34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment
|34th Arkansas Infantry (Confederate)|
Arkansas state flag
|Active||1862 to 1865|
|Country||Confederate States of America|
|Arkansas Confederate Infantry Regiments|
|33rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment||35th Arkansas Infantry Regiment|
The 34th Arkansas Infantry (1862–1865) was a Confederate Army infantry regiment during the American Civil War. The regiment was originally designated by the state military board as the 2nd Regiment, Northwest Division, District of Arkansas. The unit spent its entire existence in the Department of the Trans-Mississippi.
Immediately following the Battle of Pea Ridge, General P. G. T. Beauregard, acting for General Albert S. Johnston, ordered General Earl Van Dorn to bring his Army of the West to Corinth, Mississippi, to join Johnston's force for an attack on the Union Army at Shiloh, Tennessee. Additionally General Van Dorn moved all the supplies he could, including the machinery and stores at the Little Rock Arsenal, to northern Mississippi with him, and left few men behind. However, due to bad roads Van Dorn failed to reach Corinth until a week after the Battle of Shiloh.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Northwest Arkansas was ravaged by the Union Army invaders until General Curtis moved his army southeast to Batesville, Arkansas in May 1862. Arkansas Governor Henry Massey Rector issued an address on May 5, 1862, calling for the formation of 30 new infantry companies and 20 new cavalry companies. Most of the state's militia regiments had conducted their final recorded militia muster during the last week of February and the first week of March 1862. Rector indicated that if there were insufficient volunteers to fill these new companies, a draft would be made upon the militia regiments and brigades. As a further enticement, Rector also indicated that these regiments were for home defense and that they would not be transferred to Confederate service without their consent. During the spring and summer following this order, many former militiamen joined one of the newly formed regiments. It may be that the militiamen decided it was better to enlist and remain together than to wait for forced conscription under new Confederate Conscription laws, which were being strictly enforced during the summer of 1862.
Two other new regiments were raised under Governor Rector's plan: Rector's 1st Arkansas, and Adams' 3rd Arkansas. When finally inducted into State service, Rector's unit would become the 35th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and Brook's 2nd Arkansas would become the 34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. Adam's 3rd Arkansas broke under fire during the Battle of Prairie Grove and was broken up in the general re-organization which occurred in the army following the battle.
In response to Governor Rector's loud protests regarding the defenseless position that Arkansas had been left in following the transfer of General Van Dorn's army, the Confederate government assigned Major General Thomas Carmichael Hindman to organize a defense of the state. Hindman had been elected to represent the district of which Benton County was a part, in the US Congress, but the war prevented him from taking his seat in 1861. Hindman began organizing regiments in the western part of the state, in the summer of 1862. 34th Infantry Regiment was formed August 16, 1862. The unit was assigned to Fagan's, A.T. Hawthorne's, and Roane's Brigade in the Trans-Mississippi Department. The unit was composed of companies from the following counties:
- Company A — from Washington County, commanded by, Capt. J. Wythe Walker
- Company B — from Washington County, commanded by, Capt. Fontaine R. Earle
- Company C — from Washington County, commanded by, Capt. Samuel Smithson
- Company D — from Sebastian County, commanded by, Capt. William Owsley
- Company E — from Crawford County, commanded by, Capt. James E. Wright
- Company F — from Benton County, commanded by Capt. Cyrus Leonidas Pickens. Pickens had led an emergency home guard unit at the Battle of Pea Ridge.
- Company G — from Sebastian County, commanded by, Capt. James Hensley
- Company H — from Washington County, commanded by Capt. Wallace (contained many former members of the 10th Arkansas Militia Regiment) and also contained several conscripts.
- Company I — from Franklin County commanded by, Capt. A. V. Edmonson (Much of Companies A, B, and C, 7th Arkansas Militia Regiment enlisted in this company)
- Company K — from Washington County, commanded by, Capt. J. R. Pettigrew
Many of the troops had prior military experience in the Arkansas State Troops, having fought at Wilson’s Creek. Company F may have been partially involved in the Battle of Pea Ridge as Emergency Company I of McRae’s 21st Arkansas Infantry Regiment. The emergency company was led by Captain Pickens. Those who were at Wilson’s Creek probably served in the 3rd Regiment, Arkansas State Troops under Colonel J.R. Gratiot. Company F was organized with the regiment at Mt Comfort in Washington County, about 4 miles west of Fayetteville, Arkansas. With the threat of conscription men volunteered quickly and camps of instruction were established. Several of the companies of the 34th were organized at Camp Cunningham near Mount Comfort 3 miles west of Fayetteville. Company H commanded by Capt. Wallace was composed of conscripts. At this time company officers were requisitioning weapons from the civilian population and many recruits brought their own weapons from home. At least one other regiment was organized in the area, the 22nd Arkansas. They were also poorly armed and equipped. Hindman ordered the mounted troops to operate in southwest Missouri to give the infantry time to organize and train. The regiment was officially mustered at Prairie Grove by General Hindman on September 1, 1862. It would also be referred to as the 2nd Arkansas Infantry as it was the second full regiment recruited within Hindman’s army. The Regimental officers were:
- Colonel William H. Brooks
- Lt. Col Thomas Gunter
- Major James Woolsey
- Surgeon W Welch
- Asst. Surgeon J. M. Lacy
- Adjt. M. C. “Tell” Duke
- Sgt. Major Robert Nettles
- Chaplain Peter Moses
- Quartermaster James Pratt
- Forage Master A. Lovelace
Train, Equip, Retreat!
Sometime in early September 1862 the 34th and 22nd Arkansas moved to Elm Springs. Elm Springs, 12 miles northwest of Fayetteville, was a training camp designed for 5,000. Here the regiment continued to drill and as one soldier put it “Some of the boys will remember the fun we had there from supper till tattoo." At Elm Springs the 34th was ordered to turn over their weapons to the ordnance department. This was hard on some of the men as they had very fine shotguns and rifles brought from home. Some men hid their weapons in the surrounding countryside. In this unarmed state the regiments drilled. Supplies and clothing dribbled through and the men began to rely less and less on homemade knapsacks and haversacks. In mid September the unit was ordered to Elkhorn. Upon arrival their weapons were turned over to a Missouri regiment. Soon they retraced their path back to Elm Springs. At this time the Federals advanced toward the southwestern part of Missouri. General Holmes summoned General Hindman to Little Rock. When news of the Federal advance reached the 34th the enthusiasm that earlier existed evaporated. Federal cavalry was reported to be marching with all speed to capture the three unarmed regiments. Under orders from General Rains the regiments marched south heading to Judge Walker’s farm in southern Washington County. The march was hampered by torrential rains and took two days to cover 15 miles. Captain Fontaine Richard Earle of Company B said, “It seemed as if the heavens had been overcrowded with water and that the flood-gates had been opened for relief.” Another participant wrote, “It commenced raining as we were leaving Fayetteville and until after daylight the next morning. It poured in almost ceaseless torrents. What was worse than all, we were not ordered to unload the wagons that night. Consequently we were without anything to shelter us or anything to eat until daylight.” Judge Walker's home and outbuildings were quickly filled, and the balance of the regiment remained exposed to the elements, burning much of the Judge’s rail fence. The judge’s son, Capt J. Wythe Walker remained with his company though within a short walk of his home. The next day, seeing his fence had destroyed, Judge Walker told the troops that he wasn’t discouraged, since he had plenty of Negroes to split new rails.
There were many desertions during the retreat, especially in the conscript company. More than twenty-five men deserted from this company. The regiment moved to Spadra Bluff on the Arkansas River near Van Buren, occupying winter quarters that had been built by a Texas cavalry regiment the previous winter. With the Regiment at 400 men and assuming equally sized companies, that means approximately 40-man companies. There they remained for almost a month, continuing their training. At last they were supplied with modern .577 cal. Enfield rifle-muskets. Based on the returns for Co. F, less than half received Government clothes. At least one soldier received a knapsack of British manufacture. The regiment also had what were probably softpacks. Hindman visited the camp and noticed they had over the proper number of mules and wagons. Therefore, he reduced the transportation by half.
Battle of Prairie Grove
On November 15, 1862, General Hindman moved the Arkansas infantry to Massard Prairie, 3 miles south east of Fort Smith to drill and organize the divisions. The 34th Arkansas was assigned to Brigadier General James F. Fagan's 1st Brigade of Brigadier General Frances A. Shoup's 2nd Division, of Major General Thomas Carmichael Hindman's 1st Corps of Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes's Army of the Trans-Mississippi. The unit was brigaded with the 35th Arkansas Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel John King, the 37th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Joseph C. Pleasants and the 39th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorne.
At the very end of November the cavalry was sent north toward Washington County. Here clothing reached the men. Early in December the infantry followed heading north. The 34th Arkansas crossed the Arkansas River on December 2, 1862. On December 4, the column reached Oliver’s Store on Lee creek in the Boston Mountains. There the infantry formed a hollow square for religious services conducted by Chaplain Sam Buchanan. The Chaplain of the 34th Arkansas, Peter Moses, was also on hand and battle flags were presented to the regiments of the division.
On December 6, 1862 the 34th Arkansas had arrived at Morrow’s and controlled all the approaches to Cane Hill from the south and east. Hindman then learned of the approach of General Herron, who had two divisions just north of Fayetteville. Hindman planned to get behind the Federal division of General Blunt and prevent General Herron’s division from combining with Gen. Blunt. The 34th was awakened at 2:00 AM and had a cold breakfast and was on the march by 4:00 AM. The 34th was in the lead as this was familiar ground. They advanced to a position 50 yards from the Borden Orchard. Hindman’s army formed on ridge overlooking Crawford Prairie. The position was very good and there the army waited for Herron to advance. Brook’s regiment was posted behind an artillery battery. Company K was posted as skirmishers in front of Blocher’s Battery. It would be hours before the battle. Around 2pm the artillery duel started. The pickets of the regiment returned to the line. Blocher’s Battery became a lightning rod for Federal artillery and later infantry. During the artillery barrage Lt. M.C. “Tell” Duke, the adjutant attempted to raise the spirits of the men by telling a story about the battle of Waterloo. The 20th Wisconsin advanced to take the battery and when their right flank was 50 yards away from the Brook’s position the 34th rose with a shout and fired into them. The regiment was ordered forward along with Major Chew’s Sharpshooter battalion and Hawthorne’s regiment. The regiment slammed into the flank of the 20th Wisconsin, drove them back and retook the battery. As the Confederate counterattack came off the ridge and onto the prairie they came under heavy fire and retreated to their position in the ravine. As the Confederates were reorganizing another Federal attack was launched. This time the 37th Illinois advanced to the summit. Again the rebel brigade rose out of the scrub and fired a point blank volley and charged. The two forces locked in hand-to-hand fighting. Again the Confederates followed the retreating Federals and ran into heavy fire. As the 34th Arkansas resumed their position on the summit, the tempo of the battle slowed and shifted to another part of the battlefield. The regiment moved about 150 yards to a position where they rested until after sunset. They stayed in position until nearly midnight when the order to retreat came. During the march over the Boston Mountains many of the men deserted to their homes. One participant (Sam Pittman, Co. K) wrote:
"We knew now that the battle was on and we knew very near where it would be. Right in the midst of our homes, within hearing of our loved ones. It would be impossible for me to describe their feelings at this point. Any judge of human nature could have seen that these men were going to fight, although few of them were ever on a battlefield. But the springy step, the compressed lips, and the steady expression of the eyes proved that they were determined to do their best. Opposite an old church, strewn in the road and on the sides were lying the bodies of those killed in the cavalry fight a few minutes before. With a yell and at the double quick we sprang over them and passed up the road. All morning that infernal old knapsack had been beating a tattoo on my poor back and under any other circumstances would have brought froth yells of pain at every step. A little farther on we met old man Linden in a dog trot. Swinging his hat and shouting at us to “Go in, Boys, that’s the way I done in the Black Hawk War.” He turned and trotted along by my side for a little while and proposed to take my knapsack and take care of it but I told him we were going right on to Springfield, Mo. And that from that point we would invade the North and as it would likely be cold up there, I would need my clothes, and if he took them, perhaps I might not find him again. I also knew the old man could not carry that pack fifty yards in a day and I clung to it with a desperation worthy of a better object. At the brow of the hills, west of old man Roger’s place, came the short quick command “By file right, March, and we were in the woods, halted, fronted, and marched to a ravine east of the Borden Orchard. Here we were halted and ordered to “Lie down”. Just in our front was a rebel battery and pretty soon we saw a line of blue coats making for it. They shot down the horses and came on with a cheer. And now came the parting with the old knapsack and all my soldier equipage. I think the first shot that was fired after we rose up, cut the strap that bound the knapsack to my right shoulder, and it swung around and slipped to the ground. I had no time to think of it, but when I remember the torture it had been and the loss of all my worldly goods, camp treasure, etc. I bitterly lamented the fate that caused me to lug it all over that weary trip and then turn it over to the enemy."
The regiment and Fagan's Brigade served after this at the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. Fagan's Brigade was assigned to Major General Sterling Price's Division of Lieutenant General Theophilus H. Holmes's army during the attack on Union forces at Helena Arkansas on July 4, 1863. General Fagan's 1,300 men were assigned to capture Hindman's Hill southwest of the city. General Fagan detached on section of Etter’s Battery to support Colonel William H. Brooks, who had been directed to take his 34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment along with Captain Miller’s and Captain Densons’ cavalry companies to conduct a feint to the south of Helena in order to tie down Federal Troops and protect Fagan’s right flank. This section of Etter’s battery would engage in a brisk duel with federal artillery and the Union gunboat, the tinclad U.S.S. Tyler. After expending thirteen rounds, Lieutenant Arnett was compelled to withdraw his gun.
Generals Fagan and Price failed to coordinate their attacks due to General Holmes' vague order to "attack at daylight." 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 General Holmes realized that his position had deteriorated and that he could make no further headway. A general retreat was ordered, and the attack on the Union base had failed. Company B was particularly commended “for the steadiness with which they advanced, drove the enemy before them, and maintained their positions under a heavy artillery fire.”
The Fall of Little Rock
The 34th Arkansas subsequently served in the defense of Little Rock in September, 1863, with Fagan's Brigade. The Union advance upon Little Rock was opposed mainly by the Confederate cavalry divisions of Generals Marmaduke and Walker. The Confederate infantry brigades were dug in on the north side of the Arkansas River. According to Captain Ethan Allen Pinnell of the Eighth Missouri Infantry, "Our works extend from the Arkansas river two miles below the city. to the eastern part of Crystal Hill, a distance of 6 miles. Gen'l Fagan's Brig. is on the extreme right, Parson's on Fagan's left, Frost in the center and McRea's on the left." The Union forces established a pontoon bridge near Bayou Fourche, and crossed to the south side of the very low Arkansas River. With his works on the north side of the river now flanked, Major General Price was forced to abandon the city on September 10, after a brief engagement at Bayou Fourche. Price's Army withdrew in the direciton of Rockport. The regiment participated in the defenses of Little Rock on September 10–11. Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorn took command of the brigade in the fall of 1863. The regiment spent the winter of 1863-64 in Camden, Ouachita County.
The Red River Campaign
General A.T. Hawthorn took command of the brigade in the fall of 1863, and the brigade was assigned to Churchill's Arkansas Division during the Red River Campaign. The regiment spent the winter of 63-64 in Camden, Ouachita County. In the Spring of 1864, the division fought against the advance of Union General Nathaniel Bank's army in north-central Louisiana in March and early April 1864, defeating him at the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana on April 10, 1864. Churchill's Division then 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. At the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, the 34th Arkansas probably suffered more losses than during the rest of the war, with its colonel falling wounded, and many of the officers as well. During the fighting, command of the 34th Arkansas passed to Major Fontaine Richard Earle when Colonel Brooks and other senior officers were wounded. Earle remained in command of the Thirty-fourth until the end of the war.
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 final movements
On September 30, 1864 the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General Alexander T. Hawthorn’s 4th (Arkansas) Brigade, Acting Major General Thomas J. Churchill’s 1st (Arkansas) Division, Major General John B. Magruder’s Second Army Corps, Army of the Trans-Mississippi and remained in that assignment through December 31, 1864. On 17 November 1864, a union spy reported that the Hawthorn's Brigade and Churhill's Division was in the vicinity of Camden, in Ouachita County, Arkansas. On 31 December 1864, General Kirby Smith's report on the organization of his forces lists the 34th Arkansas, under the command of Colonel Brooks as belonging to Brigadier General Alexander T. Hawthorne's, 4th Brigade of Acting Major General Thomas J. Churchill's 1st Arkansas Infantry Division of Major General John B. Magruder's 2nd Army Corps, Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi.
Hawthorn's Brigade was ordered to move to Dooley's Bluff, near Washington, in Hempstead County on 19 January 1865 in order to assist with the building of fortifications along the Red River.
Union commanders in the Department of the Gulf reported on March 20, 1865 that General Hawthorn's brigade was composed of four regiments and was located a Minden, Louisiana, with the rest of Churchill's Division. In late January, 1865 Churchill's Division moved to Minden, Louisiana where they established winter quarters. In early April 1865, the division concentrated near Shreveport Louisiana, and then moved to Marshall Texas by mid April 1865.
The unit was near Marshall, Texas, along with the 22nd Arkansas Infantry Regiment when word came of the surrender. Rather than march to Shreveport, Louisiana, as originally directed, the members of the regiments chose to march to Fort Smith, Arkansas and surrendered to General Bussey at that location on June 9, 1865.
The survivors of the 34th Arkansas Infantry conducted regular reunions at the Prairie Grove Battle Field and nearby Cane Hill. Many members of the unit had been recruited from the surrounding counties and the survivors gathered regularly between 1895 and 1916.
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- United States. War Dept. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union And Confederate Armies. Series 1, Volume 48, In Two Parts. Part 1, Reports, Correspondence, etc., Book, 1896; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth139842/ : accessed January 07, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department, Denton, Texas. See Also, Mark K. Christ, "Dooley’s Ferry Fortifications Historic District", The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, The Central Arkansas Library System, Last Updated 6/11/2015, Accessed 7 January 2016, http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=7499
- United States. War Dept. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union And Confederate Armies. Series 1, Volume 48, In Two Parts. Part 1, Reports, Correspondence, etc., Book, 1896; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth139842/ : accessed January 07, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department, Denton, Texas.
- Price, Jeffery R. "A Courage And Desperation Rarely Equaled: The 36th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Confederate States Army), 26 June 1862--25 May 1865". MA thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2003, Page 36
- Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Page, The Civil War Letters of brothers William H. H. and John S. Shibley, Originally Compiled and Edited by RUIE ANN SMITH PARK, Accessed 27 January 2011, http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/roster1.html
- PARK, RUIE ANN SMITH. Ed. “The Civil War Letters of brothers William H. H. and John S. Shibley”, Washington County Historical Society, reproduced at the Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Page, Accessed 19 March 2012, http://www.couchgenweb.com/civilwar/roster1.html
- CampSite Artifacts, Accessed 2 November 2011, http://campsiteartifacts.com/arkansasucvphotos.html
- 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".