Red Pine

A street off Geren Road in Millennium Estates was named for Red Pine, but it would be easy to overlook its story. Its name seems typical of a lot of arboreal street names like Mulberry and Elm. Unlike street names in many new subdivisions with generic designations more about marketing than history or place, Red Pine has a story to tell, the story of the Battle of Massard Prairie.

Red Pine is the English translation of the Choctaw name, Tioak-Homma, the name of a Confederate chaplain. Known also as William Cass, he was the only casualty of that small Civil War battle fought July 27, 1864, who was listed in the historical record by name, according to Tom Wing, park ranger at the Fort Smith National Historic Site and history instructor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.

In the spring of 1864, Union forces operating in Arkansas had suffered a major setback when the Red River campaign failed to give them control of the rebel-held south Arkansas.
That, along with promising intelligence from inside Fort Smith, emboldened Confederate generals Douglas Cooper and Richard Gano to probe the strength of the outer defenses of the Union garrison here.

Union troops, numbering about 200 men, had built a small encampment on Massard Prairie in what is today south Fort Smith for the purpose of protecting Army horses that were grazing there.

At dawn on July 27, 600 Confederate cavalry, consisting of Texas, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek units, attacked the Union camp.

Although the Union troops made a tactical retreat to a small, nearby hill and attempted a "last stand" defense, the raid was too much of a surprise and the attack too swift. The engagement was concluded in less than an hour.

When it was over, 10 Union men were killed and 15 wounded. Seven Confederates were killed and 26 wounded. Even more significantly for the Confederate side, they captured hundreds of firearms, supplies and clothing. Material was in especially short supply on the western frontier of the war. Among the seven Confederate dead was Red Pine.

In a military dispatch, Cooper credits him with leading the advance and goes on to praise him highly.

"This brave warrior and Christian had on every occasion displayed the highest order of courage," Cooper wrote. Red Pine "was also distinguished as a warrior in every battle in which his regiment was engaged until he received his death wound."

Not much is known of him beyond his name, Cooper's praise and his military service. Nevertheless, his name marks a road lined with homes where families try to live quietly only a few hundred yards from the site of the noisy battle that took Red Pine's life.

Originally written for the Times Record by Ben Boulden.