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The Men of Company I

Actions & Skirmishes of Company I

William J. “Wild Bill” Heffington of Yell County was a well-known Union guerrilla leader who operated along the Arkansas River Valley, but who occasionally appeared in northwest Arkansas. He was a cool and daring woodsman who deserted from the Confederate Army and rallied a bold band of followers. (See list of Men who served under Company I.) Wild Bill apparently was loyal to the Union and cooperated with the Federals. Yet he and his band of jayhawkers were primarily freebooters who terrorized the area with their killing and robbing. The band caused a panic in Dardanelle by making their bold depredations within three miles of town. In early June 1863, Wild Bill and his gang, some 125 strong and aided by a small force of Federals, held a fortified position on Magazine Mountain an defied a Confederate Calvary force which had been sent against them.

From the Arkansas State Gazette, Little Rock, June 13, 1863
As in most old towns there are those who like to boast that Belleville could have had a college at one time had she wished to have male and female classes. Her leaders were said to have feared a moral let down with such an experiment. True to her convictions she has never voted wet, using local option elections when the rest of this county voted wet. South and west of Belleville, was Monrovia, a settlement now forgotten. Here Federal troops held prisoners, until they were removed to Fort Smith, during the Rebellion. Since no large operations were conducted in this area, it is assumed that prisoners were guerrillas. West of this latter place “Wild Bill” Heffington, made his home. So inhuman were his actions as a bushwhacker and Federal officer that he held the valley in fear.

From the book, The History Of Yell County, page 172
In Yell County, William J. Heffington, well known in western Arkansas as “Wild Bill,” maintained himself with a band of these men for months, when the surrounding county was held by the enemy, and repeated efforts were made for his capture. Afterwards reporting to Colonel Johnson with a number of his men, who were organized into a company with himself as captain, he again moved southward of the Boston Mountains, and crossing the Arkansas River, was preparing to conduct other citizens to the federal lines, when he heard of the abandonment of northwestern Arkansas by Union forces (April, 1863), and determined to remain in the State. This he did until August following when he was killed by guerrillas near the Arkansas River while going northward to procure relief for a large number of the Union men of this section of the State, who banded together in the vicinity of the Magazine, Short, and Petit Jean Mountains, were successfully resisting all attempts at their capture. After the death of Heffington these men still held together, and on the occupation of Fort Smith and Little Rock by the Union forces, in September following, the most of them enlisted in various Arkansas regiments, the 1st infantry among the number. …..Aside from operations of the regiment embraced in this brief resume, detachments were frequently sent out to succor Union men – a duty which, from the familiarity with the country, they were particularly well qualified to discharge. In September 1863, it became known at Fort Smith that several hundred men of this class had gathered together from the surrounding country, upon and near the Magazine Mountain, whither they had been compelled to flee for security, and though generally having arms of their own, were much in need of ammunition. To relieve them, Captain William C. Parker, of the 1st Arkansas infantry, who was directed to proceed with sixty men to their rendezvous; which he did, accomplishing the object for which he was sent. On his return, while crossing Haguewood Prairie in Franklin County, he was suddenly confronted by the rebel General Shelby’s command, then moving northward on his well-known raiding expedition into Missouri. A stubborn fight ensued, Captain Parker slowly falling back, until he reached the timber, where the unequal contest was still carried on, until finding himself nearly surrounded, he directed his men to escape as best they could. In this encounter he lost twenty-two men killed and taken prisoners, but killing and wounding nearly the same number of the enemy. Captain Parker himself succeeded with the rest of his men in arriving safely at Fort Smith, with instant measures being taken by Colonel Johnson to advise Colonel Harrison, then commanding at Fayetteville, of Shelby’s march northward, the intelligence was quickly circulated through southwestern Missouri, and Shelby’s movement was in great measure frustrated.

First Arkansas Infantry Historical Memoranda
From Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Arkansas by Albert W. Bishop
Adjutant General of Arkansas, 1867.


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