One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers were on edge amidst the increasing hostilities between their very own state and their Northern counterparts. One week ago, a series of events were set into motion resulting the the seizure of arms in Cincinnati en route to Arkansas followed by the retaliatory seizure of Federal stores aboard two steamers in Pine Bluff that were en route to the U.S. Arsenal in Ft. Smith. What would be the next step Arkansas would take in the impending crisis?
That next step was came in the form of the first order from the Commander-in-Chief of Arkansas militia units, Governor Henry Massie Rector, to his commanding office, General James Yell. In that first official dispatch to the militia units following the seizure of steamers Skylark and the Silver Lake No. 2, he orders “as many troops from his [General Yell] division of the militia as in his opinion are adequate to the security and defense of the eastern portion of Arkansas.”
Security from what? And defense from whom? These were only two of the many questions asked by the citizens of Arkansas as their future became less and less certain. Among the several militia units that responded to the Governor’s official call for troops, the Jefferson Guard in Jefferson County were among the first, after having been received into service on April 27, 1861, just one day after Rector’s dispatch. The Jefferson Guard would eventually muster into Confederate service in the 15th Arkansas Infantry, commanded initially by the Irish-born Arkansawyer- Patrick R. Cleburne.