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A Battle For Calhoun
Part 9; Casualties of Arnoldsburg Battle
by Maricia Mlynek
     

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Casualties of Arnoldsburg Battle

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 confusing.

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 rebels.”

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 CSA 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.

 

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