The Confederates in Our Attic part 1 of 3

Monday, May 9, 2016

This begins a series of sketches entitled "The Confederates in Our Attic." A takeoff on the 1998 best seller, "Confederates In the Attic" by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horwitz. In the book Horwitz takes 291 pages trying to answer this question: "Why did this war still obsess so many Americans 130 years after Appomattox?" Now, despite the lSI years and counting, you can still see pick-up trucks flying the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Walmart parking lot. The series will not try to answer Horwitz's question but attempt to localize it. To do so, we draw on our area's rich vein of up front and personal Civil War history.

Saline County's initial settlers came here from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. They brought their Upper South's culture and tradition of hemp and tobacco production, but more importantly, also their slaves. In the 1860 federal census, fully a quarter of Saline County's population were enslaved. This multi-county region of Missouri is still known today as "Little Dixie" and was the epicenter of Missouri's Southern sympathy. Although Missouri remained in the Union, its Slave State status ensured a lot of our houses were divided.

Missouri ranks third in the nation with more than 1,162 battles from 1861 to 1865 occurring within our borders. Four Confederate generals -- John B. Clark, John S. Marmaduke, Sterling Price and Joseph O. Shelby -- all lived within an hour's drive of Marshall. Add in the Missouri "Bushwackers" and the Kansas "Red legs" for an additional five-plus years of prairie terrorism and you have a skein of yarns.

First up: John S. Marmaduke, Major General, Missouri Governor and murderer.

General Lucius "Marsh" Walker knew he was a dead man and said as much when he hit the ground. On the dawning of Sunday, Sept. 6, 1863, he was lying in the Arkansas dew grievously wounded. The .36 caliber ball that had entered his side, passed through his kidney and into his spine had not been fired by a Union sharpshooter. No, Walker was the loser in the last duel fought in Arkansas. The winner of this ancient ritual was fellow Confederate Cavalry Brigadier and subordinate, John Sappington Marmaduke, one of Saline County's most favorite sons.

Dueling was illegal and going out of fashion in most of mid-18th century America.

Arkansas had outlawed dueling in 1820 and Missouri in 1822. Even though illegal, it remained a deadly option for settling disagreements to the upper classes. Walker, a West Point graduate from Tennessee, was the nephew of President James Polk. Marmaduke attended Harvard, then Yale and graduated from West Point, the son of a Missouri governor and great grandson of a governor of Kentucky. As such, they found themselves subject to the Code Duello.

The Code Duello, penned by Irish gentlemen in 1777, codified the duel in 26 rules that governed every aspect of the encounter. Dueling over differences in America was most common for publishers, politicians and military officers as they were most prone to public life threatening disagreements.

Swords had become passe' and the pistol became the accepted weapon of choice.

According to the Irish composers of the Code Duello, a copy of it had to be retained in a gentleman's pistol case. South Carolina Governor John Lyde Wilson penned an Americanized version of the code in 1838. Thus the Wilson Code, combined with the Code Duello became the rules of engagement in the Upper South states of Arkansas and Missouri.

As in Europe, most gentlemen owned a set of dueling pistols, but there were exceptions in weapons. In France, odd duels were fought with billiard balls across a snooker table or in 1808 when two gentlemen with shotguns from hot air balloons 2,700 feet in the sky above Paris. Of course this aerial duel didn't end well. One of the principals and his unlucky second fell to their deaths when his opponent's wild shot burst their balloon.

So, how did two officers and therefore, gentlemen, with years of experience as to the horrors of warfare between them, arrive in such a precarious position ... it's complicated.

Marmaduke, like three of his brothers, entered the Confederate Army despite their father's Union sympathies. John enlisted as an officer in April of 1861. By the following January he was promoted to Colonel in command of the 3rd Confederate Infantry and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. While recovering in the hospital he was promoted to Brigadier General.

During the early July battle for Helena, Ark., both Walker's and Marmaduke's cavalry divisions were ordered to attack Union artillery and infantry positions. In his after-action report of the unsuccessful attack, Marmaduke explained that his inability to dislodge the enemy units was due to Walker's failure to cover his flank and rear. Marmaduke thereby failed to inform Walker of the order to retreat, nearly resulting in the Tennessean's capture. As the Confederate Army continued its retreat toward Little Rock, Marmaduke's cavalry, as a rear guard, laid a trap for the advancing Federals. Unfortunately, Walker disregarded the plan and his lack of support nearly then got Marmaduke captured. Twelve miles north of Little Rock, at Reed's Bridge, Marmaduke's men destroyed the bridge and after a sharp fire fight, forced the Federal advance guard to temporarily withdraw, twice, during the daylong engagement,

Marmaduke asked Walker to the front to hold a conference. Walker never answered or appeared on the battlefield.

Story to be continued in The Marshall Democrat-News Wednesday, May 11.