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The Sixth Arkansas Infantry was a military unit that served in the Confederate army from 1861 until its surrender in 1865. The Sixth served almost exclusively in the western theater and became known as one of the finest units in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
Formed from ten companies on June 10, 1861, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Sixth Arkansas Infantry consisted of units from Pulaski, Arkansas, Dallas, Calhoun, Ouachita, Lafayette, Columbia, and Union counties. The original field officers were Colonel Richard Lyon, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander T. Hawthorn, and Major Dawson L. Kilgore. On June 19, 1861, the regiment marched to Pocahontas (Randolph County), where its training commenced. In July 1861, the regiment joined the Second, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Arkansas Infantry Regiments and formed a brigade under Brigadier General William Hardee. Company B and several individual soldiers from other companies declined to transfer to the Confederate army from state service at this time and were sent home. These soldiers did not want to serve outside of the state and were allowed to leave the unit.
The brigade was transferred to Columbus, Kentucky, on October 3, 1861, and was soon sent to Cave City, Kentucky. Colonel Lyon was killed on October 10, 1861, when his horse fell from a cliff. Lieutenant Colonel Hawthorn was promoted to colonel to replace Lyon, while Gordon N. Peay replaced Hawthorn as lieutenant colonel. The Sixth fought at Woodsonville, Kentucky, on December 17, 1861, and held its position there until Fort Donelson, Tennessee, surrendered on February 15, 1862. The Sixth retreated with the rest of its brigade to Corinth, Mississippi, and, in April 1862, fought at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee. After the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, the Sixth spent several months in Tupelo, Mississippi, before being sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the division of General Patrick Cleburne. On October 8, 1862, the Sixth fought in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. After the Confederate defeat at Perryville, it fell back to Tennessee with the rest of the army. While in Tennessee, the Sixth and Seventh Arkansas Infantry Regiments were consolidated due to high losses suffered by both units. The Sixth then fought at the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863. The next major action that the unit was involved in was the Tullahoma Campaign in June 1863. Later that summer, the Sixth fought at Chickamauga on September 19–20, and finished the year at Chattanooga on November 23–25. In 1864, the Sixth fought in the Atlanta Campaign from May to September. On September 1, the entire unit was captured at the Battle of Jonesboro. The unit was exchanged after three weeks in enemy captivity and was re-formed in time to fight at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee. The Sixth’s last battle was at Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 16, 1865. Although the Confederates won the battle, the Arkansas brigade of which the Sixth was a part had lost so many men that further consolidation was needed. The First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Dawson’s Nineteenth, and the Twenty-fourth Arkansas infantries and the Third Confederate Infantry were merged into the First Arkansas Consolidated Infantry on April 9, 1865. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, of which the unit was a part, surrendered on April 26, 1865.
The Sixth fought in all of the major battles of the Army of Tennessee and was one of its prized units. With the rest of the Arkansas Brigade, they formed the toughest military unit ever from Arkansas. General Hardee expressed this sentiment best in his report about Cleburne’s division, saying, “When his division defended, no odds could break its line; when it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught.”
For additional information:Collier, Calvin L. First In—Last Out: The Capitol Guards, Arkansas Brigade. Little Rock: Pioneer Press, 1961.
Willis, James. Arkansas Confederates in the Western Theater. Dayton, OH: Morningside House, 1998.
David SesserNevada County Depot and Museum
Last Updated 4/18/2017
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