Twenty-Eighth/Thirty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry (CS)
The Thirty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry Regiment was a Confederate unit that served in the Trans-Mississippi Theater during the Civil War. Although the unit was originally composed of volunteer cavalry companies, General Thomas Hindman ordered them dismounted and organized as the Second Trans-Mississippi Regiment on June 26, 1862. The Confederate War Department officially designated it as the Twenty-Eighth Arkansas Infantry. It was composed primarily of men from Conway, Prairie, Pulaski, Van Buren, and White counties, and the original field officers were Colonel Dandridge McRae, Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, and Major William Hanna.
The Twenty-Eighth spent the summer and fall drilling and training on Massard Prairie outside Fort Smith (Sebastian County) before moving north with Hindman’s army. McRae received promotion to brigadier general, and the regiment, now under command of Lieutenant Colonel Glenn, was assigned to McRae’s Brigade in Brigadier General Francis Shoup’s Division. The Twenty-Eighth’s first major engagement was the December 7, 1862, Battle of Prairie Grove. Shoup’s Division deployed along a prominent ridge in the vicinity of the Fayetteville–Cane Hill Road eastward toward the Borden House, where the Twenty-Eighth assisted in repelling the early assaults of Brigadier General Francis Herron’s Union forces, losing three killed and two captured. At the close of the battle, Hindman withdrew due to lack of supplies, and the Twenty-Eighth eventually returned to central Arkansas, establishing winter quarters at Little Rock (Pulaski County).
In January 1863, Hindman’s army underwent major reorganization. When the Twenty-Eighth’s muster rolls arrived, the Confederate War Department, thinking it was a new regiment, redesignated it as the Thirty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry.
On July 4, 1863, the Thirty-Sixth Arkansas participated in the Battle of Helena. Price’s entire division, including McRae’s brigade and the Thirty-Sixth, attacked Battery C, while other brigades attacked remaining Union positions. McRae’s units assaulted the fort from the north and assisted in overwhelming its defenders, who fled into Helena (Phillips County) and the safety of Fort Curtis. McRae received orders from Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes to move to the south and assist Brigadier General James F. Fagan’s brigade then attacking Battery D. McRae led roughly 200 available men of his brigade forward but began receiving fire from front and rear, forcing him to withdraw his depleted force. During the assaults on Battery C and Battery D, the Thirty-Sixth lost twenty-seven killed, 122 wounded, and 89 captured. The Confederate forces failed to take the city and, the next day, withdrew to Little Rock. With many men residing in northeastern Arkansas, desertions affected the regiment immediately, resulting in its consolidation into five companies of just over 700 men.
For the next month, the regiment served at various locations in central Arkansas until Federal forces began their advance on Little Rock. Colonel Glenn resigned, with Hanna and Davie both receiving promotions. During the initial cavalry battles of August 1863, Confederate infantry, including the Thirty-Sixth, held strong works east of the city as well as north of the Arkansas River. When Union cavalry successfully forded the Arkansas River below Little Rock on September 10, 1863, the infantry withdrew through Little Rock, retreating to Arkadelphia (Clark County), giving up the state capital to Federal forces.
In November, the Thirty-Sixth moved to Camp Sumter, near Arkadelphia, where it established winter quarters and was assigned to Brigadier General Thomas Churchill’s brigade. Upon Churchill’s promotion to division command, Colonel Lucien Gause took over brigade command, Colonel Hanna resigned, and Davie took over as colonel, commanding the regiment for the duration of the war.
In the spring of 1864, Union forces in Louisiana initiated the Red River Campaign, hoping to join with General Frederick Steele’s Army of Arkansas near Shreveport, Louisiana, and capture Confederate headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. All Confederate infantry moved south to assist in turning back the Union advance. The Thirty-Sixth, held in reserve during the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, actively participated in attacking General Nathaniel Prentice Banks’s rear guard at Pleasant Hill on April 5, 1864. General E. Kirby Smith then marched north with the Confederate infantry to assist Major General Sterling Price, holding Steele’s army at bay near Camden (Ouachita County). After defeats at Poison Springs and Marks’ Mills and running out of supplies, Steele hastily retreated toward Little Rock.
Confederates caught up to Steele trying to cross the flooded Saline River on the April 30, resulting in the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry. Churchill’s Division arrived first and attacked immediately. Tappan’s Brigade made the initial attack before stalling, and Hawthorne’s Brigade moved forward to assist, meeting the same fate. Gause’s brigade advanced, supported by John B. Clark’s and S. P. Burns’s Missouri brigades on his left and right. As Gause’s troops neared the enemy line, they fired a number of volleys and charged. The Thirty-Sixth responded as the brigade surged forward, driving the Federals back. After advancing almost a mile, Gause realized that the Missourians on both his flanks had retreated and ordered Colonel Davie and the Thirty-Sixth to change front and refuse the left flank. Under heavy fire and outnumbered, Gause ordered the brigade to retreat. Federal forces rapidly advanced to cut Gause off, and the withdrawal turned into a rapid retreat. After re-crossing the muddy battlefield, the Thirty-Sixth halted to rest and resupply with ammunition before moving forward in support of the advance of the Texas Division. As the Texans were repulsed and withdrew, the enemy took the opportunity to retreat across the river, leaving the Confederates in control of the battlefield. At Jenkins’ Ferry, the Thirty-Sixth lost three killed and one wounded in what became its last combat action.
The remnant of the regiment saw no fighting for the remainder of the war, serving at various locations across southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana until moving to Marshall, Texas, where General Kirby Smith surrendered the department on May 26, 1865. Ordered to Shreveport to receive their paroles, the regiment did not report, but simply disbanded without formally surrendering, while most individually journeyed to their homes, receiving their paroles at various locations along the way.
For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock: Arkansas Civil War Centennial Commission and Pioneer Press, 1995.
Christ, Mark K. “‘We Were Badly Whipped’: A Confederate Account of the Battle of Helena, July 4, 1863.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 69 (Spring 2010): 44–53.
Price, Jeffrey. “Courage and Desperation Rarely Equaled: The 36th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.” Masters of Military Art and Science thesis, University of Oregon, 2003.
Shea, William. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
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Last Updated: 10/22/2020