Saturday, March 3, 2018

Isaac Duncan, Sebastian County During the Civil War

© Kathy Duncan, 2018

My great-great grandfather Isaac Duncan, son of Browning and Rebecah W. (Pettus) Duncan, lived with his first wife, Martha Sales, and their children in Sebastian County, Arkansas during the Civil War. His Civil War service has always been a question mark.

Isaac Duncan's biography in the 1903 Atlas of Sebastian County by E.L. Hayes states--

"Duncan, Isaac Mr., was born February 15, 1828, in Kentucky, near Richmond. His father was Browning Duncan, born in Kentucky. His father, grandfather of Isaac Duncan was born in Virginia. He was in the War of 1812. Mr. Duncan was in the State Guard U.S. Militia. Mr. Duncan married a Miss Martha Sale, born in Tennessee. The first time by whom 8 children were born; 2 are now living. Becca F. Mannon and Sallie Wight.  He married Mrs Susan P. Hodges, born in Tennessee, and raised in Washington County, Ark.; the second time by whom 5 children were born: Samuel, Hodges, John, Thomas, Dora and Richard. Mr. Duncan now has 160 acres of good land - variety land. He has two wells on his premises of good capacity. Gas well in lot 7. He would sell."

There are errors in this entry--Sallie was married to a Knight not a Wight. Samuel Hodges was one person and a step-son.

Was the service in the State Guard U.S. Militia also an error? I've never found him on an enlistment list or receiving a pension. Can I even prove that he was a Northerner sympathizer??

The Oath of Allegiance that he signed sheds some light on this:



Name: Isaac Duncan
Residence: Sebastian
Description - Age: 36 years
Height: 5 ft. 8 in
Eyes: Black
Hair: Auburn
Complexion: Dark
Peculiarities: Stout

The age and residence match my Isaac Duncan and the description is in keeping with his portrait.

Click on Image to Enlarge


It is important to note that his Oath of Allegiance was signed in Fort Smith, Arkansas on 20 January 1864 before the Provost Marshall. 

In September of 1863, the Confederate capital moved to Washington in Hempstead County, Arkansas, which was in the southwestern corner of Arkansas below Fort Smith. Northern and southern sympathies in Arkansas were deeply divided. As the war was nearing an end, Lincoln wanted to be in a position to reestablish governments loyal to the Union in the South. States could receive Federal recognition and financial assistance if ten percent of those who voted in 1860 signed an Oath of Allegiance.  

On 19 January 1864, delegates adopted a new state Constitution. The following day, Isaac Duncan was in Fort Smith signing his Oath of Allegiance. On March 14 - 16, 1864, the new constitution was ratified in a 12,177 to 266 vote. Among other things, the new Constitution abolished slavery in Arkansas. In so voting, they had attempted to insure a "smooth" transition back into the Union when the war ended. Meanwhile, the Confederates maintained a capital in Washington, and the war would rage on for another year.

Preserved among family documents in a cousin's family were Isaac Duncan's Poll Tax receipt for 1906 and a tax receipt for 1907. Another indication of the value Isaac placed on voting.


Click on Image to Enlarg


The other thing this receipt did was give me the idea to search for I. Duncan instead of Isaac Duncan or Ike Duncan. This reference to an I. Duncan who served in Captain Turner's Rangers turned up:

FORT SMITH NEW ERA, May 14, 1864, p. 2, c. 1 

The Rangers.

 Captain Turner's company of Rangers are doing good work, ferreting out and killing bushwhackers. They are on the move all the time and render the government efficient service, as well as defend their own homes. They are in earnest, and not only know how to hunt, fight and whip bushwhackers, but know how to treat them when they happen to take prisoners. 

On the morning of the 5th inst., Sergt. Sails and I. Duncan, of Capt. Turner's company, were taken by the bushwhackers and after being kept for two or three hours Duncan was released, but Sails was stripped of all his clothing but his drawers and was then brutally shot. He was a worthy young man, a good soldier, and his loss is deeply felt by the company. 

On the night of the 6th, while camped near Smedley's Mill, Capt. Turner and 25 men were attacked by 54 bushwhackers, under Lafayette Glass. The Rangers repulsed them twice, killing three of the rebels and wounding seven, among whom was Glass, who is mortally wounded. Three of the Rangers were wounded, but not mortally.
[Source: Betts, Vicki. "Fort Smith New Era,  October 1863 - December 1864" (2106). By Title. Paper 34.]

I stumbled across a forum with the information that in Arkansas the Union Home Guards that were mounted were known as "Rangers." 

This seems very likely to be my Isaac Duncan, serving along side a relative of his father's first wife Martha Sales.




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