In Search of Capt. John A. Dollar

A Civil War prison at Little Rock made headlines again July 31, 2002, when workers digging a sewer line on the north side of the State Capitol found a cistern that provided water for what has been called “Rebels’ Hell.[1]”  Confederate prisoners, political prisoners and Union soldiers being disciplined were all held here.  One of the Rebels to spend time in this dismal place was Capt. John A. Dollar of White County, who is now the object of a search by this descendent.



John A. Dollar was the ancestor that caused me to begin my search.  A grandson called to ask me if we had anyone in our family who was in the Civil War.  I knew my mother's great-grandfather was, but I did not even know his name.  I called my mother and she told me his name was John A. and he was a Captain.  My mother has his powder horn. 

 She had told me years ago that he was captured by Union soldiers while at home in White County, placed in a Union prison and died there.  Last year, my husband and I made to trip to Alton, Illinois, and found the monument with the names of the Confederate soldiers buried there.  John A. Dollar was one of them.  I searched the Civil War records via Internet two years ago and found the roll of the 21st Regiment Arkansas Militia. The Missouri State Archives show he was Pvt. in Coleman’s Missouri Calvary. 

 National Confederate Archives show he was Pvt. in Baldwin's Coleman's Regt., Arkansas Cavalry -captured August 15, 1864, in White County, confined in military prison, Little Rock, August 15-20[2]; forwarded to Alton prison, November 17, 1864.  He died in prison, February 12, 1865 - cause of death shown as "icterus."  A story that has come down through generations is that John's wife, Martha Ann Nutt Dollar, traveled by mule to see her husband while he was in prison and was not allowed to see him. 

 I first found John A. Dollar in St. Clair County, Alabama.  He was born there in 1823, the son of Reuben and Abigail McKnight Dollar[3].   Reuben (1791-1857) was the son of Ambrose Dollar who died in 1835.  Our family has a hand-written note addressed to Capt. Dollar instructing him to parade his company at F.B. Walker’s on a certain day and time.  The note is dated April 16, 1863.   He and his family are listed in the 1860 census of White County, Arkansas.  John A.'s son Devan Judson Dollar and his family came to Rusk County, Texas, from Rose Bud in 1896.  Buddy Dollar, who had a grocery store in Searcy, was a brother to Devan Judson.

 John A. Dollar married Martha Ann Nutt on June 3, 1845, in St. Clair County, Alabama, and had at least five children:  Devan Judson, born March 2, 1854 (my ancestor); Mary Abigail, born March 8, 1847; Jasper M., born in 1889; J.E., born in 1851; M.D.L., born in 1855.

 I searched the census records for Thomas Jefferson Alford family - did not find them.  I did find the T.J. Alford family and the D.J. Dollar (which would be Devan Judson) listed on the school tax roll - both in District 59, Kentucky Township.  Devan Judson Dollar married Amanda M. Alford, Thomas Jefferson's daughter.   However, I did not find the marriage licenses listed on your website. Perhaps, I overlooked it.

 If you find any information regarding the John A. Dollar family and/or the militia, please notify me.   vvv


--Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photo by Steve Keesee

The cistern uncovered just beneath the surface at the State Capitol had brick walls, and was approximately 20 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep.  Workers removed the rest of the cistern’s walls for safety reasons and to allow a sewer line to go in as planned.  Some of the  bricks will be saved, according to one state official.  Inspection reports made during the Civil War indicate the cistern had better water than the prison well.  A state penitentiary had been located on this site before it was made into a military prison by Union forces.







[1] Rebels’ Hell, Little Rock’s “Yankee” Prison 1863-1865.  Kay Waters Sakaris, copyright 1993 Southern Pioneer Press, 3631 Sweetbriar Drive, Pasadena, TX 77505.

[2] Records show there were 481 men in the prison on October 5, 1864, with 100 sick.  An inspection report December 3, 1864, indicated, “water [rain] in the cistern was ample and good but the well water was considered inferior.”  Only three men managed to escape this pesthole during the period February 1864 through April 1865.

[3] John A. Dollar’s siblings were James P., born in 1817; Reuben W., born in 1828; Elizabeth; Andrew M., born in 1834; Mary Ann, born in 1825; Isaac W., born in 1829; Nimrod E., born in 1821; Louisa born in 1838.  Andrew and Isaac are believed to have served in the 21st Regiment Arkansas Militia.