NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Edwards, Thomas J. Pvt. 21 Oct. 20, 1861 Disease Sep. 16, 1862 Franklin, William L. Pvt. 35 Oct. 20, 1861 Disease Oct. 5, 1862 Harper, Benjamin E. Pvt. 19 Oct. 20, 1861 Disease Sept. 4, 1862
NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Seawright, Wm. M. 2Sgt. 34 Oct. 23, 1861 Disease Oct. 22, 1862 Billington, Allison Pvt. 21 Nov. 9, 1861 Disease Sep. 2, 1862 Foster, George W. Pvt. 30 Oct. 23, 1861 Disease Sep. 23, 1862 Garrett, Benjamin Pvt. 27 Apr. 25, 1862 Disease Oct. 31, 1862 Scruggs, Edward Y. Pvt. 25 Oct. 23, 1861 Disease Oct. 16, 1862 Stewart, Columbus Pvt. 19 Apr. 18, 1862 Disease Nov. 5, 1862 Tharp, William D. Pvt. 17 Nov. 9, 1861 Disease Nov. 13, 1862 Tidwell, Seaborn S. Pvt. 20 Apr. 30, 1862 Disease Sep. 3, 1862 Wood, William E. Pvt. 20 May 23, 1862 Disease Sep. 2, 1862
NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Spraigue, Lycurgus D. Pvt. 21 Oct. 25, 1861 Disease Sep. 2, 1862
NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Crain, Joel 5Sgt. 44 Oct. 23, 1861 Disease Nov. 3, 1863 Higgins, Fountain P. Pvt. 17 Dec. 8, 1862 Brain Fever Sep. 4, 1862 Lewis, Francis P. Pvt. __ Apr. 10, 1862 Disease Nov. 19, 1862 Mackey, Francis M. Pvt. __ Jan. 12, 1862 Disease Sep. 17, 1862 Pearson, Dudley F. Pvt. 27 Oct. 23, 1861 Disease Oct. 1, 1862
NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Nevills, William W. Pvt. 19 Oct. 13, 1861 Disease Oct. 7, 1862
NAME RANK AGE ENLISTED CAUSE OF DEATH DATE OF DEATH ---- ---- --- -------- -------------- ------------- Pennington, Riggs Pvt. __ Jul. 14, 1862 Disease Sep. 5, 1862 Wade, William M. Pvt. 31 Mar. 16, 1862 Disease Aug. 10, 1862
Each morning during the cold, wet, Arkansas winter of 1862-63, an ever-dwindling file of Gray-clad troops marched out of Camp Nelson. In the surrounding forest, beneath the dripping branches of oak, pine and hickory trees, they buried their dead -- in single graves if there were only a few, in communal trenches if there were too many for the weakened men to manage the digging.
After a brief,
all-too-familiar ceremony, the burial detail drove simple wooden stakes to mark
the last homes of their fallen comrades. Then they trudged wearily back to camp,
each man burdened with the knowledge that he
could be one of the next carried to this place in the forest.
The awful irony was that no angry shots were ever fired. No heated battle was ever fought. But there are many ways to die in a war and many kinds of battles. And this battle was against disease -- against typhoid and the dreaded black measles, with its raging fever, bilious eruptions and debilitating diarrhea. Before the siege was over, more than 1,500 of the men at Camp Nelson would succumb to these cruel, relentless enemies.
This wasn't the kind of war General Nelson had promised. But no one was blaming him.
28, 1861, Georgia-born Allison Nelson, representing Bell and McClennan Counties
in the Texas Legislature, exuberantly cast his vote for secession, returned to
his home in the town of Waco, and enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was
appointed to the rank of Colonel, commanding a well-outfitted regiment of
volunteer infantry and cavalry, gathered from the towns and farms of Central
Texas. His force was soon joined by Captain
John Lauderdale's 10th Texas Infantry from Washington County.
1862, Nelson's troops were bivouacked at Argenta, Arkansas (now a part of North
Little Rock), when news arrived that Union forces were mounting an offensive
from Pea Ridge, southeast toward Des Arc. Nelson
was ordered to send men and supplies north toward Pea Ridge, with the assurance that he would be resupplied.
On September 12th, Nelson was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Two weeks later, he was reinforced by the arrival of Colonel George Flournoy's 16th Texas Infantry from Austin County. But the promised supplies never came.
On October 2nd, Nelson
and Brigadier General H. E. McCulloch, with a combined force of 25,000 Texas and
Arkansas troops, were dispatched on an ill-fated, 55-mile trek to the east,
across the swamps of Grand Prairie
to Clarendon Heights on the White River. They arrived in a driving rainstorm on the evening of October 4th.
Almost immediately, word
came that an enemy force was moving up the Arkansas River -- in an apparent
attempt to split the Army in half. So, on October 9th, the weary and ill-clad
troops packed up and started back to Argenta
through the mud and knee-deep water.
The first night on the trail, a blustery norther swept across the land, bringing with it a storm of hail, followed by more rain and then sleet. Fighting the cold, benumbing, wind-swept bogs of Grand Prairie for two miserable days and nights, the now-exhausted men, many of them sick with chills and fever, arrived back at Argenta -- only to learn that the rumored Yankee offensive had been a false alarm. Their forced march had been for naught.
Even worse, General Nelson was no longer with his men.
Taken ill on the trip out, he had been carried back to Little Rock, were he died of pneumonia on October 7, 1862.
With an honor guard provided by Colonel J. W. Spaight's 15th Texas Regiment, he was buried in Little Rock's Mount Holly Cemetery. General Henry E. McCulloch was now in sole command of the sick and bedraggled troops.
On the morning of
October 14th, McCulloch was ordered to leave the bivouac at Argenta and move
northeast a distance of 14 miles, into winter quarters at Camp Hope, two miles
east of the village of Austin. To honor General
Allison Nelson, McCulloch renamed the new encampment. Henceforth, it would be known as "Camp Nelson".
Tents were erected in a clearing in a belt of woods, where the surrounding hills provided at least partial shelter from the onslaught of the frigid north winds. Even so, epidemics of typhoid and black measles, intensified by a fouled water supply, began at once to take their toll. Within six weeks, more than 500 Gray-clad soldiers had perished.
Early in November, McCulloch was assigned the task of making a general organization of the surviving Texas Infantry. This revamped division, consisting of four brigades of able-bodied men, departed Camp Nelson on November 24th, bound for Little Rock and thence to Pine Bluff.
Five weeks later, on New
Year's Day 1863, Major General John G. Walker assumed command of McCulloch's
troops. As Walker's Texas Division, or "Walker's Greyhounds," this
force went on to gain lasting fame throughout
both the Confederacy and the Union alike.
Meanwhile, back at Camp Nelson near the village of Austin, fallen comrades lay among the trees under decaying wooden stakes.
And there they lay, almost forgotten for 35 years, until in 1898 a group of Arkansas Confederate veterans resolved that something should be done to commemorate those who served and died at Camp Nelson.
One of those veterans, James M. Gately, donated a tract of land for a cemetery four miles southeast of the nearby village of Cabot. Then, in 1905, the Arkansas Legislature appropriated $1,000 for a monument, and the remains of 428 Rebel soldiers were taken from the woods and re-interred in the new Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery.
Each grave was marked with a small headstone of Arkansas marble. But no individual identification was possible because of the original means of burial.
The aging veterans held annual meetings and picnics at the cemetery until the 1920s, but as the old Rebels died off one-by-one, interest waned. And, finally, the cemetery was allowed to return to nature, to be taken over by wild flowers, trees and brush.
The previous year, J. O. Isaac, a military retiree in charge of the Air Force Junior ROTC at Cabot High School, was drinking his breakfast coffee and reading the Arkansas Democrat. An item buried within the newspaper caught his attention.
Congress had passed an act, it read, declaring that Confederate soldiers were to be considered veterans of the Union and, consequently, would be entitled to veteran's benefits. Isaac realized that this magnanimous act was of little use to the living, but the story said that there was also a provision for the placement of proper monuments on Confederate graves.
Excited by the promise this offered, he contacted the Veteran's Administration in Washington. Then, having confirmed the truth of the story, he set about organizing a committee for proper restoration of the old cemetery.
Today, the Camp Nelson Confederate Cemetery, the only all-Confederate cemetery in Arkansas, sits in a clearing in the woods off Cherry Road. During holiday periods, three flagstaffs carry the flags of Arkansas, Texas and the Confederacy. Beneath the flags, a 12-foot obelisk stands guard over rows of marble gravestones, each inscribed with the Confederate Cross of Honor and the words "Unknown Soldier CSA." The stark white stones, their tops gabled so that "no damn Yankee can sit on 'em," mark the graves of 428 unsung, but no longer forgotten, heroes of the Confederacy.