Vol. IV, No. 4, Spring 1991 / Vol. V, No. 1, Summer 1991

Change of Allegiance

Frank Crawford Armstrong was a Union officer when he took part in the First Battle of Bull Run on July 18, 1861. On August 10, 1861, less than a month later, he was fighting at Wilson's Creek as a Confederate officer. The reasons for such a change of allegiance are shrouded in mystery.

His early years and northern education would suggest sympathy to the Federal cause. Armstrong was born in Indian Territory, November 22, 1835, at the Choctaw Indian Agency, now Scullyville, Oklahoma. His father was an army officer who died when Armstrong was a boy. His mother later married General Persifor Fraser Smith, USA, whom, Armstrong, at age 19, accompanied on an expedition to New Mexico. He was educated in Massachusetts.

After the Battle of Bull Run, Federal officer Armstrong apparently went to New Orleans to join the 3rd Louisiana. At that time he had this picture taken on Canal Street. He did not resign his Federal Commission until August the 13, 1861, three days after the Battle of Wilson's Creek.

Elected colonel of the 3rd Louisiana, he served on the staffs of Confederate Generals McCulloch, McIntosh, and Van Dom. He was appointed brigadier general on April 23, 1863, and fought in many actions while commanding a division of cavalry for General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was later characterized by another Confederate general as "one of the cleverest of our cavalry commanders."

After the war, Armstrong worked with the Overland Mail Service in Texas, as an Indian Inspector, and as Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He died in Bar Harbor, Maine, September 8, 1909, and is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in Georgetown, D.C.

Photo and text courtesy Dr. Thomas Sweeney.

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