The Indian Territory in the Civil War Message Board

Sergeant Rosser and the Sans Bois Bridge

We start with Dr. Grant Foreman's story in the Chronicles of Oklahoma in 1934 entitled:

Survey of A Wagon Road from Fort Smith to the Colorado River. Grant Foreman, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 1934, footnote 9 (below): page 78 / osu dl p. 61

“ 9 An iron bridge was subsequently built here (across the Big Sans Bois) pursuant to Beale's recommendation. Judge Malcolm E. Rosser of Muskogee, told me (GF) that during the Civil War after the passage of a contingent of Confederate troops his father was directed to remain behind and burn the bridge, which he did. Part of the iron frame of this bridge is still to be seen in the waters of San Bois Creek and the place acquired the name that appears on modern maps as "Iron Bridge." It is a few miles east of the present Stigler, Oklahoma.”

I believe Judge Rosser’s story is true—that his father, Quartermaster Sergeant William E. Rosser, 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles, CSA, burned (perhaps with some help) the 100-foot span Iron Bridge for the Beale Wagon Road across San Bois Creek just northwest of the hamlet of Iron Bridge, Haskell County, Oklahoma. I just can’t say for sure who ordered him to burn the bridge.

Following defeats at the Battles of Honey Springs and Perryville, Confederate defenses were in disarray along the Beale Wagon Road from Fort Smith to North Fork Town, and Union General Blunt was now headed along the south side of the Arkansas River to capture Fort Smith. CSA General Cabell had camped at Imochia (Emachaya) Creek, near Camp Pike (Whitefield) and Briartown with his Arkansas brigade on 8-10-63; ordered on 8-19 by General Steele to move closer to Skullyville (and Fort Smith); and then on 8-23 on further east to McLane’s Crossing (a few miles south of the Beale Iron Bridge demolished in April 1861) of the Poteau River. Gen. Cabell wrote on 8-28 that he was then camped at McLane’s. He remained nearby until September 1, 1863, when he ordered the evacuation of Fort Smith upon Union General Blunt’s arrival and show of force.

On August 21, General Steele, then in camp on Brookins Creek 4 miles south of the Canadian River (about where the Beale Wagon Road from Fort Smith crossed, and headed west to climb Winchester Mountain), ordered General Cabell to “assume command of all affairs in your vicinity.” Steele had camped here for several days, and stayed until he hears that Union General Blunt recharged Union Army had marched south out of Fort Gibson on August 22. Steele moves southwest and camps on Long Town Creek, then heads on southwest for Perryville, hoping that his Indian troops will join him there together with Bankhead’s new brigade of Texas troops to more strongly resist Blunt’s advance toward Texas.

The hoped for rendezvous didn’t happen, and after the small battle at Perryville on 8-26, Gen. Steele retreats on south down the Texas Road to Middle Boggy (Atoka) where he finally meets Bankhead. While camped near Atoka on the Texas Road, on 8-30-63 Gen. Steele writes to General Cabell: “Several companies of Choctaws who were at points on the Arkansas River have not joined” (nor did the Creeks or Stand Watie’s Cherokees).

General Cooper was at Briartown, just across the Canadian from Camp Pike on 8-20, perhaps encouraging Stand Watie’s Cherokees along with Col. Tandy Walker’s 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw. companies.

Thus we see, that General William Cabell had the authority (in hand from Gen. Steele by 8-27) to order the Iron Bridge across the San Bois, now behind him, to be demolished. Surprisingly, Col. Tandy Walker, commander of the 1st. Choctaw and Chickasaw, also had a good reason to block the Beale Wagon Road, even with/without orders from Gen. Cabell or Gen. Cooper. Col. Walker’s hometown of Skullyville was just down the road a few miles.

We know the bridge was there in 1860 and got destroyed during the Civil War. Now we know who did it, QM Sergeant William E. Rosser. We just don’t know who ordered it done. There are plenty of Confederate commanders: Generals Steele, Cooper and Cabell who may have done so.

Messages In This Thread

Rosser and the Sans Bois Bridge
Re: Rosser and the Sans Bois Bridge
Re: Rosser and the Sans Bois Bridge
Data Provided on W.E. Rosser
W.E. Rosser's brother!
Re: W.E. Rosser's brother!
Sergeant Rosser and the Sans Bois Bridge
Sergeant Rosser's second chance!