11th US Colored Infantry (Old)

Two men from Williamson County served in Company D of the 11th US Colored Infantry (Old). The Regiment was recruited out of the Fort Smith area of northwest Arkansas in the fall and winter of 1863–64, soon after Federal forces had recaptured the post from Confederates. Primarily, the regiment was filled with men who had been enslaved in local communities surrounding the Fort. Additionally, some Black men who had been enslaved by the local Choctaw Nation enlisted. Companies A, B, C, and D were mustered into the service of the Union Army on December 19, 1863, at Fort Smith, with Company E to follow on March 3, 1864.

Pvt. John Hardgrave was a 44-year-old farmer when he enlisted on January 10, 1864, in Company D. He was born in Williamson County. It is believed that Pvt. Hardgrave was enslaved by the white family of Francis Hardgrave who lived in Davidson County, near the Williamson County border. In 1827, Francis Hardgrave left his grandson Francis Hardgrave a "negro boy named John." In the 1830s, members of the Hardgrave family - including many who live in Williamson County - moved to Johnson County, Arkansas, and it is believed they brought John Hardgrave with them.

Cpl. Madison Hardeman was a 39-year-old farmer when he enlisted on January 24, 1864, in Company D.

Both men enlisted in Clarkesville, Arkansas

The 11th USCI (Old) was first assigned to post and garrison duty at Fort Smith. They spent most of their time drilling and performing routine duties such as working on the earthwork fortifications that surrounded the town of Fort Smith, serving as guards, and participating in any formal dress parades. From February through April of that year, Pvt. Madison Hardeman was on detached service with a recruiting party seeking to find and enlist other Black men. On July 1, 1864, he was appointed Corporal of Company D. During this time period, Hardeman's comrade from Williamson County, Pvt. John Hardgrave was also on detached service beginning March 3, 1864 at Fort Smith. On June 29, 1864, Pvt. Hardgrave deserted his unit at Fort Smith.

In mid-July of 1864, Companies A, B, C, D & E of the 11th USCT(Old) (about 265 men) - including Pvt. John Hardgrave from Williamson County - moved into what was called Indian Territory (today Oklahoma). Their assignment was to guard government stock and a haying party operating at Gunther's Prairie, 12 miles northwest of Fort Smith. At daybreak on August 24, an estimated 300 to 400 Confederate cavalry, both white and Indian, attacked this force. The fighting lasted until 7:30 that morning and some firing continued as late as 10 a.m. According to military records, for one hour the contest was close and the fire almost incessant. The Confederates made three separate charges and were repulsed each time and finally were compelled to retreat. The 11th USCI (New) had 3 men killed and 14 missing or wounded.

The unit remained at the Ft. Smith post until November 1864 when they were moved eastward to Lewisburg, in Conway County, Arkansas. The 11th saw action again at Boggs's Mill on January 24, 1865. On the night of January 24, a detachment of Colonel Robert C. Newton’s 10th Arkansas Confederate Cavalry Regiment seized the mill, located twelve miles from Dardanelle in Yell County, in order to grind flour. Lieutenant Colonel James M. Steele, leading the 11th USCT, surprised the Confederate force, capturing eighteen horses and twenty stands of arms, as well as all of the flour and Newton’s papers. The regiment then returned to garrison duty at both Little Rock and Lewisburg until April, 1865.

In late April 1865, after the surrender of Lee's army in Virginia, the unit was officially consolidated with the 112th and the 113th United States Colored Infantry to form the new 113th U.S. Colored Troops on April 22, 1865. They were mustered out a year later, on April 9, 1866.

Fort Smith, Arkansas.