About Solon Borland, U.S. Senator
Solon Borland (September 21, 1808 – January 1, 1864) was a newspaperman, soldier, diplomat, Democratic United States Senator from the State of Arkansas and a Confederate officer during the American Civil War.
Borland was born in Suffolk, Virginia. When he was a youth, his family moved to North Carolina, where he attended preparatory schools. He later studied medicine and opened a practice. He married three times, first in 1831 to Hildah Wright of Virginia, who died in 1837, and with whom he had two sons. He then married Eliza Buck Hart of Memphis, Tennessee in 1839, but she died in 1842, with no offspring. In 1843 following his second wife's death, he moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he founded the Arkansas Banner, which became an influential newspaper in state-wide Democratic politics. Three years later, he challenged the editor of the rival Arkansas Gazette, a Whig paper, to a duel due to a slander published against Doctor Borland. In 1845 he had met Mary Isabel Melbourne, of Little Rock, with whom he would marry that same year and later have three children.
During the Mexican-American War, Borland was commissioned as a major in the Arkansas Volunteer Cavalry, serving under Archibald Yell. He served throughout the war, having turned over his newspaper to associates. Borland was taken as a prisoner of war by the Mexican army on January 23, 1847, just south of Saltillo, Coahuila. He escaped, and was discharged when his regiment was disbanded and mustered out in June, but continued in the army as volunteer aide-de-camp to General William J. Worth during the remainder of the campaign, from the Battle of Molino del Rey to the capture of Mexico City on September 14, 1847.
After the war, he was elected as a United States Senator to fill the unexpired term of Ambrose Hundley Sevier. His views were generally of a disunionist version, and he was not popular with many Senate members. During an 1850 debate over Southern rights, he physically attacked Mississippi Senator Henry Foote. He discovered soon after his return to Little Rock that his views were not popular at home, either. Borland resigned from the Senate in 1853 and served as United States Minister to Nicaragua through 1854. However, this duty did not run smoothly for him either.
Immediately after his arrival in Managua, he called for the US Government to repudiate the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and for the American military to support Honduras in its confrontation with Great Britain. In a public address in Nicaragua, he stated that it was his greatest ambition to see Nicaragua "forming a bright star in the flag of the United States". He was reprimanded for this by US Secretary of State William Marcy. While leaving San Juan del Norte in May, 1854, Borland interfered with the local arrest of an American citizen. He was threatened with arrest, but due to his diplomatic immunity, no arrest was made. However, a crowd had gathered, and a bottle was thrown which hit Borland in the face. Enraged, he reported the incident to the United States, who promptly dispatched a gunboat, and demanded an apology. When none was given, the town was bombarded and burned.
Borland returned to Little Rock in October 1854, and resumed his medical practice and operation of his pharmacy. Borland declined a nomination from President Pierce as Governor of the New Mexico Territory. However he remained active in local politics, and very vocal as to his views on states rights and secession.
Civil War service, death
At the start of the Civil War, Borland was appointed as a commander of the state militia by Arkansas Governor Henry Massie Rector, and ordered to lead the expedition that seized Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the first days of the war, despite the fact that Arkansas had not yet seceded. By the time Borland and his forces arrived in Fort Smith, the Federal troops had already departed, and there were no shots fired. He was replaced as commander at the Arkansas Secession convention less than a month later, but he was able to obtain a position as a commander for Northeast Arkansas. For a time in 1861 he commanded the depot at Pitman's Ferry, near Pocahontas, Arkansas, responsible for troop deployments and supplies. His only son with his third wife, George Godwin Borland, had joined the Confederate Army despite being only 16 years of age, and would later be killed in action.
Borland helped recruit troops for the Confederate States Army during this period, and helped raise the "3rd Arkansas Cavalry" on June 10, 1861, and became its first colonel. The regiment was sent to Corinth, Mississippi, but without Borland. The regiment would eventually serve under Major General Joseph Wheeler, seeing action in the Second Battle of Corinth and the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge, along with other battles as a part of the Army of Mississippi. However, Borland never left Arkansas.
While in his command position for the Northern Arkansas Militia, he ordered an embargo of goods to end price speculation, which was rescinded by Governor Rector. Borland protested that a governor could not countermand an order from a Confederate official, but in January 1862 his order was countermanded by the Confederate States Secretary of War at the time, Judah P. Benjamin. In declining health and resenting that embarrassment, Borland resigned from further service to the Confederacy in June, 1862, moving to Dallas County, Arkansas. Borland died before the war's end, in Harris County, Texas. His burial place is in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
In 1962, the town of Frenchport, Arkansas, began hosting "Solon Borland Daze," a community festival dedicated to recalling the life and achievements of the U.S. senator and his French-Creole mistress, after whom the town is named.