Thursday, June 7, 2012

Captain Archibald Dodson Napier

Archibald Dodson Napier, who went by Dodson, was a Captain in the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry (Union) during the Civil War. Prior to that, he was Captain of the Arkansas 15th Militia of Pope County, which disbanded at the beginning of the war. He became a 1st Lieutenant in the 3rd Arkansas, and was later promoted to Captain. He was dismissed from duty on October 15th, 1864. He became sheriff of Pope County following the war and was killed as a result of a "militia war" that began in the county between those of Union loyalty and those of Confederate loyalty. I spent much of today collecting as many references to Dodson as I could find in preparation of my biographical sketch of him for my book.

Dodson was a son of Archibald Hubbard Napier and Jane Carter. I descend from his sister, Amanda Smith Napier, who married Stephen Clinton Vaughan. Dodson married one of Stephen's sisters, and also fathered children with another one of his sisters. I am awaiting copies of his pension files which I'm certain will have some interesting information. Until then, I am going to share here all the mentions I could find of him online.

Report of Maj. gen. Frederick Steele, U.S. Army, commanding the Department of Arkansas.
Headquarters Department of Arkansas, Etc., Little Rock, Ark., August 15, 1864
Record of military operations in the Department of Arkansas for the month of July, 1864:
...29th, Captain Napier, Third Arkansas Cavalry, returned from scout to Greenbrier, having killed the rebel Captain Birr near Red River.

September 2, 1864 - Skirmish near Quitman, Ark.
Report of Col. Abraham H. Ryan, Third Arkansas Cavalry (Union)
Lewisburg, September 7, 1864--7 p.m.
Detachment of forty men with ammunition for Shelby crossed at Dardanelle on Monday last. On the 2d instant Captain Napier and Lieutenant Carr had a skirmish with Colonel Witt, eight miles from Quitman, killed 7, and captured Captain Livingston and 4 men of Witt's command.

Both of these can be found in the "Congressional Serial Set" here:

Dodson is mentioned a couple of times on the website, which summarizes reports from the Red River Campaign. One entry mentions his skirmish with Witt, and later the dismissal of Captain Herring; it does not mention the fact that Dodson and multiple other officers were dismissed the same day. Another entry mentions a scouting report from Dodson.

The entry referring to Herring's dismissal alludes to the possibility that it was because of a skirmish that occurred on September 7th, 1864. The details given of said skirmish say:

"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 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.
Col., Commanding
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.
Col. Commanding
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."

 If the results of this skirmish is what led to Captain Herring's dismissal, it is possible that this was the reason for Dodson's dismissal as well. Herring's charges were "neglect of duty and inefficiency". Dodson in charge of Company I, and [Bright W.] Herring of Company F. Captains James F. Clear (Company D), Thomas Boles (Company E), and James H. Reynolds (Company G) were all dismissed the same day, October 15th, 1864. Another Captain, Anthony Hinkle of Company L, was dismissed a week before, on October 7th. It seems likely that all of these dismissals are closely related, but I have not been able to determine the precise reason.

An account of a man named James Bratton, a member of the 3rd Arkansas, was shared here:

"Napier found easy recruiting in Searcy County, according to James Bratton, "Myself, John Bratton and France Bratton were all conscripted into the Confederate Army (Captain Sam Leslie's Co. F, 32nd Arkansas Infantry), and was with the Army until after the Prairie Grove Battle. Ran away and came home and worked in a saltpetre works on Buffalo and Big Creek, until in December, 1863, when Capt. Naypner [sic Napier], out recruiting for the Union Army, came into the cave, and I and John and France went out with him and stayed with the Federal Army until we were discharged."

A comment from a user on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website provided the first mention of Dodson's brother, Isaac, also dying during the Militia War. 

"Grandmother told me that Isaac C. Napier, brother of Archibald Dodson Napier, fought with Archibald in Co. H, 15th Ark. Militia, and he, too, was killed the same year,1865, by “bushwhackers” while plowing a field at home.
She said there was a big rock in Pope County that had blood stains of a Civil War soldier, where he fell. She saw it as a little girl and said that it was well known by all that saw it. She also said that all the rain that came never washed the stain away."

I've also found Dodson referenced in several books, most of which are brief mentions of him being the first victim of the Militia War. I am still trying to find evidence of Isaac being a victim of the "war" as well, but it seems possible based on the fact he was deceased by the time his wife re-married in January of 1869.


  1. I am also researching an ancestor in the 3rd Arkanas Cavalry, and am also curious about what occured to cause so many officers to be dismissed. I can't find a link to contact you about this, will you please email me

  2. Archibald Hubbard Napier is my great-great-great-great grandfather, and his son, Isaac Columbus Napier, is my great-great-great grandfather. If you've found any other information on Isaac C. I would love it if you shared it. My email is if you'd be willing.