Baxter’s 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry, USA
Capt. William P. Berry
William P. Berry was born in Barren County, Kentucky, 1816. His father, Harris, moved the family to Henry County, Tennessee sometime before 1830. The Berrys prospered. By 1850, William P. was doing quite well as a doctor and farmer. It wasn’t failure that influenced his decision to move west but the unlimited possibilities that Independence County, Arkansas had to offer. After liquidating all assets, except six slaves, William, with his wife Ellen Jane and two sons, William H. and Alfred T., struck out for Arkansas. It was 1858 when the Berry’s arrived in Black River Township, Independence County. Another boy child, Emmett, was born after their arrival. William’s two brothers, Alfred and Lafayette, also came west, establishing farms near William in Black River.
Besides being a physician, William Berry farmed, owned and operated a blacksmith shop, ran a mercantile and engaged in the regions liquor trade. He was an industrious individual, with an optimistic entrepreneurial spirit.
From the very beginning of the War, William Berry proclaimed his loyalty to the United States of America. In spite of owning nine slaves, William chose to grant them their freedom rather than go to war against his beloved nation. In a 1874 testimony by Harvey Berry, a former slave of William, Harvey stated, William Berry “always talked mighty well to his colored people about the war. He told us we would be free soon after the war commenced. He turned us loose long before we saw any [Federal] soldiers.”
Berry spoke openly against secession and held secret meetings on his farm, encouraging Union minded men to resist the Confederacy. Berry was proud of his convictions and confident of a Union victory. A hand painted American Flag, defiantly fluttered over his store in Black River.
In early 1862, Captain John H. Dye, commander of a company of Independence Co. Confederates, arrested William Berry, holding him for five days. Dye threatened Berry and demanded he and his lot of “traitors” come in and enlist in the Confederate cause. Berry agreed and was released to confer with his comrades. A plan was conceived in which two of Berry’s company would turn themselves in, claiming more would be in soon. This allowed time for Berry and the others to escape into the swamps. The two enlisted in Dyes company, later to desert and join their fellow Unionist. Captain Dye’s men searched for Berry’s band but the hunt proved unsuccessful.
After his decisive victory at Pea Ridge, Union General, Samuel R. Curtis moved his army toward North Eastern Arkansas, entering Batesville about 5:00 A.M., May 3, 1862. Berry and a neighbor, Hiram V. Grey, raised two independent companies in support of Curtis during his occupation of Batesville and surrounding country. General Curtis supplied Berry and Grey with arms and ammunition. A company of Union troops camped on the Berry farm. William Berry’s blacksmith shop was used to repair their wagons and other black smithing needs. Berry also supplied the troops with hogs, corn and fodder. During this period, several men from Berry’s company join the newly formed 1st Arkansas Infantry Battalion, USA. The six-month enlistment included men from many counties in North Central and North East Arkansas.
After General Curtis’ withdrawal from Independence County, William Berry was arrested by Confederate authorities. He was taken to Little Rock and confined in the State Penitentiary for six weeks. During this time, Berry was maltreated and held in a dark, damp dungeon like cell. General Theophilus H. Holmes took pity on Berry, offering him his release, if only he would take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Berry refused. A week later, State Marshall B. F. Danley, offered to release Berry if he promised not to bear arms against the Confederacy. Berry agreed but stipulated he would do so only if his rights were not violated. Danley released Berry, but as soon as Berry arrived back in Independence County, he was arrested by Franklin Caldwell’s squad of Confederate Home Guards. Berry escaped and hid out for several months. During periods of absence, neighbor Isaac Hughey looked after the Berry farm.
In the summer of 1863, William Berry reorganized his company. Authorized by Union General Steele, this unit would become Co. C of the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry. Berry’s company, sixty strong, protected Union families against Confederate incursions. Absalom Bullington, friend, neighbor, and Corporal of Co. C, stated after the war, “whenever we had the chance to fight, we fight.”
In November 1863, a force of Rebels, some five hundred strong launched a raid against Berry and his men in camp. Harvey Berry got wind of their movement and warned Captain Berry. Thanks to Harvey, the Union men slipped away in the dark of night. The Rebels charged the Berry farm, carrying off more than 2000 dollars worth of stock and property including the contents of his home. Before leaving, they hauled down his painted flag and set it on fire.
It took two days and nights to reach the town of Austin, a Union outpost in what is now Lonoke County. It was here Capt. William P. Berry made contact with Col. Elisha Baxter and 3rd Missouri Cavalry Commander, Col. Thomas E. Black. Baxter enlisted Berry and his men into the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry. Leaving Austin, Col. Black’s command including Capt. Berry and Col. Baxter skirmished with Confederate forces commanded by Gen. Dandridge McRae and Col. Robert G. Shaver, culminating in the capture of Jacksonport. Berry and his company soon joined Col. Robert R. Livingston and the 1st Nebraska Cavalry at Batesville.
Captain Berry and Company engaged in routine scouting missions in the region. Interestingly, Harvey Berry accompanied his ex-master on many. Because of the hostel political environment in Black River and constant harassment from Rebels, William Berry felt it safer to have his family at the Union post in Batesville. William’s freed slaves went along. After the war, Freeman Hughey, former slave of Isaac Hughey, stated, Berry “told them [slaves] to do the best they could, that they could come go with him or stay there as they pleased.”
William Berry’s health deteriorated after his incarceration at the penitentiary at Little Rock. It was progressively getting worse as he commanded Company C. By late December 1863, Berry was physically unfit to ride and go on scouts with his men. He resigned his commission December 28. Friend and neighbor, 2nd Lt. James E. Connor was then elected Captain. Early in January 1864, William Berry became post sutler at Batesville.
Livingston was able to control Batesville for several months thru the first part of 1864. However, persistent harassment by Confederate detachments of Col. Thomas R. Freeman, Capt. George Rutherford and General Dandridge McRae, among others, made it impossible to keep a hold on the region. Besides, word was out. Confederate General Jo Shelby was coming. In April, Livingston abandoned Batesville, leaving behind one company of the 11th Missouri cavalry and all companies of the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry. The next month, these units were pulled out as well.
William Berry and family fled to St. Louis, Missouri. Berry and family returned to Independence County, residing in Batesville after wars end. Sometime in the 1870's, the Berry’s left Arkansas for Osborne Township, Sumner County, Kansas. At the age of 64, William P. Berry, died of complications from meningitis, March 1880, Sumner County, Kansas. By 1900, Emmett Berry and his mother Ellen, had moved to Jefferson Village, Grant County, Oklahoma.
Official Records of the War of Rebellion, U.S. War Dept. Washington D.C. 1880-1891
Federal Census’ including Slave Schedules
William P. Berry, Southern War Claim, 1874
Amanda Berry, Widow’s Pension Application, July 10, 1902, for Pvt. Harvey Berry’s service in Co. B, 112th and Co. H, 113th USCI.
Notes on Harvey Berry,
Harvey was born in Tennessee sometime between 1842-1844. He enlisted into Co. B, 5th Ark. Inf. (A D) March 12, 1864 at Batesville, mustering into 112th/113th USCI at Little Rock, April 23rd. Pvt. Berry served as a teamster for the 113th USCI quartermaster dept.
After the war, Harvey returned to Batesville and married Emma Ward, Aug. 21, 1867. Harvey and Emma had one son, John E. Berry. By 1870 Harvey and Emma were divorced. Emma and son John were living a few doors down from Capt. William P. Berry in Batesville. Harvey continued his occupation as teamster.
Harvey then marries Amanda Jones Miller, Sept. 28, 1887. Amanda was formally married to Jeff Miller, who died in 1882.
According to Amanda’s pension application, Harvey died April 8, 1888.
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