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William Ayers Crawford

June 24, 1825 - June 22, 1874

Topic- Buena Vista/la Angostura A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

William Crawford was born on June 24, 1825 in Washington County, Tennessee, the youngest of eleven children. His father, a farmer and horse breeder, died in 1834. His mother Martha died in 1840 and William and his ten older brothers and sisters moved to Saline County Arkansas, where they took up farming.

In June 1846, Crawford enlisted at Hot Springs, Arkansas as a private in the Arkansas Regiment of Mounted Volunteers, Company I, formerly the “Saline Rangers,” under the command of Captain William K. Inglish. The Arkansas Mounted volunteers elected Archibald Yell as colonel and commanding officer. They received little training or discipline, earning the nicknames of “Mounted Devils” and “Ransackers” for their abuse of the Mexican population in occupied areas. During the second day of the Battle of Buena Vista (La Angostura), on February 23 1847, most of the Arkansas Mounted Volunteers broke rank and fled when charged by Mexican lancers. Colonel Yell rallied some hundred members of the unit and along with remnants of the Regiment of Kentucky cavalry secured the U.S. supply depot until reinforced. The twelve-month enlistment period ended in 1847and the Arkansas troops returned home.

In 1848, William Crawford married Sarah Helen Henslee and raised a family of eight children. In 1852, Crawford was elected Saline County sheriff and served until 1858. During this period he operated a licensed ferry across the Saline River at Benton, Arkansas, used by the El Paso stage line and was the contractor for the construction of the Saline County Courthouse in the same city. In 1858 he was elected to a two-year term in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Crawford entered the Confederate army in 1861 as a lieutenant in the 1st Arkansas Regiment of Cavalry and by war’s end had been promoted to the rank of colonel. Crawford and the 1st Arkansas participated in action in Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri. Crawford was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7 1862, in southwestern Tennessee.

In 1873, Crawford was commissioned brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia by Governor Elisha Baxter, following an election marked by widespread fraud and intimidation. Violence in the state erupted when a judge declared Baxter’s opponent Joseph Brooks the actual winner in the gubernatorial race and Baxter refused to step down. Crawford received a serious head wound in a skirmish between the two factions on May 9, 1874 just weeks before President Ulysses S. Grant declared Baxter governor of the state. On June 22 1874, William Crawford died of tuberculosis. He is buried at Lee Cemetery in Benton, Arkansas.


Bauer, K. Jack The Mexican War: 1846-1848 Macmillan Publishing New York 1974

Brooks, Nathan Covington A Complete History of the Mexican War 1846-1848: Its Causes, Conduct, and Consequences The Rio Grande Press, Inc. 1849 rprt 1969

Crawford, Sybil F. “William Ayers Crawford (1825-1874)”

Williams, Charles G., ed. “A Saline Guard: The Civil War Letters of Col. William Ayers Crawford, C.S.A., 1861–1865.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 31 (Winter 1972): 328–355.

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