12th Arkansas Infantry Battalion
|12th Arkansas Infantry Battalion (Confederate)|
Arkansas state flag
|Active||June 11, 1862–May 26, 1865|
|Allegiance||Confederate States of America|
|Disbanded||May 26, 1865|
On June 11, 1862, Major General Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Confederate Army of the West at Priceville, Mississippi, issued General Orders, No. 39, calling for the organization of a battalion of sharpshooters in each brigade of the army.
"These Battalions will be made up of chosen men, all of whom must be able-bodied, active and good rifle shots and of tried courage ... All of the officers of the Battalion will be carefully selected and thoroughly examined before being recommended to the President for promotion or appointment to the Battalion. It is desired to bring the effective strength of each Battalion up to seven hundred and fifty (750) rank and file, if possible, and no pains will be spared to make the Battalions the elite of the Army of the West. An opportunity is therefore now afforded to young men of spirit to enroll themselves in a corps which is unquestionably to become the most distinguished in our Army. It is hoped and expected that no man will offer or be accepted into this select corps who is not resolved to lead in every daring enterprise which may be undertaken. Brigade Commanders will commence enrolling the Sharpshooters at once. Every proper means will be taken to fill up the Battalions as soon as possible. The men and officers of each company will be from the same State. The Brigade ordnance officers will see that the Sharpshooters are equipped with long range guns, and if possible that the guns of each company are of uniform calibre.”
"there will at once be organized a Battalion of Skirmishers for this Brigade. These men will be detailed from the companies composing the different Regts of this Brigade in proportion to their physical ability, courage & skill as Marksmen. It is the intention to make this Battalion very efficient, therefore the officers will be selected with specially to their qualifications & will be recommended by the Inspector Genl & Brigade & Division Commanders to the President for promotion. Capt. Griff Bayne has been recommended as Capt. of Infantry, P.A.C.S. & authorized to organize a Battalion of Skirmishers in accordance with instructions above given. Commanders of Regts & Battalions will accordingly assist Capt. Bayne in selecting the required No. men from their respective commands and hold them in readiness subject to his orders".
The quota of men from each of the regiments composing the Second Brigade was as follows:
- 8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Batt L. Jones, 29 men.
- 18th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Colonel David W. Carroll, 43 men.
- 19th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Colonel Thomas Pleasant Dockery, 40 men.
- 20th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Colonel Henry Poston Johnson, 38 men.
- 21st Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Colonel Jordan Edgar Cravens, 50 men.
The regimental commanders promptly provided the required number of volunteers. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, of the 8th Arkansas Battalion, refused to comply. He had earlier been forced to relinquish an entire company to the 25th Arkansas Regiment, in order to bring that regiment up to its full complement of ten companies, and resented the fact that his now-understrength battalion must once again be forced to give up more men. Lieutenant Colonel Jones was promptly court-martialed on two charges—disobedience of orders and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline—and cashiered from the army. The organization of the battalion of sharpshooters proceeded.
The 12th Arkansas Battalion (Sharpshooters) was formally organized on June 30, 1862, with four companies:
- Company A – composed of volunteers from the 18th Arkansas Regiment.
- Company B – composed of volunteers from the 21st Arkansas Regiment.
- Company C – composed of volunteers from the 20th Arkansas Regiment.
- Company D – composed of volunteers from the 19th Arkansas Regiment.
The volunteers from the 8th Arkansas Battalion were distributed among the four companies. The first commander of the sharpshooters was a Major C. L. Jackson, who assumed command on June 30 and was relieved of command on July 29. Nothing has yet been found to further identify this individual or explain why he was relieved. Few official records of the 12th Arkansas Battalion survive, apart from one muster roll and a few personal papers. William Field Rapley, an Arkansan serving in the Missouri State Guard, was appointed major of the battalion on July 29, and held the command to the end of the war. From this time forward, the battalion was known as “Rapley's Sharpshooters.”
During the Iuka-Corinth Campaign, the Rapley's Sharpshooters were assigned to Brigadier General William L. Cabell's brigade of Brigadier General Dabney H. Maury's Division of Major General Sterling Price's 1st Corps the Confederate (Army of the West). Rapley's Sharpshooters underwent rigorous training, quite unusual for a typical Confederate unit, and became an efficient, professional, and deadly force. They needed to be, for they soon began a furious year of combat, unequaled in the Army of the West. The Sharpshooters were the army's "fire brigade", specializing in rear-guard actions, holding off superior Union forces while the Confederate army tried to maneuver through Mississippi. They were tenacious fighters and suffered correspondingly heavy casualties at Corinth, and Hatchie Bridge.The 12th Battalion reported 72 casualties following the engagements at Corinth and Hatchie Bridge.
The Rapley's Sharpshooters were assigned to Brigadier General Martin E. Green's brigade of Major General John S. Bowen's Division, of Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton's Army of Mississippi for the Vicksburg Campaign. When General Green was killed on June 27, 1863, Colonel Dockery of the 19th Arkansas was placed in command of the brigade. The unit fought at the battles of Big Black River and Port Gibson.
Along with the rest of the army, the Sharpshooters finally found themselves surrounded and under siege at Vicksburg. It was here that they did what they were organized to do. Vicksburg was a sharpshooter's paradise, and during the long months of the siege, they made life deadly for Union artillerymen and pickets with their long-range rifles.
When the Vicksburg garrison finally surrendered on July 4, 1863, many of the Sharpshooters escaped rather than risk surrender to a vindictive enemy they had sniped at so successfully for so long. General U. S. Grant initially demanded the conditional surrender of the Vicksburg garrison, but faced with the necessity of feeding 30,000 starving Confederates and having the idea that these soldiers might do more harm to the Confederate cause by being released to return home rather than being exchanged as whole units, he relented and allowed for the immediate parole of the unit. According to the Confederate War Department, Union leader encouraged the surrendered confederates to simply return home, rather than being officially paroled and exchanged. The able bodied Confederate soldiers who were released on parole walked out of Vicksburg (they were not allowed to proceed in any military formations) on July 11, 1863. Paroling of these able bodied men was completed in their respective regimental camps inside Vicksburg prior to the July 11th. The soldiers of the 15th Northwest Arkansas were paroled on July 8 and 9, 1863. Those who were wounded or sick in the various hospitals in Vicksburg were paroled, and were released as soon as they could leave on their own. July 15/16 is the most common date of these Vicksburg hospital paroles. Some of the most seriously wounded and sick were sent by steamship down the Mississippi River and over to Mobile, Alabama where they were delivered on parole to Confederate authorities.
Confederate commanders designated Enterprise, Mississippi as the rendezvous point (parole camp) for the Vicksburg parolees to report to after they got clear of the last Federal control point at Big Black Bridge. Most of the Arkansas units appeared to have bypassed the established parole camps, and possibly with the support or at least by the compliancy of their Union captors, simply crossed the river and returned home. Because so many of the Vicksburg parolees, especially from Arkansas, simply went home, Major General Pemberton requested Confederate President Davis to grant the men a thirty to sixty day furlough. The furloughs were not strictly adhered to so long as the soldier eventually showed up at a parole camp to be declared exchanged and returned to duty. Those who went directly home were treated as if they had been home on furlough if they eventually reported into one of these two parole centers. The exchange declaration reports issued by Colonel Robert Ould in Richmond for various units in the Vicksburg and Port Hudson surrenders began in September 1863 based upon men who actually reported into one of the two parole camps. Pemberton eventually coordinated with the Confederate War Department and Confederate General Kirby Smith, commanding the Department of the Trans-Mississippi to have the Arkansas Vicksburg parolee's rendezvous point established at Camden, Arkansas.
There are few official records of the Sharpshooters after Vicksburg. After being exchanged, the regiment was reorganized in southern Arkansas as mounted infantry and assigned to Thomas Pleasant Dockery's brigade. During the Camden Expedition in March and April 1864, the battalion was involved in the skirmishes on the Little Missouri and Prairie d'Ane, and the battles of Marks' Mills and Jenkins' Ferry.
The Rapley's Sharpshooters fought in the following engagements:
- Second Battle of Corinth – October 3–4, 1862
- Steele's Bayou Expedition – March 14–27, 1863
- Battle of Rolling Fork – March 20, 1863
- Battle of Grand Gulf – April 29, 1863
- Vicksburg Campaign – May–July 1863
- Camden Expedition – March 23–May 2, 1864.
Consolidation and surrender
The remnants of the 12th Arkansas Infantry Battalion were eventually consolidated with survivors of the 12th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, 18th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Carroll's), 23rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment and the 8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion to form the 2nd Arkansas Consolidated Infantry Regiment. This was surrendered along with the rest of the Department of the Trans Mississippi by General Kirby Smith on May 26, 1865 at Marshall, Texas. It is known that Major Rapley and his adjutant were paroled at Shreveport, Louisiana, in June 1865.
- List of Arkansas Civil War Confederate units
- Lists of American Civil War Regiments by State
- Confederate Units by State
- Arkansas in the American Civil War
- Arkansas Militia in the Civil War
- Boney, James L. "Battle at Mt. Elba", Cleveland County, Arkansas, ArGenWeb Project, Accessed 26 March 2012, http://www.argenweb.net/cleveland/battle-at-mt.-elba.htm
- Howerton, Bryan R.; "RAPLEY’S SHARPSHOOTERS" Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Page, Accessed 28 November 2011, http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/rapley1.html
- Howerton, Bryan R.; "12th Battalion at Corinth", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 28 July 2004, Accessed 28 November 2011, http://history-sites.com/mb/cw/arcwmb/archive_index.cgi?noframes;read=7993
- Simmons, Hugh "Re: 46th AL Co. C -- questions re: Demopolis/Vicks", Alabama in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 17 April 2004, Accessed 4 June 2012, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/alcwmb/arch_config.pl?noframes;read=13786
- Martin. George, "Re: Paroled", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 14 July 2009, Accessed , 11 June 2012, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=20381
- Howerton, Bryan R. "Re: Paroled", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 14 July 2009, Accessed 11 June 2012, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=20383
- Odom, Danny "Re: 12th Battalion Arkansas Sharpshooters", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 10 December 2006, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://history-sites.com/mb/cw/arcwmb/archive_index.cgi?noframes;read=14093
- Steele's Retreat From Camden and The Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Edwin C. Bearss, 1967: p.166-169, See Also Odom, Danny, "Question for Danny", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 15 March 2012, Accessed 26 March 2012, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=25887
- "Confederate Memorial, Old Washington, Hempstead County, Arkansas", Civil War Buff, The Civil War in Arkansas, Accessed 26 March 2012, http://www.civilwarbuff.org/Places/Hempstead/ConfederateMarker.htm
- Taylor, Doyle. "Killed in the Battle of Mark's Mill" Arkansas Civil War Page, Accessed 26 March 2012, http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/MarksMill.html
- "Order of Battle " Red River Campaign, Camden Expedition, Jenkins Ferry, Civil War Landscapes Association, Accessed 26 March 2012, http://civilwarlandscapes.org/cwla/states/ar/jf/intro/oobf.htm
- Sikakis, Stewart, Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Florida and Arkansas, Facts on File, Inc., 1992, ISBN 0-8160-2288-7, page 118.
- Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Home Page
- The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture
- The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
- The Arkansas History Commission, State Archives, Civil War in Arkansas
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, National Park Service".