First Arkansas Cavalry

The most famous Washington County Federal regiment, the one mostly drawn from that county, and most active in it, was the First Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, who were mustered into service August 7, 1862. Their regimental organization is as follows: Colonel, M. La Rue Harrison; lieutenant-colonel, Albert W. Bishop; lieutenant, Thomas J. Hunt; majors, James J.Johnson, Ezra Fitch, Charles Galloway, John I. Worthington, Richard H. Wimpy, Hugo C. C. Botefuhr, Frank Strong; surgeon, Henry J. Maynard; assistant surgeons, William Hunter, Amos H. Coffee, Jonathan E. Tefft; chaplain, Reuben North; adjutant, Denton D. Stark, Henry M. Kidder; adjutant first battalion, E. B. Harrison; adjutant second battalion, Frank Strong; regimental quartermasters, J. H. Wilson, John M. Bigger; regimental commissaries of subsistence, Thomas J. Rice, John A. Maxwell. Noncommissioned staff–Sergeant-majors, Robert Thompson, Thomas Brooks, Warren W. Munday, Simeon A. Baker, Jonathan Douglass; regimental quartermaster-sergeants, John M. Bigger, James C. Summers; regimental commissary-sergeants, Thomas H. Scott, Jeremiah B. Hale; hospital stewards, Amos H. Coffee, W. E. Maynard, Melancthon Hilbert, Thomas J. McCord, S. W. Chism; chief trumpeters, John Pool, O. A. Whitcomb, James Lusk. Company A–Captain, M. La Rue Harrison, Steward H. Carlile, Joshua S. Dudley; first lieutenants, James J. Johnson, Thomas J. Gilstrap, William J. Patton, Frederick Kise; second lieutenant, Charles F. Eichacker. Company B–Captains, Thomas J. Hunt, Bracken Lewis, Hugo C. C. Botefuhr; first lieutenants, William Hunter, Denton D. Stark, Thomas Wilhite, Gustavus F. Hottenhauer; second lieutenants, Crittenden C. Wells, Owen A. Whitcomb. Company C–Captains, Ezra Fitch, Charles C. Moss, Elizur B. Harrison; first lieutenants, Samuel W. Chism, James R. Ivie; second lieutenant, Philip McGuire. Company D–Captains, Jesse M. Gilstrap, William L. Messenger, James Allison; first lieutenants, James H. Wilson, George W. M. Reid, William P. Clark; second lieutenant, Jacob H. Keiser. Company E–Captains, Charles Galloway, George R. King; first lieutenants, Philip M. Slaughter, Elam O. Kincaid, George W. Rowe; second lieutenant, George A. Purdy. Company F (Benton County). Company G (Carroll County and Missouri). Company H–Captains, John I. Worthington, Lawson L. Jernegan; first lieutenants, John W. Morris, Hugo C. C. Botefuhr, James G. Robertson, Warren W. Munday; second lieutenant, Melancthon Hilbert. Company I–Captain, DeWitt C. Hopkins; first lieutenants, Jacob J. Reel, Henry W. Gildemeister, John Vaughan; second lieutenant, Willis E. Maynard. Company K (Southeast Arkansas). Company L–Captains, John Bonine, Joseph S. Robb, Frank Strong; first lieutenants, George S. Albright, Thomas Brooks; second lieutenant, Simeon A. Baker. Company M–Captains, Robert E. Travis, William S. Johnson, John B. C. Turman; first lieutenants, James Roseman, Alvin D. Norris; second lieutenant, Thomas J. Rice. Causalties by companies: Company A, killed and died, 41; Company B, killed and died, 25; Company C, died, 33; Company D, killed and died, 21; Company E, killed and died, 41; Company H, killed and died, 36; Company I, killed and died, 24; Company K, killed and died, 21; Company L, killed and died, 15; Company M, killed and died, 22. Total, 279.

The following is the history of the regiment, as given by the report of Adj.-Gen. A. W. Bishop, of Arkansas: “On March 29, 1862, while the ‘Army of the Southwest’ was lying at Cross Timbers, Mo., M. La Rue Harrison, of the Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry Volunteers, applied for and received authority from General Curtis to recruit a company for the Sixth Missouri Cavalry Volunteers, and proposed to enlist citizens of the State of Arkansas, many of whom had escaped conscription, and were then entering various regiments of the national army.

“On the 12th of May, 1862, eleven men from Washington County, Ark., made their appearance at the post of Cassville, Mo., and were sworn into the service of the United States; on the 18th of the same month about twenty more were added, and on the 1st of June the organization, numbering forty-five men, moved from Cassville to join a battalion of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry Volunteers, then stationed at Forsyth, Mo. On the march Capt. Harrison learned that many more than were enough to complete one squadron were on their way from Arkansas to join him, and he telegraphed to Hon. John S. Phelps, tendering, through him, to the President, a regiment of loyal Arkansans, for the United States volunteer army. On the following day a reply was received that the President would accept the regiment, provided it was completed within twenty days. [An inserted letter here is omitted.]

“Recruiting parties had already been sent into various parts of Arkansas, and squads of from six to thirty men were constantly arriving at Springfield and enlisting in the regiment. On the 20th of June a raid was made into Fayetteville, Ark., from Cassville, by a detachment of the First Missouri and the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, under command of Maj. Hubbard, at which time 115 recruits were brought out, mostly from Washington County.

“July 1 Capt. Harrison, with about 200 recruits, left Cassville with the Thirty-Seventh Illinois Infantry, and established his rendezvous at Springfield, Mo. July 3, the authority for mustering having been received, four companies were mustered into service, and on the 7th day of August a minimum regiment. On the 11th day of August Col. Harrison was, by order of Brig.Gen. E. B. Brown, appointed chief engineer for the district of Southwest Missouri. About the 1st of September the first battalion, under Maj. Johnson, was ordered to join the command of Gen. Brown, in the field, west of Mount Vernon, Mo. It was engaged, September 15 and October 13, in the battle near Newtonia, Mo., and during the campaign furnished most of the scouts, guides, and messengers for the army, besides being frequently engaged in skirmishes with the enemy’s scouting and reconnoitering parties. On the 2d day of October, 1862, the regimental organization of the twelve companies was completed.

“On the 3d day of October the second battalion, having been mounted and armed, was sent to the southwest to join the ‘Army of the Frontier,’ under Gen. Schofield, and during that month it, with the first, constituted the advance of that army in its march through Northwestern Arkansas. On the return of Gen. Schofield, about the 20th of October, these battalions were stationed at Elkhorn Tavern and Cassville, as outposts, and there remained until the next forward movement of that army. November 11 three companies of the third battalion, under command of Lieut.Col. Bishop, left Springfield and joined the regiment at Elkhorn Tavern, on Pea Ridge, which place was held by him as the extreme outpost south of the second and third divisions of the Army of the Frontier, until its second advance, which resulted in the battle of Prairie Grove.

“On the 5th of December, in obedience to orders from Gen. Herron, Col. Harrison, who had been relieved from duty as chief engineer of the district of Southwest Missouri, left Elkhorn with eight companies of the regiment and a train of twenty wagons, and moved forward to join Gen. Blount, then at Cane Hill, Ark. On the night of the 6th the detachment camped at Prairie Grove, ten miles southwest of Fayetteville. During the night orders were received from Gen. Blount for the detachment to move at day-break and join Gen. Solomon near Rhea’s Mill. Messengers also brought information from Gen. Blount that the enemy were west of Cane Hill, and would probably attack him in the morning; that the road between himself and Col. Harrison was clear.

“At daylight on the morning of the 7th the detachment moved forward, but at sunrise was met by detachments of Missouri troops retreating, who had been attacked by Hindman’s advance at their camp two miles south of Illinois Creek. A determined attack was made by the enemy at this point, and within half an hour a serious panic ensued, which resulted in the capture of the train of the First Cavalry and the temporary demoralization of the regiment. Falling back to the Walnut Grove Church Col. Harrison rallied his men upon the right of Gen. Herron’s army, which was met at that point, and advanced with it to Prairie Grove.

“On the following day Col. Harrison made a raid south to the Boston Mountains, pursuing some of the routed detachments of Hindman’s army and capturing twenty-nine prisoners.

“1863–On January 8 a detachment under the command of Lieuts. Thompson and Vaughan participated in the defeat of Marmaduke, at Springfield, Mo., Lieut. Vaughan and Sergt. L. D. Jernigan were severely wounded during the engagement. About January 25 a detachment, commanded by Capt. Galloway, participated in a raid into Van Buren, under command of Lieut.Col. Stuart, Tenth Illinois Cavalry, at which time a steamer and 315 prisoners were captured. On February 3 a detachment of eighty-three men, under Capt. Galloway, routed 180 rebels near White Oak Creek, in Franklin County, and on the following morning Capt. R. E. Travis was mortally wounded in an attack upon a party of guerrillas, who had fortified themselves in a log house near Thurlkill’s ferry, on the Arkansas River.

“On April 18, at sunrise, the post at Fayetteville was attacked. [Elsewhere described.]

“In September Col. Harrison attacked a detachment of rebels under Coffee, in the Seneca Nation, pursuing them down the Indian line to Round Prairie, Ark., and on the 22d of that month the First Cavalry reoccupied Fayetteville. On October 4 a detachment of the regiment, 450 strong, with two sections of Battery A, First Arkansas Light Artillery, and one section of mountain howitzers, under command of Col. Harrison, left Fayetteville in pursuit of the rebel Gen. Shelby, who at that time was moving north from Neosho, Mo., with 2,000 men and two pieces of artillery. Marching through Pineville, Newtonia, Granby, Carthage, Lamar and Greenfield toward Warsaw, countermanding orders turned the column toward Bower’s Mill, and thence by way of Mount Vernon and Cassville to Fayetteville, to relieve the garrison at that place, which was being seriously threatened by a superior force under the rebel Col. Brooks. At sunrise, on October 15, a part of the detachment, while in camp at Cross Timbers, and having in charge a train of twenty-five wagons loaded with supplies for Fayetteville, was attacked by Brooks, but through the timely return of Col. Harrison, who, having gone forward toward Fayetteville with a portion of his men, had heard the firing, the attack was repelled. On October 23 a portion of the regiment, with its howitzer battery, under command of Maj. Hunt, joined Gen. McNeil at Huntsville, taking the advance in the pursuit of Gen. Shelby across Arkansas River.

“On November 7 an expedition, 435 strong, under Col. Harrison, left Fayetteville, moving eastward, and on the morning of the 9th routed a force of rebels near King’s River; and again, on the following day, at sunrise, at Kingston; at noon, on the Dry Fork of King’s River, and in the evening near Mulberry Mountain. On the 11th and 12th Capt. J. I. Worthington drove the same irregular forces across Arkansas River, carrying his howitzers by hand across the Frog Bayou Mountain, and on the 23d and 25th engaged and routed bands of guerrillas near Sugar Loaf Mountain, in Marion County, and on Richland Creek, in Searcy County, the last time with considerable loss. Lieut. L. D. Jernigan was here severely wounded and taken prisoner.

“1864–During the months of January and February a detachment of the regiment, commanded by Capts. Galloway and Boteführ, served in Carroll, Marion and Searcy Counties, under orders from Brig.-Gen. C. B. Holland, from the district of Southwest Missouri. They were engaged repeatedly with the enemy, and received high praises in Gen. Holland’s official report.

“During this year detachments of the regiment were very frequently engaged with guerrillas, who were still infesting Northwestern Arkansas, and on October 28 a concerted attack upon Fayetteville was defeated. On October 3 the town was again attacked by a largely superior force, detached from Gen. Price’s army, then lying at Cane Hill, the whole under the command of Maj.-Gen. Fagan.

“All summer long the First Cavalry had been actively employed against the enemy, who increased in strength until in autumn they swarmed through the county, but Price’s retreat and the approach of winter secured, for a time, comparative quiet.

“1865–During this year a relentless warfare was carried on against the small bands of guerrillas who infested Northwestern Arkansas, and many were killed. The mustering out of the regiment on August 23 is mentioned elsewhere. From May, 1863, until the disbanding of the regiment a cornet band was maintained at the private expense of the officers, and at the close of the war the instruments were presented to the city of Fayetteville.”

Back to: Washington County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.


5 thoughts on “First Arkansas Cavalry”

  1. Fred B. Thompson II

    Interested in early Pope Co. history and the Thompson & White Families. My GGrandfater John Wycliffe Shoptaw never returned from the Civil War.

    1. Mary Meyer Nguyen

      Fred, I am pretty sure your great grandfather was a cousin to my grandfather or great grandfather.
      My grandmother was Anna Shoptaw who married Dr. John D. Eddy of Morrilton. I came to this sight trying to find your great grandfather’s info! We have a cousin in Tulsa (Lena Shoptaw’s granddaughter) who has done extensive research on the Shoptaw/Furr families. She indicated some years ago that your great grandfather was killed in Vicksburg. My daughter and I went to Vicksburg to the local cemetery (confederate soldiers were not buried in the national cemetery. At the cemetery we found that soldiers were buried by states, but no Shoptaw grave was found in the Arkansas section. I haven’t been to the Pope county library but want to talk to my cousin to see if she has more info since her original search. I will gladly share any info I find. I did find a bit about your GG in Conway. It only gave the age, date of marriage, and names of his wife and three children.
      Good luck.

  2. who was in the 1st Arkansas cavalry, my great great grand father was in the 1st Arkansas cavalry. This is based on his wife filing for a pension.
    I am trying to determine if he was in a union or confederate cavalry.

    1. Martha Anne Moser

      You can look a couple of ways. The is the National Parks Service website. They have every regiment Union and CSA with lists of names. Alot of our Arkansas ancestors fought for the Confederate and Union both. You can also go to which is ancestry’s completely free site. Let me know if you need anything additional. My GG grandfather and his brothers were on both sides. Still controversial in Arkansas. My folks were Quaker and my belief is that they were simply trying to protect their family and homesteads. They were 1st generation German and their religion was very much keep to themselves, live and let live, not believing in owning slaves and not much opinion about secession. They had plenty of labor on their little scratches of land and that would be their children.

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