Adams' Arkansas Infantry Regiment

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Adams' Arkansas Infantry Regiment
Colonel Charles W. Adams.jpg
Colonel Charles W. Adams had previously served as the Commander of the 23rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment
Active 1862
Country Confederate States of America
Allegiance Dixie CSA
Branch Infantry
Size Regiment

American Civil War

Arkansas Confederate Infantry Regiments
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48th Arkansas Infantry (Mounted) 3rd Regiment, Arkansas State Troops

The Adams' Arkansas Infantry Regiment was a Confederate Army infantry regiment which existed during the American Civil War (1862–1865). The regiment was officially designated by the state military board as the 3rd Regiment, Northwest Division, District of Arkansas. There were two other Arkansas infantry regiments that were designated as the 3rd Arkansas during the Civil War: the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment, which spent the entire war in the Eastern Theater of Operations assigned to the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the 3rd Arkansas State Troops which was assigned to General N. B. Pearce's 1st Division, Provisional Army of Arkansas, and disbanded following the Battle of Wilson's Creek.


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. In addition, Van Dorn brought 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. Nevertheless, due to bad roads Van Dorn failed to reach Corinth until a week after the Battle of Shiloh.[1]

The 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. 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.[2] 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.[3]

3rd Regiment, Northwest Division, District of Arkansas, was organized mainly from unwilling conscripts, and some outright Unionists, from various counties in northern Arkansas.[4]

Two other new regiments were raised under Governor Rector's plan: Rector's 1st Arkansas, and Brooks' 2nd Arkansas. When finally inducted into State service, these regiments would become Rector's 35th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and Brook's 34th Arkansas Infantry Regiment.[5] Colonel Samuel W. Peel was originally assigned to command the new 3rd Regiment, but he was superseded by Colonel Charles W. Adams, who had formerly commanded the 23rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment. The unit was transferred to Confederate service at Elm Springs, Arkansas, on September 12, 1862.[6]

With the exception of Companies A and E, which were recruited from men who were neighbors and relatives, the other companies were made up of men from different areas who were thrown together on a more-or-less county basis. Most of the company officers were also conscripts who had been elected to their positions. With one exception, Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Peel, the field officers were not known to the men. In the four months between organization and the battle of Prairie Grove, there were many changes in the field officers, including three different colonels. General Hindman finally brought in Charles W. Adams as colonel, Colonel Fitzwilliams was reduced to lieutenant-colonel, and Peel was removed. This combination of factors proved to be a poor recipe for unit cohesion and trust between officers and men.[7]

A small core of men, mostly in Companies A and E, were veterans of General N. B. Pearce's Brigade of Arkansas State Troops and had fought at Wilson's Creek in 1861, mostly in Captain Larkin Bunch's company of the 4th Regiment, Arkansas State Troops. These men were mostly pro-Southern in attitude; but by far the majority of the men conscripted into the other companies in the regiment were either pro-Union or decidedly neutral and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the war. They were conscripted to fight for a cause they did not believe in. This attitude is expressed very clearly in the autobiography of Pleasant Houston Spears.[7]

Battle of Prairie Grove[edit]

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments participated in the Battle of Prairie Grove under their state designations. It is asserted that Col. Charles W. Adams treated his regiment of conscripts more like prisoners than soldiers, with the men being held under guard and herded around like cattle, for example.[8] The regiment spent the morning of December 7 near Prairie Grove church facing south. At about three o'clock in the afternoon it was ordered into the fight. Upon reaching Battle Ridge, the regiment was placed in a gap between Fagan's Brigade and Shelby's Brigade behind the south fence of the Borden orchard. The regiment fired a volley from behind the fence toward the right wing of the Twenty-sixth Indiana. When the Hoosiers fell back the regiment climbed over the fence and advanced north through the orchard (which was filled with fearfully mangled Union and Confederate corpses from an earlier clash) directly toward the Borden house. At approximately the place where the modern tour road crosses the orchard the regiment ran into a storm of fire from the left wing of the Thirty-seventh Illinois, including the left flank company which was armed with Colt revolving rifles. That is when the regiment broke. As both Adams and Hindman noted in their reports, many of the company officers went with the men.[8]

Of all the troops engaged on our side, Adams' Arkansas regiment alone dishonored itself. It was well armed, ably commanded, and surrounded by good soldiers from the same State, setting it an example of courage and patriotism; but, after delivering a single fire, the greater part of the men broke ranks, threw down their arms, and shamefully fled, many of them even deserting to the enemy. The field and staff officers who had been appointed rallied about 75 around the colors, and these did much to redeem the reputation of the regiment. With but few exceptions, the company officers exerted no influence.[9]

Colonel Adams' report of the disaster is quite lengthy and detailed, and it is in included in the Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 4, pp. 79–84.[8][10]

Break up and reorganization[edit]

Adams' 3rd Arkansas, after breaking under fire at the Battle of Prairie Grove and being ordered broken up, never assumed its intended Confederate designation of 36th Arkansas Infantry and that designation eventually went to McRae's old 28th Arkansas Infantry Regiment in the reorganization of the Confederate Army following the Battle of Prairie Grove.[3]

A post-battle payroll list of the men who remained in the regiment after Prairie Grove consists of 76 names, exclusive of field and staff officers. Interestingly, most of those men were veterans of the Arkansas State Troops and the battle of Wilson's Creek, many of them having served in Capt. Larkin Bunch's company in the 4th Regiment, Arkansas State Troops.[7]

While the men of the regiment were officially referred to as "cowards" by Confederate leadership, this view is challenged by the fact that many survivors of Adams' Regiment later joined the Union Army and subsequently fought in many savage engagements for the next three years of conflict in Arkansas.[7]

Following the unit's disastrous performance at the Battle of Prairie Grove, it was broken up. Most of the men who had remained loyal after the unit disintegrated were reassigned to either the 27th Arkansas Infantry Regiment or Harrell's 17th Arkansas Battalion Cavalry.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shea & Hess, pp. 285, 287, 289.
  2. ^ The Rebellion record: a diary of American events, with documents ..., Volume 5 edited by Frank Moore, Page 11. Accessed May 3, 2011,
  3. ^ a b Howerton, Bryan, "Which 22nd Arkansas at Elkhorn Tavern?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Accessed 1 August 2011,;read=18468
  4. ^ Howerton, Bryan, "Numerical designation of Adams Ark. Inf.?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 9 June 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011, online citation
  5. ^ Howerton, Bryan, "MORE on the 3rd's" Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 7 February 2007, Accessed, 21 October 2011, online site
  6. ^ Gerdes, Edward G., "ADAMS' REGIMENT ARKANSAS INFANTRY," Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Page, Accessed 26 October 2011,
  7. ^ a b c d e Howerton, Bryan, "mass desertion?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 3 February 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011,;read=14567
  8. ^ a b c Shea, William, "mass desertion", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 3 February 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011,;read=14563
  9. ^ Report of Major-General Hindman, Headquarters First Corps, Trans-Mississippi Army, Camp near Fort Smith, Ark., December 25, 1862, quoted by Howerton, Bryan, "mass desertion", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 2 February 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011,;read=14558
  10. ^ Thompson, Alan, "Re: Shaver's Report on Prairie Grove", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 6 July 2012, Accessed 6 July 2012,


  • Howerton, Bryan, "mass desertion?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 3 February 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011, online site
  • Howerton, Bryan, "Numerical designation of Adams Ark. Inf.?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 9 June 2007, Accessed 26 October 2011, online site
  • Maddox, George T. Hard Trials and Tribulations of an Old Confederate Soldier. Van Buren: no publisher, 1897.
  • Shea, William L. & Earl J. Hess. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8078-2042-3
  • Banasik, Michael E. Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1996.
  • Baxter, William. Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove: Scenes and Incidents of the War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.
  • Christ, Mark K., ed. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.
  • DeBlack, Thomas A. With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861–1874. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.
  • Hess. Earl J.; Shea, William L.; Piston, William G.; Hatcher, Richard W.: Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road, Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.A. Bison Books 2006, ISBN 978-0-8032-7366-5
  • Montgomery, Don, ed. The Battle of Prairie Grove. Prairie Grove, AR: Prairie Grove Battlefield Historic State Park, 1996.
  • Sallee, Scott E. “The Battle of Prairie Grove: War in the Ozarks, April ’62–January ’63.” Blue & Gray Magazine 21 (Fall 2004): 6–23, 45–50.
  • Shea, William L. War in the West: Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove. Abilene, TX: McWhiney Foundation Press, 2001.
  • Shea, William L. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8078-3315-5

External links