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Elisha Baxter:
The Civil War and Reconstruction

"At the outbreak of the rebellion, I believed that secession was unjust to the federal government and would prove disastrous to the people of the South. I therefore adhered to the old flag, but always endeavored to treat with utmost kindness and consideration the people of all sections of the Union. Without egotism in this respect, it is believed that I did more by way of procuring the release of prisoners from the South and collecting the claims of people against the government without compensation than any man in the Southern states.

"When Gen. Curtis arrived at Batesville in the spring of 1862, he at once recognized my loyalty to the federal government by tendering me command of a regiment of loyal Arkansians which had spontaneously sprang up on the approach of the federal army. This command I declined on the grounds that, whilst I believed the rebellion was wrong, I did not feel it was my duty to make war upon the people of the South.

"In 1863 while I was a refugee in the state of Missouri, I was captured by the Southern forces and imprisoned at Little Rock and indicted for treason against the Confederacy. Through a fortunate set of circumstances I escaped from prison before my trial came on and lived for eighteen days in the forests and fields near Little Rock without a morsel of food except such raw corn and berries as I could gather in my lonely wanderings…."

(Baxter was the beneficiary of a plot to free his cellmate. In other accounts he credits local slaves with having hid and fed him. It was a debt he tried repay while governor and afterwards by attempting to broker peace between the new Garland administration and Arkansas's freedmen.)

"While a prisoner I felt that I was ungenerously treated by the harsh criticisms of the press and individuals, not only in regard to my loyalty to the Southern cause, but also with regard to my supposed want of courage. I therefore resolved if God would grant me deliverance, I would at once enter the federal army. Arriving at Gen. Steele's headquarters about the middle of September, 1863, I sought and obtained permission to recruit a regiment of loyal Arkansians for federal service. Repairing to Batesville in the fall of 1863, I recruited and commanded in active service the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry until the spring of 1864."

"In the early part of 1864, and while I was in command of the 4th Arkansas Mounted Infantry at Batesville, the loyal people of Arkansas took upon themselves the task of reorganizing the state government, called a convention, adopted a constitution, and submitted it to the people for ratification and at the same time submitted a ticket for state officers of which Gov. Isaac Murphy was the head. On this ticket I was named one of the judges of the Supreme Court. The ticket was returned and the constitution adopted. Under a provision of this constitution I could not hold the position of colonel and qualify as Supreme Court Judge. I therefore reluctantly resigned the command of the regiment….

"I had scarcely qualified for the court when I was elected to the United States Senate, but the Congress of the United States failed to recognize the Murphy government and I failed to get my seat.

"In 1868 I was appointed by Gov. Clayton as Judge of the 3rd Judicial Court and in 1869 I was appointed by Judge H. C. Caldwell, upon the nomination of Chief Justice Chase, as Registrar in Bankruptcy for the 1st Congressional District in Arkansas. From the date of the latter appointment I held both positions until I was nominated for Governor in 1872.

"The incidents of my eventful administration are so fresh in your mind that they need not be repeated here."

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