Courtesy of Southwest Times, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Get ready, war is coming — the Civil War, that is.

Yep, folks recently commemorated the opening of that destructive conflict with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter. Over the next four years, you’ll likely be hearing much more than usual about the Civil War as other anniversaries occur.

A reader’s great-great-grandmother who lived east of Fort Smith wrote a memoir that makes reference to locations and at least one person associated with the Civil War in these parts.

Among other things, she would like some information about “Buck Brown who had a gang called Brown’s Bushwhackers.”

Bushwhackers were irregular forces who fought during the Civil War, usually out of uniform.

William Quantrill and Quantrill’s Raiders probably are the most famous example of bushwacking on the Confederate side. He and his men massacred unionists at Lawrence, Kan., in 1863.

They and other Confederate bushwhackers also harassed and killed Union soldiers, cut telegraph lines, stole supplies and generally added to the mayhem and chaos of war.

I tend to think of “bushwhackers” as Confederates and “jayhawkers” as Union irregulars, but even during the war itself the term bushwacker was used loosely.

Although bushwhackers served at least a quasi-military function early in the conflict, they had degenerated into simple marauding, raping and stealing by the close of it. Scarcity of resources and food might explain some of what they did. War weariness and an increasing desire for revenge might explain the worst of what they did.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, William Martin “Buck” Brown was one of the more notable Confederate bushwhackers in Arkansas.

In April 1864, Brown’s bushwhackers killed nine Union soldiers who were grazing horses at Prairie Grove. They did it wearing Union uniforms, which allowed them to get close enough.

Four of Brown’s men were captured and on July 29, 1864, executed by firing squad at Fort Smith. None of the them were older than 19, and all had fought in the regular Confederate forces, too.

Federal troops cornered and killed Brown himself in March 1865 in Benton County. Three of his men also were killed in that skirmish, and the rest scattered.


An Inquire Withinner wants to know if Garrison Avenue was named for someone named Garrison or if it was named for the soldiers garrisoned at Fort Smith — the military fort south of the avenue.

With the caveat that establishing the origin of place names, especially ones that reach back more than 170 years, is sometimes problematic, I can say with some confidence that the avenue likely got its name because it was the road to the garrison. It also was part of the military road connecting Fort Smith to Little Rock in the early 1800s.

Often it is said that soldiers at Fort Smith used Garrison to practice parading and marching.

A man whom I regard as the Yoda of Fort Smith history has told me that is unlikely.

Practice drills probably were most often conducted on parade grounds within the fort’s walls. Most forts at the time dedicated space for that purpose.

However, soldiers did parade down the avenue on special occasions and holidays, so they were not completely unknown on the avenue.

Badge, Tires

I want to thank the reader and IW fan who brought me a law enforcement badge he found while doing yard work.

It’s a Fort Smith deputy constable badge, and I’m still trying to figure out its history. For some reason, it has the letters “A.S.” at the bottom. I’m not sure if that’s the officer’s initials or some other designation.

This may be a first, but I’m now going to ask you a question.

A tire on The Jenny’s car keeps going flat. I’ve had it checked by some competent tire folks, but they can find no leak.

Using an electric air pump, I inflated it again, and it kept the pressure for two or more days.

Because it had lost no pressure, I felt confident in putting the hub cap back on.

It depressurized again over the next few hours. Go figure.

I don’t even really care anymore that it’s doing it. I’d just like to know the how and why.

To submit a query to “Inquire Within,” write Ben Boulden at or Newsroom, P.O. Box 1359, Fort Smith, AR 72902. Want more Inquire Within? Become a Facebook fan.