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Samuel Pinckney Pittman came to prominence in northwestern Arkansas as a Confederate veteran, civic leader, Washington County official, memoir writer, and advocate for agricultural and educational interests.
Born to James and Mary Pittman on June 27, 1836, ten miles southwest of Fayetteville (Washington County) in what is now Prairie Grove Township, Samuel Pinckney Pittman grew up on the family farm. He received an education at Ozark Institute in Mount Comfort (Washington County). After his father’s death in 1847, Pittman continued to farm and raise livestock.
In 1858, Pittman married Sarah Boone. They had a son named William in 1859; he died of typhoid fever at the age of eighteen. Their daughter, Mary was born in 1866; she died in 1904.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Pittman did not immediately enlist, but in June 1862 he joined the Confederate army as an ordnance sergeant in Company K of Colonel William H. Brooks’s Thirty-Fourth Arkansas Infantry regiment. Pittman and his regiment served the remainder of the war in the Trans-Mississippi Department and fought in the Battle of Prairie Grove, Battle of Helena, and Little Rock Campaign. During the 1864 Red River Campaign and Camden Expedition, he saw action at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, and the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry. Pittman earned promotion to first lieutenant by 1863 and held this rank until the end of the war. Twice taken prisoner, he escaped both times and rejoined his regiment. On June 9, 1865, Pittman surrendered with his regiment at Fort Smith (Sebastian County).
After the war, Pittman returned to farming and raising livestock and also served as a deputy sheriff in Washington County. He retired from farming in 1882 and became a businessman in Fayetteville, where he earned a reputation as one of Washington County’s leading citizens, as well as a staunch public advocate of civic expansion, prosperity, and educational progress for the state’s northwestern communities. During this second career, Pittman served as one of the first directors of the Washington County Bank and assumed the presidency of that institution in 1888. When the First National Bank took over the business of the Washington County Bank, Pittman was its first president, serving until 1905. Pittman also advocated for educational expansion in northwestern Arkansas; in 1876, the Arkansas General Assembly appointed Pittman to the board of trustees for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. He served as a university trustee until 1882.
Even after his retirement from active farming, Pittman remained an important public advocate for agricultural issues. He served as a charter member of the Prairie Grove Grange movement and for many years remained an active member of that organization’s Washington County branch, for which he served variously as county master, state delegate, and district lecturer. Pittman’s early support of the Washington County fair also helped that event succeed.
For several years, he served as a captain in the state militia; due to this association, he was thereafter frequently referred to as “Captain Pittman,” although he did not attain this rank during his wartime service. Pittman attended numerous Confederate reunions in his later years and authored two short but informative memoirs of his wartime experiences, including one of the few first-person accounts of the Battle of Prairie Grove written by a Confederate veteran.
Pittman suffered for several months from a variety of ailments in his late seventies. He died at the age of seventy-nine on July 22, 1915, from complications of these ailments following an unsuccessful surgery at the Fayetteville city hospital. He is buried at Mount Comfort Cemetery in Fayetteville.
For additional information:
“Capt. S. P. Pittman is Called to Death.” Daily Fayetteville Democrat, July 22, 1915, p. 1.
“Capt. S. T. Pittman.” Arkansas Gazette, July 23, 1915, p. 1.
History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.
Obituary of Samuel Pittman. Daily Fayetteville Democrat, July 22, 1915.
Reynolds, John Hugh, and David Yancey Thomas. History of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1910.
Samuel Pinckney Pittman Memoir. Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell
Last Updated 10/27/2017
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