Red River Sections
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BATTLE, DESERTION AND DEATH
On September 1, 1864, General Sherman (USA) entered Atlanta, and began preparations for his march to the sea. General Lee (CSA) was besieged before Petersburg, Virginia, by General Grant (USA).
And in the Trans-Mississippi area General Sterling Price (CSA) moved northward with some 10,000 veteran rebel cavalrymen, towards Dardanelle, where they would cross the Arkansas River.
Federal Cavalry organizational tables show the Third Arkansas Cavaly (USA) located at Lewisburg, some 30 miles downstream from Dardanelle, had 812 effective men. There were also about the same number of men of the 2nd Arkansas Infantry (USA) located there.
General Steel® (USA) Commander of the Department of Arkansas, for the Federal Government, never seems to have considered engaging Price. His main fear seemed to be that Little Rock would be attacked, and so requested reinforcements for there. His Cavalry was scattered about; 1st Brigade with 1,890 effectives was at Pine Bluff, 2nd Brigade with 2,856 effectives was at Little Rock, 3rd Brigade with 2,964 effectives divided between Austin and DeValle's Bluff and the 4th Brigade (including the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry) with 3,348 effectives was at Huntersville, Brownsville and Lewisburg. It would have been difficult to assemble all these troops, but it could have been done, and the Federals would have had some 11,000 + effectives, certainly enough to challenge Price, and prevent hi linkup with Shelby in Northeast Arkansas. However General Steele preferred to use his cavalry to keep an eye on Price's movements.
On Thursday, September 1, 1864, Captain Hamilton and K Company went on a scout into Yell County and engaged one Conly and 160 bushwackers, defeating them in a sharp skirmish near Beatty,s Mill. K Company killed 2 and wounded several rebels, and rescued the surgeon and a private from the 2nd Arkansas Infantry (USA) who were prisoners, according to Colonel Ryan's dispatch They also "captured a lot of Spanish brown, which the bushwackers were using to disguise themselves as indians."
On Friday, September 2, 1864, Colonel Ryan reported the above to Little Rock by telegraph. And, on this date Captain Napier, with I Company and Lt. Carr with G Company had a skirmish with Col. Witt (CSA) about 8 miles from Quitman, which is some 35 miles NE of Lewisburg. By this we can see that the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry is very spread out with patrols as much as 80 miles from each other.
By the 4th of September, 1864, advanced units of Price's great cavalry force arrived at Dardanelle, and began fording the Arkansas.
On the 5th September, Colonel Ryan sent the following dispatch:
Lewisburq, September 5, 1864
Brig. Gen. E.A. Carr
Commanding District of Little Rock
General: Colonel Stirman, C.S. Army, with 300 well mounted men, crossed by fording the Arkansas River at Dardanelle yesterday, camping last night at Russellville, going toward Dover, where Jackman is with 100 men. Cabell's command is reported as being on the South Fourche. From reliable authority I learn that Col. Gordon's command will cross the river at Dardanelle on Thursday next. Gordon is now on the Fourche. The Chippewa unloaded commissary stores here, and returned to Van's bar for quartermaster's stores left at that place. Will return here in the morning. River falling. Telegraph down on the Little Rock section ...... "
On the 5th of September, and ammunition train of some 40 men crossed the Arkansas at Dardanelle supposedly enroute to Shelby. Price's army now was arriving in strength. On the 6th of September Dockery's Brigade (CSA) were on the North side of the river and ancamped at Russellville and Dover. However the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry was not idle. Lts. Mason and Gates with C Company made a daring scout into Norristown, directly across the River, and on the north side, from Dardanelle, and found Gordon's regiment of Cabell's brigade on picket. They drove them from the town, with no loss and captured a few horses. Across the river they could see a large force with a w agon train etc. They learned that Price was in Dardanelle, and that his intentions were to cross, join Shelby, and go on to Missouri. The rebels also intend to capture Lewisburg.
Colonel Ryan dispatched this information to Little Rock, and made immediate preparations to evacuate Lewisburg. The River boat Chippewa was loaded with stores and sent off. He got the wagon train away to Cadron on the 7th of September, guarded by the 2nd Arkansas Infantry (USA) He requested information on the whereabouts of Shelby. Things were happening fast now.
On Wednesday, September 7, 1864, General Price and his command and the wagon train crossed the Arkansas, completing this phase of the operation, and they moved to meet Shelby. Shelby was just ordering his scattered command to converge on Pocahontas, Arkansas, where they would join Price, and move towards St. Louis.
General Steele (USA) in Little Rock was dependent on his cavalry. He had sent a dispatch to Major General Canby that he had some 600 cavalry looking for Price. This would have been most of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry. Steele continued to build up Little Rock. He also makes the Statement that the general impression is that
He also makes the statement that the general impression is that Price "intends making a raid into Missouri". He speaks of his defenses as being secure, but no mention of any attempt to engage Price.
In the meantime at Lewisburg things are happening rapidly. Col. Ryan sends dispatches that he has started four flat boats for Little Rock and one to Cadron Ferry, taking out all the government stores there. In a later dispatch he asks for any information about Shelby. In the afternoon the 2nd Arkansas Infantry left Lewisburg on a forced march to Little Rock. Years later John D. Pruitt, in filing for a pension, would state that his disability was due to a heat stroke suffered during the forced march and retreat from Lewisburg, September 7, 1864.
Sometime during the late afternoon or evening of September 7, 1864, Lt. Col. Fuller with 130 men, evidently F and G Companies of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry, met Price's army somewhere on the Dover to Springfield Road, as they were returning to Lewisburg. A sharp skirmish ensued and from the evidence it appears that F Company was cut off from the rest of the unit. The survivors of the skirmish did not reach Lewisburg until next day when col. Ryan sent two dispatches, which are crucial to our history:
Lewisburg, September 8, 1864 - 7.00 PM
Lt. Col. Fuller, with a scout of 130 men, met Cabell in cavalry and infantry force twenty miles from here, on Springfield and Dover Road, en route for this place. Fuller was surrounded, but cut his way out; Lieutenants Wishard, Carr and Greene, and 30 men missing. Have sent word to Col. Stephenson to start the train for Little Rock immediately. Have sent courier after the other scouting parties. I have everything in readiness to advance or retreat as soon as the scouts get in.
BRIG. GEN. E.A. CARR
Almost 2 hours later Col. Ryan sent another dispatch:
Lewisburg, Sept. 8, 1864, - 8.40 P.M.
Lts. Carr, Wishard and Greene have come in, Greene slightly wounded. I do not think our loss will exceed 15 killed, wounded and missing. There are three brigades of the enemy- Dockery's, Cabell's and I think Fagan's. I presume the enemy will move to Springfield and try and cut us off from the Cadron, Our horses are pretty well used up; am giving them a few hours. If there are any horses to spare in Little Rock, I trust we can get some, as we need them badly.
Brig. Gen. E.A. Carr
Lt. Wishard was Second-in-Command of F Company, and may have commanded the Company that fateful day. As will be later shown, there were problems with Captain Herring. There is no other record of the skirmish, and no detailed report of it, save that on September 9, 1864, General Steele (USA) at Little Rock sent a dispatch to Major General Canby in which he states "The rebel cavalry, or at least three brigades of them have crossed at Dardanelle. Price and Fagan are both present with this command. Cabell's brigade and some dismounted men were sent to attack Lewisburg. A scouting party under Lt. Col. Fuller of the Third Arkansas Cavalry, fell in with them and had a skirmish."
No muster roll of F Company would be taken until October 31, 1864, and regimental papers say nothing about the skirmish. Jim Nunnally and many other soldiers went home, and were charged with desertion. There was a great deal of confusion in the skirmish. Cpl. Nathaniel Page and Sgt. Thomas M. Jones were listed as killed in battle. Page was later to return -much later. On a muster roll dated February 28, 1865, he is listed as "returned to Company February 1. 1865, incorrectly reported killed". Nothing further was heard of Sgt. Jones, although on the muster roll his status was changed from "killed in battle" to "missing after battle".
The only report of the battle and it's aftermath came from what Nunnally's wife reported he told her. She told the family that the men were surrounded and cut off and told to scatter and rejoin the Company when they could. No doubt many went home, to check on their families as Prices army had just moved through Yell County. Many were later to return to the Company. Jim Nunnally would never have the chance.
Desertion is a difficult military charge as it deals with the intention of the soldier. If he planned to return, he is simply AWOL, no matter how long he is gone. If he didn't plan to return, he is a deserter if he was gone 1 hour.
On September 30, 1864, at Huntersville, Arkansas, there was a descriptive list of deserters prepared. The National Archives has been unable to locate the original of this document, but I have a entry made by a copyist. It lists:
James Nunnally, Pvt. Co. F, Deserted near Lewisburg, Arkansas. Took with him, One Star Carbine, One Remington Revolver, One Saber Belt, One Cartridge Box, One Cap Box and Sling Swivel.
By searching service records, I have been able to come up with a list of the deserters. This list is as accurate as I have been able to make, but without the original I can only work from later documents. All the men are from F Company, and all deserted September 7, 1864.
It is difficult for me to believe that all these men deserted, in the present sense of the word. The majority returned to duty, beginning with Hugh M. Barnett, who returned November 18, 1864, and continuing to Clarence Haney, who didn't return until March 23, 1865, some six months since that fatal afternoon of September 7, 1864. I wish to emphasize that none of the men were ever punished, save for loss of pay during their absence. However when each returned, he was noted as having "returned from desertion".
When Dene Hunnally applied for a pension, 20 August 1869, her WIDOW'S CLAIM was attested by JOhn T. Briggs and Ripley J. Woodward, both sergeants in F Company and neither a deserter. It would seem doubtful to me that if Nunnally had actually deserted his comrades, as the word desert is now used, that two of his sergeants would have attested to this pension application.
When Pvt. Hugh M. Barnett applied for a pension in February, 1902, there was a note on his record :
October 31, 1864, Muster Roll, Deserted near Lewisburg, Arkansas, September 7, 1864.
Charge of desertion removed, left his command at Lewisburg, Ark, , Sept. 7, 1864, with verbal permission of his Company commander. He was prevented from joining his command until Nov. 18, 1864, by presence of the enemy between him and his command"
His record was attested to by Milton A. Hames of D Company and Peter L. Satterfield of F Company, neither of whom were deserters.
When William A. Hill applied for a pension, it was noted he deserted near Lewisburg, Ark., September 7, 1864, and was restored to duty with loss of pay, February 19, 1865. His application was attested to by Ripley J. Woodward and Elisha P. Johnson, both of F. Company, and neither deserters.
When Simeon Pledger applied for a pension in November of 1899, it was noted on his record that on that fatal muster roll of October 31, 1864 was was listed as having deserted near Lewisburg, Arkansas, September 7, 1864, that he was restored to duty Regimental Special Order 153, but on conditions less than complied with. The charge of desertion is removed, but his absence cannot be expunged."
It is also interesting to note that Pledger and others have listed Lt. Wishard as their Company Commander. Captain Herring was listed as ill on two muster rolls previous to August 31, 1864, but was present on that day. However none of the battle dispatches make any mention of him. Only Lt. Wishard is listed.
Unless something new, such as a diary, letter or memoir, turns up, we will probably never know exactly what happened September 7, 1864. But based on what information we do have I feel that the following comes near the truth. On that day, Lt. Col. Fuller and 3 companies of the Third Arkansas Cavalry were trying to seek out Price's army and determine their movements. In doing so they came upon the full strength of Cabell's Brigade, which had just crossed the Arkansas at Dardanelle, proceeded northward, then turned East at Dover and headed towards Springfield. I have travelled this road several times looking for a likely place, and believe they were closer to Dover than Springfield.
A sharp skirmish ensued, and in the confusion F Company was cut off from the rest of the battalion. Somewhere in the confusion an order was shouted for the men to scatter and make their way back to Lewisburg as best they could. Whether this order was from Herring or Wischard, we have no way of knowing. In the confusion of the battle, it was assumed that two men were killed, Cpl. Nathaniel Page and Sgt. Thomas M. Jones. Page was later to return, and Jones was changed from Killed in Battle to Missing after Battle.
When the battalion returned to Lewisburg, over 40 men of F Company were missing. This included both Privates and NCOs. There was hell to pay. This was the major strength of the Company. Some probably drifted back before the next Muster Roll of October 31, 1864. As there is nothing in the Regimental Papers to indicate what was done, we can only assume that somewhere there had to be a scapegoat to account for the loss.
On October 15, 1864, Captain Bright W. Herring was dismissed from the service. The charge against him was neglect of duty and inneff icency. When he applied for a pension many years later, he said it was due to his failure to make out his ordinance Returns. I cant help but believe it was somehow related to the events of September 7, 1864. Captain Clear of D Company and Captain Napier of I Company were evidently on the Board that dismissed him from the service, and command of the Company he had recruited. There is no indication that he was in command that fatal day, but likewise there is no indication he wasnt.
A Muster Roll was due October 31, 1864, and some decision had to be made concerning the missing men. For some reason it was decided to charge them with desertion, rather than list them as missing, and this was done. Likewise the Regimental Papers indicate that as they drifted back, Lt. Wischard, now in command of F Company, consistently reccommended they be restored to duty, with only loss of pay, even to men gone 6 months.
As the majority of deserters returned, I assume that James Scott Nunnally would have also, but he was never to have the chance.
THE ENIGMA OF THE DEATH OF JAMES SCOTT NUNNALLY, JR.
After the skirmish of September 7, 1864, Jim Nunnally made his way back to Bluffton in Yell County. Whether he was alone or with other members of F Company is unknown, but whether alone or in company it would have been a dangerous journey. He had to cover some 70 miles most of it in rebel country south of the Arkansas River. It was an area infested with guerrilla bands, bushwackers and outlaws, but he knew the country, and I am sure was worried about his wife and daughter, knowing that Price's army had just moved through Yell County.
We dont know how long it took him, but he made it back to Bluffton where his wife and daughter were waiting. What happened next we only know from what has been handed down in the family, and the scant information on Dene Nunnally's Pension Application.
It was probably impossible to keep his presence unknown, and there were plenty of man in the county who had a particular reason to hate the Third Arkansas Cavalry, because of it's recent raind into the county.
According to her Pension Application, dated 20 August 1869, and from her own stories, on October 8, 1864 some men came to the cabin and seized Jim Nunnally and killed him. I have heard they hung him, and I have heard that they shot him. At any rate Jim Nunnally was dead. If he were a known member of the Third Arkansas Cavalry, and was not in uniform, he could have been legally executed as a spy. Dene Nunnally stated that he was killed in "line of duty" This may indicate that he was accused of being a spy, or that perhaps he was in uniform and the men who seized him wore Confederate uniforms. Other stories were told about his death.
His Company and Regiment were never informed of his death. He was carried on the rolls as a deserter, even on the Muster-Out roll. He is still listed as a deserter. Dene Nunnally's pension application was denied, because of the desertion, it was stated "No evidence of death or removal of the charge of desertion".
Jim Nunnally was dead. He left a wife about 20 years old and a daughter, Martha, 4 years old. For what little is known about his death I think it can definitely stated, he was killed because he was a Union soldier, and died as such, the same as if he had died at Gettysburg. He had been in the Third Arkansas Cavalry since October 16, 1863, and had never once been paid for his service.
Much later, but while the war was still being fought, Dene was informed of where he had been murdered. She went to the place and collected his bones. She returned home (and I feel by this time she was living with her mother, Melissa Pruitt), and finding some rebel sympathizers were there said she had been collecting firewood, and dumped them in the woodbox. Later she buried them. I have searched the Bluffton cemetery for a sign, but if he was buried there it is unmarked. I feel he, like so many others murdered in Yell County lies in an unmarked grave.
After the skirmish of September 7, 1864, the regiment was again sent to Lewisburg, and continued it's everyday work of trying to keep the Arkansas River open to Ft. Smith. Price's army had moved into Missouri, and presented no further problem, but there were still the guerillas, bushwackers and outlaws to contend with. Scouting and patrolling went on. From September 9 to 12th Company D was sent on a scout to Norristown and Russelville to look for stragglers of Price's army. Another detachment made a expedition to Ft. Smith from September 28th to October 13th. There was a skirmish at Clarksville, Arkansas, September 28, 1864, and on White Oak Creek, September 29, 1864, and again at Clarkeville, October 9th. There was a reconnaissance from Little Rock toward Monticello and Mt. Elba.
On October 31, 1864, a muster roll was taken of F Company, 3rd Arkansas Cavalry. The troop was a sad reflection of itself. Only 9 privates are present with 13 N.C.O. to oversee them. Lt. Wishard now commands the company, with Captain Herring listed as "Dismissed". Ripley Woodward is listed as a deserter, but evidently wasnt, as this is the only list on which he so appears.
Whatever the causeor reason, Company F was no longer an effective Company.
THIRD ARKANSAS CAVALRY
MASTER LIST OF DESERTERS
SEPTEMBER 7, 1864Barnett, Hugh M. Pvt. l1/18/64Returned Bomegarner, Thomas D., Pvt. 2/20/65 Brewer, Joseph, Pvt. Buchanan, John H., Pvt. Choat, Thomas, Pvt. 1/18/65 Clanton, William, Pvt. 3/2/65 Crownover James, Corp. Crownover, John T., Pvt. Crownover, William, Pvt. Dees, Alexander, Pvt. Dowell, Noah, Pvt. Eoster,. Erastus, Sgt. Ret. George, James D., Pvt. Giger, George S., Pvt. Grey William, Pvt. Hames William P. Pvt. 2/10/65 Haney, Clarence, Duty Sgt. 3/23/65 Haney, John, Pvt. 2/22/65 Haney, Thadeus, Sgt. Hill, William R., Pvt. 2/10/65 Huckaby, Kneland F. 2/1/65 Ivey, John, Pvt. Johnson, Elish P., Sgt. Ret. Johnson, Burk, Pvt. Ladd, Milton, Pvt. 2/10/65 Marney, Samuel, Pvt. 11/21/64 McMillan, Jesse, Corp. 11/21/64 Mills, Charles B. Pvt. Mills, John A., Pvt. Morris, William A., Pvt. 11/2/64 Nunnally, James S., Pvt. Page, Nathaniel, Corp. (Listed as K/A) 2/1/65 Pickens, Samuel, Pvt. 11/29/64 K/A Pledger, Simeon, Corp. 2/17/65 Prewette, William, Pvt. 11/22/64 Powers, Lewis, Pvt. Rainey, Francis, Pvt. Smith, William C, Sgt. Ret. Tate, James W., Pvt. 11/29/64 Thomas, James, Corp.
The above research, written by Paul P. Steed, Jr. is entitled Arkansas Fed.