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The First (Crawford’s) Arkansas Cavalry Regiment was a Confederate cavalry unit that served in the Trans-Mississippi Theater during the American Civil War. Also designated as the Tenth Trans-Mississippi Cavalry, it is one of three regiments to be designated First Arkansas Cavalry. Participating in military engagements in Arkansas at Mount Elba, Longview Prairie (Easling’s Farm), Poison Spring, and Marks’ Mills, as well as Price’s Missouri Raid, it was stationed in Texas when Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Theater surrendered on May 26, 1865.
The regiment was organized at Camden (Ouachita County) on December 30, 1863, by Colonel William A. Crawford of Saline County. It consisted of ten companies from Clark, Columbia, Ouachita, Lafayette, Saline, and Union counties, with two companies added later. Crawford was placed in command of a brigade consisting of his own regiment, the Twelfth (Wright’s) Arkansas Cavalry, and Poe’s and McMurtrey’s Arkansas Cavalry battalions, and was assigned to Major General James F. Fagan’s Cavalry Division.
Stationed at Monticello (Drew County), Crawford’s Regiment conducted scouting operations in January 1864 to the Arkansas River, gathering cattle for the army. In February, while on a scout to the Mississippi River, it engaged a detachment of U.S. Marines. In the ensuing skirmish, Crawford’s troopers killed one marine and wounded as many as ten others. On March 30, 1864, Crawford’s and Brigadier General Thomas Dockery’s brigades attacked and attempted to destroy a Union force under Colonel Powell Clayton at Mount Elba (Cleveland County). In the repeated unsuccessful assaults, Crawford lost thirty-two men killed and wounded and retreated toward Monticello. The day prior, unknown to Confederate commanders, Clayton’s cavalry had attacked and captured the Confederates’ wagon train at Easling’s Farm on Longview Prairie in Ashley County, including 300 men, sixty-six of whom were members of Crawford’s Regiment.
During the April 1864 Camden Expedition, Crawford’s men engaged and assisted in the destruction of a Union supply train at Poison Spring on April 18, 1864. Seven days later, they engaged a large Federal force at Marks’ Mills, capturing all the wagons and artillery, along with most of the troops. Afterward, Crawford’s regiment continued to scout and picket areas of south-central Arkansas for the remainder of the summer.
In August 1864, Major General Sterling Price started north on his disastrous Missouri Raid. His forces were composed of two Missouri cavalry divisions and Fagan’s Arkansas Division. Crawford commanded his regiment as part of Colonel William F. Slemmon’s Brigade, Fagan’s Division. Its first major engagement was fought on September 27, 1864, near Pilot Knob, Missouri. Union forces took refuge in Fort Davidson, which soon proved to be impenetrable in Price’s repeated assaults. Fagan’s division was required to cross open ground in the face of withering fire, incurring heavy casualties among his regiments. During the night, Union forces slipped out, making a full escape, while Price moved westward across the state.
In late October, Crawford’s regiment fought numerous running battles in an attempt to escape converging and superior Union forces. October 21–22 witnessed Crawford’s men fighting on the Little Blue River and at Independence, Missouri. Fagan’s division, as rear guard, was attacked and lost many men. At Westport, Missouri, on October 23, Price attempted to attack enemy forces to his front and rear. Unable to overpower either of the Union commands, Price attempted to escape southward through Kansas. On October 25, at Marais des Cygnes River, Fagan’s division, including Crawford’s regiment, attempted to hold Union attackers in check. After heavy fighting, they were overwhelmed, losing many men. After crossing the river, Crawford engaged the enemy at Mine Creek, Kansas, losing more of his already depleted regiment. The swollen Marmiton River forced Price to make yet another stand, costing Crawford even more men.
Managing to escape the determined Union cavalry, Price’s force retreated back into Missouri but were surprised on October 28 in a sudden attack near Newtonia. With only a weak attempt at defense, most of Price’s remaining forces rapidly retreated southward through Indian Territory and Texas, before finally returning to Washington (Hempstead County) on December 2, 1864. During the entire operation, Crawford’s survivors marched over 1,400 miles, losing a majority of its troops in the numerous battles and skirmishes.
The remnant of the regiment saw no fighting for the remainder of the war and was stationed along the Trinity River in Texas when General Kirby Smith surrendered the department on May 26, 1865. Ordered to Shreveport, Louisiana, to receive their paroles, the regiment did not report but simply disbanded without formally surrendering. Most individually journeyed to their homes, receiving their paroles at various locations along the way.
For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock, AR: Eagle Press, 1990.
Williams, Charles G., ed. “A Saline Guard: The Civil War Letters of Col. William Ayers Crawford, C.S.A., 1861–1865.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 31 (Winter 1972): 328–355.
———. “A Saline Guard: The Civil War Letters of Col. William Ayers Crawford, C.S.A., 1861–1865, Part II.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Spring 1973): 71–93.
Rushing, Anthony C. “Rackensacker Raiders: Crawford’s First Arkansas Cavalry.” Civil War Regiments. A Journal of the Civil War 1, no. 2 (1990).
Last Updated 7/19/2017
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