8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion, CSA
A Brief History
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A—“Clark Rifles,” from Clark county, Capt. Newton S. Love.
Company B—“Chicot Rebels,” from Chicot county, Capt. James D. Imboden.
Company C—“Black River Rifles,” from Lawrence county, Capt. Robert C. Jones.
Company D—“Greene County Roughs,” from Greene county, Capt. Guy S. Murray.
Company E—“Wood’s Rifles,” from Craighead county, Capt. Joel G. Wood.
Company F—“Ashley Light Infantry,” from Ashley county, Capt. Micajah R. Wilson.
Company G—“Lawrence Dead-Shots,” from Lawrence county, Capt. Joseph C. Holmes.
A note about the rosters: The records of the 8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion are highly fragmentary. The battalion’s books and records were lost on two occasions—at the battle of Corinth and the surrender of Port Hudson—and as a result most information about this unit comes from other sources, such as brigade records, casualty and parole lists, promotion and discharge records filed with the Confederate War Department, postwar pension records and veterans’ reminiscences. Using these sources, it is possible to reconstruct rosters that list perhaps half to two-thirds of the men who served in the battalion. The task of researching this battalion was made even more difficult by the fact that it was sometimes referred to in contemporary sources as (Jones’) “First Arkansas Battalion” and (Miller’s) “2nd Arkansas Battalion.”
The 8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion was formally activated at Little Rock on April 9, 1862, and was initially composed of eight companies: Co. A, the “Clark Rifles” of Clark county; Co. B, the “Chicot Rebels” of Chicot county; Co. C, the “Peyton Rifles” of Pulaski county; Co. D, the “Black River Rifles” of Lawrence county; Co. E, the “Greene County Roughs” of Greene county; Co. F, “Wood’s Rifles” of Craighead county; Co. G, the “Ashley Light Infantry” of Ashley county; and Co. G, the “Lawrence Dead-Shots” of Lawrence county. It was the intention of the State Military Board to add two more companies and form a full regiment; however, events across the Mississippi River necessitated the immediate activation of the unit as a battalion, and it was rushed over to Major-General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of the West at Corinth, Mississippi. Initially under the command of Major John Miller, Lieutenant-Colonel Batt L. Jones was soon appointed to command the battalion.
On May 10, 1862, Capt. James J. Franklin’s “Peyton Rifles” of Little Rock, Company C, was transferred to the 25th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, where it became Company F of that regiment. The 8th Battalion’s companies D through H were subsequently re-lettered C through G. Since the “Peyton Rifles” only served with the battalion for a month, their roste is not presented here, but instead is included in the history of the 25th Arkansas Infantry.
To add insult to injury, Colonel Thomas Pleasant Dockery, commanding Second Brigade, to which the battalion was attached, issued orders on June 14, 1862, which required each regiment and battalion of the brigade to furnish a quota of men for the formation of a battalion of sharpshooters. The quota levied upon the 8th Arkansas Battalion was 29 men. After having to relinquish an entire company to the 25th Arkansas Infantry, and now ordered to give up more men to what would become the 12th Arkansas Battalion (Sharpshooters), Lieutenant-Colonel Jones vehemently refused to make the levy; too vehemently, for he was immediately court-martialed for refusing to obey orders and was cashiered from the army.
Lieutenant-Colonel Batt Jones refused to go away, however, and somehow managed to stay with his battalion. The proceedings of his court-martial, and subsequent correspondence relating thereto, constitute the single largest body of documents dealing with the 8th Arkansas Battalion. For months afterward, his immediate superiors wrote plaintive letters to the various division and army commanders, and to the War Department, asking for guidance. Apparently the order which cashiered Lieutenant-Colonel Jones never reached higher authority, for inquiries from his superiors were answered with variations of, “We’re looking into it.” The matter was finally resolved for all practical purposes when the battalion was surrendered with the garrison at Port Hudson a year later, after which Jones sat out the rest of the war in a Union prison camp.
In October, 1862, the battalion was assigned to Cabell’s Brigade, Price’s Corps, and covered the Confederate withdrawal from the battle of Corinth. The battalion suffered significant losses in this rear-guard action of October 5, 1862, and from all accounts fought with great courage. The battalion was then transferred to the brigade of Brigadier-General William Nelson Rector Beall in the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, and formed part of the garrison of Port Hudson, Louisiana. They endured the siege of that place from May to July, 1863, only surrendering when the fall of Vicksburg rendered the defense of Port Hudson irrelevant. The garrison capitulated on July 9, 1863. The enlisted men were paroled on July 10, but the officers were sent to Northern prisons and held until the close of the war.
After Port Hudson, the already-sketchy records of the 8th Arkansas Battalion become almost non-existent. It appears that some of the men—mainly the companies from south Arkansas—reconstituted the battalion for a time back in Arkansas. This remnant was eventually consolidated with the 18th and 23rd Arkansas regiments sometime in 1864. The companies from north Arkansas are even harder to track during this period. A group of the men, still identifying themselves as the 8th Arkansas Battalion (or Jones’ 1st Arkansas Battalion) were captured en masse in Ripley county, Missouri, on Christmas day, 1863. Practically an entire company of Davies’ 7th Arkansas Cavalry Battalion seems to have been organized from veterans of the 8th Arkansas Battalion. Still more of these men appear on parole lists at Wittsburg and Jacksonport, Arkansas, in May and June of 1865, as members of other units.
It has been impossible to reconstruct a comprehensive
roster of the field and staff officers of the 8th Arkansas Battalion.
It is known that there were three field officers from April 1862 through
July 1863: Lieutenant-Colonel Batt L. Jones, Major John Miller, and
Major Micajah R. Wilson. The battalion adjutant, at least for a time,
was First Lieutenant William B. Baird; the battalion sergeant-major was
William P. Griffin; the battalion quartermaster-sergeant was Addison E.
Roane. Four men are said to have served as battalion ordnance sergeant
during the period April 1862 to July 1863—James R. Howard, John Carroll,
William F. Lefils and William G. Rolfe—although why there was a high turnover
in this position is not stated.
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
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