|Table of contents|
2 Mississippi Politics
3 Move to Arkansas
4 The Civil War
5 Post War Activities
Thomas C. Hindman was born 28 January 1828 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Received a classical education at Lawrenceville Classical Institute in New Jersy and graduated with honors on 25 September 1843. Hindman's family had moved to Ripley, Mississippi while he was away and upon his return he began studying law. The Mexican War soon intervened and Hindman joined the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment seeing a chance for military glory in a foreign land. Hindman's regiment was assigned to nothing more than guard duty and the anticipated glory evaporated amongst the ravages of disease, guerilla raids, and camp duties. Hindman did advance to Post Adjutant due to his education.
After the war Hindman became active in the Sons of Temperance movement and became the recording secretary of the local branch. In 1853 he successfully campaigned for a seat in the Mississippi legislature and was deeply involved in Mississippi politics. By the end of 1854 Hindman realized that he had little room to maneuver in the crowded Mississippi political arena. Looking across the river Hindman realized that the young and turbulent State of Arkansas was wide open for a well educated and ambitious politician. Hindman travelled to Helena, Arkansas in Phillips County, Arkansas and found it well suited for his purposes.
Move to Arkansas
Hindman threw himself into the political and social scenes in his new home. He catapulted himself into the fray by taking a stand against the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic Know-Nothings whom he considered 'pestilent fanatics'. Hindman and his Catholic law partner established a Democratic association designed to stamp out the Know-Nothing threat. During this time Hindman became close friends with Patrick Cleburne who would later parallel his course as a Confederate Major General. Cleburne and Hindman were both wounded during a street fight in Helena with Know-Nothing members. Hindman received praise for his actions and became a force in Democratic politics after the Know-Nothings were defeated.
In 1856 he ran for the Congressional seat in his First District but was defeated by the incumbent. His gracious withdrawal at the convention to avoid Democratic infighting earned him more notice from the party hierarchy.
In 1857 Hindman became editor of the Helena States-Rights Democrat and was the unchallenged leader of the Democratic Party in eastern Arkansas. From this platform he launched his 1858 Congressional bid and faced no serious challenge.
During his term Hindman turned on the political hierarchy in the State and political warfare divided the Democratic Party in Arkansas with the pro-Hindman forces on one side and the forces of the political "family" that had ruled Arkansas since territorial days on the other. At the end of the 1860 elections the power of "the family" had been smashed by Hindman.
The Civil War
As the American Civil War approached Hindman was an ardent voice for secession and was essentially Arkansas' most prominent fire eater. When Arkansas seceded from the Union in May of 1861 Hindman was present in the gallery of the convention.
With war approaching Hindman recruited a regiment at Helena which was mustered into Confederate service. He and his regiment were soon active participants in the disastrous Kentucky Campaign followed soon thereafter by fierce fighting at the Battle of Shiloh where he was slightly wounded.
After his recovery he was appointed as commander of the Trans-Mississippi District. Events in Arkansas had taken a terrible turn for the worst. Most units had been stripped from the State for service east of the Mississippi. When Hindman arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas he found that he had almost nothing with which to defend the State from the Federal Army that was approaching dangerously from the northwest.
Hindman set to work and issued a series of harsh military edicts, instituting conscription, authorizing guerilla warfare, and requisitioning supplies for the defense of the State. Hindman also commenced a campaign of misinformation designed to mislead Federal authorities about the strength of the States defenses. Hindman also diverted Texas troops bound for Virginia for use in the defense of Arkansas.
These series of events combined with harassing tactics confused the Federal authorities causing them to fear that they did not have an adequate supply line to conquer the State and soon diverted from a course towards the capitol and instead moved to Helena to reestablish a solid supply line. Hindman's harsh actions had essentially saved Little Rock for another year.
Hindman's edicts however raised the ire of the local citizenry and they, and Hindman's political enemies, demanded that Richmond replace him. By August of 1862 the authorities in Richmond decided to replace him with the well-meaning but incompetent Theophilus "Granny" Holmes.
Hindman convinced Holmes to give him a field command in northern Arkansas and he proceeded with a plan to drive out the invader. Hindman aggressively moved into northwest Arkansas and managed to intercept the Federal army while it was divided into two parts. But at this moment Hindman's normally aggressive style gave way to uncharacteristic doubt. Rather than attack the divided pieces of the Federal army Hindman entrenched himself at Prairie Grove, Arkansas allowing the Federal forced to recombine and assault him.
Hindman's position was well selected, but the better equipped and supplied Federal forces wore down the Confederate forces and Hindman was forced to withdraw back towards Little Rock having missed his chance to destroy the Federal army.
After the stalemate at Prairie Grove, Hindman was transferred back across the river and participated in the Battle of Chickamauga alongside his friend Pat Cleburne. He continued to fight with the Army of Tennessee as that army fought General William Tecumseh Sherman across north Georgia from the Battle of Dalton to the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain just outside Marietta, Georgia. At Kennesaw Mountain he was struck in the eye by a tree limb and took a leave of absence. He set out for Texas and was there when the Confederacy fell. Along with many other now ex-Confederates he crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico and sought asylum.
Post War Activities
By April of 1867 Hindman was confident enough in the situation at home to return to Arkansas and apply to President Andrew Johnson for a pardon. Hindman's application was one of the few denied. Nonetheless Hindman attempted to return to his former life.
Politics still called to him and though ineligible to run for office he came out against the reconstruction Constitution which put him in direct conflict with reconstruction authorities. These authorities revived a "treason" indictment against him and had him arrested. This did not stop Hindman who went on the political circuit and had some success building an unlikely coalition of newly freed slaves and Democrats.
On the night of 27 September 1868 Hindman was assassinated by an unknown assailant who fired through his parlor window while he was reading his newspaper. His children were present in the room when he was shot in the neck.
Hindman lived long enough to give a farewell speech to supporters from the porch of his house before collapsing from blood loss. The murderers were never caught and many theories on their identity circulated for many years. Needless to say, Thomas C. Hindman had many enemies of all stripes.
Hindman is buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena, Arkansas near his friend Patrick Cleburne.