Tulip Cemetery
Dallas County,

Prosecuting Attorney

Civil War Confederate
March 17, 1829 - June 10, 1874

Union Prisoner of War - Then Union Loyalist

Edward W Gantt was born in either Maury County or Hickman County, Tennessee to John and Nancy Gantt. He followed his father’s footsteps into the legal profession with his first practice established in Williamsport, Maury County, Tennessee. He was a secessionist as early as 1850 when he and George, his brother, were delegates to the 1850 “Southern Rights" Convention in Nashville which was considering secession because of States Rights issues arising out of the admission of the western territories to the Union as slave-free states. He moved to Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas in 1854 and immediately entered into Arkansas politics. He was elected to three consecutive terms as prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District and served from 1854 until 1860 when he ran for Congress. In 1858 he married Margaret Reid, the daughter of a wealthy local planter, and they had two sons and two daughters. He won the 1860 election to Congress but did not take that seat because of the war and secession in May 1861. Edward helped to raise the Twelfth Arkansas Infantry Regiment around the area of Arkadelphia in Clark County and the men elected him as their colonel. In the fall of 1861 the regiment was stationed at Columbus, Kentucky. Their first action occurred on November 7, 1861, at the Battle of Belmont in Mississippi County, Missouri when they engaged in an inconclusive battle with General Ulysses S. Grant. In December of 1861 Edward was ordered to New Madrid, Missouri where he commanded a brigade of two Arkansas regiments at Fort Thompson on Island Number 10 in the Mississippi River. The garrison was responsible for maintaining control of the river between Memphis and St Louis. In early 1862 General P. G. T. Beauregard appointed Edward to the rank of acting brigadier general. During a violent thunderstorm in April of 1862 a small Union force that had surrounded the island, forced the surrender of the garrison of 7,000 soldiers and officers. Edward was imprisoned at Fort Warren in Massachusetts until a release was negotiated in August of 1862. He returned to his home in Hempstead County and waited for another commission. However, for various reasons, the Confederate leadership refused him another commission. Brooding over this rejection Edward slipped into Vicksburg, Mississippi in June 1863 and surrendered to General Grant. Then in July 1863 he and other southern Union loyalists met with President Lincoln, swore allegiance to the Union, and promised to help end the war. He and the other Union loyalists worked out an agreement with President Lincoln whereby Arkansas could return to the Union when ten percent of the eligible voters in 1860 swore allegiance to the Constitution.. For the duration of the war he toured the northern states encouraging the people to persevere. Following the war he was made general superintendent of the Southwest District of Arkansas of the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency designed to help former slaves become truly free. In 1866 he moved to Little Rock where he again became a prosecuting attorney and backed President Grant in his 1868 campaign for office. Edward faced constant death threats and was severely beaten by two Little Rock businessmen. He was said to have carried as many as seven guns. The stress and violence forced him to resign in 1870. In 1874 he died of a heart attack in Little Rock and was buried in the small community of Tulip in Dallas County.

Edward Williams Gantt was the second son of George Gantt and his wife Mary Elizabeth Williams of Columbia, Maury County, TN. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Edward Williams, the founder of Williamsport, TN. He was the younger brother of Lt. George Gantt (1824-1897) and the older brother of Richard (Dick) Gantt, who later went to Arkansas to practice law with Edward. Dick Gantt married Cora Reid, a younger sister of Edward's wife, Margaret K. Reid.

References Consulted:
Ref: (Accessed October 2, 2008)
Ref: (Accessed October 2, 2008)

A special thanks to Thomas Fisher of Find a Grave for permission to use his photograph.

Contributed on 10/1/08 by tomtodd
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Record #: 70012

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Submitted: 10/1/08 • Approved: 1/16/16 • Last Updated: 1/19/16 • R70012-G0-S3

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