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William Y. Slack
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Personal Information
Born: August 1, 1816(1816-08-01)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: March 21, 1862 (aged 45)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Confederate States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: Confederate States Army (aligned)
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Brigadier General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: Missouri State Guard
Commands: 4th Division
Battles: American Civil War
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

William Yarnel Slack (August 1, 1816 – March 21, 1862) was a Missouri lawyer, politician, and general in the Missouri State Guard (aligned with the Confederate States Army) during the American Civil War. He led a division in some of war's earliest major battles in the Trans-Mississippi Theater and was mortally wounded in the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas.[1]

Early life and career[]

William Y. Slack was born in rural Mason County, Kentucky, in the summer of 1816. Three years later, his father John Slack moved the family to Boone County, Missouri, and settled near Columbia. John Slack, a potter by trade, became the first justice of the peace for Perche Township.[2] As a young adult, William Slack studied law, passed his bar exam, and established a private practice in Chillicothe. He was among the leading citizens that helped raise cash to found what later became the University of Missouri.[3]

During the Mexican War, Slack raised a company of volunteers and served as their captain in the 2nd Missouri Volunteers under Sterling Price. He mustered out of the army in 1847 after fourteen months of service.[1][4]

Slack served in the Missouri General Assembly, where he was noted as a strong pro-slavery advocate. He became a member of the state convention called to develop and ratify the new Missouri state constitution.[3]

Civil War service[]

Shortly after the start of the Civil War, pro-Confederacy factions in Missouri became organized as the Missouri State Guard, and Slack, with his previous military experience and political connections, was appointed by Governor of Missouri Claiborne F. Jackson as a brigadier general in command of the 5th Division of the MSG. His commission dated from July 4, 1861. In an August reorganization of the Guard, Slack assumed command of the 4th Division, which consisted of both cavalry and infantry. He saw action in the battles of Carthage and Springfield. He was wounded by a bullet in the left hip at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10.[1][5]

By the end of October, Slack had recovered sufficiently to resume his field duties. He took command of the 2nd brigade of the Missouri State Guard on January 23, 1862. On March 7 of that year, he was shot again in the left hip during the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in Arkansas. He was taken to a house a mile in the rear lines, where he improved and was assumed to be recovering. Because of fears he might be captured by Union forces, he was transported seven miles eastward to a field hospital in Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in Arkansas, where his condition rapidly deteriorated. He lingered for two weeks before dying early in the morning of March 21. He was buried in the yard, but in 1880, his remains were exhumed and reinteered in the Fayetteville Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas.[4]

Ironically, due to communication delays between the Trans-Mississippi District and the Confederacy's War Department in distant Richmond, Virginia, his formal commission as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army was awarded posthumously dating from April 12, 1862.[1][4]

His commander at Pea Ridge, Sterling Price, deemed Slack as one of "my best and bravest officers."[6]

See also[]


  • Bay, William Van Ness, Reminiscences of the Bench and Bar of Missouri, St. Louis: F. H. Thomas and Company, 1878.
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • History of Boone County, Missouri, St. Louis: Western Historical Company, 1882.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.
  • Welsh, Jack D., Medical Histories of Confederate Generals, Kent State University Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0873388535.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Eicher, p. 490.
  2. History of Boone County, p. 1071.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bay, pp. 137-38.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Warner, p. 278.
  5. Welsh, p. 197.
  6. Official Records, Series 1, Volume VIII, p. 306.

External links[]

Further reading[]

  • Bridges, Hal, "A Confederate Hero: General William Y. Slack," the Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Volume X, Autumn 1951).