Posts tagged ‘Civil War’

From the Civil War Journal of Sgt. Sam Bloomer, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Co. B, Dec. 24, 1861-Jan. 9, 1862

The following is an excerpt from the Civil War Diary of Sergeant Sam Bloomer, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Company B, while the regiment was at Edward’s Ferry. The entries are from the period December 24, 1861 through January 9, 1862. The entries were transcribed by Jeffrey S. Williams from the originals that are located at the Minnesota Historical Society.

The grave of Color Sgt Sam Bloomer, 1st Minnesota Infantry, at Fairview Cemetery in Stillwater, Minn.

Tuesday Dec 24th       Last night was an awful cold disagreable and windy night for the guard. Today it was freezing most all day. Had no drill in the forenoon so I went over to the picture gallery and had one more pretty taken to send off. Had a Brigade drill but Gen Gorman was gone to Washington on some official business, so in his absence Col. Tompkins of the NY 2d drilled them very much against thire good will for he run them in double quick all the while. We had no dress parade on some account. We had or rather passed a dull Christmas Eve.

Christmas Wednesday Dec 25            This morning dawned very pleasant and the whole day it was a very dull Christmas to us. Last night our sutler had a lot of goods come with all kinds of marks on them. Some were marked knifes and forks, boot blacking, pepper & c. But our Col smell a rat and had the wagon taken up to the guard house, and this morning had the boxes opened up and lo and behold they contained a lot of choice Whiskey & Brandy which to his surprise were taken up to Poolesville to the hospital department to be used in that institution. During the day 2 or 3 kegs of beer were got and some of the boys began to feel rather light headed. Had no drills, nor even dress parade I suppose the reason was it was Christmas and it dont come but one in a year. I for one wish that we had Christmas every day on the drilling account, not because we had a such good time for it was the dulest Christmas that I ever spent in all my life and I hope I never shall again. Being a soldier is not like being at home on that day. The boys in my mess got a lot of Oysters and good fresh milk and made a good soup of them. But I had to look on and see them go in right down good ernest, as I am no Oyster eater. I could not stand it to look on so I pitched in and eate a lot of bread and Molassas for a substitute of the Oysters “perhaps that is a poor substitute.” Sergeant Binns has received his papers preparatory to his discharge to day and will probably leave for Stillwater in a few days.

Thursday Dec 26th       The weather this morning was pleasant but soon the clear blue skies were over cast and like if there was a storm brewing. Our company clerk has been to work on the payroles as the pay day will soon be around again. We had no drills today nor even dress parade on some account unbeknownst to me. Some of our men being at work a short distance from camp, where they could see the Virginia shore. And they state that they saw the Rebels in a very large column marching south. A large force first of infantry then a very long line of Batteries and cavalry & c. This evening quite a large number of battery men belonging to Bakers Brigade who were going to Washington after new guns for they lost the ones they had were lost at the battle of Balls Bluff.

Friday Dec 27th           The morning dawned pleasant but the wind blew very hard from the northwest and very cold and disagreeable. We had a very good company drill. We drilled as skirmishers the first one we had for some time and in the afternoon had quite a long Brigade drill but had no dress parade on account of the lateness of the houre. Gen Gorman has returned to camp from Washington whither he has been for a few days on some official business. This evening we received orders to be ready to go on picket tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock and were to stay until Tuesday when we would be mustered in again for two months, it making the 4th mustering or 8 months in the service.

Saturday Dec 28th       The [weather] still continues to be fine but cool. This according to orders received last night we got ready for to go on picket. After I was all ready to go Lieut Sinclair came to my tent and told me that the Capt had detailed me to stay in camp and help build his log house. It was very much against my good will to stay but stay I had to. At 9 AM the company started and we went to work taking down the Capt’s tent and dug a foundation. After dinner some of us went after a load of logs. When we were coming back we met a funeral going to the burying place with two soldiers that had departed this life while in thire Countries service. They were members of the Michigan 7th Vol. The regiment had no drills to day But had dress parade at the usual houre. Orders were read that the Monthly Mustering would take place on Tuesday Dec 31st at two o’clock and stating the different Mustering and inspecting officers of the different Brigades and regiments. Some other orders were read but were of no importance.

Sunday Dec 29th       The morning was fair but cool during the day the sun shone warm. About 10 AM a battery of 4 guns went down by here to relief that which was down at the ferry, the one that went down has just arrived from Washington. Shortly I with some others went down to the ferry to see the boys. There I saw two of the new guns that shoot 60 shots in a minute. Likewise we we saw a small boat that is being prepared for two guns and to be used for a gunboat on the Potomac. It is to be propelled by 14 oars. Our Capt took some more liquor yesterday some belonging to Col. Tompkins of the 2nd NY. The ditches are dug for the fort or stockade and some of the timbers are hauled. Had dress parade. Orders were read that all guard and pickets any where near a telegraph line should guard the wire and posts and see that nothing happend to it and report to headquarters if it should be broken any where. Last night an alarm was occassioned below the ferry where the Mich. 7th is doing picket duty. Some floating ice made a noise and they thought that a boat was coming across with rebels in it and some of the men up and fired at the supposed enemy “but did not kill any” which roust the whole line of pickets. But every thing quiet the rest of the night “No more rebels floating down the river.”

Monday Dec 30          The morning dawned fair. I worked all day on the Capt’s house. The companies had a drill in the forenoon But no regimental drill. At dress parade orders were read to the affect that every man should be ready for inspection or a general muster tomorrow at 9 o’clock AM and Lieut Hoyt was releast from the Quartermaster department and Adjutant Leach was to take his place. I received one letter from Stillwater this Eve. The Michigan 7th buried 2 more of thire soldiers today. The measles are raging to a considerable extent in thire regiment.

Tuesday Dec 31 the last of 1861        The morning was cold but fair it being mustering day there was cleaning of Brass, Blackening of boots, scouring of guns & c. About 9 o’clock Co E was inspected and immediately started off to releif our company from picket. About 10 AM the whole Brigade marched in review then our regt came to camp, stacked arms on the parade ground and went to thire quarters. Our company came to camp about 12 and were soon ready for inspection. About 2 we were marched on the parade ground, answered to our names and had our arms and knapsacks inspected. Had no dress parade. A flag of truce went across the ferry today at 1 PM with communications from Gen Stone to Gen Hill at Leesburg. Last night two Negroes came across from Virginia in a boat and were taken up to Gen Stone by the 7th Michigan.

Wednesday January 1st 1862              Last night at 12 o’clock all the bands in this vicinity commenced to play. They “4 in number” made considerable noise and kept it up untell daybreak. I finished a letter in the morning then I was detailed as Corpl of the guard. About 10 AM the Balloon was again sun high above the high tree tops. It was let up in the same place that it went up before it remained up about an hour during the day we had considerable fun arresting drunken men. Tied up three to a post set by the guard house for that purpose and bucket gaged one besides quite a number of others were disposed of in the guard house. At dress parade orders were read or rather the transfer of A Davis from Co I to our Co B. The weather was very fine and warm untell about 10 o’clock at night the wind got in a Northwest and blew a perfect gale and cold enough to freeze a person.

Thursday Jan 2d, 1862                        The weather this [morning] was very cold and windy and continued to be so all day, I wrote one letter to Eph McCanifie The companies had very short drills during the day on account of the cold wind. Had dress parade an order was read prohibiting all officers from detailling soldiers to act as thire servands or do any kind menial service for them “a good order that was I think” one other order was read that all enlisted men that was found cutting up any ungentlemanly acts with any of the neighbours or inhabitands would be promptly arrested by the nearest guard and would be punished accordingly by order of Gen Stone. About 6 o’clock PM Charles Scheffer from Stillwater arrived here. We were all very glad to see him, he came to arange the soldiers alotments.

Jan 3d 1862                                         This morning was I think as cold if not the coldest of the season. The company had a short drill this fornoon and in the afternoon we had a long Brigade drill. Gen Gormans lady and Secretary Camerons sister in law and one other lady were present to see us perform likewise Mr. Scheffer. Had no parade on account of the late houre. This evening a lot of mittens came from Stillwater for some of the boys. They were sent by the Ladies arniver social circle. They intirely forgot this child…just as well I suppose. This evening about 8 o’clock it commenced to snow.

Saturday Jan 4th 1862                         This has been rather a wintery day in morning. It was snowing but stoped about 9 o’clock AM. The air was very cold. We then went up and allotted some of our pay some allotted $5 and some 10 per month, it varying from 5 to 100. The Capt allotted 30 and the both Lieuts 25 a piece. I allotted 7 ½ or 15 at a payment. Today was the day set for the exchange of prisoners from Leesburg some 3 or 400 in Number but I have not learnd whether the exchange took place or not. It appears that the rebels cant feed our prisoners there for wish to exchange them for those that our men took at Balls Bluff some 30 in number. Had dress parade but no orders were read of any importance. Mr. Scheffer spent part of this with us in our tent.

Jan 5                Co. inspection very early for Scheffer’s benefit. Dress parade. Orders by Gen. Stone to private soldiers inciting insubordination among the negroes.

Jan 6                No drill. Co. B allotted about $500 being more than any other Co. in regt.

Jan 7                Mr. Scheffer left for Kentucky. Capt. Downie goes to Washington with him. Batt. drill a.m. & Co. drill p.m. Dress parade. 3 prisoners returned from Leesburg. They had been wounded at Ball’s Bluff & 2 belonged to 15th Mass & 1 to California Regt.

Jan 8                Potomac frozen over. Last night a steam tug and 3 row boats – capacity 150 men each – arrived at Edwards Ferry from Washington in the canal. Long co. drill a.m. Brigade drill countermanded & Co. drill instead p.m. Dress parade.

Jan 9                Rain last night. Muddy. Police duty a.m.

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Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force Unveils Logo Contest and More

JOINT-NEWS RELEASE:

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie
Phone: (651) 201-1332
Email: secretary.state@state.mn

State Rep. Dean Urdahl
Phone: (651) 296-4344
Email: rep.dean.urdahl@house.mn

Civil War Commemoration Task Force Unveils Logo Contest and More

ST. PAUL – Nov. 22, 2011 – The Civil War Commemoration Task Force invites Minnesotans to participate in a logo contest and develop an icon to be used in commemorating the war’s 150th anniversary. Logo designs must depict both Minnesota and the Civil War. The deadline for submission is 5 p.m., Dec. 30. A task force subcommittee will review the submitted logos and announce a winner on Jan. 10.

“It will be interesting to see how citizens combine visual elements of Minnesota and the Civil War,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township, task force co-chair. “I anticipate people will find creative ways to make that connection and I look forward to reviewing the submissions.”

Documents must measure 8.5 inches by 11 inches and be smaller than 10 megabytes in size. The contest is open to all ages.  Logo contest entries must be submitted electronically in a PDF format and emailed to civilwartaskforcelogo@mnhs.org.  For further information call (651) 259-3130 for more information.

The task force has also planned other events that share Minnesota’s connection with the Civil War such as:

–  designing a website (address to be determined);
–  preparing to issue “This Week in the Civil War” press releases;
–  planning tours of Dakota War sites for next summer;
–  making links available to schools for Civil War curriculum, as well as other educational opportunities;
–  encouraging performances of Civil War-era music.

“It is my hope that the many events planned by the task force and others commemorating the sacrifices made by Minnesotans to defend the Constitution and preserve the Union will motivate our generation to greater civil engagement,” said Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, task force co-chair.

The task force consists of six state officials and up to nine at-large citizens, serving through 2015.

Contest Rules and Logo Examples

Editors note:
Ritchie and Urdahl are co-chairs of the Civil War Commemoration Task Force, which is in the process of developing plans to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the historic war. A public logo contest is underway now and a number of other events will follow during the next few years.

The Civil War was Urdahl’s specialty during the 35 years he taught American history at New London-Spicer. His uniform is a replica of those worn by enlisted Civil War soldiers. The cap Urdahl displays bears the insignia of Minnesota’s Company B infantry regiment based at Fort Ridgley in south-central Minnesota.

Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Grants Awarded

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – DECEMBER 15, 2011

FOR STATEWIDE RELEASE

ARKANSAS CIVIL WAR SESQUICENTENNIAL COMMISSION AWARDS GRANTS FOR PROJECTS

LITTLE ROCK—The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission has awarded seven grants totaling $12,359 for projects that will commemorate the war in the state, ACWSC Chairman Tom Dupree announced today.

Recipients of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Grants were:

  • Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, $1,859 for “Fire in the Hole: Quilt Signals and Cannon Blasts”
  • Bill and Sharon Arnold Family Foundation, DeValls Bluff, $2,000 for the second annual Fort Lincoln Freedom Fest
  • Hot Springs Music Festival, Hot Springs, $2,000 for “The Magnolia Ball”
  • Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources Foundation, Smackover, $2,000 for “Battlefields as Memories from an un-Civil War”
  • Peel Compton Foundation, Bentonville, $1,000 for “The Civil War Careers of Congressman Samuel Peel and Governor James Berry” brochure
  • Conway County Historical Preservation Association, $1,500 for Civil War in Conway County wayside exhibit
  • Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Little Rock, $2,000 for “Occupied Arkansas” exhibit.

The deadline to apply for the next round of ACWSC grants is February 17, 2012. Grant applications and guidelines can be downloaded at http://www.arkansascivilwar150.com/historical-markers/grants.aspx,  or can be requested by writing to ACWS Grants, 1500 Tower Building, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201, sending an e-mail to acwsc@arkansasheritage.org, or calling (501) 324-9877.

For more information on sesquicentennial plans, visit www.arkansascivilwar150.com or e-mailacwsc@arkansasheritage.org.

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission is housed within the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The AHPP is the Department of Arkansas Heritage agency responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering and preserving the state’s cultural resources. Other agencies are the Arkansas Arts Council, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and the Historic Arkansas Museum.

Creek Indians in the American Civil War

Map of Indian Territory around 1861

Inhabiting the area between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers in eastern Indian Territory, the people of the Creek Nation viewed the onset of the American Civil War with mixed emotions. Factions existed within the Creek Nation, but these divisions has endured since the mid-eighteenth century when English and Scottish fur traders established ties with the Lower Creeks in Georgia and Alabama. Intermarriage led to an increase of mixed-bloods among the Lower Creeks and the appearance of Creek leaders with the names such as McGillivray and McIntosh. The Lower Creeks voluntarily complied with the United States’ removal policy of the 1830s endorsed by their mixed-blood leaders, while the Upper Creeks had to be forcibly removed from their traditional homelands. These two Creek factions remained separated in Indian Territory, but they were able to put their animosity aside long enough to establish a seat of government, devise a phonetic written language, draft a slave code, and build schools (with the aid of missionaries) in the 1840s and 1850s.

On 10 July 1861, Principal Chief Motey Kinnard and Daniel N. and Chilly McIntosh (sons of William McIntosh – former principal chief of the Lower Creeks) met with Special Commissioner Albert Pike of the Confederate Bureau of Indian Affairs and together signed a treaty of alliance with the Confederacy. The McIntoshes also promised to raise a regiment of Creeks, provided they would only have to fight within the borders of Indian Territory. However, in the fall of 1861 thousands of loyal and neutral Upper Creeks refused to recognize the treaty of alliance with the Confederacy signed by the Lower Creeks, and prepared to march with their leader, Opotheyahola, to Kansas and safety. A force of Lower Creeks under the McIntosh brothers opposed them. In November, sporadic violence between the two factions began and quickly intensified. Pike ordered Colonel Douglas H. Cooper to take charge of the situation and restore tranquility among the Creeks while the special commissioner departed for the Confederate capital. Cooper called on other Indian home guard units to aid in his efforts to end the hostilities and prevent the Upper Creeks from leaving Indian Territory. In doing so, Cooper began what amounted to a civil war within the borders of the territory.

When Cooper arrived near the Canadian River, he discovered almost 4,000 Upper Creek men, women and children as well as Indians from assorted other nations crowded into encampments along with their livestock, wagons, and worldly possessions. About one-third of these Indians were armed. After failing to dissuade the Upper Creeks from their mission, Cooper chose to use force. Considering these Indians to be a threat to Confederate authority in Indian territory, Cooper assembled a body of 1,400 mounted soldiers composed of six companies of his Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, Daniel McIntosh’s Lower Creek regiment, Chilly McIntosh and John Jumper’s battalion of Creeks and Seminoles, and 500 whites of the 9th Texas Cavalry. On 5 November 1861, the ever-growing group of loyal Creeks and refugees left their encampments and moved north toward Kansas. Two weeks later, Cooper attacked the slow-moving caravan at Round Mountain, near the junction of the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers. The loyal Creeks fought back, managing to escape at dusk after setting a prairie fire to impede Cooper’s progress.

Opothleyahola, leader of the loyal Indians in the Trail of Blood on Ice campaign in 1861

Slowed but undaunted, Cooper resumed the chase, now reinforced by John Drew’s Cherokee regiment, which was ordered by Cooper to aid in the operation. On 9 December, Cooper found Opothleyahola and the loyal Creeks waiting for him at Chusto-Talasah, or Caving Banks, on Bird Creek near present-day Tulsa. Cooper engaged the Upper Creeks for four hours before Opothleyahola finally withdrew his band. All told, Cooper lost fifteen men killed and thirty-seven wounded, and failed once again to cut off the fleeing loyalists.

Although claiming a victory, Cooper nevertheless withdrew to Fort Gibson near Tahlequah and waited for reinforcements from Texas and Arkansas. With the arrival of 1,380 Confederate troopers under Colonel James McIntosh, Cooper had the luxury to plan a combined attack against Opothleyahola’s band utilizing the converging columns of his own and McIntosh’s troops. The Confederates once again took to the field, but unfortunately were unable to synchronize their convergence on the Creek camp at Chustenahlah. Rather than wait for Cooper’s badly delayed troops, McIntosh chose to engage Opothleyahola’s numerically superior forces on 26 December. Weakened by exhaustion, cold weather, and lack of adequate food, the loyal Creeks could not withstand the Confederate onslaught. Warriors mixed with men, women, and children fled the field in panic pursued by white Confederate cavalrymen and the recently arrived mixed-blood Cherokee regiment under Stand Watie. Watie’s 300 men killed or captured many of the stragglers who were too weak to flee. Those who did escape finally made their way to Kansas and safety. There they fared little better, owing to a lack of adequate food, clothing, and shelter for the winter. U.S. Indian agents in Kansas were unable to aid the refugees, whose numbers eventually swelled to over 10,000. Eventually hunger and disease took their toll.

The destination for the loyal Indians was Fort Row in Kansas

In the spring of 1862, Brigadier General James G. Blunt, commander of the Union Department of Kansas, decided to return the loyal Indian refugees to their home in Indian Territory. The resulting operation resulted in frequent skirmishes with Confederate forces as the refugee column and its Federal escort entered Cherokee country north of the Arkansas River. The return of this contingent of loyal Creeks to Indian Territory fanned the flames of factionalism within the Creek Nation. While Creek soldiers participated in conventional military operations such as those that led to the Battle of Honey Springs on 17 July 1863, the real fateful combat for the two factions of the Creek Nation came in the form of guerilla raids upon each other that sowed the seeds for continued strife well after the war’s end.

–          Alan C. Downs in the  Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History by David S. and Jeanne Heidler. pp. 518-519]

Northampton Community College celebrates opening of Civil War exhibit

By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times 

A crowd quickly developed around Brian Alnutt as he guided visitors through the Civil War exhibit on loan toNorthampton Community College.

Alnutt is an assistant professor of history at the college and was acting as a docent during the grand opening of “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” in the college’s Kopecek Hall.

Northampton is one of 200 sites to be selected to host the free, traveling exhibit, which delves into how President Abraham Lincoln tackled the war’s constitutional and political challenges.

Abraham Lincoln in Illinois at the Lincoln Exhibit (Photo courtesy of the Express Times)

This is the only local showing of the exhibit, which was created by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

It runs until Dec. 13 and dovetails into Northampton’s yearlong educational programming around the Civil War.

Alnutt’s tour of the exhibit began with a small group of four or five people and quickly grew as visitors stopped to hear him share tidbits about Lincoln.

Before becoming president, Lincoln only served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, he said. Lincoln was not a national political figure but he’d spoken out against slavery so states seceded before his inauguration, Alnutt explained.

More slave states followed but not all seceded, he said, leading to some slave owners fighting against the Confederacy. The states that seceded initially hoped for a peaceful secession but Lincoln fought to preserve the union.

The exhibit explains Lincoln called the secessions undemocratic. If a minority group who lost an election could just break up the government, government by the people could never survive, Lincoln said.

It was only later that Lincoln decided to tackle slavery, Alnutt said, predicting that if the South had fallen quickly slavery may have survived. Alnutt noted that most other countries had abolished slavery by 1861.

“Lincoln” made an appearance at the event. James Hayney wowed a crowd of about 100 people in Lipkin Theater as he assumed the persona of Lincoln, down to the beard and stovepipe hat.

Earlier Thursday morning, a group of fourth- and fifth-graders from Fountain Hill Elementary School and kindergartners from the college’s child care center were treated to time with Hayney. Students clamored to have their photo taken with Lincoln, to shake his hand and even high-five.

Northampton sophomore Claire Mulicka, of Bethlehem, came to the event to earn extra credit for a class. She left touched by Lincoln’s speeches and his determination to finish the fight.

“I thought it was fantastic,” she said of Hayney’s performance.

Hayney, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lincoln, never missed a beat as he talked about his life as the nation’s 16th president.

Lincoln would’ve retired from politics if not for Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas Nebraska Act, which extended slavery into the new territories by repealing the Missouri Compromise, he said. Lincoln ran for the Senate twice and lost but he gained national recognition debating Douglas on slavery.

Lincoln actually beat Douglas in 1860 to become president. Hayney spoke about the difficulties his Kentuckian wife Mary Todd faced as one of 16 children, whose family was split between the war’s two sides. The Eastern press tore his wife apart, calling her the mole in the White House, Hayney said.

ENDOWMENT FUNDS CIVIL WAR ANNIVERSARY EVENTS
The exhibit is open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Prior to being selected to host the exhibit, Northampton was planning events based on the theme of “The Meaning of Freedom: Civil War 1865 to Today.”

The yearlong events are funded through an endowment built with donations and a separate $800,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant Northampton was awarded in 2008. The endowment is meant to annually fund humanities-focused educational programs surrounding a theme.

 

 

Earthquakes and Hurricanes! Natural Disasters and the Civil War

Expedition Hurricane Track of 1861

I’m sure someone has considered the impact of natural disasters on the Civil War, but apparently nobody has put forward a book length study of the subject.  Perhaps that’s because there just isn’t anything to write about!

And that is not to say there is insufficient data.  The US Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior, National Weather Service (NWS), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) all retain mountains of historical data about these topics.  The information is there, but perhaps there just isn’t much of a story to tell.

To The Sound of the Guns blog tells the story of the Civil War Hurricane seasons from 1861-1865 here.

The Battle of Honey Springs – July 17, 1863

This engraving of the Honey Springs battle was published in Harper's Weekly.

Honey Springs was the most important Civil War battle fought in Indian Territory. It preserved Union ownership of Fort Gibson and dealt Confederate forces a blow from which they never fully recovered. It also opened the way for the Federal capture of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and helped justify the recruitment of black regiments by the Union army.

In April 1863, Colonel William A. Phillips and a Union column out of Kansas challenged Confederate authority in Indian Territory by occupying Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River. Confederate brigadier general Douglas H. Cooper decided to retake that vital post, and he began gathering troops and supplies at Honey Springs, a Confederate depot twenty miles southwest of his objective.

By mid-July, Cooper had massed a mixed force of 6,000 Texans and Indians at Honey Springs. He also had a four-gun battery. Another 3,000 Confederate soldiers under Brigadier General William L. Cabell were enroute from Fort Smith, and Cooper expected them at Honey Springs sometime around 17 July. Once these reinforcements arrived, Cooper planned to advance on Fort Gibson, whose garrison barely numbered more than 3,000 men.

Unfortunately for Confederate hopes, Major General James G. Blunt, the aggressive commander of the Union District of the Frontier, learned of Cooper’s offensive preparations. Blunt realized that he had to smash the enemy at Honey Springs before Cabell arrived or forfeit Fort Gibson. Organizing a field force consisting of 3,000 men and twelve cannon, Blunt forded the Arkansas above Fort Gibson on 15-16 July and followed the Texas Road south. A rainy night march brought the Federals within six and a half miles of Honey Springs by daybreak on 17 July.

Elk Creek at the Honey Springs battlefield

Blunt discovered that Cooper had advanced a mile and a half from Honey Springs to meet him at Elk Creek. Cooper took advantage of the timber fringing the north bank of the creek to deploy his Texans and Indians in a sheltered line one and a half miles long, but his position was not as strong as it looked. Blunt’s superiority in artillery offset the Confederates’ superiority in numbers. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of Cooper’s troops lacked serviceable firearms, and their gunpowder was an inferior brand imported from Mexico. An early morning rain turned much of this powder into useless paste, leaving many rebels virtually defenseless.

The battle opened at 10:00 A.M. with a one-hour artillery duel. The Confederates knocked out a Federal 12-pound Napoleon howitzer, but their main opponents responded by disabling a mountain howitzer. Dismounting his cavalry units to fight on foot, Blunt sent them and his infantry to rake Cooper’s line with rapidly delivered small arms fire.

In keeping with his abolitionist principles, Blunt entrusted the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, the first black combat regiment in the Union Army, with holding the center of his line. After nearly two hours of fighting, Blunt directed the 1st Kansas to advance and capture the rebel artillery.

The black soldiers soon found themselves exchanging volleys with the dismounted 20th and 29th Texas Cavalry, posted in support of Cooper’s guns. In the midst of this standoff, the Union 2nd Indian Home Guard Regiment blundered into the 1st Kansas Colored’s field of fire. As the Indians scampered out of the way, the Confederates mistakenly assumed that Blunt’s entire line was giving way. The 29th Texas surged forward with a cheer. The 1st Kansas calmly permitted their opponents to close to twenty-five paces and then unleashed a series of destructive volleys that sent the Texans reeling to the rear without their regimental colors. A jubilant Blunt later reported: “I never saw such fighting as was done by the negro regiment. They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed. They preserved their line perfect throughout the whole engagement and, although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered. Too much praise cannot be awarded for their gallantry.”

1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry, Colored, marker at the Honey Springs battlefield

With the center of the Confederate line shattered beyond repair, Cooper retreated across Elk Creek. Blunt drove the Confederates past Honey Springs and managed to save much of the depot’s stocks of foodstuffs from fires hastily set by his beaten foes. The fighting ended at 2:00 P.M., two hours before Cabell arrived on the scene with his 3,000 men from Fort Smith.

At a loss of seventeen killed and sixty wounded, Blunt had saved Fort Gibson and the Union foothold in Indian Territory. Cooper admitted to 134 killed and wounded and forty-seven captured, but his army had suffered a major blow. Henceforth, Confederate forces in Indian Territory would confine themselves to hit-and-run raids against Union supply trains.

[Written by Gregory J.W. Urwin in the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History by David S. and Jeanne Heidler. pp. 994-995]

For further reading:

Britton, Wiley. Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border, 1863 (1993).

Cornish, Dudley Taylor. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861-1865 (1966).

Fischer, LeRoy H. The Civil War Era in Indian Territory (1974).

Josephy, Alvin M. The Civil War in the American West (1991).

Rampp, Larry C., and Donald L. Rampp. The Civil War in Indian Territory (1975).

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