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Chapter 3:

On June 25, 1861, William J. Hardee, an officer of the old army and author of the then accepted textbook of military tactics, was addressed by Samuel Cooper, adjutant and inspector general, as follows:

Sir: Herewith you will receive the appointment of brigadier-general of provisional forces in the service of the Confederate States. Your command will embrace that portion of Arkansas lying west of the White and Black rivers, and north of the Arkansas river to the Missouri line. The general purpose of this assignment is to watch over and protect the country within the limits referred to. Besides the regiment from Arkansas under command of Colonel Hindman, recently ordered there, it is the purpose of the department to send an additional force of about 3,000 men in that direction. You will establish your headquarters at such point within the district referred to as will best subserve the purpose of your command.

By formal articles of transfer, July 15, 1861, General Hardee representing the Confederate States government, the following regiments of Arkansas State troops were transferred by the military board to the Confederate States service: ‘All the troops now in the service of the State of Arkansas, consisting of the following regiments, battalions, companies and detachments: The First regiment of infantry, commanded by Col. P. R. Cleburne; the Second regiment of infantry, commanded by Col. John [56] R. Gratiot; the Third and Fourth regiments of infantry, attached to General Pearce's command; the Fifth regiment of infantry, commanded by Col. David C. Cross; the Sixth regiment of infantry, commanded by Colonel Lyon; the Seventh regiment of infantry, commanded by Col. R. G. Shaver; the First regiment of cavalry, commanded by Col. DeRosey Carroll; the First battalion of cavalry, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Solon Borland; the Pulaski artillery, commanded by Captain Woodruff; the Clark county artillery, commanded by Captain Roberts; the McCown artillery, commanded by Captain McCown; Trigg's artillery, commanded by Captain Trigg; and a company of artillery attached to Pearce's command.’

On July 22d General Hardee assumed command of the ‘upper district of Arkansas,’ with headquarters at Pitman's Ferry, Ark. His force, as reported August 31st, included the Arkansas regiments of Cleburne, Hindman, Cross, Lyon, Shaver, and Borland, Shoup's battalion of artillery, Roberts' battery and Phifer's cavalry.

Patrick Roanyne Cleburne, who at once became prominent in the command thus formed, had been a lawyer at Helena since his admission to the bar in 1856, a partner of Mark W. Alexander, and later of J. W. Scaife and L. H. Mangum. He was a member of the vestry of St. John's Episcopal church, Helena. In January, 1861, he was one of the body of citizens of Helena who tendered their services to Governor Rector for taking the Little Rock arsenal, and was present on that occasion as a private in the company organized for that purpose, called the Yell Rifles, in honor of Colonel Yell, former member of Congress and governor of the State, who was killed at the head of his regiment in the battle of Buena Vista. Upon the call of the military board of Arkansas for troops to resist the invasion of the Southern States ordered by Mr. Lincoln, the Yell Rifles entered the State service with Cleburne as their captain, Edward H. Cowley, first lieutenant, James Blackburn, second lieutenant, and Lucius E. Polk, [57] third lieutenant. The company marched to Mound City, above Memphis, where, on May 14th, it was united with other companies in the formation of a regiment of infantry, of which Captain Cleburne was elected colonel, J. K. Patton, lieutenant-colonel, and J. T. Harris, major. L. H. Mangum was made adjutant of the regiment. It was the First regiment of infantry, State troops, but subsequently, upon the transfer of the State troops to the Confederate States service, according to the date of such transfer, it was numbered the Fifteenth Arkansas infantry, provisional army of the Confederate States, although in the unavoidable confusion consequent upon a change of enumeration, another—Col. Jas. Gee's Camden regiment—was given the same number.

In July, 1861, Gens. Gideon J. Pillow and M. Jeff Thompson were projecting movements from New Madrid upon the Federal forces at Bird's Point, Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, and eagerly importuning General Hardee to cooperate with them in their enterprises. Learning that the Federals had left Ironton for Greenville, Mo., General Hardee advanced to the latter place early in August, with 1,000 infantry and 250 cavalry and a battery of artillery, to meet them. They, learning of his approach, retired to Ironton. He planned an attack on Ironton, but Thompson failed to cooperate. About the 12th, Colonel Borland occupied Fredericktown. He was determined to hold his position in Missouri. Maj.-Gen. Leonidas Polk, commanding Department No. 2, and given charge of military operations in Arkansas and Missouri, August 2d, sustained Hardee in this determination for a time, and requested Pillow to abandon New Madrid and join Hardee in aggressive operations in Missouri. But on August 26th, Polk directed Hardee to retire to the river at Point Pleasant, and said he would advise abandoning the line altogether if it were not for the saltpeter mines on White river. Hardee approved this and declared that, in the event of a campaign against Memphis, ‘he [58] could fight more effectively for Arkansas east of the Mississippi than anywhere else.’ By September 1st he had withdrawn his forces to Pitman's Ferry. On September 17th he notified General Polk that he had ordered Colonel Cleburne to move with his regiment and repair the road to Point Pleasant. His morning report that day showed 900 sick out of 4,529 present, not including 1,100 at Pocahontas. On September 24th, Hardee dispatched to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston: ‘The last detachment of my command will start to-morrow for Point Pleasant, on the Mississippi, which place I hope my entire command will reach in nine days from that date.’ Crossing the Mississippi, he led his Arkansas troops to join the Central army of Kentucky, in which Hindman, Cleburne and Shaver soon became brigade commanders.

Before leaving Pitman's Ferry, General Hardee ordered the transfer of all stores to Pocahontas, and left a force there under Col. Solon Borland, consisting of seven companies of Borland's cavalry, four companies of McCarver's infantry regiment, and Captain Roberts' independent company. Maj. D. F. Shall, with 230 men, moved to near Ironton, Mo., to cooperate with M. Jeff Thompson, late in October. The defeat of Thompson exposed the posts at Pitman's Ferry and Pocahontas to an expedition soon afterward attempted by Col. R. J. Oglesby, of Illinois, from Bird's Point. In apprehension of this, November 5th, Colonel Borland wrote to General Polk that he had but 700 men and half a dozen discarded cannon. Needing artillerists, he had ordered back Roberts' company, which Hardee had called into Kentucky. Fortunately, the Federal expedition was turned aside in Missouri.

Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, on August 19th addressed a letter to President Lincoln, begging that the neutrality of that State might be respected through his orders as President, and that the soldiers that had been enlisted in the United States army and collected in the central part of Kentucky, and there armed and supplied [59] without the consent of the State, might be removed. President Lincoln, who had already crossed the Rubicon of constitutional law, and become the practical dictator of the United States, answered the governor with a prompt and flat refusal. A similar letter to President Davis received a prompt reply, to the effect that the assemblage of Confederate troops in Tennessee had no other object than to repel the lawless invasion of that State by the forces of the United States; that the government of the Confederate States had respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained—if the door be opened on the one side for aggression, it ought not to be shut on the other for defense. Mr. Davis concluded by expressing the belief that Kentucky would not suffer its soil to be occupied for the purpose of giving advantage to those who violate its neutrality and disregard its rights. It was a vain hope. Neutrality in Kentucky, as in Missouri, was scoffed at by those who believed the power of the United States government supreme over the soil of the States.

The Federal commanders threw their forces into portions of Kentucky and Missouri at will, without a thought as to the rights of those States. The revelation of their plans, through these movements, made it necessary that General Polk should immediately occupy Columbus, in Kentucky, as a point of great strategic importance on the Mississippi river, where the naval flotillas of the United States might be arrested in descending that river, cutting the Confederacy in twain, and making possible the establishment of strongholds and depots for operating against regions adjacent to the great river. Polk took possession of Hickman, September 3d, and of Columbus, September 4th. On the 5th and 6th of September, Brig.-Gen. U. S. Grant occupied Paducah, Ky., at the mouth of the Tennessee river, and established his headquarters there and at Cairo, at the mouth of the Ohio. [60]

The occupation of Columbus by General Polk was timely enough to prevent the movement soon afterward undertaken by General Grant. While General Polk was strengthening his defenses, he placed a small force at the village of Belmont, in the lowlands of the Mississippi bottom, opposite the heights of Columbus. Col. J. S. Tappan's Thirteenth regiment Arkansas infantry and Beltzhoover's battery were thrown across the river to occupy Belmont and to drive out the Union military bands, which had terrorized the citizens and frightened into exile all who refused to take an oath to support a constitution which the men who would administer it utterly ignored.

On the 7th of November General Grant moved against Columbus, for the purpose, as he asserted in his ‘Memoirs,’ of diverting attention from other movements of Federal armies in Missouri, to try the strength of his newly-constructed gunboats, and test the weight of the metal of General Polk's artillery at Columbus. The movement in Missouri he attempted to aid was the threatened march of Fremont, Lane and Sturgis against Price, after the battle of Lexington, when Price had caused them each to go to ditching in anticipation of an attack, while he was really crossing the Osage to make a junction again with McCulloch, at Neosho.

That the engagement brought on at Belmont by Grant was a second thought of the Federal commander, to give diversion to his officers and men, and furnish evidence of activity to the expectant people who were demanding that the ‘war be prosecuted,’ there is no reason to doubt. The disadvantage of the defensive policy is that it gives the aggressor liberty to pick his own time, place, and opportunity for directing his blows. The armies of both sections had been lying inactive. But the North had been making preparation; and the destructive agencies [61] devised and now nearly finished were speedily to be hurled, with a force hitherto unknown to warfare, against the Southern lines.

General Polk was careful to maintain a defensive force at Columbus, as was demanded of him, under belief that the movement of the large force from Paducah meant an attack upon Columbus. No other supposition could have been entertained under the circumstances. He, himself, went to Belmont, across the river, to lead in the actual battle going on there.

Col. J. C. Tappan, of the Thirteenth Arkansas infantry, was in command of the small force stationed at ‘Camp Johnston,’ Belmont, consisting of his own regiment, two companies of Miller's Mississippi cavalry, and six guns of the Watson artillery, commanded by Colonel Beltzhoover. J. C. Tappan, a lawyer of high standing at Helena, Ark., had been chosen colonel of the Thirteenth Arkansas at its organization in June, 1861, with a full quota of 1,000 men. A. D. Grayson was elected lieutenant-colonel, and J. A. McNeely, major. The captains were: Robert B. Lambert, Company A; B. C. Crump, Company B; Benj. Harris, Company C; Balfour, Company D; J. M. Pollard, Company E; Dunn, Company F; Shelton, Company G; Johnson, Company H; George Hunt, Company K.

On the morning of November 7th, at 7 o'clock, Colonel Tappan received information that the enemy was landing on the Missouri side of the river. Ordering the two cavalry companies forward to watch the enemy, he formed his command for battle. Two of Beltzhoover's guns were stationed in an old field back of the camp, commanding a road, with Pollard's company to sustain them, and the other four guns to the northwest commanding the other road, with the companies of Hunt and Harris in support. The rest of the regiment was formed in line of battle facing from the river. After Tappan had been in line about half an hour, Gen. Gideon J. Pillow reinforced him with [62] the Tennessee regiments of Colonels Freeman, Pickett, Russell and Wright, from Columbus, and took command. Tappan's companies supporting the artillery were returned to the regiment, and he then sent out Shelton's company as skirmishers, who in about three-quarters of an hour were driven in by the enemy, who advanced with heavy firing along the entire Confederate line. The Thirteenth and the other regiments returned the fire, and maintained their position for over an hour and a half. Then Russell's regiment fell back, representing that it had exhausted its ammunition.

The enemy being greatly augmented by a force that came in from the old road back of the encampment, the Confederates retired in good order through the timber recently cut down by Colonel Tappan's orders, to the bank of the river, where they again formed, but were compelled to fall back under the bank and await reinforcements from Columbus. Meanwhile, the enemy took possession of and burned the camp of the Arkansas regiment. General Cheatham reported that upon his arrival he found a line formed by the fragments of the Thirteenth Arkansas, Thirteenth and Second Tennessee, ready and anxious to advance, and he went forward with them, the Thirteenth Arkansas in advance, against the Federal flank. Soon the fight was renewed, with the Confederates on the aggressive. After fifteen minutes heavy firing, a charge was made and the enemy routed with heavy loss. General Polk arriving, and with him several additional regiments, he and Cheatham continued the pursuit of the Federals to their transports, and captured muskets, blankets, knapsacks and clothing, thrown down in the flight. The horses of Beltzhoover's battery having run away with a limber, one of the guns was left in the course of the engagement, and was being carried off by the enemy, when W. J. Hunt, of the Second Tennessee, ordered his men to fire on the captors, and the enemy cut out the horses and fled. Captain Hunt, of the Thirteenth [63] Arkansas, and a quartermaster of the same regiment, went to the assistance of the other Hunt and brought the piece back. The Thirteenth lost 12 men killed, 45 wounded and 25 missing.

Subsequently, the Thirteenth Arkansas regiment was engaged in the bloody battle of Shiloh, April 6 and 7, 1862, Colonel Tappan joining it after the battle had opened and Lieutenant-Colonel Grayson had been killed; participated in the invasion of Kentucky by Kirby Smith, fighting gallantly under Cleburne in the battle of Richmond, August 30, 1862, and took a conspicuous part in the battles of Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Ringgold Gap. With the Arkansas troops under the lead of Cleburne, it stood by that gallant leader unflinchingly to the close of his career. Colonel Tappan, after the battle of Shiloh, was promoted to brigadier-gen-eral and was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi department, where he commanded a brigade composed of Shaler's regiment, Shaver's Seventh regiment, Col. R. S. Dawson's Sixteenth regiment, and the regiment of Col. S. H. Grinsted, in the defense of the Arkansas river and Little Rock, September, 1863, and was under Major-General Churchill at the battles of Pleasant Hill and Jenkins' Ferry, in 1864. Maj. J. A. McNeely, by succession, became colonel of the Thirteenth, and R. A. Duncan, major, frequently commanding the regiment with distinguished gallantry. The Thirteenth was consolidated with the Fifth Arkansas, under Col. John E. Murray, at the battle of Ringgold Gap, where their service was so distinguished as to receive the thanks of the Confederate Congress. [64]

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Leonidas Polk (11)
W. J. Hardee (11)
Patrick Roanyne Cleburne (8)
J. C. Tappan (6)
Solon Borland (6)
M. Jeff Thompson (4)
N. Terry Roberts (4)
William J. Hardee (4)
U. S. Grant (4)
Beltzhoover (4)
R. G. Shaver (3)
Gideon J. Pillow (3)
Abraham Lincoln (3)
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John T. Trigg (2)
James C. Tappan (2)
Shelton (2)
E. H. Russell (2)
Sterling Price (2)
N. Bart Pearce (2)
James A. McNeely (2)
L. H. Mangum (2)
Nathaniel Lyon (2)
W. J. Hunt (2)
George Hunt (2)
Benjamin Harris (2)
A. D. Grayson (2)
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William E. Woodruff (1)
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Sturgis (1)
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Francis A. Shoup (1)
Robert G. Shaver (1)
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J. K. Patton (1)
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B. C. Crump (1)
David C. Cross (1)
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Samuel Cooper (1)
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