Hindman was raised in Alabama and educated in New York and New Jersey. His family moved to a Mississippi plantation, and he returned from the North to study law. His studies were interrupted by service in the Mexican War (1946-48), but he was admitted to the Mississippi Bar Association in 1851. He earned a reputation as an avid secessionist long before many Southerners held that view. He moved to Arkansas and was elected to Congress in 1858. Hindman’s law partner was Patrick Cleburne, who also became a Confederate general.
When the Civil War began, Hindman raised his own regiment and led it as a colonel. He was soon promoted to general and raised an army of 18,000 from Arkansas. His tenure as commander in Arkansas was stormy. Hindman declared martial law, imposed price controls, and enforced conscription. After his force was stopped at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas,in December 1862, Hindman was reassigned to the Army of Tennessee. He fought at Chickamauga and Atlanta, and was wounded twice.
After the war, Hindman fled to Mexico and joined a number of Confederates there.Hereturned to Arkansas in the late 1860s and became involved in politics again. He led a faction that challenged the Republican Party, and, in a pragmatic political maneuver, he began working on a biracial coalition. Hindman was shot as he sat in home, most likely by one of his political opponents. He died in September 1868 at age 40.