Thomas Carmichael Hindman Jr. (January 28, 1828 – September 27, 1868) was a lawyer, politician, and a senior officer of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He was responsible for planning and supervising the unsuccessful defense of northwestern Arkansas during the fall and winter of 1862.
Shortly after he was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hindman moved with his family to Jacksonville, Alabama, and later Ripley, Mississippi. After receiving his primary education in Ripley, he attended the Lawrenceville Classical Institute (now known as the Lawrenceville School) and graduated with honors. Afterwards, he raised a company in Tippah County for the 2nd Mississippi regiment in the Mexican–American War. Hindman served during the war as a lieutenant and later as a captain of his company. After the war, he returned to Ripley. He studied law, and was admitted to the state bar in 1851. He started a law practice in Ripley, and served as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1854 to 1856.
Hindman moved his law practice to Helena, Arkansas, after his term in the Mississippi House ended. He was elected as the Democratic Representative from Arkansas's 1st congressional district in the Thirty-sixth Congress from March 4, 1859, to March 4, 1861. He was re-elected to the Thirty-seventh Congress, but declined to serve after the onset of the Civil War and Arkansas' secession from the Union. Instead, Hindman joined the armed forces of the Confederacy. He was promoted to brigadier general on September 28, 1861, and to major general on April 18, 1862. He commanded the Trans-Mississippi Department, and later raised and commanded "Hindman's Legion" for the Confederate States Army. After the war, Hindman avoided surrender to the federal government by fleeing to Mexico City. He worked in Mexico as a coffee planter and attempted to practice law. After the execution of Maximilian I of Mexico in 1867, Hindman submitted a petition for a pardon to United States President Andrew Johnson, but it was denied. Hindman, nonetheless, returned to his former life in Helena. He became the leader of the "Young Democracy", a new political organization that was willing to accept the Reconstruction for the restoration of the Union. He was assassinated on September 27, 1868, at his Helena home.
Thomas Carmichael Hindman Jr.'s parents, Thomas Hindman and Sallie Holt Hindman, were of English and Scottish ancestry. His maternal ancestors included Major Robert Holt, a successful planter and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1655. The Holt family originally came from Halifax County, Virginia, before moving to Knoxville. Hindman's paternal lineage descended from the Carmichael clan in Scotland, some members of which made their way into America after King George II of Great Britain ousted nine hundred Scottish followers of Bonnie Prince Charles to America after the April 16, 1746 Battle of Culloden.
One of the descendants of the Carmichael clan, Sarah Carmichael, married Samuel Hindman, a wealthy Pennsylvania merchant in the early 1790s. They then moved to Knoxville, and their youngest son Thomas C. Hindman, Sr. was born on November 10, 1793. Family legend claims that Hindman, Sr. was the first white male child born in Knoxville.
Hindman Sr. was an ensign in the 39th United States Infantry during the War of 1812. He was promoted to third lieutenant on January 11, 1814, and to second lieutenant on May 20 of the same year. He fought in the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle of the war, and served on active duty until he resigned on June 30, 1816, due to health concerns. After leaving the army, Hindman, Sr. operated a military ferry on the Tennessee River and served as a lieutenant colonel in the 10th Territorial Militia Regiment for the Alabama Territory. In his dealings as a merchant, he met Lewis Ross. Hindman, Sr. was a frequent visitor at the Ross household, and it was there that he met Lewis' sister-in-law, Sallie Holt. After a brief courtship, the couple was married in Knoxville on January 21, 1819. After settling down in Rhea County, Tennessee, their first daughter was born in 1820. Three more children, Robert, Mary, and Sarah, were born after the family moved to Post Oak Springs. The family moved back to Knoxville in 1827. Thomas Carmichael Hindman, Jr. was born the next year, and Mildred followed in the year after that.
Early life and education
The elder Hindman frequently made business trips to Alabama and even moved the family to Jacksonville after buying several lots of land there. He took advantage of the many local business opportunities and was able to provide his family with whatever they needed. He also gained a reputation for honesty with his business associates, which included Cherokee Indian tribes in the area. Hindman became trusted by the Cherokee Nation and was appointed as the sub-agent to the Cherokees by President James Monroe. After Andrew Jackson became president, Hindman, Sr. was appointed to the post of United States Agent for the Cherokee Nation. The elder Hindman frequently traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss the interests of the Cherokee Nation, and in 1841 was assigned by Acting Secretary of War Albert M. Lea to determine why the Cherokees in North Carolina had rejected the government's suggestion to join other parts of the tribe in Indian Territory. Hindman spent almost two months unsuccessfully trying to persuade the North Carolina Cherokees to rejoin the rest of their nation further West.
That year, Hindman's father purchased a new plantation in Ripley, Mississippi. Meanwhile, the younger Hindman attended local schools before leaving for the Lawrenceville Classical Institute in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, the third oldest boarding school in the country. Hindman received a classical education there and graduated with honors on September 25, 1843, as the class salutatorian. After spending some time visiting relatives and studying in New York, Hindman went back to Ripley and commenced his law studies under Orlando Davis, a notable local attorney and Whig Party politician.
Meanwhile, Hindman's father became an active participant in Mississippi politics. He led the state's Whig Party and served as a member of the executive committee of the local Henry Clay club. In 1845, he was selected as a delegate to attend a convention in Memphis, Tennessee, that promoted transportation and infrastructural projects in the South and West.
Soon, the United States Army engaged in fighting at the US-Mexico border. After skirmishes along the Rio Grande between Mexican forces and American forces led by General Zachary Taylor, Congress approved a declaration of war and President James K. Polk called upon the states to draw up 50,000 volunteers to be alongside the army. Mississippi newspapers encouraged state residents to join the action. One newspaper, the Holly Springs Guard, proclaimed, "To arms! To arms! Ye brave! Th' avenging sword unsheathe: March on, march on, all hearts resolved, on [to] victory or death."
Hindman was eager to have the chance of serving his country in war. He enlisted as a second lieutenant in company E of the Second Mississippi Infantry. His older brother, Robert, also joined the same unit as a private. Hindman and his fellow infantrymen spent the winter training for battle in Camp McClung. Many soldiers were unprepared for the cold temperatures in January 1847 and, as a result, many died of influenza, pneumonia and "the cold plague". The Second Mississippi Infantry headed off towards the United States–Mexico border in February and reached the mouth of the Rio Grande on February 24, 1847, just a day after the Battle of Buena Vista. They continued marching, and the number of deaths escalated. By June 1847, 167 men had died, 134 had been discharged, and 38 had deserted. The infantry later moved to Buena Vista, seven miles (11 km) south of Saltillo, Coahuila, for guard duty. The anticipation of glory for the regiment evaporated amongst the ravages of disease, guerrilla raids, and camp duties. In March 1847, Colonel Charles Clark assigned Hindman the position of appointment as the acting regiment's adjutant, due to his educational background and writing skills. Hindman's brother, Robert, who was now a sergeant, suffered from smallpox and was medically discharged on April 23. Hindman rose to the rank of lieutenant and post adjutant by the end of the war in 1848, but did not see any major action during the remainder of his time with the infantry.
Back in Mississippi
After returning to Ripley, Hindman continued his law studies under Orlando Davis. A year after the war ended, Hindman's brother, Robert, engaged in a fight with William Falkner because he thought that Falkner had tried to block his membership into the Ripley section of the Sons of Temperance. Robert Hindman tried to defend himself, but his gun failed to fire, and Falkner then fatally stabbed him. Falkner was tried for murder, but was acquitted by the jury which ruled that he was acting in self-defense. Afterward, Falkner killed a family friend of the Hindmans, and he again was acquitted in the murder trial. Thomas Hindman and Falkner engaged in a gun fight, but neither man was injured. The tense relationship between Falkner and Hindman culminated in a settlement made by Matthew C. Galloway, who would later become the future editor of the Memphis, Tennessee Appeal.
Hindman himself joined the Ripley chapter of the Sons of Temperance and served as the recording secretary of the local branch. In 1853, he successfully campaigned for a seat to represent Tippah County in the Mississippi legislature. Hindman's Mississippi lawmaking career ended when the legislature adjourned in March 1854.
Move to Arkansas
By 1854, Hindman realized that he had little room to maneuver in the crowded Mississippi political arena. Looking across the Mississippi River, Hindman observed that the young and turbulent state of Arkansas was wide open for a well-educated and ambitious politician. Hindman left Mississippi politics when he moved to Helena, Arkansas on March 18, 1854.
Hindman threw himself into the political and social scenes in his new home state. In June 1854, he formed a law partnership with John Palmer, a young Kentucky native who was known as a "distinguished member" of the Helena bar. Hindman became active in civic affairs and plans for Helena's economic development. At an Independence Day festival in 1854, he gave a speech about the importance of railroad development in Arkansas. Hindman catapulted himself into the fray by taking a stand against the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic Know-Nothings, whom he considered "pestilent fanatics". Hindman and Palmer established a Democratic association designed to stamp out the Know-Nothing threat. During this time, Hindman became close friends with Patrick Cleburne, who would later parallel his course as a Confederate Major General. The two men also formed a business partnership with William Weatherly to buy a newspaper, the Democratic Star, in December 1855.
Cleburne and Hindman were both wounded by gunshots during a street fight in Helena with Know-Nothing members. After the men had recovered, they appeared before a grand jury to respond to any charges brought against them. They were exonerated and, afterward, went to Hindman's parents' house in Mississippi. Hindman received praise for his actions and became a force in Democratic politics after the Know-Nothings were defeated.
In 1856, Hindman ran for the Congressional seat in his First District, but was defeated by the incumbent, Alfred B. Greenwood, at the Democratic state convention. His gracious withdrawal at the convention to avoid Democratic infighting earned him more notice from the party hierarchy. During this time, Hindman met and courted Mary "Mollie" Watkins Biscoe. Despite her parents' reluctance, the two were married on November 11, 1856, with Patrick Cleburne serving as best man.
In the summer of 1857, Hindman became editor of the Helena States-Rights Democrat and was the unchallenged leader of the Democratic Party in eastern Arkansas. From this platform, he launched his 1858 Congressional bid. He did not face a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination, and had the backing of newspapers throughout the state. Editor Richard H. Johnson of the Little Rock True Democrat reminded voters of Hindman's previous run for the nomination in 1856 and praised him for being a "thorough[-]going Democrat" of "marked abilities". At the state Democratic convention in Batesville, Hindman easily defeated A. M. Wilson and Dandridge McRae. In the general election, Hindman defeated the Republican challenger, William M. Crosby, by a vote of 18,255 to 2,853.
Bringing down Arkansas's political "family"
During his term, Hindman tried to bring unity to the state's Democratic Party. He turned on the political hierarchy in the state, and political warfare divided the Democratic Party in Arkansas, with the pro-Hindman forces on one side and the forces of the political "family" that had ruled Arkansas since territorial days on the other. He labeled the actions of the "family" as "the most concentrated wrath of the small managers of the caucus and of certain outside high-priests who manage[d] them".
"Family" leaders threatened to block Hindman's 1860 re-election to Congress. Hindman challenged them and predicted the overthrow of a group he called "the fusionists" and "champions of amalgamation". The dispute between Hindman and the political family escalated after Hindman charged that the state had been overpaying the True Democrat for public printing. The True Democrat denied the allegations and claimed that Hindman's motive was out of selfishness, rather than concern. They argued that he wanted printing contracts to be awarded to the Helena State-Rights Democrat and the Little Rock Old Line Democrat, both of which he controlled.
One of the "family" leaders, Elias Nelson Conway, sought to settle the state's banking situation by starting a plan that would seize the assets of people indebted to the bank, who included Hindman's father-in-law. Hindman travelled across the state to publicly denounce the proposition. In the for governor, Hindman backed Henry Massey Rector, while the "family" candidate was Richard H. Johnson, the editor of the True Democrat. Johnson had been nominated as the Democratic candidate, but Rector announced his candidacy as an independent Democrat. In the gubernatorial election, Rector narrowly defeated Johnson by a vote of 31,044 to 28,967. After the election, the editor of the Old-Line Democrat, Thomas C. Peek, proclaimed that the end of the political dynasty of the "family" had come. New issues such as the Civil War were brought to center stage and the "family" never exercised their dominance over state politics again.
American Civil War
As the Civil War approached, Hindman was a passionate voice for secession and was primarily Arkansas's most prominent Fire-Eater. When Arkansas voted 65–5 to secede from the Union in May 1861, Hindman was present in the gallery of the convention. With war approaching, Hindman resigned from Congress and recruited a regiment at Helena, which was mustered into Confederate service. He made a request to the state government for muskets, clothing and ten days of rations so that his men could "fight for our country". By June 1, Hindman had raised ten companies which would eventually become known as the 2nd Arkansas Infantry, with six companies stationed at Helena and four at Pine Bluff. He lost five companies who refused to leave the state to fight. Afterwards, Hindman followed orders to report to Richmond, Virginia. He began the long journey with his regiment in June. On September 28, Hindman was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He and his regiment were shipped to Kentucky and reported to superiors William Hardee and Albert Sidney Johnston and the Army of Central Kentucky.
After the fall of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862, Johnston abandoned Kentucky and Tennessee to consolidate his forces at Corinth, Mississippi. Fierce fighting at the Battle of Shiloh in April, soon followed. During the battle, Johnston and Hindman were wounded, Johnston mortally. Command of the Army of Mississippi fell upon General P.G.T. Beauregard, who wrote the following in his report: "Brigadier General Hindman, engaged in the outset of the battle, was conspicuous for a cool courage efficiently employed in leading his men ever into the thickest of the fray, until his horse was shot under him, and he was unfortunately so severely injured by the fall that the army was deprived, on the following day, of his chivalrous example."
Hindman was promoted to the rank of major-general to date from April 14 and commanded the Second Corps of Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee during the siege of Corinth before being appointed commander of the desolate Trans-Mississippi Department to prevent an invasion into eastern Arkansas by Samuel Curtis. Events in Arkansas had taken a terrible turn for the worse. Most units had been stripped from the state for service east of the Mississippi River. When Hindman arrived in Little Rock, he found that his command was "bare of soldiers, penniless, defenseless, and dreadfully exposed" to the Federal Army that was approaching dangerously from the northeast.
Hindman set to work and issued a series of harsh military edicts, instituting conscription, authorizing guerrilla warfare and requisitioning supplies for the defense of the State. Hindman also commenced a campaign of misinformation designed to mislead Federal authorities about the strength of the state's defenses. He also diverted Texas troops bound for Virginia for use in defense of Arkansas. This series of events, combined with harassing tactics, confused the Federal authorities, causing them to fear that they did not have an adequate supply line to conquer the state and soon diverted from a course towards the capital and instead moved to Helena to reestablish a solid supply line. He also reorganized the cavalry units within his department. Stephen B. Oates credited Hindman's actions to making the cavalry under his authority "useful instead of ornamental".
In charge of "Hindman's Legion"
Hindman's edicts, however, raised the ire of the local citizenry, and his political enemies demanded that the Confederate leaders in Richmond replace him. By August 1862, the authorities in Richmond decided to replace him with the well-meaning but incompetent Theophilus H. Holmes. Hindman convinced Holmes to give him a field command in northern Arkansas, and he proceeded with a plan to drive out the invader. Hindman aggressively moved into northwest Arkansas and managed to intercept the Federal army while it was divided into two parts. At this moment, however, Hindman's normally aggressive style gave way to uncharacteristic doubt. Rather than attack the divided pieces of the Federal army, Hindman entrenched himself at Prairie Grove, Arkansas, allowing the Federal forces to recombine and assault him. Hindman's position was well selected, but the better equipped and supplied Federal forces wore down the Confederate forces and Hindman was forced to withdraw back towards Little Rock, having missed his chance to destroy the Federal army. After the stalemate at Prairie Grove, Hindman was transferred back across the river and participated in the Battle of Chickamauga alongside his friend Pat Cleburne.
After being wounded in the neck at Chickamauga, Hindman and his Legion continued to fight along with the Army of Tennessee against General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign, seeing action across northwestern Georgia from the First Battle of Dalton, to the Battle of Resaca; the Battle of New Hope Church; the Battle of Kolb's Farm; the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, just outside Marietta, Georgia. On July 4, 1864, at Kennesaw Mountain, he was struck in the eye by a tree limb and fell off his horse. Hindman suffered severe injuries that left him unfit for service on the battlefield. He went to Atlanta and later Macon to recuperate from his injuries. Afterward, Hindman hoped that he would be able to fight after a full recovery. He applied for a transfer to the Trans-Mississippi Department. His request was denied by the Confederate War Department, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered Hindman a leave of absence until he had fully recovered from his "physical disability".
After his leave of absence had been approved in August, Hindman set out for Texas. During their journey, Hindman's second daughter, Sallie, died of an illness near Meridian, Mississippi. Hindman arrived in San Antonio and settled there with his family for the time being. He was honored by military officials and residents on January 26, 1865. By May 1865, Confederate generals in New Orleans signed a document with Union generals detailing the Confederate terms of surrender. Hindman refused to surrender and, along with many other ex-Confederates, he crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico and sought asylum.
Hindman joined Confederate refugees in the Mexican town of Carlota, where he engaged in coffee planting and attempted to practice law. By April 1867, he was confident enough in the situation at home to return to Arkansas and apply to United States President Andrew Johnson for a pardon, following the Tenure of Office Act in 1867.
Hindman's application was one of the few denied; nonetheless, he attempted to return to his former life. Politics still called to him and, although ineligible to run for office, he came out against the Reconstruction Constitution, which put him in direct conflict with reconstruction authorities. These authorities revived a treason indictment against him and had him arrested. This did not stop Hindman, who went on the political circuit and had some success building an unlikely coalition of newly freed slaves and Democrats.
At around 9:30 on the night of September 27, 1868, Hindman was assassinated by one or more unknown assailants who fired through his parlor window while he was reading his newspaper with his children. The musket shots hit Hindman in the jaw, throat, and hands, and he died eight hours later due to significant blood loss. Before his death, Hindman gave a farewell speech to his neighbors and political supporters from the porch of his house. With "perfect composure", Hindman told listeners to "unite their courage and determination to bring peace to the people". Hindman hinted at the recent political debate with Powell Clayton as a possible motivation for the shooting and said, "I do not know who killed me; but I can say, whoever it was, I forgive him." He asked James H. O'Connor, the husband of Mollie's stepmother, to "take care of my family and be a protector to my wife and dear little ones". After O'Connor accepted, Hindman stated, "I forgive everybody, and hope they will forgive me." Afterwards, he was too weak to continue speaking, and he sat down on a lounge. He remained there until he died early next morning. The assassination was announced in all major newspapers throughout the state. William Woodruff of the Gazette said Hindman died as an "able and distinguished man" whose "short but splendid career" had a profound impact on Arkansan state politics.
Hindman's assassins were never caught, and many theories regarding their identities have circulated throughout the years. In 1869, a white prisoner at the Phillips County jail told officials that he overheard two black inmates, Sip Cameron and Heyward Grant, discussing the crime. Grant supposedly confessed to the crime, saying the murder was part of a larger plot to seek revenge for the killing of Lee Morrison, a black person from Helena who had been hanged on September 27, 1868. Grant's claims did not fit with the facts of the murder, and his statements were dismissed from the investigation. Hindman was buried at what is now known as Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena.
- List of American Civil War generals
- List of assassinated American politicians
- List of people from Tennessee
- List of slave owners
- List of United States representatives from Arkansas
- List of unsolved murders
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- Thomas C. Hindman at Find a Grave
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- Works by or about Thomas C. Hindman at Internet Archive
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