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Known personally and professionally as A. C. Pickett or Colonel Pickett, Alexander Corbin Pickett was a lawyer in Jacksonport (Jackson County) and later Augusta (Woodruff County), organizer of the Jackson Guards (CS) in the Civil War, and later a colonel in the Tenth Missouri Infantry (CS). Following the war, Pickett was head of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Woodruff County during Reconstruction.
A. C. Pickett, whose birth date is unknown (sources range from 1820 to 1823), was the sixth of the nine children of Steptoe Pickett and Sarah Chilton Pickett who survived into adulthood. Originally from Warrenton in Fauquier County, Virginia, the Picketts came to Mooresville, Alabama, around 1820, just as the area was opening to settlement. Pickett and his siblings grew up on a large plantation with about fifty slaves, surrounded by relatives and neighbors. Pickett is reported to have attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, in the 1840s, which offered both academic and legal studies.
Pickett served as second sergeant of Company G, First Alabama Regiment in the Mexican War from June 1846 until May 1847, volunteering from Sumter County in the southwest corner of the state. His regiment saw little action, though his journal offers observant, opinionated impressions of his military experience and civilian life in Mexico. Following the conflict, Pickett returned to Sumter County, Alabama, and practiced law there until immigrating to Jacksonport, Arkansas, in 1859. A lifelong bachelor, Pickett joined his brother—Dr. William Henry Pickett, who operated a large farm north of Augusta, and other family members in the area.
At the onset of the Civil War, Pickett organized the Jackson Guards out of Jacksonport in May 1861, mustering the unit in with Confederate forces in Virginia. When his initial enlistment expired, Pickett reenlisted as a major in the Tenth Missouri Infantry of Parson’s Brigade, receiving a commission as a colonel in December 1862. Parson’s Brigade, also known as the Twelfth (or Steen-Pickett’s-Moore’s) Infantry, spent most of the war in Arkansas fighting skirmishes and some major engagements in central, eastern, and southern locations, including Helena (Phillips County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Jenkins’ Ferry in Grant County, and the area near Camden (Ouachita County).
During the Reconstruction period, Pickett allied with the forces of continued resistance. In the Militia War of 1868–69, Republican governor Powell Clayton and militia leader Daniel Phillips Upham identified Pickett as the head of the Ku Klux Klan in Woodruff County. The Klan’s reported activities in Woodruff County in October through December 1868 included intimidation, night riding in groups of thirty to 200, beating black workers in a cotton field, ambushing and injuring the county registrar and the militia head, wounding a black barber, patrolling and later destroying the plantation owned by Republican militia commander Upham, and killing several people. Pickett was accused of personally threatening Upham. In April 1869, Pickett, along with others, was indicted for treason for activities during the Militia War, but the charge was later dismissed. Governor Clayton, Upham, and others in his administration curbed the Klan in Arkansas in 1868–69, the only Reconstruction state that effectively did so.
Some of Pickett’s later activities suggest the depth and persistence of “Redeemer” Democratic opposition, with the rule of law replacing terror tactics as the chosen weapon. In the contested First Congressional District election of 1872, Pickett set up an alternate poll site and delivered rump Democratic votes, among many activities in the district subject to later congressional inquiry. In 1875, Pickett and a team of associates attempted unsuccessfully to bring murder charges against Upham for events in the Militia War.
Pickett maintained a busy law practice in Augusta following the war, both as a solo practitioner and in partnership with L. M. Ramsaur, a fellow Confederate veteran and a Democratic dissident to Woodruff County Reconstruction. Never a slaveholder himself, Pickett was a man of property, acquiring town lots in the area of Jacksonport and Newport (Jackson County), Searcy (White County), and Augusta in the course of his career. Pickett was active in Democratic politics, the Masons, and as a layman in the Episcopal Church. He served as a special judge on the Jackson County Circuit Court in the 1870s.
Following a short illness, Pickett, an attorney whose practice consisted largely of looking after other people’s financial affairs, died without a legal will in Augusta on January 17, 1883. His surviving siblings were his heirs. He is buried in Memorial Park in Augusta.
For additional information:Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.
Blatti, Jo, ed. A. C. Pickett’s Private Journal of the U.S.-Mexican War. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2011.
Daniel P. Upham Collection. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Studies Institute, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Hardy, Stella Pickett. Colonial Families of the Southern States of America. New York: Tobias Wright, 1911.
Rector, Charles, J. “D. P. Upham, Woodruff County Carpetbagger.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 59 (Spring 2000): 59–75.
Trelease, Allen W. White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
Jo BlattiLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/24/2011
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