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The Eighth Arkansas Infantry was a regiment that served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Spending most of its service in the Western Theater, the regiment served for the duration of the war.
After Arkansas seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861, a number of military units began to organize. Companies organized in communities around the state and moved to a number of centralized locations to form regiments. Ten companies from northeastern Arkansas organized into the Eighth Arkansas near Jacksonport (Jackson County) on July 13, 1861. The companies were from Jackson, Independent, White, and Randolph counties. The first colonel of the regiment was William Patterson, an attorney in civilian life. The unit received arms captured at the Federal arsenal in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and was transferred to the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in October. Joining a brigade under the command of Brigadier General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood, the Eighth served alongside the Ninth Arkansas Infantry Battalion and other units from Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.
The Eighth Arkansas participated in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6 and 7, 1862. During the battle, the unit suffered heavy casualties. After the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, the force retreated into Mississippi and reorganized over the next month. Due to the extreme casualties that the unit suffered at Shiloh, the Eighth Arkansas consolidated with the Seventh and Ninth Arkansas Infantry Battalions, which also lost much of their strength in the battle. The new unit continued to be known as the Eighth Arkansas. At the same time, regiments were reorganized in response to the Confederate Conscription Act, and new officers were elected. John Kelly of the Ninth Arkansas Infantry Battalion was selected as the colonel of the Eighth Arkansas. The regiment also joined a new brigade under the command of Brigadier General St. John Liddell. This brigade contained the Second, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Arkansas Infantry Regiments, in addition to the Eighth and a battery of artillery from Mississippi.
Next participating in the Confederate invasion of Kentucky, the Eighth fought at the Battle of Perryville in October 1862. In late December 1862 and January 1863, the unit fought at the Battle of Stones River, in which Colonel Kelly was wounded. Lieutenant Colonel George Baucum took command of the regiment. The unit lost twenty-nine killed and 124 wounded in the battle. Other 1863 actions in which the regiment participated include the Tullahoma Campaign, particularly the Battle of Liberty Gap, and the Chickamauga Campaign. At the Battle of Chickamauga, the regiment suffered fourteen killed, ninety-two wounded, and sixty-five missing. Brigadier General Daniel Govan led the brigade at the Battle of Chickamauga and for the remainder of the war.
More losses forced the consolidation the regiment once again, this time with the Ninth Arkansas, a unit captured at the Battle of Arkansas Post and then exchanged. The new unit was known as the Eighth-Ninth Arkansas Infantry, and the entire brigade was transferred to the division of Major General Patrick Cleburne. The unit closed out 1863 with service in the Chattanooga Campaign, seeing action at the Battles of Missionary Ridge and Ringgold Gap.
The spring of 1864 saw the Eighth-Ninth Arkansas participating in the Atlanta Campaign. Seeing action at numerous battles, including Pickett’s Mill and Peachtree Creek, the regiment suffered heavy casualties. At the Battle of Atlanta, the unit lost thirty-two killed, thirty-three wounded, and thirty-two missing. Continuing to fight, the regiment—along with Govan and most of the brigade—was captured at the Battle of Jonesboro on September 1, 1864. The unit’s colors were captured as well in this battle. After spending only eighteen days as prisoners, the entire unit was exchanged on September 19 and returned to service.
With the fall of Atlanta, the war returned to Tennessee, where the brigade continued to lose men at the Battles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville in the autumn and winter of 1864. After the loss of so many men, including Patrick Cleburne, the army was reorganized, and Govan’s brigade was placed in a division under the command of Major General John C. Brown.
The unit participated in the last campaign of the war in the Western Theater, the Carolinas Campaign. Facing off against Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Confederates lost at the Battle of Bentonville. The brigade lost forty-one men out of a total of 150 effectives in the battle. Due to the massive losses suffered by all of the Arkansas units, the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Arkansas Infantry Regiments were combined with the Third Confederate Infantry Regiment to form the First Arkansas Consolidated Infantry Regiment. This unit surrendered with the remainder of the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Bennett Place, North Carolina. At the time of surrender, the consolidated unit numbered 635 men.
Many of the men returned to civilian life in Arkansas. Three flags of the unit still exist, two of which are at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock.
For additional information:Bradley, Mark. This Astounding Close: The Road to Bennett Place. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm (accessed March 29, 2016).
Harrell, John. Confederate Military History. Vol. 10: Arkansas. Atlanta: Confederate Publishing Company, 1899.
Willis, James. Arkansas Confederates in the Western Theater. Dayton, OH: Morningside House, 1998.
David Sesser Henderson State University
Last Updated 5/19/2017
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