gen. Sterling Price, from Missouri and fully establish control over the state, which was very divided in its loyalties.

The Confederates, in turn, were equally determined not only to hold at least part of Missouri if possible, but to stop Curtis from advancing into Arkansas. In mid-January of 1862, however, their forces were scattered and had yet to assemble for battle. The Missouri State Guard, under Price, was clinging to its position at Springfield, Missouri. Gen. Price knew, however, that he could not hold there against Curtis's much larger army.

The Missouri general for more than one month had been begging for help from Arkansas. A force of 3,000-4,000 Confederates were centered around Fayetteville in Northwest Arkansas under Gen. Ben McCulloch. Unfortunately, Price and McCulloch did not get along. Not only would the latter general not reinforce Price, he had gone to Richmond to discuss the situation with officials there, leaving Col. Louis Hebert of Louisiana in command. Hebert promised Price that he would reinforce him in an emergency and did his best to get supplies through to the State Guard, but otherwise maintained his force in its winter quarters around Fayetteville.

To the south in the Arkansas River valley, Gen. James McIntosh commanded a large cavalry force that was wintering around Van Burn and Fort Smith. He had declined a request from Price for help in December and gone instead to support Col. D.H. Cooper in the Cherokee Nation where he had won the Battle of Chustenahlah several weeks earlier.

Van Dorn
To try to end the confusion and bickering in the West, President Jefferson Davis appointed Major General Earl Van Dorn as head of what he would style the "Army of the West." Van Dorn was not yet on the scene in mid-January, but was heading that way. He was not thinking of just halting Curtis, he had dreams of a major offensive campaign. He told his wife on the day of his appointment that he "must have St. Louis."

To Van Dorn would fall the task of pulling together the three major Confederate forces then assembled in Missouri and Arkansas and leading them into battle. He would receive support from Gen. Albert Pike's brigade of Southern-allied Indian troops.

I will continue to post on the Pea Ridge Campaign throughout the coming weeks. To read more about the battle itself, please visit

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 1862 - "The prospect of a fight improves"

Ozarks of Southern Missouri
As the Union army continued to consolidate its position at Rolla, 112 miles northeast of Springfield in Missouri, it send forward raiding and scouting parties to gather provisions and intelligence on the position and condition of General Sterling Price and the Missouri State Guard.
Some of the intelligence brought in by these parties was accurate and some what not, but it is surprising today to read how much of it made its way into newspapers of the time. The Memphis Daily Appeal, for example, republished a letter 150 years ago today (January 17, 1862) that correctly prophesied the coming Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

Detailing information sent back to Union headquarters by Colonel Eugene Carr, the unnamed writer detailed a minor raid in Missouri then provided more solid information about the forces gathering for battle:

…This same messenger brings further information that General Price has been reinforced by three thousand men and ten pieces of cannon from Arkansas, under Gen. McIntosh. It is the opinion of my informant that price intends to make another stand at Springfield. As an on dit in this connection, Gen. Price is reported to have said, if he had an army equal to the Federal army at Rolla, he would run the last Fed. From the State in ten days. - Memphis Daily Appeal, January 17, 1862.

 Brig. Gen. James McIntosh, C.S.A.
National Park Service Photo
The General McIntosh mentioned in the account was Brigadier General James McIntosh. A Florida native, he was the great-great nephew of the famed General Lachlan McIntosh of the American Revolution. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he resigned his commission in 1861 and offered his services to the Confederacy and became colonel of the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles.

McIntosh fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, in 1861 before leading Confederate forces in the stunning rout of Opothleyahola's Union-allied Creek and Seminole warriors at the Battle of Chustenahlah in what is now Osage County, Oklahoma, on December 26, 1861. The latter victory was so impressive that McIntosh was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

The intelligence on McIntosh was inaccurate. Instead of moving to Price's support in Missouri, the general had just returned from the Battle of Chustenahlah and his men were back in their winter camps in Arkansas.

Despite such inaccuracies in intelligence, it was clear to both sides than forces were forming in Missouri and Northwest Arkansas for a major battle. In view of this, it was easy for the pro-Union writer of the newspaper account to forecast the coming Battle of Pea Ridge:

Upon the whole, the prospect of a fight improves for surely nothing can be wanting to secure so desirable thing except the willingness of the enemy. - Memphis Daily Appeal, January 17, 1862

While the battle was still seven weeks away, things would soon begin happening very fast as the Pea Ridge Campaign began to take shape.

I will continue to post on the campaign over coming days and weeks, so be sure to check back often. You can also learn more about the Battle of Pea Ridge at

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Confederate Army in Northwest Arkansas - January 1862

Col. Louis Hebert
3rd Louisiana Infantry Regiment
January of 1862 (150 years ago) found Northwest Arkansas under the command of Colonel Louis Hebert of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry.

General Ben McCulloch had gone to Richmond leaving Hebert in charge of the small army of around 4,000 men in Northwest Arkansas. From his headquarters at Fayetteville, Hebert reported in January that his men were in winter quarters. His cavalry, he noted, was in bad condition due to sickness. Subsequent Union reports would indicate that he did a good job of overseeing the hospitals of his command and that they were well equipped with mattresses, etc.

To the north of Hebert, General Sterling Price still held Springfield but was growing extremely concerned about the advancing Federal forces of General Samuel Curtis. The Union commander was determined to drive Price out of Missouri and into Arkansas. A critical situation was developing in the Trans-Mississippi and everyone there knew it.

Headquarter's House
A surviving war era home in Fayetteville, Arkansas
According to Hebert, large wagon trains carrying supplies were moving north across the Boston Mountains from Fort Smith during January, supplies that were desperately needed by Price's "Missouri State Guard." Because of the condition of his cavalry, he asked Price to send mounted troops to escort the supply trains from Northwest Arkansas north to Springfield. He also notified Price that he was prepared to move to his support should the Federal army begin moving on Springfield from Rolla, Missouri.

The stage was being set for two great armies to meet on the Ozark Plateau at a place called Pea Ridge. Price and Hebert would figure prominently in the coming battle, as would the Union commander General Curtis. The fight was just seven weeks away.

I will continue posting on the events leading up to the Battle of Pea Ridge over coming days, so be sure to check back regularly. You can also learn more about the battle by visiting

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January of 1862: Fleeing from Missouri into Arkansas

Gen. Sterling Price, C.S.A.
In a letter dated January 4, 1862, a correspondent of the Missouri Republican newspaper reported that a mass exodus of both people and military supplies was underway out of the "Show Me State" and into Arkansas.
The report was based largely on conversations with a Union prisoner of war just returned to Federal lines from General Sterling Price's Confederate army, then based at Springfield, Missouri. The released prisoner saw signs that Price himself was preparing to fall back into Northwest Arkansas, despite claims to the contrary:

...[I]f not intending to retire further South, they are at least making every preparation necessary for a hasty retreat in the event of an attack. Besides driving all the hogs South, they are gathering up all the horses, mules and wagons in the country. If it is their design to remain in Springfield this winter, it is difficult to account for their preparation of means of transportation. Moreover, the Secessionists themselves with their families, are retiring into Arkansas.

Similarly, the former p.o.w. mentioned that the people of Missouri were removing their slaves south into Arkansas in large numbers:

Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge National Military Park
...Of these there is a constant daily emigration, sometimes as high as a hundred passing in one day. This was through the one point of Springfield, equally large number were reported going South through Greenfield. It is thus secession and war protects the peculiar institution. I understood these slaves are chiefly from Central Missouri, and it was reported in Springfield...that a gang of one hundred and fifty slaves, from the Missouri river counties, was recently captured by our troops under Jennison and Montgomery.

The report was carried in many Northern newspapers and was indicative of the chaos then taking place along the border between Arkansas and Missouri. It provides a good account of the general exodus of Secessionist citizens south from Missouri into Arkansas in the months leading up to the Pea Ridge Campaign.

As the citizens fled into Arkansas 150 years ago this month, the Battle of Pea Ridge was only two months away.  You can read more about that battle by visiting

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10, 1862 - The Trans-Mississippi District is formed

Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, C.S.A.
It was 150 years ago today (January 10, 1862), that the Confederate government in Richmond issued an order that would directly impact the history of the Civil War in Arkansas for the duration of the conflict.
Special Orders No. 8 included Arkansas in a new military district that bore the name "Trans-Mississippi." Its size would be expanded to become a full department over the years that followed and the Trans-Mississippi would come to refer to all military actions west of the Mississippi River.

The following is from orders issued by Jno. Withers, the Assistant Adjutant-General in Richmond:

XIX. That part of the State of Louisiana north of the Red River, the Indian Territory west of Arkansas, and the States of Arkansas and Missouri, excepting therefrom the tract of country east of the Saint Francis, bordering on the Mississippi River, from the mouth of the Saint Francis to Scott County, Missouri (which tract will remain in the distric tof Major-General Polk), is constituted the Trans-Mississippi District of Department No. 2, and Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn is assigned to the command of the same. He will immediately repair to Bowling Green, Ky., and report for duty to General A.S. Johnston, commanding Department No. 2. - Jno. Withers, January 10, 1862.

Pea Ridge National Military Park
In addition, this was the order that placed General Earl Van Dorn on a path that would end with his bloody defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, three months later. Van Dorn, as history would soon prove, had great capability as a cavalry officer, but lacked the logistical experience and ability necessary to serve as the commanding officer of an independent officer. In January of 1862, however, he was still rising in favor in the eyes of President Jefferson Davis and other leaders in Richmond.

You can read more about the Battle of Pea Ridge by visiting

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 9, 1862 - An Arkansas Secessionist captured in California

Alcatraz, the old military party where some thought
Showalter and his followers should be imprisoned.
Library of Congress
One of the little known Civil War incidents of the far west was reported to readers back east on January 9, 1862, 150 years ago today. 
Called the Affair at Minter's Ranch, the incident itself took place on November 29, 1861, and marked the end of the Union army pursuit of a party of 18 men determined to leave California in order to go to Texas and enlist in the Confederate army. They were headed by Daniel Showalter, a State Assemblyman from Mariposa County, California.

Among the heavily armed and well-mounted men in his party was a man identified as J. Lawrence of Arkansas.

The following appeared on page two of the Albany Evening Journal, a New York newspaper, on January 9, 1862, and was a reprint of an article that had been published in the San Francisco Atla on December 11th:

As it is not at all unlikely that Alcatraz Island may speedily become the "Fort Lafayette" of the Pacific Coast, it may not prove uninteresting to give a list of the men who will probably be among the first involuntary boarders at that institution. They are expected on the next steamer.

The official account of the arrest is as follows:

Camp Wright, Oak Grove, San Diego County,
Lower California, Nov. 30, 1861.

COLONEL - I take advantage of the departure of Senor Sepulva Ramon, Carillo's brother-in-law, to inform you of the arrest of the Showalter party, Showalter with them. It consists of sixteen men, each armed with rifles and a pair of revolvers. They gave us a hard chase, but we finally captured them. They parlayed, but finally concluded not to resist, although against the advice of Showalter.

The names of the party are T.A. Wilson, Tennessee; W. Woods, Missouri; Charles Pendroth, Kentucky; Wm. Sands, Tennessee; T.L. Roberts, South Carolina; R.H. Wood, Mississippi; T.W. Woods, Virginia; J.W. Sampson, Kentucky; S.A. Rogers, Tennessee; J. Lawrence, Arkansas; Levi Rogers, Alabama; Henry Crowell, Pennsylvania; Wm. Turner, Georgia; Dan. Showalter, Penn.; A. King, Tennessee.

Retook two of the part on the 27th near the post, viz: E.B. Summers and F.V. Chum. They were the advancing party, eighteen in all. I am now examining them, and will send you by express, that will leave here to-night some time, full particulars. They now regret that they did not resist; if they had they would have given us a hard fight. There is no doubt that every one of them is a Secessionist, and are on their way to lend aid and comfort to the enemy. I would like to know as soon as possible what to do with them. They have pack mules, and are well fitted out, and a desperate set of men.

I am under great obligations to Francisco Ocampo for my success. It is reported that some eighty men are getting ready, and on the road. I will keep a good watch for them.

Very Respectfully,
Major, 1st Infantry, commanding Camp Wright,
To Col. Jas. H. Carleton, 1st Infantry C.V., Los Angeles, Cal.

P.S. - They were captured at daylight on the morning of the 29th, at John [M]inter's ranch, near San Jose Valley.

The men did not wind up in Alcatraz, but were held for for several months at Fort Yuma. Showalter did finally make it back east, where he subsequently commanded the 4th Cavalry Regiment of the C.S. Arizona Brigade.  He also fought at the Battle of Galveston and in several actions in Arkansas.

Uniquely, Showalter commanded troops at the Battle of Palmitto Ranch in Texas on May 12, 1865. Many consider that action to have been the last battle of the war, although there were sharp skirmishes in Arkansas, Alabama and elsewhere afterwards. He went to Mexico after the war.

This link will take you to a nice history of the Minter's Ranch incident on the site of the San Diego History Center:

January 8, 1862 - A regiment of Fort Smith apple peddlers?

Casper Reutzel House (1850)
Fort Smith, Arkansas
The following report appeared in the Dallas Weekly Herald in Dallas, Texas, on January 8, 1862, 150 years ago today.
While its primary purpose was to tweak Arkansans a little about the supposed slowness of men around Fort Smith to enlist in the Confederate army, it is also an interesting reference to the Civil War era apple industry:

John Rogers House (1840s)
Fort Smith, Arkansas
We hear a great deal said about the indifference manifested by Arkansians, around Fort Smith, in the little matter of enlisting in the service of the Confederate States. Fort Smith has long been a favored locality and we fear that the "lust of lucre" has spoiled the people and made them look to much to other people for the protection of their homes and property. If the Northern counties of Arkansas would recall a few hundred of their valiant sons engaged in peddling apples in Texas her ranks in the Confederate army would be considerably swelled and perhaps be rendered more effective. Texans don't object to the apples, - only it don't look so very becoming to see strong, able-bodied and brave men peddling apples when there is so great a need for men in the army. A regiment of apple-peddlers would be a formidable arm of the service.

Fort Smith was, of course, a city of divided loyalties throughout the war. Many Sebastian County residents enlisted, fought and died in the Confederate service, but many others did the same in the Union army.

If you would like to learn more about the city's Civil War history, be sure to consider my book:
The Battle of Massard Prairie: The 1864 Confederate Attacks on Fort Smith, Arkansas.

It is also available for instant download for Amazon's Kindle devices or their free software for your PC, iPad, etc.

You can also read more about Fort Smith at

January 7, 1862 - An Early Account of Arkansas Feds

Boston Mountains of Arkansas
The story of the Arkansas or "Mountain Feds" is an important part of the Civil War history of Arkansas.

These men and their families opposed secession and took up arms to support the Union in increasing numbers throughout the war. Many enlisted in regular Federal regiments, while others fought on their own, forming guerrilla bands that came down from the mountains to raid and create havoc.

The following account appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin on January 7, 1862, 150 years ago today:

Col. John S. Phelps
Phelps' Regiment, Missouri Infantry
The State of Arkansas is not as far gone in Secession as has been supposed. The papers say there are 1,700 secretly organized, armed and equipped Union menin the state. A few days ago, a member of her Legislature and 40 citizens made their appearance at Rollo. The member and 35 of his companions immediately enlisted in Col. John S. Phelps' Missouri Regiment, which is in camp at that palce. They brought with them a pamphlet copy of Gov. Hector's message, which was forwarded to Gen. Halleck, at headquarters in this city [i.e. St. Louis]. The Governor says there is more treason to the South lurking in Arkansas than one can well conceive, gives the people a lambasting for their want of zeal and patriotism, and charges that many of the newspapers covertly favor Union and reconstruction. The whole number of Arkansians in the military service, of the oligarchy, is 16,800; and about 6,000 more are enlisted, but are not yet furnished with equipments and arms. The State has expended over $1,000,000 for war purposes since the war began. The State war bonds have sadly depreciated, and the financial condition of the State is admitted by the Governor to be gloomy indeed. He also complains that the Generals commanding the State forces are refractory and are often at cross purposes to himself and the Military Board.

The report was filed by the Bulletin's correspondent in St. Louis, Missouri, on December 10, 1861.

January 6, 1862 - An Arkansas Man's Pistol

I found this unique little item while doing some research today and thought you might find it of interest.

It was published in the Little Rock True Democrat and picked up by the Charleston Courier in South Carolina on January 6, 1862, 150 years ago today:

We have been shown a splendid six shooter, manufactered in toto by Mr. H.H. Carter, of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, which will send a shot to the distance of a quarter of a mile. It is an excellent pistol an the finish compares favorably with any work of the kind we ever saw.

Such innovation by individual inventors was quite common during the Civil War, with private inventors developing everything from pistols to submarines. All across the South, especially, people tinkered with ideas they thought would help the men at the front. Many developed small factories of their own, turning out weapons and other equipment for the Confederate armies.

If any of you know more about Mr. Carter and his pistol, I would love to hear from you! I would love to see a photo of one of his revolvers.