One hundred and fifty years ago, the garrison at Confederate Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post was attacked by thousands of Federal soldiers amalgamating into the collapse of the Confederate Army in South East Arkansas. For months, the Confederate Army was training in camps west of Pine Bluff. These troops would get their first taste of battle in January, 1863.
One of these troops that found himself in Camp White Sulphur Springs was Andrew McDermott. This soldier represents a little-known and misunderstood demographic of Civil War soldiers; McDermott was a Black Confederate. In 1862, when General Hindman mandated the Conscript Act in Arkansas, Charles McDermott, from Desha County, was too old to have mustered into Confederate service. Being a slave owner and a supporter of the Confederate cause, Charles sent his slave Andrew to join the Confederate ranks.
Andrew McDermott joined the 24th Arkansas Infantry, Company B, CSA. While Andrew was not among those captured at the Battle of Arkansas Post, his service with the Confederate Army becomes ambiguous. McDermott represents the multitude of Black Confederates that joined the Rebel cause in 1862.
Following Reconstruction, Charles McDermott, the namesake of the city of Dermott, Arkansas, patented a “flying apparatus” in 1873. Known as “The McDermott Flyer”, this flying machine was the first heavier-than-air aircraft invented. Though the Wright Brothers were the first in powered flight, they were not the first in flight by any means.
As the Confederate Army reorganized following the disaster at Arkansas Post, the Federal Army and Navy secured a key point on the Arkansas River, causing a mass exodus of Southern citizens from Pine Bluff and the surrounding countryside to Texas. This migration causes a shift in the demographic in the Arkansas River Valley, setting up the perfect storm of a full Federal Occupation of the state.