Fifteenth (Northwest) Arkansas Regiment (CS)
The Fifteenth (Northwest) Arkansas Infantry Regiment (CS) was established in Bentonville (Benton County) on December 3, 1861. It was the first unit to enter Confederate service from Benton County. It served at the Battles of Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Iuka, and Corinth, as well as during the Vicksburg Campaign; in Arkansas, it served at Prairie D’Ane, Marks’ Mills, and Jenkins’ Ferry.
This unit was reorganized three different times during the Civil War. (It was very common for units to be reorganized as the war progressed, which can make research difficult.) To make matters even more complex, there were three different units operating under the name “Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry” established during the course of the Civil War. The unit added the word “Northwest” to its unit designation to delineate it from the other two units.
The Third Arkansas Infantry Battalion served as the core nucleus by which the Twenty-First Arkansas Infantry (and later the Fifteenth) was organized. The Twenty-First Arkansas Infantry was formed by increasing the Third Arkansas Infantry Battalion to a regiment on December 8, 1861. The Twenty-First Arkansas Infantry Regiment fought at Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, and at Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862. Companies A, F, and G were organized at a camp near Cross Hollows—present-day Lowell (Benton County)—during the summer of 1861.
The first commander of this unit was Dandridge McRae. At the outbreak of the Civil War, McRae was the state’s inspector general under Governor Henry Rector. Later, McRae became the colonel of the Twenty-First Arkansas at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Twenty-First Arkansas was deployed east of Leetown Road, in Morgan’s Woods at the Leetown sector of the battlefield on March 7, 1862. The unit was part of a cavalcade of 2,000 Confederate infantry that consisted of the Fourth Arkansas, Fourteenth Arkansas, and Third Louisiana, under overall command of Colonel Louis Hebert. This Confederate cavalcade made a large infantry attack on Union colonel Peter J. Osterhaus’s line from the north and on his right flank.
The Confederacy saw its two top commanders killed in action at Leetown roughly within an hour of one another. This impacted the Twenty-First Arkansas in Morgan’s Woods, as its immediate commander, Colonel Louis Hebert, was also captured. This led to confusion and chaos on the part of the Arkansas and Louisiana troops due to lack of leadership. In the Twenty-First Arkansas’s attack on Colonel Peter J Osterhaus’s line, the unit was involved in a case of friendly fire. A number of the men in the Twenty-First Arkansas had answered an emergency call to serve in the Confederate army by General Benjamin McCulloch. In Morgan’s Woods, a group of these men began shooting at anything that moved. Two soldiers of the Third Louisiana were hit and killed. The Twenty-First Arkansas did not have credible service at Pea Ridge.
On May 8, 1862, the unit was reorganized as the Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry even though, at the time, there already existed two other units with that designation. Their new commander was Colonel James H. Hobbs. This unit fought at Iuka, Mississippi, on September 19, 1862, and at Corinth, Mississippi, on October 3–4, 1862. From there, it served in the ninety-eight-day Vicksburg Campaign. In Mississippi, it saw action at Grand Gulf (April 29, 1863), Port Gibson (May 1, 1863), Champion Hill (May 16, 1863), Big Black River Bridge (May 17, 1863), and the Vicksburg Siege (May 18–July 4, 1863). With Confederate capitulation at Vicksburg, it was paroled on July 8–9, 1863. The unit for all intents and purposes ceased to exist after Vicksburg, as it was consolidated into other Arkansas units. Elements of the unit later fought in Arkansas at Prairie D’Ane (April 19, 1864), Marks’ Mills (April 25, 1864), and Jenkins’ Ferry (April 30, 1864) as a part of the Camden Expedition. Remnants of the unit surrendered at Marshall, Texas, in May 1865.
For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin C. “The First Day at Pea Ridge, March 7, 1862.” Arkansas History Quarterly 17 (Summer 1958): 119–131.
DeBlack, Thomas A. With Fire and Sword, Arkansas, 1861–1874. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.
Goodspeed Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northwest Arkansas Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1988.
Roberts, Bobby, and Carl Moneyhon. Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Arkansas in the Civil War. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1987.
Shea, William, and Earl J. Hess. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Sifakis, Stewart. Compendium of the Confederate Armies: Florida and Arkansas. New York: Facts On File, 1992.
———. Who Was Who in the Civil War: A Biographical Encyclopedia of More Than 1000 Participants. New York: Facts On File, 1988.
Warner, Ezra. Generals in Gray: The Lives of Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
Kerry King Jones
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