Civil War General and Indian Fighter James M. Williams
Leader of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry and the 8th U.S. Cavalry
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of North Texas Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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List of Illustrations
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James Monroe Williams (1833–1907) had the privilege of being part of some of the most exciting years in American History. His contributions helped maintain the momentum of American history wherever he went. He not only lived it; he made some of that history, and helped to transform the In his childhood, Williams was a participant in the Great Migration, mov-ing west with the frontier. As a young man, he led Kansas Jayhawkers on raids ...
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When I first became interested in James Monroe Williams several years ago, all I knew was that he had been a general in the Civil War. I then learned that his wife grew up on a plantation and owned slaves, so I presumed he had been a Confederate general. Then, I came across a carte de visite photograph of him. He was in a Yankee uniform! As a novice pur-suing an interest in history, I had little idea how to research or where to ...
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...as America wearily entered the fourth year of its cataclysmic civil war, James M. Williams commanded a brigade in the Union Army’s Seventh Corps in Arkansas. On February 13, 1865, he became a brigadier general at the age of thirty-one.1 He had come a long way from the distant days when he was the youngest of thirteen children on a farm in extreme northern New York. In the process of getting to that point, the events of his life thus far ...
1. Bleeding Kansas, Border Ruffians, and Jayhawkers
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James Williams and his brother Sam arrived at Leavenworth, Kansas in 1856. They found the town growing at an explosive rate, with opportu-nity, excitement and conflict everywhere. Leavenworth had all the trappings The Kansas-Nebraska act, signed by President Pierce two years earlier in 1854, opened huge expanses of the western prairie to settlers. Pierce’s signature prompted a major land rush and several years of bloody conflict. ...
2. Williams, Lane’s Brigade, and the Civil War
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...the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi, or Frontier area of the United States, was generally an annoyance to the authorities in Washington and Richmond. Senior commanders and politicians were more focused on the huge formations of troops swarming across the eastern landscape, led by clus-ters of generals with impressive names. Casualties in the east defied imagina-tion. Northern and Southern capitals were at stake. The Trans-Mississippi was ...
3. The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment
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While Lane’s Brigade was being disbanded and Williams was resign-ing from the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, James Lane, back in the persona of United States Senator, was finagling to continue his behind-the-scenes involvement with elements of the military in Kansas. He became a godfa-ther of sorts for some of his favored officers, such as James G. Blunt, former executive officer of the Third Regiment. Blunt later proved to be a good com-...
4. They “Fought Like Tigers:” Island Mound, Missouri
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...on October 26, 1863, Major Benjamin Henning at Fort Scott, Kansas, ordered elements of the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry into Missouri, near the Bates County town of Butler, on a mission to clean out a supposed bushwhacker (enemy guerilla) headquarters.1 Known locally as Hog Island, it was an island formed by a split in the Marais des Cygnes River.2 Hog Island was about three miles long, and about a mile wide. The Marais ...
5. The Regiment: “A Day of Great Rejoicing,” and Grim Reality at Sherwood
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...the regiment continued to grow, but not without occasional bumps. In November 1862, Williams had a run-in with the law in Lecompton. Lecompton was not a community that would have extended a warm welcome to Williams. It had been the fraudulent capital of territorial Kansas established by the pro-slavery faction in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Emotions in the community ran high against free black soldiers. Williams and Captain ...
6. Into Indian Territory: First Battle of Cabin Creek
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...the Civil War was savage in the Trans-Mississippi region of the United States, particularly in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Battles were smaller in total numbers, but they were no less brutal than those in the east; they were, perhaps, even more so. Old animosities pitted neighbor against neighbor. Opposing forces knew each other well and fought over and over again. Guerrilla forces terrorized, murdered, and burned almost ...
7. The Battle of Honey Springs, Indian Territory
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...having heard of Williams’ victory at Cabin Creek, General Blunt was enthusiastic about his achievement and its potential impact upon the course of the war in Indian Territory. He immediately left Fort Scott on July 6 on a forced march south to Fort Gibson with four hundred men and eight cannons. He was intent upon exploiting the Cabin Creek victory with a cam-paign to push the Confederate army out of Indian Territory. His options ...
8. The Red River Campaign and the Camden Expedition
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...the Red River Campaign was a Union effort to take the war into Texas. Its objectives were to stall Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in his threats to the borderlands and potential alliance with the Confederacy; take control of cotton production resources in the Southwest; and crush the Confederate determination west of the Mississippi. The stage for this campaign was set with the Union victories at Vicksburg and Port Hudson in July 1863. The Union ...
9. The Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas
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Steele soon discovered that the ideal base at Camden was as much a trap as a resource. As his corps flowed into Camden, he received word that the Confederate army in Louisiana defeated General Banks’ large Union command, forcing Banks to withdraw back down the Red River. Steele had to hold tight in Camden to determine what would be the future course of the There was nothing available in Camden to sustain Steele’s corps. The ...
10. Confederate Atrocities and Steele’s Retreat
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Confederate soldiers killed many of the First Kansas men who lay wounded on the battlefield at Poison Spring. The wounded Yankees’ comrades met the same fate in the previous racial massacre at Sherwood, Missouri. Williams, infuriated by reports from survivors, yet unable to do anything about it, wrote in this report, “Many wounded men belonging to the First Kansas Colored Volunteers fell into the hands of the enemy, and I have the ...
11. A Brigade, Another Massacre, and Second Cabin Creek
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Shortly after Williams’ assignment as brigade commander, Union forces in Arkansas underwent a reorganization. Regiments shuffled to various brigades and locations as dictated by the military threat. Williams’ headquar-ters moved to Fort Smith, on the border of Indian Territory. He was respon-sible for all aspects of the lives of 2,735 men and 10 cannon. Most of the soldiers in Williams’ new brigade were black Americans. They comprised four ...
12. Back to Arkansas: Final Campaigns, Promotion, Peace, and Transition
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...on September 22, General Thayer sent a message to Williams ordering him to keep his brigade at Fort Gibson until further notice.1 Thayer had expressed dissatisfaction that the convoys from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson were without sufficient protection, compelling him to deploy regiments from Arkansas, leaving him without sufficient troops to counter local Confederate activity.2 By positioning Williams at Fort Gibson, he could respond to needs ...
13. Indian Wars in the West with the Eighth Cavalry
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...uSmilitary needs did not fade with the closing of the Civil War. Indeed, national security challenges abounded. Fenians (Irish nationalists) caused strife north of the Canadian border, and were stirring unrest through brother Fenians in the United States. Emperor Maximilian, a French surrogate for Napoleon III in Mexico, was giving the American government a case of nerves, with the possibility of a European power on ...
14. Campaigning: Fort Whipple, Arizona Territory
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...in 1867, General Gregg established Eighth Cavalry regimental head-quarters at Camp Whipple, Arizona Territory. Camp Whipple was out-side the small community of Prescott, then the territorial capital. He went into Arizona to replace Colonel John Mason, commander of the District of Arizona. Arizona had been under jurisdiction of California’s Union volun-teers, filling the void left when Confederates pulled out in 1862, ending their ...
15. Recuperation, a New Family, and Fort Selden, New Mexico
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While Williams’ success against the Indians, and their success against him were transpiring, life went on. Some personal paperwork originated by Williams worked its way through the territorial legislature. Accordingly, the Fourth Arizona Territorial Legislature acted to grant Williams a divorce from his wife, Lydia, on September 23, 1867. No reason is stated, but there were obvious indicators that Williams and his wife did not enjoy a relation-...
16. Fort Bayard, New Mexico Territory
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...devin was responsible for resolving irregularities in accounts at various installations. Upon arrival at Selden, he summarily relieved the then post commander Major David Clendenin, making adverse record of his per-formance. Clendenin demanded a court of inquiry into “allegations against my integrity as an officer and a gentleman.” One of the mandates given Devin was to clean up Fort Bayard, near Silver City in southwest New Mexico, ...
17. Frontier Ranching, Congressional Accolades, and Redemption
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Williams found opportunity in southern Colorado. He selected a site on the Santa Fe Trail, along the Purgatory River (also called Las Animas), about five miles northeast of the village of Trinidad. Trinidad was the gate-way to the imposing Raton Pass through the Sangre de Christo Mountains separating Colorado from New Mexico. The constant flow of settlers along the Santa Fe Trail passed Williams’ new home en route through the pass. The ...
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...like Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena,” James Monroe Williams was the man on the ground when American history happened. He was not a spectator. Wherever he was, and whenever the muses of history needed a catalyst, he made it happen. He did so as a Jayhawker in the days of the ante-bellum conflict over slavery as it played out across the landscapes of Kansas and Missouri. He led his Jayhawking team into the first year of the war com-...
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Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 37 b&w illus. 3 maps.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: War and the Southwest Series