Fifth Arkansas Infantry (CS)

The Fifth Arkansas Infantry was a regiment that served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Spending most of its service in the Western Theater, the regiment served for the duration of the war.

After Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861, a number of military units began to form. Companies organized in communities around the state and moved to a number of centralized locations to create regiments. Ten companies from across Arkansas organized into the Fifth Arkansas Infantry at Gainesville (Greene County) on June 28, 1861. The companies were from Poinsett, Bradley, Greene, and Prairie counties. Two companies were organized in Wittsburg (Cross County), which became the seat of Cross County when it was formed in 1862. The unit was transferred to Confederate service on July 27, 1861. The first colonel of the regiment was David Cross, a planter from Poinsett County.

In October, the regiment moved to the east bank of the Mississippi River, where it would serve for the remainder of the war. Joining a brigade under the command of Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood, the Fifth served alongside the Seventh and Eighth Arkansas Infantry regiments, the Ninth Arkansas Infantry Battalion, and other units from Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. The brigade was part of the Central Army of Kentucky under the command of Major General William Hardee.

After the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee, the Confederate army retreated into northern Mississippi, where it reorganized to prepare for an attack on Federal forces. The Fifth Arkansas joined a new brigade under the command of Brigadier General Thomas C. Hindman, which also included the Second, Sixth, and Seventh Arkansas Infantry regiments and the Third Confederate Regiment. The regiment did not participate with the brigade at the Battle of Shiloh, as it was on guard duty in Mississippi. After the battle, the Confederate army reorganized, and Cross was not reelected as colonel of the regiment. He was replaced by Lucius Featherston, formerly the inspecting and muster officer for the regiment. John Edward Murray, appointed as the lieutenant colonel of the regiment before the end of 1861, continued to serve in that position. The original lieutenant colonel was dismissed from the service after a general court-martial.

With the promotion of Thomas Hindman to the rank of major general, St. John Liddell took command of the brigade and led it in the Kentucky Campaign. The Fifth Arkansas saw action for the first time at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky on October 8, 1862, losing four men killed. The next battle in which the regiment participated was in December 1862–January 1863 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where it lost twelve men killed and 135 wounded, with one man missing.

The Fifth next saw action in the Tullahoma Campaign, where the regiment lost eight killed and fourteen wounded at the Battle of Liberty Gap. In the summer of 1863, the Fifth Arkansas consolidated with the Thirteenth Arkansas Infantry to make a new unit, the Fifth/Thirteenth Arkansas. At the Battle of Chickamauga in September, the regiment lost thirty-eight men killed, 131 wounded, and thirty-three missing. Included in the dead was Featherston; he was succeeded in command by Murray, who was promoted to colonel.

Participating in the Chattanooga Campaign, the regiment fought at the Battle of Ringgold Gap and lost seven men killed with an unknown number of wounded. The regiment next helped defend Atlanta, Georgia, participating in the Battles of Resaca, Pickett’s Mill, New Hope Church, and others. Murray was killed at the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, and Lieutenant Colonel Peter Green took command of the regiment. The regiment lost seventeen killed in the battle. Part of the regiment was captured at the Battle of Jonesboro on September 1, but the soldiers were soon exchanged.

On October 16, the regiment was consolidated with other Arkansas units due to heavy losses. The new regiment, known as the First Arkansas, consisted of the remaining troops from the First, Second, Fifth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Arkansas Infantry regiments. Green commanded the new regiment.

With the brigade next seeing action in the Franklin and Nashville campaigns, Green took command of the brigade when General Daniel Govan was wounded. Lieutenant Colonel E. A. Howell took command of the regiment. The consolidated Sixth and Seventh Arkansas Infantry regiments were added to the unit on March 15. After the Battle of Bentonville in March 1865, the regiment underwent one final consolidation. This final unit consisted of the remnants of the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Arkansas Infantry regiments and the Third Confederate Infantry. The Fifth Arkansas made up one company in this new regiment.

The Confederate Army of Tennessee surrendered in North Carolina on April 26, 1865. A little over one hundred men of the Fifth Arkansas were paroled.

For additional information:
Barnhill, Floyd. The Fighting Fifth—Pat Cleburne’s Cutting Edge: The Fifth Arkansas Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. Jonesboro, AR: Floyd Barnhill, Sr. 1990.

Bost Family Civil War Letters. Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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