Marc Wheat Database

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  • ID: I04885
  • Name: Henry Massey Rector 1
  • Sex: M
  • Title: Gov.
  • Birth: 1 MAY 1816 in Fountain Ferry, Kentucky
  • Birth: 1 MAY 1816 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA 1
  • Death: 12 AUG 1899 in Little Rock, Pulaski, Arkansas, USA 1
  • Note:
    !Willis Miller Kemper, Genealogy of the Fishback Family in America, 1714-1914.
    p88. Library of Congress. Governor of Arkansas 1860-1862. See portrait
    opposite p64.

    !SOURCE: Larry King, Rector Records, 1986. p15, 5-115. Library of Congress
    No. CS71.R3 1986.

    VOCATION: Bank teller, farmer, U.S. Marshall, State Senator, U.S. Surveyor-
    General, Governor of Arkansas 1860-1862. Democrat.

    Henry Massie Rector

    • Rector Becomes Governor
    • The Push for Secession
    • The Arsenal Incident
    • The First Secession Convention
    • Secession
    • The Civil War and Rector's Fall
    Henry M. Rector:
    Rector Becomes Governor

    Henry Massie Rector was born on May 1, 1816, at Fountain Ferry, Kentucky, the son of Elias Rector, a former surveyor, land speculator, and postmaster of St. Louis, Missouri. The elder Rector died in 1822.

    In 1835, while still in his teens, Rector moved to Arkansas to manage lands he had inherited from his father. In 1839 he was appointed teller at the State Bank. In 1841 he moved to a plantation in Saline County where he also trained as a lawyer. In 1842 President Tyler appointed him U. S. Marshall for the Arkansas district. In 1848 he was elected to the state senate representing Saline and Prairie Counties. In 1853 he was appointed Surveyor General for Arkansas.

    In 1854 Rector moved to Little Rock and opened a law office. That same year he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives from Pulaski County. In 1859 Rector was elected to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

    Though Rector was related to "the Family," the group that dominated antebellum politics in Arkansas, he became friends with the charismatic Thomas Hindman of Helena. Hindman was leading a rebellion within the Democratic Party to wrest control away from the Family. He was backed by several newspapers bankrolled by wealthy secessionist planters, most of them former Whigs seeking a new home among the Democrats. Hindman persuaded Rector to be the faction's candidate for governor in 1860. Rector defeated Richard Johnson, the Family's standard bearer, by a margin of 31,518 to 28,662.
    Henry M. Rector:
    The Push for Secession

    The same election that made Rector governor also elevated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. In his inaugural address Rector warned that the nation was rapidly approaching a crisis. "Is it to be the Union without slavery," he asked, "or slavery without the Union?" Rector went on to recount the grievances of the Southern states and acknowledged their right to secede, but stopped short of calling for secession by Arkansas.

    The initial push for secession came instead from Arkansas's Congressional delegation. On December 21, 1860, Rep. Hindman and Senator Robert Ward Johnson, a leader of the Family who only a year earlier had nearly fought a duel with Hindman, co-signed a letter to the Arkansas legislature calling for a state convention to consider secession. Gov. Rector delivered an address to the General Assembly in support of the measure. "The Union of States may no longer be regarded as existing in fact," he warned, "making it imperatively necessary that Arkansas should grid her loins for the conflict, and put her house in order." The legislature approved a convention to meet in March and set an election to choose delegates.

    South Carolina seceded in late December. Mississippi followed on January 9, Florida on January 10, Alabama on the 11th, Georgia on the 19th, Louisiana on the 26th, and Texas on February 1st.

    Within Arkansas tensions mounted as the February election for convention delegates approached. The secessionists were well financed and controlled the majority of the state's newspapers, but a groundswell of Unionist sentiment sprang up in the Arkansas hill country where few slaves existed.
    Henry M. Rector:
    The Arsenal Incident

    Rumors began to circulate at Helena that the federal government was about to reinforce the Arsenal at Little Rock. Citizens of that town held a mass meeting and drafted a petition to the governor urging him to seize the Arsenal. Rector drafted a letter in response stating that he considered it inappropriate to seize the Arsenal while Arkansas remained in the Union, a matter to be decided in the upcoming convention. In the interim, Rector wrote, he would consider any attempt to reinforce the Arsenal as an act of war by the federal authorities. Largely through a flight of fancy, the drama then being played out at Fort Sumter was transposed to Arkansas soil.

    While Rector's letter was making its way to Helena, Adjutant General Edmund Burgeven, Rector's brother-in-law, sent a message to Helena via the newly installed telegraph line. The secessionists at Helena interpreted Burgeven's telegram to mean that the governor's hands were legally tied, but that he would support spontaneous action by an armed citizenry. Helena began forming companies of "militia" and sending them to Little Rock. Pine Bluff quickly followed suit.

    Soon their were hundreds of armed "volunteers" surrounding the Arsenal at Little Rock, much to the dismay of that town's largely Unionist population. Rector was astonished that the military companies thought they were there at his request, but felt that the situation could be used to benefit the secessionist cause. He informed the Arsenal's staff that he could not guarantee their safety should they remain in Little Rock; but if they surrendered peacefully to state control, he would assure their safe passage out of Arkansas. The Arsenal command agreed. Ironically, when the federal troops departed on February 9th, it was a heroes' exit as thousands of Unionists lined their route.

    Henry M. Rector:
    The First Secession Convention

    The Secession Convention convened on March 4, 1861, in Little Rock's Baptist Meeting House. According to the custom of the day, ladies gathered in the balcony and threw flowers down to the speakers they supported. It soon became apparent that the Unionists had a narrow but unshakeable majority, despite attempts at persuasion by speakers such as Gov. Rector, who stated his belief that: "God, in His omnipotent wisdom, …created the cotton plant, the African Negro, and the lower Mississippi Valley, to clothe and feed the world, and a gallant race of men and women produced upon its soil to defend it and execute that decree."

    Realizing that they lacked the necessary votes, at one point the secessionists even threatened to have the delta secede from the rest of Arkansas. In the end, however, they were content to secure the convention's agreement to place the measure before the people in an August election. The Unionist majority, however, was not unconditional in their opposition to secession. What united them was their opposition to war. Peace would require constraint by both secessionists and the federal government. As a message to the latter, they passed a resolution condemning any form of military coercion on the part of federal authorities. It contained a provision empowering David Walker, the chairman, to call the convention back into session if such coercion occurred before the August referendum.

    The convention had scarcely closed when President Lincoln informed Jefferson Davis of his intention to resupply Fort Sumter, the blockaded garrison in the harbor of Charlestown, South Carolina. The Confederates responded by beginning a bombardment. Fort Sumter surrendered on April 14. That same day Lincoln issued a call to all the states for 75,000 troops to crush the rebellion. Rector responded with anger:

    "In answer to your requisition for troops from Arkansas to subjugate the Southern States, I have to that none will be furnished. The demand is only adding insult to injury. The people of this commonwealth are freemen, not slaves, and will defend, to the last extremity, their honor, lives and property against Northern mendacity and usurpation."

    That same day Rector sent Solon Borland at the head of a regiment of militia to seize the federal garrison at Fort Smith. Meanwhile pressure mounted on Unionist David Walker to reconvene the Secession Convention. He issued the call with a heavy heart. Like most of those in the Unionist majority, Walker had resisted secession because he feared it would provoke war. Now that war was apparently inevitable, like most he was now prepared to cast his lot with the South.

    Henry M. Rector:

    The Secession Convention reconvened on May 6 at the State House. By the afternoon a committee had drafted a secession resolution and it was put to a vote. It passed 65 to 5.

    "Enough votes have been cast to take us out of the Union," Chairman David Walker told the delegates. "Now since we must go, let us all go together, let the wires carry the news to all the world that Arkansas stands as a unit against coercion."

    One by one the delegates changed their votes, except for Isaac Murphy of Madison County. "I have cast my vote after mature reflection, and have duly considered the consequences, and I cannot conscientiously change it," Murphy told the convention. "I therefore vote no!"

    It is said that the other delegates "menaced" Murphy after this declaration, until unexpectedly a bouquet of roses landed at his feet, hurled by Mrs. Frederick Trapnall, a highly respected Little Rock widow. Mrs. Trapnall's gesture apparently calmed the crowd. At any rate Murphy remained present for the duration of the convention, for his name is recorded in the subsequent proceedings.

    Though Rector had led the fight for secession, its realization would adversely affect him. When drafting the new Confederate constitution, his enemies among the Unionists and the Family conspired to have the office of governor come up for re-election in 1862, rather than 1864 as was the case for all other constitutional officers. Rector would soon compound his political problems with his bungled management of the war effort.
    Henry M. Rector:
    The Civil War and Rector's Fall

    A true believer when it came to state's rights, Rector was reluctant to transfer Arkansas units to Confederate command. The Confederate government in turn refused to arm men not in Confederate units. This stalemate hamstrung Confederate efforts in the crucial early stage of the war in the trans-Mississippi west, when decisive action on the part of the Confederates might have tipped the scales in Missouri.

    For their part the Confederates sent Major General Earl Van Dorn to take charge of things in Arkansas. He divided the state into military districts, assigning each a quota of troops. Conscription was threatened should the supply of volunteers prove inadequate. By this point Sterling Price, who was raiding in southern Missouri with more men than weapons, was attacked by federal troops under Brigadier General Samuel Curtis. Price fled into northwest Arkansas. Van Dorn ordered Arkansas troops under General Ben McCulloch to rendezvous with Price and troops from the Indian Territory under Albert Pike. The clash of all these forces on March 7 and 8, 1862, resulted in a Confederate defeat at Pea Ridge.

    Van Dorn then marched what remained of the Confederate army out of Arkansas to fight Grant. Rector responded to this abandonment by threatening to secede from the Confederacy. Meanwhile Curtis had marched his army along the White River and found that nothing stood between him and Little Rock. Rector, convinced that the fall of the city was eminent, began removing state records to Hot Springs and then fled with his government. While this was taking place, Brigadier General J. S. Roane, the former governor, intercepted five Texas regiments bound for east of the Mississippi and commandeered them for Little Rock's defense. Curtis, learning that a new army now opposed him, encamped at Batesville to rest his men and resupply his army.

    "We would be glad if some patriotic gentlemen would relieve the anxiety of the public by informing it of the locality of the state government," Richard Johnson, Rector's old rival, wrote in the True Democrat. "The last report that was heard of it here, it was aboard the steamer Little Rock about two weeks ago, stemming the current of the Arkansas River."

    This humiliation proved the deathblow to Rector's political career. On October 6, 1862, he was forced to stand for re-election. He lost to Harris Flanagin 18,187 to 7,419. Flanagin, a colonel in the Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, reportedly only learned of his nomination a few days before he was elected.

    Father: Elias Rector b: ABT 1785 in Fauquier, Virginia
    Mother: Fanny Bardella Thurston b: 7 MAR 1795 in Rectortown, Fauquier, Virginia, USA

    Marriage 1 Ernestine Flore Linde b: 1820 in Louisville, Jefferson, Kentucky, USA
    • Married: 1859 1

    Marriage 2 Elizabeth Jane Field
    • Married: OCT 1838 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA 1
    1. Has No Children Elias William Rector b: 11 JUN 1849 in Pulaski, Arkansas, USA
    2. Has No Children Henry Massey Rector b: in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
    3. Has No Children Ann Boylen Rector b: 25 APR 1841 in Saline, Arkansas, USA
    4. Has No Children William Field Rector
    5. Has No Children Julia Sevier Rector
    6. Has No Children Frances Thurston Rector
    7. Has No Children Frank Nelson Rector
    8. Has No Children Thorton Rector

    1. Title: One World Tree (sm)
      Publication: Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., n.d.
      Text: Online publication - OneWorldTree [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc.

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