Today, I have a follow-up to my recent blog, “The Cow Story…” It seems there is a bit more to the story that I discovered after the initial blog.
It seems that Colonel Francis Manter – General Frederick Steele’s Chief of Staff – the gentleman who made the ill-fated decision to jump over the cow in the middle of the downtown Little Rock street with his horse, had just returned to Little Rock when the accident occurred.
I’ve learned that Colonel Manter had returned from Washington D.C. where he had traveled to the White House to brief President Abraham Lincoln on the recent Camden Expedition.
At the beginning of Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” following the opening battle scene of the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, there is a scene where President Lincoln is speaking to one of the black soldiers of the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry about the events at Jenkins’ Ferry. When I watched that scene, I wondered in reality if Lincoln knew anything about Jenkins’ Ferry other than seeing it listed on some of the endless stream of War Department dispatches Lincoln read.
Now we learn that an eyewitness to Jenkins’ Ferry had met with Lincoln only weeks after the battle, no doubt offering insights into the battle and the Campaign that the dispatches failed to mention.
Also in the meeting with Manter and Lincoln was U.S. Representative John B. Steele of New York as well as Lincoln’s military advisor, General Henry Halleck.
Though John B. Steele may not be familiar to you, his brother is. He was the brother of our very own General Frederick Steele, Seventh Corps Commander who led the Federal Army in the disaster that was the Camden Expedition.
While Colonel Manter was serving as Chief of Staff to General Frederick Steele during and after the Camden Expedition, he had commanded troops in his own right.
During the Vicksburg Campaign, Manter had commanded the 1st Brigade, First Division, 15th Army Corps during the siege. His service at Vicksburg is immortalized on a bronze tablet, erected in 1916, inside the National Park on Confederate Avenue, about 125 yards west of the visitor’s center. The photograph in today’s blog is the bronze tablet at Vicksburg.
But it was June 13, 1864 that will forever mark Manter’s place in history. The official records list his death as “accidentally killed by falling from horse.”
We can thank Colonel William McLean, who not only commanded the 43rd Indiana Infantry but also was appointed Commander of the Post in Little Rock once the Federal Army had returned to Little Rock following Jenkins’ Ferry. McLean told thestory of Manter’s death in his memories, which is a fascinating read.
The image today is a bronze plaque located inside the Vicksburg National Military Park in honor of Manter’s service during that campaign.
In announcing his death, General Frederick Steele wrote:
“Those who know him most intimately can appreciate the great loss which the government as well as themselves have sustained. He was brave, patriotic, able, independent in thought and action, a true Soldier and an honest friend.”
The “official” story of his death says this about Manter:
“While returning from an important Military Mission, Colonel Manter was thrown from his horse and fatally injured. He was brought to Headquarters and a few hours later, died at two o’clock in the morning of June 13, 1864, surrounded by his Military friends and companions.”
That sounds a lot more heroic than “died while intoxicated attempting to leap over a cow with his horse in the middle of a Little Rock street.”