Sweet Tea & Southern Battlefields

A Blog on Growing up Alongside an Arkansas Civil War Battlefield

Follow up on the Cow Story…


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.”

The Cow Story…


Well…what follows is one of the strangest stories related to the 1864 Camden Expedition.

Following their arrival back to the safety of Little Rock following the disaster that was the Camden Expedition, the federal government dispatched General Dan Sickles (minus his right leg that had months earlier been blown to bits at Gettysburg) to Little Rock to get an update on the situation in the Trans-Mississippi following the Red River Campaign.

In Little Rock, General Frederick Steele, still in command (for the time being) of the VII Corps, threw a large party in Sickles honor. Following the party, where alcohol flowed freely, Steele’s Chief of Staff, Colonel F.H. Manter, departed the party intending to ride over to the home of a prominent Little Rock citizen (history does not record the name).

As Colonel Manter made his way on the downtown city street, he encountered acow laying in the road. Now this is where the story takes a tragic (if not altogether bizarre) turn of events. When presented with the cow blocking his path, Colonel Manter decided, rather than simply guide his horse around the lounging bovine, that he would take his gallant stallion and leap over the cow (bad idea).

As Manter moved back a fair distance and, spurring his horse, rode forward at a charge ready to leap over the beast – just in time for the cow to stand up in the road – causing Manter’s horse to collide with the cow, throwing Colonel Mangter off the horse, striking the ground where he broke his neck.

Within twenty minutes of leaving Steele’s dinner party, Colonel Manter was back – this time lying dead upon a stretcher. The party goers, especially Frederick Steele, were shocked at the sudden death of this young man, still in his prime. Of course, once the circumstances of his death became known, Manter’s image was instantly tarnished, with some saying that vanity had killed this fine officer.

Some had even wished Colonel Manter had died in the midst of battle at Jenkins’ Ferry,  “…with his face to the foe, his fate would have been a brighter one.”

I’m not sure which is stranger to imagine….a one legged General Dan Sickles hobbling his way into Little Rock determining what went wrong during the ill-fated Camden Expedition or an intoxicated Colonel attempting to jump over a cow on a downtown Little Rock street.

The cow part of the story I think.

Rooster Cogburn & General James Fagan…

Fagan Blog

If you’ve read my book, “Harvest of Death: The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas,” then you’ll recall the controversy surrounding Confederate General James Fagan and his role (or was it non-role) at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.

There was so much more to Fagan than the debacle at Jenkins’ Ferry. Days before, at the Battle of Mark’s Mill, Fagan had commanded a force that routed an entire Federal supply train, capturing scores of prisoners and wagons.

But it’s his response to the events leading up to and the battle itself at Jenkins’ Ferry that has tainted his reputation among some, becoming the “Jeb Stuart of Jenkins’ Ferry,” for his notable absence, much like Stuart at the Battle of Gettysburg.

After the Civil War, General Fagan was appointed by President Ulysses Grant in 1877 to serve as United States Marshall of Arkansas, based out of Fort Smith.

Want to know an interesting bit of movie trivia? The 1969 movie “True Grit” featured the character “Rooster Cogburn” portrayed by actor John Wayne. The character first appeared in the 1968 novel of the same name by Charles Portis. The Rooster Cogburn character was serving as a Deputy United States Marshall out of Fort Smith, Arkansas during the period the novel and film covered. If you bring the novel/movie inline with actual history – then Cogburn would have served under; you guessed it, U.S. Marshall James Fagan. Cogburn even had a cat named “Sterling Price” in the novel/film named after Confederate General Sterling Price – one of the Commanders at Jenkins’ Ferry. It’s a shame that Fagan is not mentioned in the novel or the film.

In 1877, Fagan left the Marshall’s Office and became Receiver of the Land Office of Arkansas, a position he held until 1890. One of the artifacts I’ve obtained over many years of collecting Camden Expedition related items is a business card of General Fagan’s during the time he was in the land office. Owning a business card from a former Confederate General? Not the most common artifact out there that’s for sure. If you attend one of my book signings, I usually have a collection of relics on hand and General Fagan’s business card is always among the artifacts to see.

General Fagan died in Little Rock September 1, 1893 and is buried in historic Mount Holly Cemetery just a few yards west of another Camden Expedition/Jenkins’ Ferry Confederate General – Thomas Churchill.

There will be much more in the coming weeks and months about General Fagan – both the good and the controversial. But no doubt about it, he was one of Arkansas’ most interesting characters. It’s just a shame he never made into the movies….or to Jenkins’ Ferry just a little bit earlier – who knows what the outcome might have been.

Herbert Hoover & Jenkins’ Ferry



One of the more fascinating stories that has swirled around the Jenkins’ Ferry battlefield for years has been the connection with President Herbert Hoover to the battlefield. Long before he had any aspirations to become President of the United States, Herbert Hoover was a young engineering student at Stanford University in California.

The story goes is that a young Hoover visited parts of Arkansas while a college student who was hired to do survey work across the state. It was, according to local legend, while in Arkansas that Hoover visited the area around Jenkins’ Ferry and spent the night in the “Cannon Ball House,” the home south of the battlefield where, during the initial clash of the armies at Guesses’ Creek, holes were blown into the house by artillery. Following the battle, the home was used as a hospital by the Confederates with scores of wounded being treated. Years later when locals would visit the house, they reported you could still see the blood stains in the wooden floors.

Herbert Hoover at Jenkins’ Ferry?  Is that even possible or just an urban legend.

Well….apparently there is truth to the story.

According to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, they can confirm that he spent time in Arkansas surveying parts of the state in 1892. One of his instructors at the time was Dr. John C. Branner, who also happened to be the Arkansas State Geologist (I’m not sure how this fellow went from being the state geologist in Arkansas to a college professor at Stanford).  Hoover traveled to Arkansas where he spent the summer surveying various sites around the state – primarily focusing on mineral deposits and preparing topographical maps.

The story, passed down by generations is that Hoover slept overnight in the Cannon Ball House. While it was difficult to confirm this from the records from his library, I had an interesting email a few years ago from someone who stated their ancestor was the Grant County Surveyor in the late 1800’s and confirmed that Herbert Hoover did indeed visit Grant County on a surveying mission.

So perhaps there is some truth in this tale after all. It’s another one of the amazing stories that help tell the story of the Battle of Jenkins’s Ferry.


Relics Left Behind….

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 3.04.41 PM


Lt. Hugh McCullum carried this straight razor during the war. That is until April 30, 1864 when he was killed leading troops in battle at Jenkins’ Ferry. And today, the razor is part of the collection of Civil War relics at the American Civil War Museum – part of the Museum of the Confederacy. McCullum was an officer with the 33rd Arkansas Confederate Infantry – the same unit my ancestor John McLain fought with. The 33rd was in the midst of the fight at Jenkins’ Ferry with their commander, Colonel Hiram Grinstead also killed during the battle.

The museum describes the artifact as “…straight razor blade is attached to a tortoise shell handle. The steel blade is marked “Joseph Hodd Cutlerstoth No. 6 North.” The handle shows evidence of cracking. A small whetstone (.51b) comes with the razor…”

It’s not so much the artifact itself that fascinates me. It’s how in the world did this razor find its way from the river bottom alongside the Saline River to a museum in Richmond, Virginia? After his death on the battlefield, I’m sure his belongings were returned to his family. Now, some how or another, someone entrusted with Lieutenant McCullum’s belongings eventually either passed away or their importance as lasting keepsakes was reduced over the course of time.

I wonder….when was the last time he used it? Was it on the eve of battle or was it days earlier? There are no known photographs of Lieutenant McCullum and that’s a shame.

It’s good that his razor is forever preserved for generations to come. On the display it mentions that he was killed at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry and though that is a somber thing to read, that display will forever keep Lieutenant McCullum from being lost to history.


Reburying the Dead From Jenkins’ Ferry…

Two Soldiers

These two men never knew each another yet today they sleep alongside one another forever. They do have one thing in common – on April 30, 1864, both men stood behind the makeshift breastworks the Federals had thrown up overnight in the Saline River bottoms.

The soldier on the left is John Wagoner, a private in the 50th Indiana Infantry and the fellow on the right is Samuel Campbell, a private in the 33rd Iowa Infantry. They both survived the fight at Jenkins’ Ferry – both dying in Little Rock of disease a few months after the battle. There were laid to rest in an area the government had set aside in Little Rock for the burial of the scores of soldiers who were dying daily of disease or the result of wounds they had suffered in battle. The area where these men are buried is clearly a post-Jenkins’ Ferry section of the cemetery. Walking just a short distance in any direction and you’ll find men from many of the units that fought at Jenkins’ Ferry.

Many of the dead remained on the field until 1868 when the United States Government sent teams of wagons over the battlefield to remove as many of the dead from the field that could be located.  A bounty was paid by the government for every soldier’s remains recovered. Once they were loaded onto the wagons, the bodies were reinterred at the newly-established Federal Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Records maintained by the Veteran’s Cemetery indicated the following soldier’s remains were removed from Jenkins’ Ferry and other Arkansas battlefields:

23 from Dardanelle, 95 from Lewisburg, 132 from Jenkins—Ford, 52 from Princeton, 115 from Marks Mill, 798 from Pine Bluff and 267 from De Vall’s Bluff for a total of 1482 bodies moved.

Of the ones removed from  Jenkins’ Ferry, practically all of them are interred beneath a stone that reads simply “Unknown.”

Although 132 were brought back to Little Rock,  most were never found and they remain today scattered across the Saline River bottoms.

Privates Wagoner and Campbell are lucky – their names are known to us. The others sleep today beneath the stars in unknown graves at Jenkins’ Ferry.

Hallowed ground for sure.

Jenkins’ Ferry in the Top Ten…

JF New Marker

As civil war battles go, Jenkins’ Ferry is an often overlooked battle. This is due to a number of contributing factors. Foremost was its location and I’m not referring to the Saline River swamp. The entire Trans-Mississippi Theater is often overlooked with the Eastern Theater getting the primary focus of historians and writers. I had a friend of mine once told me you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a battlefield in Virginia. 

Consider that by April of 1864, many in the Confederate leadership had basically written off the area west of the Mississippi and instead were focusing their efforts on, you guessed it, the Eastern Theater. It was said that by this stage of the war, Robert E. Lee himself was frustrated with the entire Trans-Mississippi, believing that troops there should have been diverted eastward to assist in his battles against Ulysses Grant.

There are a number of reasons that makes Jenkins’ Ferry unique. Today we will review a statistic that placed Jenkins’ Ferry in the “top ten” of all Civil War battles. 

A grisly statistic are the most generals killed in a single battle. Heading the list is Gettysburg with nine generals killed. But as you can see from the list below, Jenkins’ Ferry made the top ten list. 

  1. Gettysburg                                                 (Nine Generals Killed)
  2. Antietam                                                      (Six Generals Killed)
  3. Franklin                                                         (Five Generals Killed)
  4. Battle of the Wilderness                     (Five Generals Killed)
  5. Chickamauga                                             (Four Generals Killed)
  6. Stone’s River                                              (Four Generals Killed)
  7. Murfreesboro                                           (Four Generals Killed)
  8. Chancellorsville                                      (Four Generals Killed)
  9. Pea Ridge                                                    (Three Generals Killed)
  10. Jenkins’ Ferry                                          (Three Generals Killed)

Not only that, two other generals were wounded during the fight. Confederate General John B. Clark suffered a wound to the hand while leading his troops and Confederate General Thomas Waul suffered a grievous wound – his arm almost blown off.

There were fifteen generals actively engaged in the fight at Jenkins’ Ferry with five generals going down in the midst of battle.

In its own way, Jenkins’ Ferry was one of the final nails in the coffin of the Trans-Mississippi. After the Federals failed invasion of Texas through the debacle known as the Red River Campaign, fighting shifted northward into Missouri. Kirby Smith’s pursuit of Frederick Steele’s army across southern Arkansas was the last major action in the state ending with the battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, the last large scale conflict in Arkansas.


Texans at Jenkins’ Ferry…


The 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted) was in the midst of the fight at Jenkins’ Ferry. Arriving late on the morning of April 30th, the 28th Texas was assigned to General Horace Randal’s Brigade which consisted of the 11th& 14th Texas Infantry, 28th Texas Cavalry (dismounted), Sixth (Gould’s) Texas Cavalry (dismounted) and Daniel’s Texas Battery. The brigade was part of General John Walker’s Texas Division, consisting of three brigades (the other two being William Scurry and Thomas Waul).

After a frustrating morning of head-on assaults across open ground that had failed to break the Federal line, the overall Confederate commander, General Kirby Smith, decided to try a different tactic. Upon the arrival of Walker’s Texas Division, Kirby Smith would deploy Randal and Scurry’s brigades from the south, where they were to emerge from the wood line and attack the left flank of the Federal army while Waul’s brigade would push across Grooms’ field, striking the center of the Federal line. Kirby Smith hoped the resulting attack would at last break the Federal line.

The insuring attack fell apart from the beginning. Randal and Scurry were marching north along a little used road toward the sound of battle when they became lost in the thick underbrush. When they arrived at the battlefield, they discovered too late that they had emerged, not on the Federal’s left flank, but in the middle of Grooms’ field directly in front of the Federal line. The mistake was disastrous as Randal and Scurry were both immediately shot down with momentary confusion taking over. With both Generals down, the two brigades retreated back into the wood line but not before suffering heavy causalities.  

Randal’s brigade reported casualties totaling 20 killed, 1 mortally wounded, 40 wounded, and 1 wounded/captured/died in prison.

Two weeks after the battle, a fascinating article appeared in the “Houston Daily Telegraph” (May 16, 1864) which broke down the causality figures for Randal’s brigade providing not only the names of the soldiers but the type of wounds inflicted at Jenkins’ Ferry.

Brigade Staff:

Colonel Horace Randal, 27, mortally wounded [Shot in the chest]

Company A:

John Amason, 14, wounded and captured; died in prison at Little Rock, Arkansas

Benjamin F. Beavers, wounded slightly in the hand

James Bralley, 35, wounded slightly in the arm, leg, and hand

Isaac Hays, 25, killed

Stephen H. Oats, 15, wounded severely in the jaw

Peter L. Rohus, wounded slightly in the side

Benjamin H. Schooler, 36, killed

A. J. Shaw, wounded severely in the hand

Jefferson E. Thomas, wounded severely in the wrist

William A. Walling, 28, killed

Total: 3 killed, 1 wounded/captured/died, 6 wounded

Company B:

William M. Holloway, wounded slightly in the shoulder

William M. Lowe, 17, wounded slightly in the abdomen

C. L. Stafford, 23, killed

Total: 1 killed, 2 wounded

Company C:

Sergeant James S. Anderson, 26, killed

J. A. Barber, wounded slightly in the arm

Phillip Essry, wounded slightly in the fingers

D. Guttery, wounded slightly in the thigh

Total: 1 killed, 3 wounded

Company D:

J. C. Clingman, wounded severely in the leg

W. H. Gilliam, wounded severely in the shoulder

J. P. Hamilton, killed

Samuel Meggs, 34, wounded severely in the arm

Total: 1 killed, 3 wounded

Company E:

G. R. Clure, wounded slightly in the arm

W. C. Dawson, 15, wounded slightly in the arm

J. A. Dennis, killed

J. M. Maddox, killed

William Oldham, wounded slightly in the leg

Corporal T. H. Wynne, killed

Total: 3 killed, 3 wounded 

Company F:

1st Lieutenant A. J. Agnew, wounded slightly in the side

2nd Lieutenant Rene Fitzpatrick, 28, killed

Sergeant G. W. George, 30, wounded slightly in the toe

J. D. Hartley, 15, wounded in the arm

Corporal W. A. J. Lewis, wounded severely in the breast

D. Mahoen, wounded severely in the arm

Total: 1 killed, 5 wounded

Company G:

Horace B. Bishop, wounded severely in the arm

R. M. Garrett, 37, wounded severely in the thigh

W. T. Trim, wounded severely in the foot and arm

Total: 3 wounded 

Company H:

2nd Lieutenant William G. Blain, 29, wounded slightly in the thigh

F. M. Bartlett, killed

F. M. Brown, killed

J. J. Burleson, 23, killed

Sergeant E. A. Means, 29, killed

James Strickland, 27, wounded severely in the thigh

Total: 4 killed, 2 wounded

Company I:

2nd Lieutenant Morgan Rye, 32, wounded slightly in the arm and leg

John H. Albright, killed

Joseph M. Armstrong, 29, wounded severely in the back

L. C. Mills, wounded slightly in the thigh

Chamer C. Scane, 33, killed

Thomas J. Tipton, wounded severely in the hip

Sergeant George W. Turner, 27, wounded slightly in the shoulder

John K. Wise, killed

Total: 3 killed, 5 wounded

Company K:

2nd Lieutenant M. M. Samples, 23, wounded severely in the arm

Corporal William P. Burns, killed [had also been wounded at either Mansfield or Pleasant Hill]

Henry Carroll, wounded severely in the arm [had also been wounded at either Mansfield or Pleasant Hill]

Gabriel R. W. Corley, wounded slightly in the shoulder

George Fleummons, wounded severely in the hand

Thomas Hill, wounded dangerously in the thigh

Sergeant William E. Midyett, killed

George T. Nail, wounded severely in the hip

Thomas M. Parrish, 21, killed [had also been wounded at either Mansfield or Pleasant Hill]

O. F. Ramsey, 30, wounded slightly in the shoulder [had also been wounded at either Mansfield or Pleasant Hill]

J. M. White, wounded severely in the thigh

Total: 3 killed, 8 wounded

Some of the difficulty in compiling complete casualty figures from Jenkins” Ferry was that Walker’s Division did not report their casualties in any after-action reports which makes this newspaper article even more more amazing. Confederate surgeons working on the scores of wounded following the battle estimated the total Confederate wounded from 700 to as high as 938 while Federal figures average in about 700.

Regardless, it was a hell of a fight.


All Dressed Up….

Staff 9th Wisconsin

Once the Federals emerged from the the Saline River bottoms, the exhausted troops established camp just east of the ridge line. It was here the cold and hungry troops gathered around their campfires and took took stock of what they had just endured. Scores of troops were missing from their ranks – comrades no longer with them. With the exception of some pieces of hardtack (a thick tasteless cracker) and coffee, there was nothing to fill the stomachs of the men. As they gathered around the hundreds of campfires that dotted the landscape, the silence was deafening – the men overwhelmed with sorrow.

As General Frederick Steele made camp on high ground, he received word from his scouts that the “Little Rock road had become almost impassible for trains and artillery.” The General then decided if he was going to get his army safely back to Little Rock, he would have to discard any extra “baggage” that might slow his progress. Accordingly, he issued the order to destroy all but the most essential equipment. In addition to the ordinance wagons, each Division would be limited to five wagons. This prohibition did not include Steele’s headquarters wagons.

Shortly after midnight, the exhausted soldiers were aroused and put to work on the surplus equipment: dismantling and burning over two hundred wagons.

A Federal foot soldier recalled the night:

“We privates were not so much interested in the wagons just then, but the officers had all their fine clothes in them; so there came a sudden change of garments, to save the best from burning; and men who had laid down ragged and dirty at dark were seen at daylight finely dressed in glossy coats with shining buttons; but hungry and tired as ever. Mess-chests, company boxes, etc. made excellent fuel; and by their blaze the coffee was boiled and the poor pretense of breakfast eaten.”

The photograph in today’s blog is the staff officers of the 9th Wisconsin Infantry. Included in the photograph are Colonel Friedrich C. Salomon, Lieutenant Colonel Alfred G. Wrisberg, Major Henry Orff, Surgeon Herman Neumann, Adjutant Arthur Jacobi, and Quartermaster William Finkler.

Most likely taken in Milwaukee in 1861, the photograph shows the men in full dress uniforms. Whenever I would read of the officers scrambling around on the high ground pulling off tattered muddy bloody uniforms and exchanging them for fine blue dress uniforms, I am reminded of this photograph.

Once the order was given, the hundreds of wagons were set ablaze..The Confederates, who were camped on the battlefield the night following the battle, would have no doubt observed the fire in the sky to their east. Relic hunters years later would descend upon the area and uncover tens of thousands of relics – from swords to artillery shells to tin plates, everything those soldiers left behind were still there.

And I’m sure among the thousands of uniform buttons the relic hunters recovered were some of those left behind by the officers of the 9th Wisconsin.



Herding Sheep…In the Midst of Battle


Sometimes, history blogs can be short yet tell an interesting story. One of the strangest events to occur during the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry (or any battle) occurred near the onset of the conflict. I’ve read countless books and papers related to the Civil War but this has to be one of the strangest things to occur in the midst of any battle.

As Confederate General James Tappan prepared to move his Brigade into position to charge the Federal breastworks, it was decided that an effort first needed to be made to test the strength of the Federal line. So several Confederate horsemen (dressed in disguise as Federal soldiers) began herding a flock of sheep across Grooms’ field hoping to convince the Federal entrenchment they were a forging party bringing back fresh meat to the starving Federals.

The ruse did not work and soon the Federal line opened fire on the “shepherds,” driving them back into the wooded area between Wilder and Grooms’ fields.

One of the more interesting relics to be found in  the area that was once Grooms’ field years after the battle was a sheep’s bell – it’s unknown if it was there prior to or fell during the herding incident. None the less, it must have been quite the conversation piece the day it was recovered.


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