21st Regiment Arkansas Militia
Like most states, Arkansas had, on paper at least, a state militia organization in the years preceding the Civil War. All able-bodied male citizens were expected to be members of the militia, providing their own weapons and clothing. Ammunition (powder and lead) was supposed to be provided by the State, as were rations and compensation for traveling expenses. The militia in each county was to be organized as a regiment, with each township in the county furnishing an individual company. Technically, the militia was supposed to muster annually, generally in February or March (so as not to interfere with the planting and harvesting of crops), for inspection and drill. In many counties, there is no evidence that the required annual musters ever took place. In other counties, the annual militia muster was considered a grand social occasion. The townspeople and the ladies would bring lunches and gather to watch the regiments go through their drills.
Sometimes, the annual muster of these amateur soldiers produced less-than-impressive results. For example, on Saturday, February 23, 1861, the 5th Regiment Arkansas Militia—the Crawford County Militia—mustered at Van Buren for their annual inspection and drill. They were joined on this occasion by two companies of volunteers, the “Frontier Guards” (Captain Hugh Thomas Brown) and the “Independent Light Horse Guards” (Captain Powhatan Perkins). Although the independent companies received rave reviews for their drill, one can only imagine the spectacle provided by the 5th Militia Regiment, which prompted the following sarcastic report in the local newspaper:
THE FIFTH REGIMENT PARADE.—The special parade of this Regiment, by order of the Officers in command, took place in this City on Saturday last. In connection therewith, the Rifle Company, Capt. Brown, and Horse Company, Capt. Perkins, paraded, making a fine display—and in fact all the “military” on the ground was composed of these two independent companies. A more decided burlesque on military parade could not be had, than the muster on Saturday. If any good was derived by bringing such a body of men together, for “inspection” and “drill,” we were not able to discover it—and we trust it will be at least a year, before another “occasion” occurs for preparation to defend our rights and liberties against northern aggression.—Van Buren Press, Van Buren, Arkansas, Friday, March 1, 1861.
The outbreak of the war essentially made the militia organization irrelevant. Most men of military age quickly enlisted in volunteer companies, leaving only the older men and boys to provide manpower for the militia. Even the primary purpose of the militia was taken over by home guard and local defense companies. However, one last muster of at least some of the old militia regiments was held, on schedule, in February and March of 1862. Muster rolls for a half-dozen or so of these regiments survive.
The 21st Regiment Arkansas Militia—the White County Militia—held its last muster on March 7-9, 1862, location not stated. Shortly after this muster, most of its members enlisted in the 36th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, CSA.
The following rosters are taken from the March 1862 muster roll of the White County Militia.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to have more information about the Civil War and Pension Records of the men who served in these Companies, contact BRYAN HOWERTON or Jeri Helms Fultz
Back to the Edward G. Gerdes Civil War Page