This week, one hundred and fifty years ago, as noted in last week’s column, the Arkansas Militia had begun its muster at the newly-built St. John’s College in Little Rock, Arkansas; however this week’s column refers the reader to a second mustering grounds of local militia: Fourche Township (located near where the Little Rock National Airport is presently).
Saturdays became an important day in 1860 Central Arkansas as local citizens donned their Company colors and began instruction in military maneuvers and training. Though few of the commanders were well-known at the time of the muster, several names will appear throughout this five-year project of examinations by the reader and editor of the goings-on one hundred and fifty years ago in Arkansas.
One such name that appears in the document below is Arkansas Militia Adjutant Robert C. Newton, who is seen “drilling and reviewing” the Militia for three hours. Newton, during the Civil War, will find himself in a position of command over Arkansas troops. It is Newton that will end up positioning himself on the Federal left during the Battle of Pine Bluff in October, 1863.
Many names during the pre-war era will be seen over the next five years as this project continues. Below is an account from the Old-Line Democrat. This is also a good time to mention that there are several papers in Arkansas in 1860, but the Old-Line Democrat, published in Little Rock, Arkansas, seems to be the primary media outlet that prints the goings-on of the Arkansas Militia, while other newspapers printed on various other topics, so as not to upset political constituents and readers. Yes, 1860 Arkansas employeed the concept of political correctness.
[LITTLE ROCK] OLD-LINE DEMOCRAT, September 20, 1860, p. 3, c. 3
We are glad to note the spirit with which our citizens enter upon the military training of our militia musters. On Saturday we drove out to Fourche township in the war-like association of a Colonel, a Major, an Adjutant, two Captains, a Sergeant, and a fifer; we ourselves being a ‘prigh-hivate’ in the Pulaski Lancers. Arrived upon the ground, we met three companies of militia, from as many townships of the county, under command of Capts. Vance, Johnson and Robertson. They were drilled and reviewed for about three hours by Adjutant Newton, detailed for the duty, assisted by Sergeant Lockman, acting as his aid, mounted, of course, and in “full feather.” Major McAlmont and Capt. Peay were on the ground, and assisted actively during the review, in teaching the manual of arms as well as the marchings. The protest of the “ear-piercing fife and the spirit-stirring drum,” together with a broad bunting, which unfurled the “stars and stripes,” gave a great deal of the “pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war” to the scene.
Col. Peyton was present, a watchful observer of the exercises, and at the conclusion of them, offered the battalion some very appropriate remarks, upon the subject of their duties, under the requirements of the militia law.
He said the South was threatened by aggressions, which might any day assume a shape to bring into practical requisition the military skill he was anxious for them to acquire. That the State of Arkansas, to which they owed their first allegiance, could afford no standing army in the mere dread of this danger, and the first aggression upon her rights would have to be repulsed by the bravery and discipline of the militia. She had no forts, no arsenals, and her only defence was the brave hearts of her sons. That, coupled with discipline, would, he thought, serve her utmost need.