Baxter’s 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry, USA

Batesville, Arkansas



Payment and Pensions


Members of the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry were not regularly paid while in service. For years after the war, officers and enlisted men applied for back pay and Invalid Pensions. These were rejected. The subject came before Congress on many occasions. Finally in 1901, payment for services rendered was made, but pensions still evaded the applicants.

My ancestor Mace Williams applied at least three times. The last application is dated April, 1920. The War Department’s response was, “it does not appear from the records of this office, that such an organization as 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry was ever mustered into service.” Mace Williams did receive his pay for service in 1901 but went to his grave in 1925, without ever receiving a certificate of honorable discharge and pension benefits.

The following report, dated March 27, 1922, is the latest dated document I have been able to uncover in regards to pensions. Below this report is a 1908 Department of Interior Appeals decision upholding the War Department’s ruling on Honorable Discharge requirements for Pension Applicants.

DECEMBER 5, 1921-SEPTEMBER 22, 1922






March 27, 1922.Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union and ordered to be printed.

Submitted by Mr. Langley, Committee on Invalid Pensions


 The Arkansas Militia, or home guards, were organized for strictly local service and defense in the protection of their homes. They were never paid by the United States and are not recognized as having any pensionable status.

Arkansas had also one regiment, the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry, which performed active service for several months, but which was never accepted into the military service of the United States. This regiment was enlisted in 1863 and 1864 under authority given by Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele, then commanding United States forces in Arkansas. The enlistments of its members were for the period of one year, and they actually served from six to eight months, taking part in several engagements with the enemy. The War Department, however, refused to confirm the authority for the enlistment of this regiment for one year, and on June 2, 1864, it was ordered disbanded. But the service of the regiment had been actually performed in the field and in the immediate presence of the enemy. The claim of the officers and men of this regiment for pay for their service was twice recognized by Congress. An act was approved March 18, 1873, providing that the Secretary of War should cause their claims to be investigated and paid and a second act was approved February 27, 1899, directing the Secretary of War to further investigate said claims and cause them to be paid, final action having failed under the first act of March 18, 1873. Payment of these claims was made under an appropriation included in the sundry civil bill approved March 3, 1901.

In the Fifty-eighth Congress, second session, a bill (H. R. 14789) to give the officers and men of the' Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry the benefits of the pension laws passed the House of Representatives, the report from the House Committee on Invalid Pensions, which gives the facts regarding the organization, service, and disbandment of this regiment, being as follows:

As appears from the record of the War Department, the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry was duly and lawfully recruited in 1863, under the orders of Maj. General Steele, for the term of one year or during the war. After being recruited the men drew clothing, arms, ammunition, and equipments and rations, but furnished their own horses.

The regiment was officered and under the orders of the commander of the United States forces operating at the time in Arkansas. While thus serving, the regiment, or part thereof, was engaged in six battles and skirmishes, several of them were killed, others wounded, and still others captured; one of the captured was hung by the enemy and others threatened with hanging, but were saved by counter threats of retaliation, and exchanged. Five members of the regiment died of disease.

After serving faithfully for more than half of the period for which enlisted the regiment was disbanded without any formal muster or discharge, and without ever being paid, because the War Department determined that no more regiments should be mustered for the term of one year. The order of disbandment is as follows:

Headquarters Department Of Arkansas, Etc.,

Little Rock, Ark., June 2, 1864.

The authority heretofore granted for the enlistment for one year of a regiment of Arkansas troops, to be designated the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry, not having been confirmed by the War Department, the organization is hereby disbanded.. All quartermasters' property and ordnance stores in the possession of the battalion will be turned over to the proper staff officers at Duvalls Bluff.


By order of Maj. Gen. F. Steele:

Benj. B. Foster, Assistant Adjutant General.

After the disbandment of the regiment nearly all of its members suitable for military service joined other regiments, but many were too old or feeble for further service or unwilling to reenlist, and about 75 survive to be benefitted by this bill.

The act of the War Department disbanding this regiment was certainly a harsh exercise of authority, as the officer who raised the regiment was expressly authorized by the general commanding in Arkansas to recruit the regiment "for the term of one year, or during the war, if not sooner discharged," as will be seen by the following order:


Little Rock, October 23, 1863.

Elisha Baxter, of Batesville, Independence County, State of Arkansas, is hereby authorized to raise a regiment of Infantry to be mustered into the United States service for the term of one year, or during the war, if not sooner discharged. The headquarters for the recruiting will be at Batesville, Independence County, and all persons recruiting for said regiment will be governed by the regulations for the recruiting service and orders from War Department, Department of Missouri, and these headquarters.

Mr. Baxter will report to these headquarters for such instructions as he may require.

By order of Maj. Gen. F. Steele.

A. H. Ryan, Captain and A. D. C.

The records of the War Department show that there was no valid reason why the men of this regiment were not only mustered, paid, and discharged, if their services were no longer desired; and such seems to have been the opinion of former Congresses, as this regiment has been twice recognized by acts of Congress for its relief. The first act, approved March 18, 1873, providing that the Secretary of War should cause to be investigated the claims of the officers and men and cause them to be paid; and the second act, approved February 27, 1899, directed the Secretary of War to further investigate said claims, and cause them to be paid.

Under this latter act the Secretary of War directed Thomas F. Barr, Assistant Judge Advocate General, to proceed to Arkansas and investigate said claims, and as a result of his investigation and report the officers and men of said regiment have all been paid.

Colonel Barr, the officer detailed by the War Department as above stated, makes the following references to this regiment in his report:

"The men composing the five companies recruited came from within a radius of 30 miles around Batesville. They were loyal to the cause of the Union and were mainly refugees from their homes, who had been hiding in the mountains, swamps, and caves to escape conscription and dangers which encompassed them. The fact that they rendered faithful and efficient service is fully attested. The knowledge they possessed of every road and bypath in the surrounding country led largely to their employment as scouts and guides."

And, after commending the patriotism, services, and honorable character of the men of this regiment, he concludes his report to the Secretary of War in these words:

'' Existing law, providing as it does only for their payment for the determined periods of their service, fails to provide an adequate measure of justice. The organization should, in my judgment, be fully recognized as having formed an integral part of the Volunteer Army, and a certificate of honorable discharge issued in the name of each soldier who did faithful service up to the date of disbandment, thus giving them a pensionable status."

Your committee heartily concur in this opinion of the Assistant Judge Advocate General and see no valid reason why the members of this regiment should not have every right to a pension that due muster and an honorable discharge give all other claimants, and therefore recommend the passage of the bill.

This bill failed of passage through the Senate, and the officers and men of the Fourth Regiment Arkansas Mounted Infantry have no pensionable rights under existing laws.


Volume 17, By United States. Dept. of the Interior

Government Printing Office, 1908

Pages 236-239


ServiceFourth Arkansas Mounted InfantryHonorable Discharge-act of JUNE 27, 1890.

La Visa J. Harp (widow).

The Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry (Col. Elisha Baxter), in which claimant's husband served, was not In the military service of the United States during the civil war, as reported by the War Department March 5, 1907, and soldier was therefore not honorably discharged from the service within the meaning of the acts of June 27, 1890, and May 9, 1900.

Assistant Secretary Jesse E. Wilson to the Commissioner of Pensions, March 30, 1907.

Mrs. Lavisa J. Harp, widow of John L. Harp, late private, Company E, Fourth Arkansas Volunteer Mounted Infantry, appealed by her attorneys December 21, 1906, from the Bureau action of December 6, 1906, wherein the Bureau adhered to the former rejection of claimant's application for widow's pension under the acts of June 27, 1890, and May 9, 1900, filed May 9, 1902, and rejected June 24, 1902, on the ground that she had no title to pension, for the reason that it did not appear from the records of the War Department that Company E, Fourth Arkansas Volunteer Mounted Infantry, in which claimant alleges her husband served, was ever in the military service of the United States.

This appeal was considered in part by this Department February 25, 1907, when, in view of the Auditor's report of December 11, 1906, made in response to Bureau call of December 8, 1906, based upon communications of attorneys for claimant, dated September 29 and November 23, 1906, and the further fact that the face brief of said action consisted of an unsigned pencil memorandum, the papers were returned to the Bureau for official action and an additional report.

On March 15, 1907, the papers were forwarded to this Department with the Bureau report, the claim being again rejected March 12, 1907, after a further report from the War Department, upon the same ground upon which it had been previously rejected.

The appeal will now be considered on its merits.

It is contended on behalf of appellant that the action of the Auditor of the Treasury for the War Department in allowing pay for services of soldier in said company and regiment for one hundred and eight days is a concession that he was in the military service of the United States for that length of time, and that claimant, therefore, has a pensionable status under the act of June 27, 1890.

The Auditor of the Treasury for the War Department reported, under date of December 11,1906, in reference to payment for soldier's services, as follows:

A claim was filed August 7, 1901, for arrears of pay by Vicey J. (or Visa J.) Harp, of Birdell, Ark., as widow of John L. Harp, late private, Company E, Fourth Arkansas Mounted Volunteers, and said claimant was notified by Office letter dated August 10, 1901, that, according to the law of Arkansas, the children of the soldier are the preferred heirs.

J. R. Harp, of Strawberry, Ark., as son, and N. C. Lemmons, of Birdell, Ark., as daughter of the above-named soldier, filed a claim August 31, 1901, and they were allowed arrears of pay from February 15 to June 2, 1864, with travel pay and subsistence allowance, by Treasury certificate No. 370114, issued September 21, 1901. The soldier served in Elisha Baxter's regiment.

The War Department report on March 5, 1907, in reference to soldier's service, is as follows:

The Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry (Col. Elisha Baxter) was not in the military service of the United States at any time during the civil war.

Claimant alleged in her declaration in this case, filed May 9, 1902, that she is the widow of John L. Harp, who was enrolled under said name at Batesville on the 15th day of February, 1864, as a private in Company E, Fourth Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Infantry, and was honorably discharged June 2, 1864, having served ninety days or more during the war of the rebellion; that she was married to said soldier at Birdell, Ark., December 31, 1862, and that he died near Birdell, Ark., September 5, 1869.

By reason of the fact that the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry, which was recruited in the latter part of 1863 and the fore part of 1864, under authority of Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele, dated October 23, 1863, was never mustered into the Army of the United States, and that the names of the members of said regiment did not appear upon the rolls of the Army, and although uniformed, supplied with arms and ammunition, put into the active service in Arkansas with other United States soldiers, and that said regiment participated in several battles and lost a number of men in killed and wounded, and that the regiment was finally disbanded at Devall Bluff, Ark., in June, 1864, Congress provided for paying them or their heirs for their services; but there is nothing in the joint resolution or acts of Congress to indicate that it was the intention to legalize the enlistment or service of the members of said regiment to the extent of recognizing them as having been in the military service of the United States as duly enlisted or mustered officers and soldiers. See joint resolution of March 18, 1870, No. 24 (16 Stat. L., 662) ; act of February 27, 1899 (30 Stat. L., chap. 208, p. 894); appropriation act of February 9, 1900 (31 Stat. L., chap. 14, p. 12); appropriation act of March 3, 1901 (chap. 853, p. 1179), and appropriation act of June 28. 1902 (32 Stat. L., chap. 1301, p. 473).

The War Department having reported March 5, 1907, the said regiment, the organization in which claimant's husband served, was not in the military service of the United States at any time during the civil war. claimant is not pensionable on account of her husband's alleged service in said regiment under the acts of June 27,1890, and May 9, 1900, notwithstanding the fact that the minors of her husband had been paid for his services from February 14 to June 2. 1864, including travel pay and subsistence. The payment to said minors was made evidently under the foregoing joint resolution and acts of Congress prior to the last act above cited, as said resolution and acts of Congress did not put said organization or the members thereof in the military service of the United States or honorably discharge them therefrom.

In order to entitle a soldier or his widow or minor children to a pension under the act of June 27, 1890, as amended by the act of May 9, 1900, on account of his military service in the Army or Navy of the United States during- the late war of the rebellion for ninety days or over, it is necessary to establish the further fact that the soldier had been " honorably discharged therefrom."

While soldier's term of service, for which his heirs were allowed payment, exceeds ninety days, that fact alone does not give her a pensionable status under said acts of 1890 or 1900. Soldier's service was in an irregular organization, which was never perfected and never accepted by the United States, and it was by reason of these facts that relief was given to the members of said organization by Congressional action.

The language of the act of June 27, 1890, and May 9, 1900, granting pensions to widows is as follows:

Sec. 2. That if any officer or enlisted man who served ninety days or more in the Army or Navy of the United States during the late war of the rebellion, and who was honorably discharged, has died, or shall hereafter die, leaving a widow * * * such widow shall, upon due proof of her husband's death, without proving his death to be the result of his army service, be placed on the pension roll from the date of the application therefor under this act, at the rate of eight dollars per month, etc.

This Department has uniformly held that to entitle a soldier, his widow, or his minor children to a pension under said act the fact must be established that soldier was honorably discharged from his service in the war of the rebellion. As held by the Department in the case of Mary E., widow of Samuel H. Walker (7 P. D., 197, 198):

It has been uniformly held by the Department that the "honorable discharge" mentioned in this section has reference to all service in the Army or Navy "during the late war of the Rebellion," and not to any particular term of service; that the words "ninety days" simply fixes the minimum length of service during said war without which no service pension can be granted: that whether there be one or several terms of service, regardless of the length of said term or terms of service during said war, the necessary condition in all cases and under all circumstances is that, in every instance, the soldier must have been " honorably discharged; " that the various terms of service rendered by the soldier was but one service in one war, and that as each term expired it must have been followed by an honorable discharge.

This decision shows the importance of the proof of an honorable discharge in cases under said act. See also departmental decisions in cases of Elizabeth J. Halfhill (8 P. D., 467); Elsie Hummel (9 P. D., 311); Susan Williams (10 P. D., 82); Aura Hetherington (Ibid., 355); Matilda C. Tunison (11 P. D., 440. 443); Francis M. Samuels (12 P. D., 80); Helen Randall (13 P. D., 237); John H. Ricketts (14 P. D., 283); Mary E. Conner (15 P.D., 201); Ann Lytle (16 P. D., 506), and Joseph L. Galle (17 P. D., 84).

In view of the foregoing report of the War Department, as well as the record of said regiment, as gathered from the various acts of Congress hereinbefore cited, and in view of the absence of any proof that claimant's husband was honorably discharged from service, even assuming him to have served as a soldier under command of United States officers, as recited in the act of February 27, 1899 (30 Stat. L., 894), it is evident that she is not shown to be entitled to a pension under the provisions of the act of June 27, 1890, as amended by the act of May 9, 1900.

The Bureau action appealed from is accordingly affirmed.

Macy M. Williams Pension Application Records





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