Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Infantry (CS)

The Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Infantry was a Confederate unit that served in the Trans-Mississippi Theater during the American Civil War. The unit was composed of men primarily from Carroll, Izard, Fulton, Marion, and Searcy counties. The regiment organized in July 1862, when a number of mounted companies were dismounted and augmented with conscripts. Colonel James Shaler, a former Missouri State Guard officer, was appointed as colonel, with A. J. Magenis as lieutenant colonel and Beal Gaither as major.

The Twenty-Seventh moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in preparation for the planned attack on Union forces in northwestern Arkansas. Assigned to Colonel Robert Shaver’s Brigade, in Brigadier General Daniel Frost’s Division, the Twenty-Seventh did not join its sister regiments in their first combat on December 7, 1862, at the Battle of Prairie Grove. According to Shaler, his regiment was unable to render service, having 312 men but only 150 weapons consisting of shotguns, hunting rifles, and only twenty muskets. The Twenty-Seventh remained at Fort Smith acting as the provost marshal until the return of the army to Van Buren (Crawford County) after the Battle of Prairie Grove. At that time, the regiment underwent a reorganization and consolidation with remaining troops of Adams’s Arkansas Infantry Regiment.

In the spring of 1863, the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General James Tappan’s brigade at Little Rock (Pulaski County). Relations between the regiment and Shaler deteriorated drastically. The men felt he wanted to transfer them to a Missouri brigade, and this seemed supported when Shaler had a Missouri-patterned battle flag issued to the regiment. That summer, Tappan’s brigade was ordered to Louisiana, supporting General Richard Taylor’s forces opposing General Ulysses S. Grant’s operations near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Confederates operated in northeastern Louisiana to disrupt agricultural efforts on the U.S.-leased plantations. The Twenty-Seventh operated in the vicinity of Delhi, Louisiana, attacking and burning plantations and disrupting Union efforts.

Missing the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, Tappan’s Brigade returned to Arkansas in August 1863 to assist in the defense of Little Rock. During the initial cavalry battles of August 1863, Confederate infantry, including the Twenty-Seventh, held strong works east of the city and 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) and giving up the state capital to the enemy. Soon afterward, the Twenty-Seventh and Thirty-Eighth Arkansas were consolidated under command of Colonel Shaver of the Thirty-Eighth Arkansas, with Tappan’s Brigade assigned to Churchill’s Arkansas Division. Of great satisfaction to the men, Shaler was defeated during elections and replaced by Beal Gaither.

In the spring of 1864, Union forces in Louisiana moved northward in the Red River Campaign, hoping to link up with General Frederick Steele’s Army of Arkansas in the vicinity of Shreveport and capture the Confederate headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. All Confederate infantry were ordered south and participated in the Battle of Pleasant Hill, turning back the Union advance. General E. Kirby Smith marched north with the infantry to assist Major General Sterling Price holding Steele’s army at bay near Camden (Ouachita County). After defeats at Poison Spring and Marks’ Mills and running out of supplies, Steele hastily retreated toward Little Rock.

On April 30, Confederate infantry caught Steele’s troops trying to cross the flooded Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry. Churchill’s Arkansas Division, the first to arrive, immediately deployed for action. Tappan’s Brigade led the first assault in the dismal bottoms, the Twenty-Seventh/Thirty-Eighth on the right, and Hardy’s Nineteenth/Twenty-Fourth Arkansas on the left. As they advanced, heavy fighting erupted all along the line. While their comrades were pinned down in a cornfield, Shaver led his men forward into the swampy woods where they succeeded in pushing back the enemy. As Hardy’s men began to retreat, Shaver, flanked on his left and right, was forced to withdraw as well. As the other Arkansas brigades, and then the Missouri Division, failed in frontal assaults on Union positions, Shaver was ordered to the far left along the main road and Cox Creek, in support of the Texas Division. The Thirty-Eighth supported the Texans’ advance during this final assault, withdrawing under orders as that attack also failed. The enemy, during this lull, took the opportunity to retreat across the river, leaving the Confederates in control of the battlefield. During the battle, the Twenty-Seventh/Thirty-Eighth Arkansas lost four men killed and twenty-two wounded in what became its last combat action.

Serving the remainder of the war in Arkansas and Louisiana, the regiment was stationed at Marshall, Texas, when 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. Most individually journeyed to their homes, receiving their paroles at various locations along the way.

For additional information:
Allen, Desmond, Ed. “History of the Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Confederate Infantry.” Conway: Arkansas Research, 1988.

Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry. Little Rock: Pioneer Press, 1995.

Shea, William. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Turnbo, S. C., and Desmond Walls Allen. History of the Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Confederate Infantry. Conway, AR: Arkansas Research, 1993.

———. Turnbo’s Tales of the Ozarks: War and Guerrilla Stories. Conway, AR: Arkansas Research, 1989.

Anthony Rushing
Bryant Public Schools

Last Updated: 09/26/2019

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