2nd ARKANSAS INFANTRY REGIMENT (UNION)

A HISTORY

By Robert W. Ford

 INTRODUCTION

I am indebted to Desmond Walls Allen, Arkansas Research, Conway, Arkansas, for her book, “Second Arkansas Union Infantry.”  I have also use the records of the National Archives, Washington, DC, including soldier’s Service Records and The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.  I also used the Sons of Confederate Veterans timeline for Arkansas, which is on the Internet.  This is the story of the Civil War service of my great grandfather, James Monroe Hill, and his regiment.

James M. Hill was born in Hall County, Georgia, October 6, 1832, the second of four boys – William Hill (1830-1850s); Robert Jackson Hill was born in Walker County, Georgia in 1834; and Aaron Hill, born 1837 in Walker County, Georgia.   They were the sons of Berry Hill, born 1804, who was murdered between 1839-1841 in Walker County, Georgia.  Family tradition says he was a lawman, who was shot through the kitchen window, while he was eating supper.  The three youngest Hill boys went to Arkansas after 1855, acquiring land near Hartford, Sebastian County, Arkansas, according to Federal Bureau Of Land Management records.  Hartford is south of Fort Smith, but in the same county. 

James married three times.  His first wife was Elizabeth Samantha Carter, who apparently died in childbirth in 1855 in Walker County, Georgia.  The story of their son, US Marshall, Leonidas Sengal Hill, and his murder can be found on this web site in the section called “Two Killings.”  James married his second wife, Melinda A. Fritts\Fritz, December 29, 1858 in Johnson County, Arkansas.  Melinda was the 22-year old daughter of William Fritts.  James and Melinda would have ten children.  She died June 2, 1896.  In 1901 James married the 60-year old widow, Mrs. A. J. Davis, on August 22, 1901.  Family traditions says when the 70-year old James died five months after his third marriage, and that this wife got all his property for her children, including the family Bible, which has not been recovered.  Well…, back to the Civil War.

Sebastian County divided over the question of slavery and secession from the Union.  In fact hard feeling about the Civil War lingered long after the war; so much so, that Union veterans were not allowed to be buried in the same cemetery with Confederate veterans.

 A UNION DIVIDES

The election of 1860 was hot and heavy.  Election day, August 6, the people defeated Arkansas’ political family, electing a new Congressman, a new Governor, and for President, electoral votes go to John C. Breckenridge, a former US Vice President and Kentucky Senator.  The State is divided by region and economics.  In early November 1860, the 2nd US Artillery quietly arrived in Little Rock to guard the Federal Arsenal.  Rector is inaugurated Governor.  In his inaugural address, he is the first governor to call for secession; but there is little interest in the State.  By December a concentrated effort is underway to bring about secession.  Rumors of Federal intervention abound.  In February, the people voted for a secession convention. 

On March 4, 1861, the day Lincoln was inaugurated, the Secession convention convenes; but on the 16th, secession was defeated 39-35.  Political war breaks out with efforts to oust the Governor. On April 27, the Secession convention reconvenes, but was forced to adjourn in early June without acting.  This does not end the political strife.

On June 25, General Hardee is ordered to command Arkansas troops by the Confederate Government, and arrives in late July.  General McCulloch of Texas joins forces with Arkansas troops and issued a call for three-year service to the Confederacy.   Hardee finds few arms, ammunition, or clothing and informs General Price in Missouri that he cannot assist in saving Missouri until organized and supplied.  State troops balk at being transferred to Confederate control and go home.  By early September, Arkansas’s Army has melted away in disgust over their treatment.

Efforts were made by the Governor to raise Confederate volunteers.  By the summer, Fort Smith became a large Confederate training camp.  It was a prosperous time for farmers of Sebastian County.  The Hill boys kept to themselves and attended to their own business.  They had opposed secession, and the Counties loyalties were divided.  It was not a time to voice opposition to the Confederacy.   By the end of July, Arkansas's Confederate troops had move into Missouri in an attempt to save the state from Union forces.

 THE TIME CAME TO DEFEND THEIR VIEWS

Big battles had occurred at Wilson’s Creek near Springfield, Missouri, in August 1861 and at Pea Ridge in Arkansas in March 1862.  Hundreds of Arkansas casualties were suffered.  People began to understand that war is truly Hell.

By May 1862, Federal forces were nearing Little Rock, and skirmish after skirmish were reported all over Arkansas during the rest of 1862 and into the fall of 1863.  On August 31, 1863, Union forces capture Fort Smith.  The next day, Union General James G. Blunt ordered Col. William Cloud to pursuie the Confederates forces that had withdrawn from Fort Smith moving south.  They were chased to Old Jenny Lind.  At the base of Devil’s Backbone Mountain northwest of Hartford, the Rebels turned on Col. Cloud and skirmished with him.  The Rebel brigade, under the command of Brig. Gen. W. L. Cabell, ambushed the Union troops and halted their advance for a short while until they regrouped.  With the help of Union artillery, the Federals drove the Confederates back and forced them to retire in disorder toward Waldron.  The Union suffered 16 casualties compared to 65 for the Rebels.  For the next two months skirmishing occurred almost every day.

Sebastian County was all in a flutter.  With the War coming to their area, the Hill boys decided it was time for them to stand by their belief and join the Union Army.  They heard the Union was organizing regiments made up of Arkansas and Missouri men.  Robert was the first volunteer.  He goes to Fort Smith, where on September 9, 1863, he joined the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry Regiment.  He was 29-years of age, married and with a family.

James delayed until October 13, 1863.  He was a family man with two children under three-years of age.  Eight months after he joined, his wife had another daughter born.  But duty called, and James also went to Fort Smith, where he joined in Company “C” of the 2nd Arkansas Infantry Regiment as a private.  His enlistment record says he was six feet tall, with a fair complexion and hazel eyes, dark hair, and his occupation was farmer.

The Regiment was organized at both Springfield, Missouri and at Fort Smith, Arkansas between October 1863 and March 13, 1864. Organization and training was completed at Fort Smith.  The Regiment’s strength was 913 enlisted men, but only 11 officers and 600 men were mustered into service due to the lack of a mustering officer.   A 26-year old Colonel Marshall L. Stephenson was regimental commander.  Captain Nicholas T. B. Schuyler from the 2nd Kansas Cavalry was appointed Company C commander with Jesse H. Stansell as First Lieutenant, and George N. Spradling as 2nd Lieutenant.

James saw his first action on November 21, when skirmishing Confederate guerrillas occurred at Jacksonport, Arkansas.  A month later, on December 15, they fought again at Clarksville.  The Regiment then remained at Fort Smith until March 1864.

The Regiment was attached to District of the Frontier, Department of Missouri, 7th Army Corps, and Department of Arkansas, under the command of Brigadier General John McNeil.  In January the Regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the 7th Corps.

On March 18, 1864, Arkansas votes ratify a pro-Union State Constitution that ended slavery in the State.

The Regiment left Fort Smith by rail to a point fifteen miles west of Danville.  Companies D and G were left at Clarksville.  On March 27, the Regiment was assigned to the first Brigade, District of the Frontier, under the command of Brigadier General Thayer.  From Danville they went by train to Little Rock where they marched south toward Camden, Arkansas, as a part of General Frederick Steele’ s column to become a part of the Federals Red River Campaign.

On April 9-12 the Regiment fought at Prairie D’ Ann, at Moscow on April 13, at Limestone Valley on April 17, and at Jenkins’ Ferry on the Saline River on April 30.  Several men were killed and wounded.  Others were sick and some deserted.  On returning to Little Rock, the Regiment was declared as incomplete due to all the losses.  The two companies at Clarksville rejoined the Regiment.  The Regiment was mustered

In May the Regiment was again reassigned to the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 7th Army Corps in December 1864.  From May to July, the Regiment was assigned at Little Rock.  While there, a great many men deserted.  Most went home to protect their families from guerrillas who were attacking Union supporters.  In July the Regiment was sent to Lewisburg until September 7, when the Regiment was re-sent to Little Rock until October 18 when they were assigned to escort trains to Fort Smith.  The Regiment did train duty during October and November 1864, protecting supply trains. 

In late October, James was home.  We know of this because nine months later, his wife gave birth to another daughter on July 23, 1865.  We do not know if James was one of those who left without leave from Little Rock, or got approved leave to go home, only 55 miles from Fort Smith.  However, he was back with his Regiment by January 1865.

On December 31, the Regiment was ordered to proceed from Fort Smith to Clarksville, for the purpose of collecting together the Union people in the country with the view of moving them to Little Rock to protect them for guerrillas who were killing Union supporters.  The plan was to evacuate Fort Smith and the surrounding county.  Upon arriving at Clarksville, a large number of men who deserted at Little Rock and Lewisburg voluntarily rejoined the Regiment.  Depending on the individual cases, the men were restored to duty with loss of pay and allowances during any unauthorized absence, by order of Brigadier General Bussy, commander of the 3rd Division, 7th Army Corps.  The order to evacuate the county was countermanded.

The Regiment then stayed at Clarksville where they were put in the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 7th Corps.  The Regiment did very good service by ridding the county and surrounding areas of guerrilla forces.  The Union men were not kind to those who had threatened the safety of their families and farms.  Things that happened during much of this time contributed greatly to the hard feeling after the War when Union and Confederate veterans could not be buried in the same cemetery.  

The Regiment stayed in Clarksville until being moved back to Fort Smith where the James Hill was mustered out of Federal Service on August 8, 1865.  When disbanded, the Regiment had 27 commissioned officers and 581 enlisted men.  

In 1891 James received an invalid’s pension for his Federal service.  James died January 8, 1902, and is buried in the Jackson Cemetery, west of Hartford, Arkansas.