Twenty-Third Arkansas Infantry (CS)
The Twenty-Third Arkansas Infantry Regiment was a Confederate unit that served in both the Western and Trans-Mississippi Theaters during the American Civil War. The regiment was organized on April 25, 1862, at Memphis, Tennessee, by the consolidation of Charles Adams’s and Simon Hughes’s infantry battalions and Mitchell Adair’s infantry company. It was composed of companies and men primarily from Clark, Craighead, Crittenden, Jackson, Phillips, Poinsett, and St. Francis counties, and its elected field officers were Colonel Charles W. Adams, Lieutenant Colonel Simon P. Hughes, and Major James F. Robinson. Reorganization of the regiment was undertaken on September 10, 1862, with Oliver P. Lyles appointed as colonel, Abraham Pennington as lieutenant colonel, and Erastus L. Black as major.
The regiment was transferred across the Mississippi River by May 1862 and attached to Major General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of the West at Corinth, Mississippi. At least one company was detached on cotton-burning missions along the Mississippi River during the early summer. By fall, it was assigned to the brigade of Brigadier General John C. Moore, Brigadier General Dabney Maury’s Division, Major General Sterling Price’s Corps stationed in Mississippi.
The Twenty-Third Arkansas first experienced combat at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi, October 3–4, 1862. On October 3, the regiment and its brigade advanced, making two successful assaults on enemy fortifications. The next morning, they assaulted enemy positions, driving the enemy from their third line of works and following them into the heart of Corinth, many times fighting house to house. The enemy, being greatly reinforced, counter-charged, forcing the Arkansas soldiers to retreat to their original line of October 3 with heavy casualties. During the evacuation and retreat on October 5, the Twenty-Third was ordered forward as advanced guard to secure Davis’s Bridge over the Hatchie River and to hold the high ground in order to allow the army to withdraw. With only 300 men, the regiment was assailed by overwhelming artillery fire and infantry assaults, and after a period of stubborn defense was forced to retreat across the river, again experiencing substantial losses. Throughout the three days of battle, the regiment lost five killed, twenty-three wounded, and 116 missing, many presumed dead or wounded, who had been left behind.
On January 7, 1863, the Twenty-Third was consolidated with the Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Arkansas Infantry regiments and First Arkansas Infantry battalion into a regiment commanded by Colonel Robert Crockett of the Eighteenth. The consolidated regiment was ordered to Port Hudson, Louisiana, and assigned to Brigadier General William N. R. Beall’s brigade. The Twenty-Third Arkansas endured the forty-eight-day siege (May 22–July 9) by Union forces under General Nathaniel Banks, in which a number of battles were fought, resulting in at least five killed, twenty-eight wounded, and five missing from the Twenty-Third. A remnant of the unit was included in the final capitulation of the Confederates on July 9, 1863, allowing Union forces complete control of the Mississippi River. Enlisted soldiers were paroled and returned to Arkansas, while most officers spent the remainder of the war in northern prisons. Colonel Lyles somehow avoided extended imprisonment and returned to Arkansas.
Once exchanged, the remnant of the Twenty-Third Arkansas was reorganized by Colonel Lyles and mounted, serving the remainder of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. Operating mostly as an independent command, Lyle’s regiment was assigned to Major General James F. Fagan’s cavalry division on September 12, 1864, during the initial phase of Price’s Missouri Raid. Although records are mostly missing due to wagons being burned during the retreat in southwestern Missouri, prisoner-of-war and parole records support the fact of Lyle’s men fighting with the rest of Fagan’s division at Pilot Knob, Little Blue, Westport, and Newtonia in Missouri and Marais des Cygnes River and Mine Creek in Kansas.
After returning to Arkansas, Lyle’s regiment transferred north of the Arkansas River and operated independently in the counties of northeastern Arkansas near the homes of the majority of the men. In December 1864, the unit fought against Union forces in Crittenden County near Marion and Mound City. In February 1865, the regiment, as part of Colonel Archibald Dobbins’s command, operated along Crowley’s Ridge and the St. Francis River valley. During the final months of the war, General John B. Magruder ordered Lyle’s command south of the Arkansas River, but it is unknown if the move ever occurred. More than likely, most of the men remained in northeastern Arkansas and were included in the surrender of Brigadier General Jeff Thompson’s forces on May 11, 1865. No records of the unit or its surrender survive.
For additional information:
Cozzens, Peter. The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
Hewitt, Lawrence Lee. Port Hudson: Confederate Bastion on the Mississippi. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1987
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
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