This week, 150 years ago, saw one of the most intense masses of men the state of Arkansas has ever seen to up to this date. As the “emergency”, or War, becomes ever-more immenent, the 13th Arkansas Militia mustered on the grouds of the newly-built St. John’s college in Little Rock. This week’s column is perhaps one of the most important in this five-year series as the reader gets acquainted with famous Arkansas Civil War personalities for the first time.
Of these personalities, Fagan will become the commanding officer of the 1st Arkansas Infantry, CSA in a few months; Robert C. Newton will play a vital role in commanding troops at Shiloh in 1862 and ultimately at the Battle of Pine Bluff in 1863; McGregor will become a key component in the 1st Arkansas Infantry as well as he will become the commander of Company D of the same regiment, and several others listed below will likewise play key roles in the formation and perpetuation of the Confederate Army in the upcoming months.
Several of these mens’ families will have Arkansas counties named for them: Conway and Hempstead. The reader should also note the popularity of English literature as a poem by Lord Byron was orated at this mass mustering of militia men.
The question that readers should ask themselves, and the question that the editor will leave strictly up to the reader, is “What was so important to have a thousand men muster in the capital city of Arkansas in October, 1860?” The reader should take note that the election of 1860 is less than a month away and Abe Lincoln was NOT on the ballot.
[LITTLE ROCK] OLD-LINE DEMOCRAT, October 18, 1860, p. 3, c. 2-3
Scenes and Reminiscences.
The most enlivening, and, we may add, imposing scene, we remember to have witnessed during our twelve years residence in Arkansas, was presented at the St. John’s College grounds, on Saturday last, in the regimental drill and review of the 13th regiment of Arkansas militia—recalling reminiscences of similar occasions in by gone days, such as we never expect to witness again.
The place selected for the exercises, itself affords a review which presents much to interest the beholder. The large campus surrounding the College, is bordered on all sides by groves of oak and elm; the college building of the Gothic style of architecture, rising in the midst, the main edifice three stories, with turreted towers rising to the height of four. On the west are the grounds and groves of the U. S. Arsenal, of a size corresponding to those of the College.
We arrived on the ground about noon, with Brigadier Gen. Holt, of the 2d Brigade and Staff, composed as follows, of Adjutant General McConaughey, Aids de Camp Fagan and Harrell, Brigade Major Newbern, Inspector General Trigg; Quarter Master Fletcher, Surgeon Hooper and Commissary Faust:–Col. McGregor, of Jefferson county, acting as Pay Master, and Col. Critz, of White, acting Judge Advocate—splendid with plumes and buttons, all good horsemen and well mounted; the commanding form of the General, in the becoming uniform of his rank, towering above all the others.
The regiment, composed of ten companies, numbering about a thousand men, was drawn up in line of battle facing tot he west, with college buildings in the rear, to receive the reviewing officers from the front in centre. Col. Peyton restraining his impatient charger in front, looked unnaturally [?] well in his glittering regimentals. The veteran Lieut. Col. Karns occupied the left; Major McAlmont, in a most tasteful uniform, the right, and adjutant Newton and Sergeant Major Lewis, Quarter Master Stevenson and Surgeon Sizer, presenting a fine military appearance, as also mounted they occupied their respective positions, on the right and left. Facing the whole, was a long line of pleasure carriages, which, at a distance, looked not unlike gun carriages of an opposing force of artillery drawn up in hostile array.—Indeed, they contained missiles, had they been turned against the hearts of those gallant men, more unerring and destructive far, than either shot or shell—fair ladies, glorious, in the varied hues of Beauty’s inspiring “colors,” commanding batteries of bright eyes, in fearful point-blank range of each warm Southern heart that fluttered at the sight of them there. The loud concordant notes of our excellent city brass band, re-echoing from the adjacent groves, lent spirit sterring [sic] influences to enliven all.
The regiment having been reviewed in form, changed direction to the right, and now in its turn, while the reviewing officers took position on the former front, marched before them by companies, in the following order: Pulaski Lancers, Lieut. Morrison, commanding cavalry, with lances, pennants and handsome uniforms of blue and red, well drilled, and presenting a very gallant appearance; 1st comp. the Capital Guards, Capt. Peay, drilled like veterans of the “Old Guard,” and dressed in a uniform of blue and gold, never yet surpassed in taste and neatness; 2d company, exceeding well drilled and fine looking, Capt. Stillwell; 3d company, composed of gallant looking and intelligent men, Lieut. Griffith, commanding; 4th company, the elite of the regiment, Sergeant Lee of the “Guards,” commanding; 5th company presenting a most soldierly appearance, Capt. Johnson; 6th company, with the step and front of courage and intelligence, Capt. Bushnell; 7th company brave looking, erect and well-drilled, Capt. Vance; 8th company looking as if they might have seen service, and would like to see it again, Capt. Marshall; 9th company who we will venture to say, are all good riflemen, and familiar with the smell of gun powder, Capt. Wellman.
When the parade was concluded, the regiment was formed by companies around [the] door of the College, from which, by request of the Colonel, Gen. S. H. Hempstead addressed them in an eloquent and soul stirring speech of about an hour. He exhorted the militia of Arkansas to remember that they were carrying out a suggestion of the wise and far seeing Washington, in establishing this organization. That, since standing armies were held to be inimical to the institutions of a free people, it devolved on the people to prepare and learn how to defend themselves. He once fondly hoped that this great power of resistance against aggression, a well drilled militia, would only be of use against a foreign country. Until lately he had never supposed otherwise. But a cloud had arisen at the North, which a few years ago, no larger than a man’s hand, had since darkened the whole hemisphere, threatening to sweep our once smiling land with storms of civil strife. In fact, the “irrepressible conflict” had been proclaimed by those having authority over their credulous and fanatical followers, and we had only to prepare to meet it. That our brethren of the North were already marshalling under the title which the rebel and murderer John Brown gave to his banditti in Kansas. That ever town and village, nearly, in the North were nightly the scenes of their drills and parades; giving practical importance to the treasonable declarations of their leaders. The time of peace was the time to prepare for war.
He complimented the regiment upon its discipline and military appearance, and expressed his opinion upon an inquiry to which his attention had lately been called officially, (as Solicitor General,) whether the militia could be called out for drill or other purposes, except at such times as were mentioned in the Statute, and assured his hearers that it was in the discretion of their proper commanding officers, to command them to the field, as often, and whenever he deemed proper to do so. He illustrated his speech with many entertaining historical anecdotes of the effectiveness of the militia force, and how propitious it was to rising spirit, and the rapid promotion of the brave and deserving. His speech was received with deafening applause, and its warnings fell most forcibly upon the ears of hearers who knew the speaker and how to respect his prudence, his honesty and undoubted patriotism.
S. Harris, Esq., by request of Col. Peyton, made the regiment a short and spirited speech.
Leaving the parade ground Gen. Holt and staff, as they were repairing to quarters, stopped at the residence of governor Conway, to pay their respects to him, as the commander in chief. The Governor received them from his steps, in a short speech of welcome, in which he congratulated them upon the revival, at a critical time, of the military spirit which once animated the people, but seemed long to have been dead. He hoped not, but feared greatly, that the valor of the sons of Arkansas, which had been vindicated by the blood of her noblest citizens would ere long be needed to protect her from aggression upon the first rights for which any people will lay down their lives. He exhorted the officers to improve the present opportunity of cultivating the discipline of the only troops we could bring into the field. The Governor’s speech was all the more effective, from the fact that he has always heretofore avoided such displays. He was somewhat embarrassed but concise and fervent.
The regiment after marching into the city and through several streets, was disbanded at 2 o’clock, p.m.
In the evening, the field and staff officers of the Brigade and Regiment, gave a ball at the Anthony House.
“There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium’s capital had gathered there,
Her Beauty and her Chivalry; and bright
The lamps above o’er fair women and brave men;
And many hearts beat happily; as when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.”
[note: From Byron’s Childe Harold]
The unstained uniforms of the officers, the happy faces of comely maidens as they joined in the dance.
“All the delusions of the dizzy scene. Its false and true enchantments—art and nature,” gave no token of aught, save peace and prosperity, if aught save peace and prosperity, may portend our happy land.
Rapt in contemplation of graceful “Flying Cloud;” dazzled by the brilliance of beautiful “Shooting Star,” melted by the languishing “Eye of Gazelle;” transported by the graces of “Fairy queen;” electrified by the touch of “Tiny Glove;” subdued by the “sweet influences” of the “Pleiad Regained;” consoled by the sympathy of lovely “Peri;” we were at last cozined [sic?] of our heart and happiness by “Culprit Fay,” and retired at a late hour, overcome with sweet remembrances, mystified by magical and enchantments, and distracted by bewildering delusions, broken hearted, lonely and disconsolate; which might have ended in despair, had not the giant Great Heart our General and the templar Black hair, our fellow aid come to our timely relief, and administered a soothing potion, from which we fell asleep! being soon lost in a wilder maze of dreaming remembrances of
“The garlands, the rose odors, and the flowers—
The sparkling eyes, and flashing ornaments—
The white arms and the raven hair—the braids
And bracelets; swanlike bosoms, and their robes,
Floating like light clouds twixt our gaze and heaven.
[note: from Byron’s “Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice; an Historical Tragedy, in Five Acts”]