Twenty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry (CS)
The Twenty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry was a Confederate unit that served in the Trans-Mississippi Theater during the Civil War. The unit was primarily composed of men from Arkansas, Bradley, Dallas, Drew, Jefferson, Johnson, and Lafayette counties. The Twenty-Sixth first organized on June 14, 1862, as Morgan’s Arkansas Battalion, with Asa Morgan appointed lieutenant colonel and Fountain P. Yell as major. With organization of additional companies, it became a full regiment on July 23, 1862, at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). Designated as the Third Trans-Mississippi Infantry Regiment by General Thomas Hindman, it was officially designated by the Confederate War Department as the Twenty-Sixth Arkansas Infantry. Asa Morgan was appointed colonel, with John C. Wright as lieutenant colonel and Yell as major.
During the summer of 1862, the Twenty-Sixth served outpost duty along the White River at various locations before being ordered to Van Buren (Crawford County) in October. Here, the regiment was assigned to Colonel Dandridge McRae’s Brigade, Brigadier General Francis Shoup’s Division in Major General Hindman’s 1st Corps, Army of the Trans-Mississippi.
The Twenty-Sixth Arkansas experienced its first combat on December 7, 1862, at the Battle of Prairie Grove. Shoup’s Division was deployed along a prominent ridge in the vicinity of the Fayetteville–Cane Hill Road eastward toward the Borden House. The Twenty-Sixth, reporting a strength of only 412 rifles, assisted in repelling the early assaults of Brigadier General Francis Herron’s Union forces with the rest of Shoup’s Division. No casualty report exists for the regiment to detail losses in the heavy action along the ridge near the Borden House and into the prairie. That evening, Hindman retreated back to Van Buren, and the Twenty-Sixth soon returned to central Arkansas, establishing winter quarters near Little Rock (Pulaski County).
The Twenty-Sixth traveled to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in May 1863 to become part of the fort’s garrison. Assigned to Brigadier General William Cabell’s brigade, companies served outpost duty, with the majority assigned as provost guards for Fort Smith. Upon the approach of Federal forces in August, Cabell ordered the evacuation of the post and headed southward. The resulting Action at Devil’s Backbone took place on September 1, 1863, when Cabell arrayed his men on this very defensible ground and awaited attack. The Twenty-Sixth was positioned in support of the artillery on top of the mountain. At the initial Union assault, units posted at the base and side of the mountain panicked and retreated through the remainder of Cabell’s forces on the mountain, causing a full-scale retreat.
Withdrawing farther south, Cabell began the long trek through the Ouachita Mountains toward Little Rock as ordered by Major General Sterling Price. However, Price evacuated Little Rock on September 10 and ordered Cabell to link up at Arkadelphia (Clark County). Here, the Twenty-Sixth returned to its former brigade, now commanded by Colonel Lucien Gause, in Thomas Churchill’s Arkansas Infantry Division. On December 6, 1863, both Colonel Morgan and Lieutenant Colonel Wright left the regiment, with command devolving to Major Yell.
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 in the vicinity of Shreveport, Louisiana, and capture Confederate headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. All Confederate infantry were ordered south to assist in turning back the Union advance. The Twenty-Sixth was held in reserve during the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, but actively participated in attacking General Nathaniel Banks’s rear guard at Pleasant Hill on April 5, 1864. Yell, now a colonel, was killed during the battle, and command fell to Lieutenant Colonel Iverson Brooks. General Edmund Kirby Smith then marched north with the Confederate infantry to assist Major General Price, holding Steele’s army at bay near Camden (Ouachita County). After suffering defeats at Poison Springs 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 and became heavily engaged. Alexander T. Hawthorne’s Arkansas brigade was ordered forward in support and, after facing heavy casualties and lack of ammunition, began to fall back. Gause was then ordered forward into the cornfield, supported by John B. Clark’s and S. P. Burns’s Missouri brigades on his left and right. As Gause neared the enemy line, his men fired a number of volleys and charged. The Twenty-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 his troops to retire. Federal forces rapidly advanced to cut Gause off, and the withdrawal turned into a rapid retreat. After re-crossing the muddy cornfield, the Twenty-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, Federal forces took the opportunity to retreat across the river, leaving the Confederates in control of the battlefield. No regimental report for the Twenty-Sixth is found; however, Gause stated that he lost sixteen killed and sixty-seven wounded from the brigade in 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 journeyed individually 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.
Shea, William. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
Wright, John C. Memoirs of Colonel John C. Wright. Pine Bluff, AR: Rare Book Publishers, 1982.
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Last Updated: 10/22/2020