Updated on Wednesday*:
The Battle of Arnoldsburg lasted approximately three and
a half hours. The attacking Rangers, with their makeshift weapons and
mountain rifles, could not compete with the rifles of the Union. In
fact, the Union had only one wounded soldier, Private Francis Cunningham
of Company C. Cunningham was shot through the arm and shoulder. The
Rangers were outnumbered and outgunned. Yet, they were the ones to
attack. Was this brave or crazy?
There were more losses on the Ranger side. Joseph W.
Burson was shot through the head and killed instantly. Interestingly, it
was in the home of Burson that the Calhoun County government was
organized in April of 1856. Burson’s home was also the site of the first
circuit court session and served as a polling place.
Another loss for the Rangers was a Methodist minister,
Captain John Elim Mitchell, who was shot through the hips. Some say he
is buried under the church in Arnoldsburg. Ranger Corporal Martin
Douglas was wounded and crippled for life.
Many ask why Captain George Downs would attack the camp
of 300 to 400 Union soldiers since his attacking force was more of a mob
than a military unit. We can only hypothesize. How did he think that 50
or 60 men could effectively take Camp McDonald? Perhaps it was
arrogance. Perhaps it was desperation. Perhaps it was will and
stubbornness. I can’t say, but the result of the skirmish is even more
Shockingly, many accounts have the Battle of Arnoldsburg
listed as a Confederate victory. In fact, some records say that the
rebels destroyed the camp, captured the defenders, and made off with the
arms and military stores. On May 8, two days after the skirmish,
district commander, Brigadier General B.F. Kelley, received a telegram
that read, “Our forces at Arnoldsburg, under Lt. Parriott, surrendered
the place to 400 Southern troops. Spencer is in possession of the
Of course, reinforcement was sent in to retake the towns
and to regain possession of the camps. They were in for a shock. Upon
their arrival, all was quiet and only one poor private was still nursing
a wounded shoulder.
The greatest impact of the battle was the loss of
influence for the Moccasin Rangers. Due to the Union troops pouring in,
Rangers were forced even further out of the area. The morale of the
was an unstated casualty that permanently affected their activities in
Calhoun and neighboring counties. Though Arnoldsburg may be listed as a
Confederate victory, the exact opposite is true.
This Week's Editorial:By Helen Morris:
Calhoun County Map