Fighting For Both: Frank Crawford Armstrong

Confederate Brigadier General Frank Crawford Armstrong
Confederate Brigadier General Frank Crawford Armstrong

First part of the series “Tales From the Tombstone

Frank Crawford Armstrong became a brigadier general in Confederate on January 20, 1863 after extensive service in the Trans-Mississippi and Western theaters. After a myriad of assignments, from serving on the staff of Generals James McIntosh and Ben McCulloch until their deaths at the Battle of Pea Ridge, to briefly as a colonel of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry, he spent most of his service in the Confederate cavalry.

Armstrong, in charge of a brigade of cavalry fought in the Battles of Atlanta and then assumed command of a division during the Confederate disastrous campaign to Franklin and Nashville in late 1864. In March 1865, he was assigned to command the defense of Selma, Alabama. On April 2, 1865 he led a spirited yet failed defense against superior Union forces and during the engagement Crawford was captured.

His service in the Confederacy was long and distinguished. Yet, what is not included in the engagements he fought in for the Confederacy was First Manassas. 

The reason Armstrong did not fight for the Confederacy on July 21, 1861 was simple. He was fighting for the Union that day!

Armstrong was born on the Choctaw Agency in Indian Territory to a military family on November 22, 1835. He later accompanied his step-father General Persifor Smith (his paternal father died three months before Armstrong’s birth) on an expedition to the New Mexico Territory in 1854 at the age of 19.

Headed east, Armstrong graduated from Holy Cross Academy in Massachusetts and was commissioned lieutenant in the regular army and went west to serve with Albert S. Johnston in the Mormon Campaign/Utah War in 1857.

When war broke out, Armstrong has risen in rank to captain and was in charge of a Union cavalry company at the First Battle of Manassas.

Approximately a month after the battle Armstrong had a change of heart and tendered his resignation from Union service on August 10, 1861 in Washington D.C. He then went south and joined the Confederate service.

Yet, the resignation took three days to process. So, not only did Armstrong serve on both sides during the war, he technically served both sides at the same time for three days!

Armstrong survived the war and with vast knowledge of the west he served in various government positions working with Native Americans. He died in Bar Harbor, Maine on September 8, 1909 and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Foot stone of Brigadier General Frank C. Armstrong's grave site, recognizing his rank
Foot stone of Brigadier General Frank C. Armstrong’s grave site, recognizing his rank
Grave site of Brigadier General Frank C. Armstrong

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