Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Birthday to Frank Armstrong...and Me

Today is a special day for me, its my birthday. I share this day with some noteworthy people. Some of them, such as the beautiful actress Scarlett Johanson, the funny Rodney Dangerfield, and tennis stars Boris Becker and Billie Jean King also call today birthday. Others, such as Mae West, Scatman Crothers, and one of the Three Stooges, Shemp Howard, departed on this day. An American tragedy too calls today its own; it's the day President John F. Kennedy was shot and died in Dallas, Texas in 1963.

Today was also the birthday of a Confederate general; one that few people know, but who claims a unique place in Civil War history.

Frank Crawford Armstrong was born in 1835 at the Choctaw Agency, Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). Crawford was only a boy when his army officer father, Frank Wells Armstrong, died in 1839. His mother, Anne M. Willard Armstrong, married another army officer Persifor Smith. Armstrong received a good education at Holy Cross Academy and College in Massachusetts, but chose the army life like his father and step-father. In 1854 he accompanied his step-father Smith on a journey to New Mexico territory where he fought Indians and received a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant. Armstrong also participated in the Utah Mormon campaign with future Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston in 1858-59.

When the Civil War broke out Armstrong was a captain in the United States 2nd Dragoons. He led the dragoons at the Battle of Manassas for the Union, but resigned his position shortly thereafter, which the War Department accepted on August 13, 1861. I don't know if the Union defeat played a significant part in Armstrong's decision to switch sides, but he made a quick departure back to the West. He was back across the Mississippi River in Missouri and serving as a staff officer for General Benjamin McCullough on August 10, 1861 at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. So, technically, since Armstrong's resignation from the U.S. army did not take effect until August 13, he was on both sides at once; something not many, if any, officers can claim.

Armstrong also saw action in Indian Territory and at Pea Ridge in 1861 and 1862. He was named Colonel for the 3rd Louisiana Infantry on May 8, 1862 while stationed near Corinth, Mississippi, but was soon transferred to cavalry service under General Sterling Price. In April 1863 Armstrong was formally promoted to brigadier general and placed in General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry. He and his men participated in the Tullahoma Campaign and fought at Chickamauga. He also participated in the ill-fated Knoxville campaign, the Atlanta campaign and John Bell Hood's Tennessee campaign in the fall and winter of 1864-65. Armstrong's command guarded Selma, Alabama in the spring of 1865, and there fought the Union cavalry of general James H. Wilson. His command was surrendered on May 4, 1865.

After the war Armstrong worked in Texas with the Overland Mail Service. In the late 1880s he served as a United States Indian Inspector, and in the 1890s he was the Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Frank Crawford Armstrong died on September 8, 1909 in Bar Harbor, Maine and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington D.C.


  1. Ann Millard Armstrong was the sister of my ggggfather, Robert F. Millard. and wife of Col Francis Wells Armstrong.

    I do not understand why people keep posting that Frank C Armstrong's father died when he was a boy.

    Col Francis Wells Armstrong died 6 Aug 1835, Choctaw Agency, Indian Territory

    Frank Crawford Armstrong,his son, was born 22 Nov 1835, Choctaw Agency, Indian Territory.

    Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov was the calendar system used in 1835 and still used today.

    FCA was born 4 months after the death of his father. He was in the womb of his mother making him an unborn child.

    Thiu bit of data is readily available to anyone who wants to expend a minimal amount of time and enery on a Google search.

    A Millard family descendant...

  2. Thanks for the correction. I found several sources, printed as well as online that appear quite legitimate and that provided my posted information.