Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sensible Rebel Advice

A common misconception among most Americans is that the American Civil War ended on April 9th 1865 with the surrender of the Gen Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.  That is simply not the case.  Lee only surrendered the army that he directly commanded.  Two other major Confederate armies were still operating, The Army of Tennessee , commanded by Gen Joseph E. Johnston, surrender on April 26, 1865.  The Army of the Trans-Mississippi, commanded by Gen E. Kirby-Smith, gave up six weeks after Appomattox Courthouse on May 26, 1865.  Besides these three major armies, smaller scattered commands surrendered at various times between late April and June of 1865. 

The last significant force of Confederate troops surrendered to Federal troops at Jacksonport, Arkansas on June 8th, 1865.  This force was styled "The Army of Northern Arkansas."  It was an "army" in name only.  These men had not functioned as a fighting force for months, and many came out of hiding just to be paroled and seek some protection under the law for the bushwhacking and banditry they had committed against the citizens of the state of Arkansas. 

Their commander, Gen Jeff Thompson had little regard for the majority of these men.  His farewell address must be one of the most scathing "good bye's" ever delivered by a commanding officer.  This is an account of the surrender and Thompson's address that was published in a St. Louis newspaper.

CS Gen Jeff Thompson
 SENSIBLE REBEL ADVICE.; Address of the Rebel Gen. Jeff. Thompson to his Men at the time they were Paroled.

From the St. Louis Republican, June 16.

A gentleman who left Jacksonport, Ark., on the 8th inst., arrived in this city yesterday, and furnished us with some of the particulars of the paroling of JEFF. THOMPSON'S army.

Col. DAVIS paroled at Wittsburgh and at Jacksonport, over seven thousand officers and enlisted men, the officers numbering about six hundred. There still remained, at Helena and Mound City, (opposite Memphis,) a few hundred more, who were to be paroled by Col. DAVIS on his return. That would swell the total number to near eight thousand.

Colonel REEVES, who is understood to be the rebel officer who shot Major WILLIAMS and five of his soldiers, last fall, in Missouri, and for which act Major WOLF was condemned to be shot, and held so long in Gratlot Prison, has been trying hard to have his parole accepted. He kept himself out in the county some miles, but had sent a number of persons to Colonel DAVIS, and had written two letters pleading his case. Colonel DAVIS' reply to him was that his request could not be granted, as he did not consider him entitled to such leniency.

JEFF. THOMPSON's address to his army, at Jacksonport, was in the following words:

FELLOW-CITIZENS, who have been my fellow-soldiers: It is proper that we should embrace this opportunity to have one more family talk before we are scattered to our several homes, most probably not to meet again on earth, and most certainly not to meet as we have heretofore met; and possibly you may not be allowed to meet again in such numbers as would make you dangerous; therefore, I have called you together that I may advise you as to your status and proper course to pursue for the future. It is useless now to criminate or recriminate, but the fact is evident that as an independent nation we are badly whipped, and the fault and blame rests upon ourselves; for had we been more obedient and industrious, we would have succeeded. Officers and soldiers have put their private judgment against the laws of the land and the orders of their superior officers, and have deserted their flag or neglected to return to their post when furloughed; and many farmers have neglected or refused to raise grain, because their patriotism did not equal their love for money; and between these two classes our armies have been reduced and the country impoverished, until the brave, faithful officers and soldiers, who have remained at their posts, have been overpowered by superior numbers, and forced to surrender. The noble armies of Gen. LEE, Gen. JOE JOHNSTON and Gen. DICK TAYLOR, comprising all the Confederate States troops east of the Mississippi River, were surrendered before I accepted the terms offered me for you, and I but complied with the military necessity when I agreed to surrender. You have now assembled to be paroled, and in conformity with my agreement and order, and I hope you are complying with the spirit of my order, and are acting in good faith, for unless you are doing so the object we are so desirous to attain will be missed, and instead of peace and quiet we will still have petty feuds, murders, house-burnings and troubles that will be worse than open war. Let each man determine, when he leaves this place, that he will go to his home, there to remain, and work night and day to repair the damage that has been done by the war, and never go off his farm except to go to the mill; and, if there are private quarrels between himself and neighbors, he had better pack up and hunt another neighborhood; and if not willing to submit to the laws of the United States he had better leave the country. You must remember that you now have no rights, and can only claim such as may be given to you by the conquerors, and the less you say about politics, until you have become naturalized, the better for you. The Yankees have won the negro, and we must let them dispose of him as they please. When your opinion or advice is asked you can quietly give it, but do not volunteer either. We have fought four long and bloody years for our rights and have lost, and now we cannot get them by simply talking what we have failed to win with our arms; and the matter was talked over forty years before the fighting began. All who cannot or will not be submissive should leave the United States as soon as possible, and I presume that many young men will go. I am sure there will be no hindrance, for the government should be glad to set rid of all who are not disposed to be peaceable. To the Missourians who are present, I would speak plainly, and advice them not to think of returning to Missouri unless they have a clean record. There are many who have been fair, honest and chivalrous soldiers, who can have no charges against them, except the one of being true to the South; there are many others who have forgotten the laws of God, the laws of man, and the laws of war, and they, of course, cannot expect to live in Missouri in peace. Then there are others who, though they have been honest soldiers, had determined in their hearts to have private revenge at the end of the war, had we succeeded, and some who have said that the Union men must leave if they won. Each of you know to which of these classes you belong, and you must "do as you would be done by," and act accordingly.

Monument to Confederate Troops at Jacksonport State Park, Arkansas


Thompson moved to New Orleans after the Civil War.  He was a civil engineer in civilian life and designed a program for draining and improving the Louisiana swamps.   The work eventually destroyed his health.  He returned to his home town of St. Joseph, Missouri in 1876.  He succumbed there to tuberculosis and is buried in Mount Mora Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri.


  1. I simply love all your stories about the civil war and the Confederate Army Mark. Very interesting to read and bring to light things I did not know. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I never realised Thompson was such a quitter! In retrospect, he and his army should have resisted by any and all mean!
    Flicka, flicka!