Monday, April 19, 2010

Did You Know?

Occasionally, I like to flip randomly through one of my Civil War reference books. Recently, I was looking through Ezra J. Warner’s, Generals In Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959) when my eye was caught by a reference to the Indian Territory in the entry about Brigadier General Frank Crawford Armstrong. Much to my surprise I learned that he was born at the Choctaw Agency (Skullyville) in the Indian Territory in November 1835. I’m not aware that any other Confederate general was born in the Indian Territory; Stand Watie was born in Georgia.

Armstrong was not a Native American, so how did Armstrong happen to be born in the Indian Territory? His father, Major Francis W. Armstrong, was appointed as the Choctaw Agent West of the Mississippi in 1831, and he died just a few months before his son, Frank, was born. An interesting article about Major Armstrong appeared in The Chronicles of Oklahoma many years ago along with an article about Frank C. Armstrong.

Frank Armstrong received a commission in the regular army after accompanying his step-father, General Persifor F. Smith, on an expedition into New Mexico in 1854. According to the Ezra Warner book, Armstrong participated “in the battle of First Manassas on the Union side, but resigned on August 13, 1861” (p. 13). If this is the case, was there any other Confederate general who served on both sides during the war?

Following his resignation, Armstrong returned to the trans-Mississippi and served “on the staffs of Generals McIntosh and Ben McCulloch; and he was a few feet away when the latter met his death at Pea Ridge” (p. 13). Later, he became colonel of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry. When I read that, I pulled out my copy of W. H. Tunnard’s A Southern Record: The History Of The Third Regiment Louisiana Infantry (1866; reprint ed., Dayton, OH: Morningside Bookshop, 1988) to read references to Armstrong. Tunnard stated “Who does not remember the handsome, gay and dashing Frank Armstrong? …Colonel Armstrong was an old army officer, hence a strict disciplinarian. Of fine personal appearance and commanding bearing, he looked what he really was, every inch a soldier. When the men were on duty he required and expected a strict observance of every military regulation and order. There must be no laxity in any particular. Yet when the men were free from duty they could approach Colonel Armstrong with the assurance that they would be treated as gentleman and equals. He was always affable, kind, and courteous in his intercourse with the men….Such was the officer chosen to lead the regiment. One whom the men learned to honor for his soldierly qualities, and love with an idolatry second only to their devotion to the lamented McCulloch” (p. 168).

After only a few months with the 3rd Louisiana Infantry, Armstrong was detached and served as a cavalry commander in the western theater for the remainder of the war. He returned to the trans-Mississippi following the war and even served on the Dawes Commission in the early 1890s. He died in Bar Harbor, Maine, in 1909.


  1. Thanks for posting this as I have always thought him an interesting character. There is a photo of him on page 110 in Echoes of Glory, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy.

  2. Col. Frank Armstrong Rector of the 17th AR was another "army brat" named after the father. Rector's father was Major Wharton Rector, who also served in OK/IT.