A Civil War Biography

James Camp Tappan

Tappan, whose parents were both from Massachusetts, was born 9 September 1825 in Franklin, Tennessee. He attended the Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and then Yale from which he graduated in 1845. He studied law in Vicksburg, Mississippi and was admitted to the bar in 1846. He moved to Helena, Arkansas and was elected to two terms in the state legislature. During his second term he served as speaker. He then was elected a circuit court judge.

When the war began Tappan, in spite of his ties to New England, offered his services to the South. He was commissioned a colonel in the 13th Arkansas Infantry regiment and commanded the 13th at Belmont earning commendation from Leonidas Polk for the disposition of his troops. Tappan led the 13th at Shiloh where, as part of the 2nd brigade, 1st division of Polk's I Corps, it was thrown repeatedly against the Union position that became known as the "Hornet's Nest." He then took part in Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky seeing action at Richmond and Perryville. Tappan was promoted to brigadier general on 5 November 1862 and was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department. He commanded a brigade under Sterling Price during 1863. During the 1864 Red River campaign, Tappan commanded Churchill's division, Thomas J. Churchill being in command of a detachment of Price's main force. Tappan was praised for his efforts at Pleasant Hill. He saw action at Jenkin's Ferry in Arkansas then took part in Price's last raid into Missouri.

Following the war Tappan returned to Helena and resumed his law practice. He was again elected to the state legislature. His political ambition did not go further as he twice declined the Democratic nomination for governor. When he died 19 March 1906, Tappan had been for many years the dean of the Arkansas bar.

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