JOHN WILLIAM DARK
AKA BILL DARK
CSA Unit Co. F, 1st Ark. Mtd. Rifles.
In 1850 Pulaski Census, age 15, born Arkansas, with mother [?] Dilly Dark, age 35, born "Unknown", living in Hotel in Little Rock, dwelling 563, John Brown, age 35, born Ireland, landlord. Wm. Dark may be the son of William Dark, Pvt., Co. A, Arkansas Battalion Infantry and Mounted Rifles, age 29 who enrolled 10 June 1846 in Clarksville, Arkansas, for the Mexican War.
Bill Dark married Rachel Adeline George, daughter of James S. & Margaret George, and had a son, William Dark. Rachel and William, Jr. are in the 1880 Stone County, Arkansas census, living with her parents.
In 1860 he is again in the Pulaski County Census, in the State Penitentiary, as J. W. Dark, age 23, male, born Arkansas. [I do not know what he was in for.] On June 14, 1861, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, he enrolled as a private in Captain Galloway's Company, Churchill's Regiment, Arkansas Mounted Riflemen. [This company subsequently became Company F, 1st Regiment Arkansas Mounted Rifles.] His service record states that he traveled 177 miles to the place of rendezvous, and that his horse was valued at $125 and his horse equipment at $25. He enlisted for 12 months. He subsequently appears as "present" on muster rolls for July & August, 1861; January 31 to April 20, 1862; and May & June, 1862. There is another piece of paper which states that he appears on an undated Receipt Roll for receiving $54.80 for use of horse, arms, etc., at 40¢ a day, beginning June 14, 1861 and expiring October 31, 1861.
Further mention of his name during the Civil War is: "A dispatch came from Russellville that De Rosey Carroll had been murdered in Franklin county by the jayhawkers, under the command of Bill Dark, a former inmate of our penitentiary." True Democrat, [Little Rock, Arkansas], January 21, 1863, page 1, column 1.
"It was reported that Parks, the renegade Texan, who, at the head of a band of jayhawkers had murdered De Rosey Carroll, had been caught and was to be sent here [Little Rock]; also, that Bill Dark had been wounded and taken prisoner." True Democrat, January 28, 1863, page 1, column 1.
"Dark, who was said to be taken in Izard county, was badly wounded, and it is not probable he will live to reach here. It was said here, and is vouched for by respectable men, that Jerome B. Lewis, of Van Buren county, is associated with the jayhawkers in the northern portion of the State." True Democrat, February 4, 1863, page 21, column 2.
Camp near Clipper's [Clapper's], Mill, } Carroll Co., Ark., April 27th, 1863.} Editor True Democrat––We, the undersigned officers in the Confederate service in Northern Arkansas, learning that reports have been circulated and matter published prejudicial to the loyalty and bearing of John W. Dark, a citizen of this State, and a brave and daring soldier, as an act of justice to the said Dark, we would state, that he has been in Col. Schnable's cavalry recruits for several months, on the borders of this State, and has been in nearly every border fray that has recently occurred. No one has acquitted himself more gallantly and displayed more deeds of daring than John W. Dark. Under the most discouraging circumstances, when others were desponding, he has been ever active, bold and determined in arresting the progress of vandals, who have been desolating this portion of the State. We have never entertained a suspicion of his loyalty, but on the contrary, have recognized in him, a bold, driving and determined soldier, and one who has risked his life under the most severe trials for his country.
S. C. SCHNABEL, Col. Com'dg.
E. G. MITCHELL, Capt.
J. J. EOFF, Lieut.
S. W. STIGLEMAN, Lt. & Adgt.
JOHN P. NORVELL, A. Com'sy.
G. J. OVERRALL, O. S.
W. W. HUDSON, Lieut.
D. A. WINTER, Lieut.
True Democrat, May 6, 1863, page 2, column 1.
At the commencement of the war William Dark, of Searcy county, Arkansas, was a felon undergoing servitude in the penitentiary of the state, and was released on condition that he join the Confederate army, which he did; but after a short service in that army he deserted, went back to his home and congregated a gang of thieves and outlaws to prey on the non-combatant, defenseless people. This gang claimed and exercised absolute jurisdiction over every species of property they desired––horses, cows, sheep, mules, fowls, provisions––and in a great number of instances appropriated the last article of clothing belonging to helpless women and children. Many wagons were loaded with plunder. The gang, headed and ruled by Dark, became the synonym of all that is degraded and abandoned in mankind, and abject submission to his demands was the only security to life. His very name struck terror to the hearts of women and children and old defenseless men who were unable to pass beyond the sphere of his operations. At that period the feelings of neighboring Unionists and Confederates were crystallized in intensity against each other––all the harder to soothe and remove for want of that liberal foundation in deep and broad education enjoyed by more favored communities. But there was a community of interest; both sides to the war were equal sufferers. A few old conservative men representing both elements got together, and each side agreed to raise a company to exterminate the marauders, if possible, in the joint interest of both elements. And they did; each keeping their covenant by raising a company of home guards, or regulators. At that time the three leaders of separate bands were operating in Searcy, Baxter, Marion and adjacent counties. For some weeks after the regulators organized, Dark foiled their efforts to capture and dispose of him, and continued his depredations in defiance of the organization. He discredited their ability and courage. Whilst matters thus stood, two Confederate soldiers, on furlough from the regular Confederate army, visited their families in Searcy county, and on the day of the tragedy following were together with their wives and children at one of their residences. On this day little Master Berry, whose full name has escaped memory, who was ten or eleven years old, came to see his friends from the army and to learn of other Confederate soldiers from the vicinage, some of whom were related to him. But first let it be remembered that the world now and then presents mankind with a hero boy from the lap of obscurity worthy of royal lineage and a niche in the pantheon of fame. Whilst the two Confederate soldiers were conversing with their wives and Master Berry, one of the matrons stepped to the door to watch like a vidette or picket on duty guarding an army. In terror and dismay she discovered Dark with five of his gang on horseback approaching the house, with Dark fifty yards in advance of his associates in crime. Terror stricken, she turned pale as death as she announced their rapid approach on evil bent. The two Confederate soldiers made their exit at the back door and ran like quarter horses through a cornfield to the timber. One of them in his paralysis of fear forgot his army pistol. The .little boy Berry seized the pistol and said, "Ladies, I will defend you," and quicker than this sentence can be read rushed out in the yard and took position at the corner of the smokehouse, next the road, and rested the pistol on one of the projecting logs. By this time Dark was within twenty feet of the lad, staring him in the face, with the ejaculation, "What are you doing there, you little puppy?" The boy was drawing a bead on him as coolly as if aiming at a mark; scarcely was the sentence out before he fired. The ball struck its object in the center between the eyes and made exit at the rear of the cranium. He fell forward dead. The boy said, "A center shot, ladies; bless the Lord," and in an instant was emptying the remaining five shots at the other thieving marauders, who put spurs to their horses and disappeared rapidly. After a while the flying husbands came back and found young Berry master of the situation. What shame must have mantled their cheeks! With the heart of a lion and the courage of Ajax, that boy "Would not bow to Jove for his thunder, nor kneel to Neptune for his trident." His deed of cool and unsurpassed heroism ought to be preserved fresh and green in the memory of a grateful people as long as our literature adorns our civilization. The citizens of the vicinage raised $500 and presented it to the noble boy. He grew to honored manhood and became a noble citizen. The old Confederate veterans, Hoffman and Robinson, were citizens, the one of Baxter, the other of Searcy county at the time, and this story is based on their verification of the facts related by them. There is yet another exciting scene to relate before the curtain closes over this tragedy, presenting woman of exalted courage and iron nerve, successfully riding the storm of misfortune like an eagle cleaving the clouds. It is the misfortune of many noble women to become the wives of degraded men. It was supposed that Dark had confided the custody of the money he had taken from the citizens to his wife, and that by searching his house it might be found and recovered, but they did not immediately after his death carry their intentions into execution. Dark's wife got wind of their intentions before they came. She immediately saddled and mounted a swift mule, took her child in her lap and rode night and day as fast as the animal could travel, more than one hundred miles, striking the Arkansas river at a point near Van Buren, where there was no ferry. Undaunted, the heroine plunged into the flood, and the faithful mule with her and child stemmed the roaring tide and landed them safely on the opposite shore, where she experienced the first feeling of relief and safety.
John Hallum, Reminiscences of the Civil War. Little Rock: Tunnard & Pittard, 1903, 96-99.
"That he [Lemuel Holsted] was a Confederate soldier. Belonging to (William Dark's) Company, [T. H.] McCray's [D. McRea's?] Regiment of Cavalry. That as such soldier he served from 1863 to 1865." From E. DePriest's statement, dated 8 June 1901, in Miranda Holsted's Confederate widow's pension papers, Arkansas History Commission, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201.
When Dark's men were raiding a house, Wesley Branscomb was outside receiving things passed through the window. When he would get something, he would give it to the little girl of the house, and she would go hide it, thus keeping it from being stolen. From Iola Fendley Halsted Beavers Interview.
The above information may be used for non-commercial historical and genealogical purposes only and with the consent of the page owner may be copied for the same purposes so long as this notice remains a part of the copied material. EDWARD G. GERDES
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