39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment
|Thirty-ninth Arkansas Infantry Regiment
|Part of||4th Arkansas Infantry Brigade|
|Colors||Cadet gray piped with light blue|
|Disbanded||26 May 1865|
|Arkansas Confederate Infantry Regiments|
|38th Arkansas Infantry Regiment||44th Arkansas Infantry Regiment|
The Thirty-ninth Arkansas (1862–1865) was a Militia regiment of the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. The regiment was known successively as Johnson’s, Hawthorn’s, Polk’s and Cocke’s Regiment of Arkansas Infantry. When General Sterling Price's staff decided to designate all the Arkansas infantry regiments in the District of Arkansas as "Trans-Mississippi Rifle Regiments", the 39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment was designated as the 6th Trans-Mississippi Rifle Regiment. One other Arkansas Infantry Regiment was also designated as the 39th Arkansas Infantry; the regiment commanded by Colonels Hart, McNeill, and Rogan, was originally designated as the 39th Arkansas Infantry, but was later redesignated as the 30th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. The regiment served in the Trans-Mississippi Department and was engaged in all of the principal battles in that theater before surrendering in May 1865.
Johnson's-Hawthorn's-Cocke's-Polk's Infantry Regiment – the 39th Regiment Infantry Regiment – was organized in the summer of 1862. Major General Thomas C. Hindman assumed command of the Department of the Trans-Mississippi on May 30, 1862, and immediately began attempting to organize the Confederate forces in Arkansas. On June 15, 1862, Colonel Robert C. Newton, Hindman's Adjutant General, wrote to Colonel Albert Johnson who was attempting to raise a regiment in Phillips County Arkansas:
The order assigning Maj. Polk to you was made upon the information that you wished it. As far as practicable, the preferences of officers raising troops will be consulted in such matters. Your action requiring the conscripts to rendezvous at Trenton is approved. Use your discretion in similar cases. To expedite our operations against the enemy, an order has been made, dividing the country east of White River with three districts, a copy of which is enclosed. It is believed taking the State records as the cases of the calculation, that each district contains persons within the ages of conscription sufficient to form a Regiment. You are hereby authorized to retain command of Capt. Anderson’s Co. as part of the Regiment you are raising. It is quite probable the Federals will put a force at Helena – In that event, your opportunities for successfully attacking them will be very favorable. Do so, at all times, by day and night, when you possibly can – Gun boats will be useless in the night. Transports will afford a fire wand. There may possibly be an iron gun or two in Phillips – such pieces might be mounted and used to advantage, allow no threats of shelling or burning Helena, or doing any other injury to prevent you from striking the enemy whenever you can.
In mid-July 1862, several companies, including a small battalion under Captain Daniel H. Ringo, were added to Colonel Johnson's regiment. Captain Ringo was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment on July 19, 1862. By August 12, 1862, the new regiment was at Crystal Hill, north of Little Rock. Johnson received his official appointment as Colonel on August 15, with date of rank from June 8, 1862. In September and October, the regiment camped at Austin, Arkansas, and Des Arc. Johnson resigned on October 27 in order to report to General John C. Breckenridge, East of the Mississippi River. Lt. Col. Ringo resigned the following day. The resignations apparently resulted from bad relations between Johnson, Ringo and the junior officers. In accepting their resignations, General Thomas C. Hindman noted that the two men were not in good standing with the officers of the regiment. On November 3, 1862, General Hindman issued Special Order Number 30:
Upon the recommendation of the Company officers of Johnson’s regiment of Ark inf, the following persons and assigned to duty as the Field Officers of that Regiment, subject to confirmation by the War Dept:
- A. T. Hawthorn, to be Colonel, in the place of Colonel Johnson, resigned.
- Maj. C. Polk to be Lt Colonel in the place of Lt Colonel Ringo, resigned.
- Lt. J. B. Cocke to be Major in the place of Maj. C. Polk, promoted to Lt Colonel
All to make rank from this date. The Regiment will hereafter be known as “Hawthorn’s Regiment of Ark inf.”
The regiment consisted of the following volunteer companies:
- Company A – Organized June 4, 1862.
- Company B – Organized July 4, 1862
- Company C – Organized June 12, 1862; consolidated with (old) Co. I, December 16, 1862
- Company D – Organized at Benton, Saline County, June 17, 1862
- Company E – Organized June 14, 1862; consolidated with Co. L, December 16, 1862
- Company F – Organized August 1, 1862; consolidated with (old) Co. G in (new) Co. B, December 16, 1862
- Company G – Consolidated with (old) Co. F in (new) Company B, December 16, 1862
- Company H – Redesignated as (new) Co. A, December 16, 1862
- Company I – Consolidated in Co. C, December 16, 1862
- Company K – Organized at Danville, Yell County, July 21, 1862; redesignated as (new) Co. F, December 16, 1862
- Company L – Consolidated in Co. E, December 16, 1862
The regiment served in McRae's, Fagan's, and Hawthorn's Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department. The field officers were Colonels Alfred W. Johnson, Alexander T. Hawthorn, John B. Cocke, and Cadwallader Polk, and Lieutenant Colonel D.W. Ringo.
Confusion over naming
The regiment's designation as the 39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment has caused problems for historians attempting to research the unit. Although John B. Cocke commanded "Cocke's Regiment" for only three months, and the historically accurate designation should be "39th (Johnson's, Polk's, Hawthorn's, Cocke's) Infantry Regiment or the 6th Trans-Mississippi Rifle Regiment, and Hailey's, Perkins' and Tumlinson's independent cavalry companies, historians have adopted "Cocke's Arkansas Regiment." This is because the U.S. government used the name to catalog the service records of the men who served in the regiment. In the early 1900s, an army of War Department clerks pored over hundreds of thousands of Confederate army records, muster rolls, payrolls, quartermaster and commissary receipts, prisoner of war records, etc., and painstakingly extracted individual soldier information from them to create a Compiled Service Record for each Confederate soldier. This monumental task is one of the most valuable services the federal government performed for researchers. However, the clerks worked with often confusing records and catalogued all concerning this unit as "Cocke's Regiment".
This is misleading, as 39th Regiment Arkansas Infantry Regiment is referred to as "Cocke's Arkansas Infantry," even though John B. Cocke was the last known colonel of the regiment, serving from January 1864 to the following April, when he was killed at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry. He was preceded in command by Albert W. Johnson, and Alexander T. Hawthorn. Cadwallader Polk assumed command upon Cocke's death, but there is no surviving record to show he was promoted to colonel. The Trans-Mississippi Department frequently used the name of the regimental commander in its official correspondence, especially for Arkansas regiments. The order of battle for the Battle of Helena lists a "39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment" in McRae's brigade, but this was actually Hart's 30th Arkansas Regiment, which was known for a short time as the 39th Arkansas. Hart's regiment was with McRae, and the real 39th Regiment was in Brigadier General Fagan's brigade and is referred to in the battle reports as "Hawthorn's Regiment".
The Arkansas State Military Board was responsible for authorizing, raising and designating Arkansas regiments, in response to requests from the Confederate War Department for new units. The board took a sheet of lined paper, numbering the lines from 1 to 48, and applied the next available number to each new regiment. Unfortunately, the Confederate War Department, the Trans-Mississippi Department, the brigade commanders, and even the regimental commanders often used designations different from the State Military Board's.
The State Military Board designated the regiment as "Cocke's Regiment" as 39th in its ledger book. A staff officer on General Sterling Price's staff decided to designate all the Arkansas infantry regiments in the District of Arkansas as "Trans-Mississippi Rifle Regiments." Cocke's Regiment was designated as the 6th Trans-Mississippi Rifle Regiment; and, the officers and men of Cocke's Regiment quickly began referring to the regiment as the 6th Arkansas. This redesignation causes more confusion because this designation had already been given to Lyon's-Hawthorn's-Smith's elite 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee, on the east side of the Mississippi River. This incorrect association with the other 6th Arkansas Infantry is further reinforced by the fact that Alexander T. Hawthorn commanded the original "6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment" for a time, and later commanded the "other" 6th Arkansas, the 6th Trans-Mississippi, (39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment).
The regiment was assigned to Brigadier General James F. Fagan's brigade of Brigadier General Francis A. Shoup's division of Thomas C. Hindman's 1st Corps, Army of the Trans-Mississippi during the Battle of Prairie Grove, on December 7, 1862. On December 1, 1862, Brigadier General James F. Fagan asked for the consolidation of Major Chew's Arkansas Infantry Battalion and Hawthorn's 39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment both of his brigade. While this order was not approved until after the Battle of Prairie Grove, the battalion and Hawthorn's 39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment fought side by side during the battle. They took part in the charges of Fagan's Brigade driving back the 20th Wisconsin, 19th Iowa, and 37th Illinois and 26th Indiana regiments when these Union troops ascended the ridge.
- Camp near Van Buren, Ark.
- December 13, 1862
- On the 7th inst. this army, under the command of Maj. Gen. Hindman, fought the battle of "Prairie Grove" fifty miles north of this. It was a most terrific fight, lasting from 12 o'clock until dark. I take it for granted that you would like to hear the particulars of the battle, and of the part which my regiment took in it. I will endeavor to describe it.
- We left Van Buren on the morning of the 3rd, and encamped on the night of the 6th within eight miles of the enemy. Boston Mountain lay between us, and here the roads forked, one crossing the mountain and leading direct to Cane Hill, the other sweeping round to the right and rear of Cane Hill, and crossing the mountain at a point where the difficulties were not so great. Gen. Hindman made a most splendid and masterly movement. He threw forward a heavy force of cavalry on the road towards Cane Hill and made such demonstrations as induced the enemy to believe that he was moving in heavy force upon them in that direction, while in reality he was rushing with his whole infantry and artillery to the right and rear of the enemy, and by sunrise we were completely in rear of Cane Hill, fronting the main body, under Gen. Heron, having completely cut the enemy's lines and divided his army into two parts; one part at Cane Hill, commanded by Gen. Blount, the other at Ray's mill, about five miles distant, under Gen. Heron. The result of this brilliant maneuvre was the capture of four hundred of the enemy's cavalry, thirty-two wagons and teams, a large amount of quartermaster and commissary stores, &c. So far the maneuvre was brilliant and resembled one of Napoleon's lightning-like strokes. But we did not pursue our advantage with sufficient rapidity. We ought to have thrown our whole force upon one part and destroyed it, before the other could come to its relief; instead of which, we halted, fronted to all points of the compass, in the form of a hollow square, and waited for the enemy to attack us. The result was that Gen. Blount passed with his whole force around our left, united his forces with Gen. Heron, and together they attacked our lines.
- Our brigade, Gen. Fagan's, was drawn up in line of battle on the crest of a hill; our batteries and skirmishers were placed about three hundred yards in front, near the foot of the hill and on the edge of a field. About 12 o'clock the enemy commenced a most furious cannonading. Shot and shell flew thick and fast in all directions. Five batteries were directed against us, while we had only two with which to reply, and these being smooth bore, soon ceased, because they were out of range.
- At length, about one o'clock, we received the order to advance from Gen. Fagan in person. The ground in my front was covered by an almost impenetrable thicket. So great was the difficulty in getting forward through the thick undergrowth, that I asked and obtained permission to advance by the right of companies, rather than in line. I continued to advance until the rapid and heavy firing in my front convinced me that the enemy was moving up in heavy force, when I threw my men into line and halted, expecting every moment to see my skirmishers running in. A moment after halting I heard loud cheering just ahead of me, but I could not tell who it was that cheered, nor why they cheered. One of our batteries (Blocker's) which I supposed to be at least three hundred yards to my right, was immediately in my front; but the thicket was so dense that I could see nothing ahead of me more than forty yards. It was the Abolitionists that cheered, and they were charging Blocker's Battery. As they rushed up and took the battery their blue coats shone through the thicket, and I saw them. Both parties discovered each other about the same time, and rapid and deadly volleys were exchanged. for a few moments the fight was terrific. I heard the Yankee commander order his men to mount the horses and take away the guns: and then, for the first time, I understood that one of our batteries had been captured. Not a moment was to be lost. I dashed to the front and called upon my brave "Conscripts" to charge and retake the guns. They responded with an Arkansas "yell" that rang out loud and clear above the roar of battle, rushed forward at a double quick, drove the enemy from the battery, out of the thicket, through a little orchard in our front, down the hill and across the field in utter confusion and dismay back to their batteries, at least a half mile distant. We now fell back to the edge of the thicket and reformed. Scarcely had we done so when the enemy again advanced with fresh regiments to retake their lost ground. Our whole brigade now advanced to meet them. We charged and drove them, with great slaughter, a second time back to their batteries. Again we fell back and reformed, and again the Yankees, with increased numbers and fresh regiments advanced upon our position, making the most stubborn and determined efforts to take it. But our men had now become accustomed to victory, and they charged with such fury that the enemy broke and fled in the utmost disorder, leaving the ground literally covered with their dead. Every time that we drove them down the hill, their batteries would open furiously upon us, throwing solid shot, shell, canister and grape. The enemy's loss in killed, on this part of the field, was really frightful, and is without any parallel in this war, according to the numbers engaged. We fought them with only four regiments, numbering in all not more than fifteen hundred men, and yet we killed outright upon the field not less than seven hundred of them, to say nothing of the wounded. Among them I saw two full-blooded negroes lying near the battery that my regiment retook. The battle now ceased upon our right only to be renewed with increased violence on our extreme left. I had reformed my regiment after the last charge, but I was without orders. When I heard the terrible fire on our extreme left, without waiting for further orders, I moved my regiment rapidly in that direction. We advanced at "double quick" something less than a half mile, when we came in full view of this most terrible contest. The enemy were pressing our men very hard. I found my regiment at right angles with the line occupied by the enemy, and charged him instantly, both in flank and rear. The effect was like magic. In five minutes his lines were broken and disordered and he in full retreat. But again the enemy rallied, and came back with more determination than ever. They assailed us with fresh regiments and overwhelming numbers. The fight was now desperate and bloody beyond all description. The enemy advanced amid a storm of bullets within fifty yards of our lines, when our men, with loud shouts, rushed forward to meet them, and the closing scenes of Waterloo itself were not more terrific than the scenes that were here enacted. But the hired assassins of Lincoln could not stand before the free sons of the South. They broke and fled in all directions, leaving the ground covered with their mangled corpses. The slaughter was horrible to behold, and for the numbers engaged is without parallel in this war. Thus ended the battle of "Prairie Grove." I omitted to state that the other regiments of our brigade took no part in this last engagement, remaining in line of battle upon the right, to meet any further movements of the enemy in that direction. The loss of the brigade was over 500 killed and wounded; in our whole army about 1200. The enemy's loss can not be less than 4,000 killed and wounded, beside 500 prisoners. My loss was 144 killed and wounded, out of 350, with which I went into action. Out of 27 officers in my regiment 18 were killed and wounded. I never dismounted during the entire engagement, and yet strange to say, though I was in the hottest fire, though my regiment made five desperate and bloody charges, though five batteries were playing upon us for six mortal hours, I never received a single scratch, nor was my horse touched by a single bullet. My battle-flag was literally riddled with balls.
- or want of subsistence our army has again fallen back to Van Buren. The enemy has been heavily reinforced since the battle, and it may be that we will soon have another engagement.
- Your affectionate brother,
- A.T. Hawthorn
After the retreat from Prairie Grove to Van Buren, the regiment underwent a major reorganization on December 16, 1862. Hailey's, Perkins' and Tumlinson's cavalry companies had been dismounted and organized into Chew's Sharpshooter Battalion prior to the battle of Prairie Grove, and, in the general reorganization of the Confederate army after the battle, the companies were consolidated with "Cocke's Regiment." The U.S. War Department clerks who created the Compiled Service Records combined all the service records of these cavalrymen into "Cocke's regiment", rather than catalog them as independent companies. The problem is that many of the men who served in those companies were not around when the companies were consolidated with Cocke's regiment.
- Company A – Redesignated from (old) Co. H, December 16, 1862
- Company B – Organized from consolidation of (old) Co. F and (old) Co, G, December 16, 1862
- Company C – Organized June 12, 1862; consolidated with (old) Co. I, December 16, 1862
- Company D – Organized at Benton, Saline County, June 17, 1862
- Company E – Organized June 14, 1862; consolidated with Co. L, December 16, 1862
- Company F – Redesignated from (old) Co. K, December 16, 1862
- Company G – Formerly Company A, Chew's Sharpshooter Battalion, organized at King’s River, Madison County, September 3, 1862; enlisted at Elm Springs, Washington County, September 12, 1862
- Company H – Formerly Companies C and D, Chew's Sharpshooter Battalion, Perkins’ and Hailey’s dismounted cavalry companies (These companies had also previously served in Major Gipson’s Battalion of Mounted Rifles)
- Company I – Organized at Rockport, Hot Spring County, June 9, 1862
- Company K – Formerly Company B, Chew's Sharpshooter Battalion, organized as Captain Wiley Tomlinson’s Cavalry at Waldron, Scott County, July 4, 1862; enlisted at Big Creek, Sebastian County, July 20, 1862, served as cavalry until September 16.
Fagan's Brigade spent the winter of 1863–64 in camp near Little Rock, remaining there until June when the unit began the movements that would lead to the Battle of Helena.
During the attack on Union forces at Helena Arkansas on July 4, 1863, Fagan's Brigade was assigned to Major General Sterling Price's Division of Lieutenant General Theophilus H. Holmes's army. Fagan's 1,300 men were assigned to capture Hindman's Hill southwest of the city, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. Amidst confusing and vague orders to "attack at daylight" from Holmes, Fagan and Price failed to coordinate their attacks. Price interpreted this order to mean an attack at sunrise and Fagan interpreted it to mean an attack at first light. The result was that Fagan was surprised to find his attack on Hindman Hill was opposed by artillery fire from Graveyard Hill, which was General Price's objective. General Fagan had expected Price to be engaged already with that battery. Fagan's artillery had not been able to reach the battlefield because of felled trees blocking the road. Fagan had no artillery available to silence the Federal guns and had no choice but to order his troops to try to take the hill while under artillery fire. Fagan's men reached the summit of the hill and managed to seize the outer fortifications but were pinned down just short of the summit by the two Union batteries. The exposed Confederates were targeted by every remaining gun on the battlefield as well as the heavy guns of the USS Tyler. By 10:30 Holmes realized that his position had deteriorated and that he could make no further headway. The attack on the Union base had failed, and a general retreat was ordered. The regiment reported 137 casualties during the Battle of Helena, including 17 killed, 52 wounded and 67 missing. Major Cocke was among the wounded.
The regiment participated in the defense of Little Rock on September 10–11. Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorn took command of the brigade in the fall of 1863 and Colonel John Cocke took command of the regiment. The regiment spent the winter of 1863–64 in Camden, Arkansas. The brigade was assigned to Churchill's Arkansas Division during the Red River Campaign.
In the Spring of 1864, Churchill's Division, with Hawthorn's Brigade moved south to oppose Union General Nathaniel Bank's Red River Campaign in north-central Louisiana in March and early April 1864, defeating him at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on April 10, 1864. Hawthorn's Brigade was initially left behind at Camden when the rest of the army went to join General Taylor. They were eventually called upon as well, and left Camden for Louisiana on April 5. They reached Shreveport around April 14 or 15 when they got news about the Confederate victories at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. On the 16th, they started their march back to Arkansas with the rest of the army. Churchill's Division marched back north into Arkansas to deal with the other part of the Federal advance, General Frederick Steele's Camden Expedition. The division arrived after a long forced march at Woodlawn, Arkansas on April 26, where they rested overnight, then joined the pursuit of Steele's retreating army, catching it trying to cross the Saline River near Jenkins' Ferry. Colonel Cocke was killed during the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry. Lieutenant Colonel Polk assumed command of the regiment after Colonel Cocke was killed. The regiment participated in the following battles:
- Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, December 7, 1862
- Battle of Helena, Arkansas July 4, 1863
- Battle of Little Rock, Arkansas, September 10, 1863
- Red River Campaign, Louisiana-Arkansas March–May, 1864
The regiment spent the remainder of the war in southern Arkansas and northeast Texas.
This regiment surrendered with the Department of the Trans-Mississippi, General E. Kirby Smith commanding, May 26, 1865. With few exceptions, the Arkansas Infantry regiments in the Trans-Mississippi simply disbanded without formally surrendering. When the Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered, all of the Arkansas infantry regiments were encamped in and around Marshall, Texas (war-ravaged Arkansas no longer able to subsist the army). The regiments were ordered to report to Shreveport, Louisiana, to be paroled but none of them did so. Some individual soldiers went to Shreveport on their own to be paroled, others reported to Union garrisons at Fort Smith, Pine Bluff or Little Rock to receive their paroles, but for the most part, the men simply went home.
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- Confederate Units by State
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- Arkansas Militia in the Civil War
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- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, National Park Service".