Arkansas in the American Civil War


Arkansas in the American Civil War

The state of Arkansas was a part of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War, and provided a source of troops, supplies, and military and political leaders for the fledgling country.

Arkansas had become the 25th state of the United States, on June 15, 1836, entering as a slave state. Antebellum Arkansas was still a wilderness in most areas, rural and sparsely populated. As a result, it did not have early military significance when states began seceding from the Union.

During the secession crisis, but before Arkansas had seceded and before the onset of any fighting, the Federal Arsenal in Little Rock became a potential flash point. The small Federal garrison was forced to evacuate after a demand by Arkansas Governor Rector that the arsenal be turned over to state authority.

At the beginning of 1861, the population of Arkansas, like several states of the Upper South, was not keen to secede on average, but they were also opposed to Federal coercion of seceded states. This was shown by the results of state convention referendum in February 1861. The referendum passed, but the majority of the delegates elected were conditional unionist in sympathy, rather than outright secessionst. This changed after the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, and Abraham Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion. The move toward open war shifted public opinion into the secessionist camp, and Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6 1861. Despite its relative lack of strategic importance, the state was the scene of numerous small-scale battles during the Civil War.

Arkansas Confederate/Union army contributions

Arkansas formed some 48 infantry regiments for the Confederate Army in addition to numerous cavalry and artillery battery units to serve as part of the Confederate Army. The 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles, and the 1st, 4th, and 6th Arkansas Infantries would go on to see considerable action as a part of Major General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. To include those stated above, all but one infantry regiment and all of the cavalry and artillery units served most of the war in what was known as the "western theater", where there were few battles that measured to the scale of the "eastern theater". That one infantry regiment, the 3rd Arkansas, served in the east for the duration of the war, where most of the major battles were fought, thus making it the states most celebrated Confederate military unit. Attached to General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, the 3rd Arkansas would take part in almost every major eastern battle, to include the Battle of Seven Pines, Seven Days Battle, Battle of Harpers Ferry, Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Gettysburg, Battle of Chickamauga, Battle of the Wilderness, and the Appomattox Campaign. [http://www.morningsidebooks.com/cgi/bookshop/articles.cgi?cat=2&issue=14&article=5&userid=$id] [http://www.civilwarhome.com/robertsongettysburgor.htm]

Though it was with the Confederacy that Arkansas as a state sided, not all Arkansans supported the Confederate cause. Beginning after the fall of Little Rock to Union forces in 1863, Arkansans supporting the Union formed some eleven infantry regiments, four cavalry regiments, and two artillery batteries to serve in the Union Army. None of those saw any heavy combat actions, and few took part in any major battles. They served mostly as anti-guerilla forces, patrolling areas that had heavy Confederate guerilla activity. [http://www.civilwararchive.com/Unreghst/unartr.htm#4thcav] Another significant event brought on by the fall of Little Rock was the relocation of the state capital. Initially state government officials moved the capital offices to Hot Springs, but it remained there for only a short time, being moved deeper into Confederate occupied territory, in Washington, Arkansas, where it would remain for the rest of the war.

By the end of the war, many of the Arkansas regiments were serving with Bragg's Army of Tennessee, and most were with that Army when it surrendered on April 26, 1865, in Greensboro, North Carolina. [http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/arhonor.html]

Noted Arkansas commanders and local campaigns

Arkansans of note during the Civil War include Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne. Considered by many to be one of the most brilliant Confederate division commanders of the war, Cleburne is often referred to as "The Stonewall of the West." Also of note is Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman, a former United States Representative, who commanded Confederate forces at the Battle of Cane Hill and Battle of Prairie Grove. Brigadier General Albert Rust, through his political influence, helped to form the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment, and until his promotion to general commanded that regiment. He later commanded forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Battle of Shiloh, ultimately serving under General Sterling Price. Colonel Van H. Manning took over command of the 3rd Arkansas following Rust's promotion, and was commended for bravery in several engagements, most notably at the Devil's Den during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Due to Arkansas having no real strategic inportance, short of being a gateway into Texas, few major battles were fought there. The Camden Expedition (March 23ndash May 2, 1864) was the most important military campaign in Arkansas. Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele and his Union troops stationed at Little Rock and Fort Smith were ordered to march to Shreveport, Louisiana. There, Steele was supposed to link up with a separate Federal amphibious expedition which was advancing up the Red River Valley. The combined Union force was then to strike into Texas. But the two pincers never converged, and Steele's columns suffered terrible losses in a series of battles with Confederates led by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.

The Fort Smith Council was a series of important meetings held at Fort Smith in September 1865 that were organized by the United States government for all Indian tribes east of the Rockies. The purpose was to discuss the future treaties and land allocations following the close of the Civil War. Under the Military Reconstruction Act, Congress readmitted Arkansas in June 1868.

Battles in Arkansas

Battle of Arkansas Post

Battle of Bayou Fourche

Battle of Cane Hill

Battle of Chalk Bluff

Battle of Devil's Backbone

Battle of Elkin's Ferry

Battle of Helena

Battle of Hill's Plantation

Battle of Jenkins' Ferry

Battle of Marks' Mills

Battle of Old River Lake

Battle of Pea Ridge

Battle of Pine Bluff

Battle of Poison Spring

Battle of Prairie D'Ane

Battle of Prairie Grove

Battle of Saint Charles

Battle of Whitney's Lane

ee also

*Arkansas Civil War Confederate Units
*List of Arkansas Union Civil War Units

External links

* [http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/ARmap.htm National Park Service map of Civil War sites in Arkansas]
* [http://www.lincolnandthecivilwar.com/Activities/Arkansas/Arkansas.asp Arkansas in the Civil War]
* [http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/3rd-his.html 3rd Arkansas]
* [http://members.cox.net/preston1863/history.html History of the 3rd Arkansas]
* [http://www.morningsidebooks.com/cgi/bookshop/articles.cgi?cat=2&issue=14&article=5&userid=$id "For Ninety Nine Years or the War" The Story of the 3rd Arkansas at Gettysburg]
* [http://www.civilwarhome.com/robertsongettysburgor.htm Brig. Gen. J.B. Robertson, after action report, Devil's Den]
* [http://www.civilwararchive.com/unionar.htm Arkansas Union Army contributions]
* [http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/ Arkansas Confederate Army contributions]
* [http://www.evendon.net/PGHLookups/ARVol1868M.htm Musters]

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