Civil War Battles
March 10, 1863 - Occupation of Jacksonville, Florida by Federal Troops
On March 10, the small screw gunboat USS Norwich was just off the coast of Jacksonville. It sailed up to the shore and offloaded a regiment of Union troops and quickly took possession of the town. Part of the regiment included black troops of the 1st South Carolina Infantry. On March 29, the Federals realized that they would not be able to hold on to the city permanently. They soon evacuated Jacksonville and burned much of the city.
September 1, 1861 - Occupation of Fort Smith, Arkansas by Federal Troops
By the time of the Civil War, Fort Smith was a long-established military post. Originally constructed in 1817 as a frontier stockade to preserve peace between the Cherokee and the Osage, the fort had evolved over time to become a key supply depot for U.S. Army installations scattered across the Old West. As such, even though it was of limited defensive or strategic value by 1861, it was a key point for maintaining an active presence among the Indian Nations of what is now Oklahoma.
With the looming secession of Arkansas, Fort Smith became a point of interest for both Union forces and state volunteers. Without the steady flow of supplies through the post, Federal authorities could not hope – at least temporarily – to maintain a number of other forts scattered across present-day Oklahoma. The Arkansans quickly realized this moved to stop supply shipments to Fort Smith shortly after they took control of the U.S. Arsenal in Little Rock on February 8, 1861. Just one day earlier the Choctaw Nation, which bordered Fort Smith, had declared its intent to cast its fate with those of the Southern states.
The first serious interdiction of supplies bound for Fort Smith took place in early February when the state took possession of supplies at Napoleon, Arkansas, that were supposed to be heading west via Fort Smith. Burns recommended that supplies for the Indian Nations posts be immediately sent from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, via Forts Scott, Gibson and Washita.
The state seizure of the supply boats heading for Fort Smith had an immediate impact. Left in extremely precarious situation, Maj. Samuel D. Sturgis was left with little choice but to evacuate his post. Taking 20 wagons and teams, he and his men left Fort Smith at 9:00 P.M . on April 23, 1861, bound for Fort Washita. Behind he left the “ordinance sergeant, hospital steward, chief bugler, sick
and laundresses” who were to be moved to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, as soon as possible
The state occupation of Fort Smith and seizure of the westward-bound supplies set off an immediate crisis in the Indian Nations. Forts Arbuckle, Cobb and Washita were soon evacuated as well and volunteers from Texas flooded north to occupy the region for the Confederacy. Union forces fell back toward Kansas, setting the stage for the brutal confrontation that over the next few years would determine the fate of the region. The Indian Nations themselves, as might be expected, were bitterly divided. Large groups of warriors affiliated with each side and perhaps nowhere on the continent was the Civil War as much a conflict of brother against brother as among the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole of today’s Oklahoma.
Fort Smith itself would remain in Confederate hands until September 1, 1863, when Union troops returned, by way of the Indian Nations, and took permanent custody of the fort. Ironically, Maj. Gatlin, who was taken as a prisoner of war by the Arkansas troops at Fort Smith, soon resigned his commission and volunteered for service with the Confederacy. He became a general and served in North Carolina.
Returning to Arkansas after the war, he is buried at Fort Smith National Cemetery.