The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

15th Arkansas Regiment, No. 2

The second regiment to bear the designation of the 15th Arkansas Infantry was Patrick R. Cleburne’s old regiment. As the very first regiment of the line authorized by the State Military Board in the Civil War, they bore the title of 1st Regiment Arkansas State Troops.

The regiment was formally organized at Mound City, Arkansas, on May 14, 1861, with the following companies—

Co. A—Harris Guards, Capt. James T. Harris.
Co. B—Jefferson Guards, Capt. Charles H. Carlton.
Co. C—Yell Guards, Capt. Francis M. McNally.
Co. D—Rector Guards, Capt. George W. Glenn.
Co. E—Napoleon Grays, Capt. Henry E. Green.
Co. F—Yell Rifles, Capt. Patrick R. Cleburne.
Co. G—Hindman Guards, Capt. Henry B. Blakemore.
Co. H—Phillips Guards, Capt. William S. Otey.
Co. I—Tyronza Rebels, Capt. Robert L. Harding.
Co. K—Monroe Blues, Capt. Gaston W. Baldwin.

When Captain Cleburne was appointed colonel of the new regiment, Capt. Edward H. Cowley succeeded him in command of the Yell Rifles, Co. F.

The regiment had a very close partnership with the Helena Artillery, Capt. A. W. Clarkson; in fact, the company was considered to be an unofficial part of the regiment, and routinely swapped personnel as needs dictated. This company later gained fame in the Army of Tennessee as Calvert’s (later Key’s) Arkansas Battery.

On July 23, 1861, while stationed at Pitman’s Ferry, the 1st Arkansas Regiment, along with the other Arkansas State Troops, were transferred from State to Confederate service. This transfer was not binding on the men, who could opt out if they so desired. The men of Company C (Yell Guards) and Company G (Hindman Guards) declined to transfer to the Provisional Army of the Confederate States, so the men were honorably discharged and their companies were disbanded.

Cleburne’s regiment was now known as the 1st Regiment Arkansas Volunteers, and reorganized as follows—

Co. A—Harris Guards.
Co. B—Yell Rifles.
Co. C—Napoleon Grays.
Co. D—Tyronza Rebels.
Co. E—Monroe Blues.
Co. F—Phillips Guards.
Co. G—Rector Guards.
Co. H—Jefferson Guards.

Now the confusion comes into play. As discussed in a previous thread, a group of volunteer companies from Arkansas bypassed the State military system and marched to Virginia to offer their services directly to the Confederate government. They were accepted and enrolled in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States at Lynchburg, Virginia, on May 19, 1861, as the 1st Regiment Arkansas Volunteers, under the command of Col. James F. Fagan. This designation had already been authorized by the State for Cleburne’s regiment, and when the War Department realized that it had two “First Arkansas” regiments on its hands, it arbitrarily assigned what their records showed was the next available designation—the 15th Arkansas Regiment—and ordered Cleburne’s regiment to adopt this designation. The trouble is, the State Military Board had already authorized this designation for Col. James M. Gee’s regiment. So now we go from having two 1st Arkansas Regiments to having two 15th Arkansas regiments; however, these designations stuck for the rest of the war.

Thus, by January 1862 Cleburne’s 1st Arkansas Regiment was reorganized for the war as the 15th Arkansas Regiment, as follows—

Co. A—Harris Guards.
Co. B—Jefferson Guards.
Co. C—Yell Rifles.
Co. D—Napoleon Grays.
Co. E—Tyronza Rebels.
Co. F—Monroe Blues.
Co. G—Phillips Guards.
Co. H—Rector Guards.

Note, that after July 1861, the 1st/15th Arkansas had only eight companies, making it, in effect, a “heavy” battalion, rather than a full regiment. But it was kept on the army rolls as a regiment throughout the war.

Colonel Cleburne was appointed brigadier-general in March 1862, and was succeeded by Col. Lucius E. Polk. Colonel Polk was appointed brigadier-general in December 1862, and was succeeded by Col. John E. Josey. The U.S. War Department cataloged the regiment’s Compiled Service Records as the 15th (Josey’s) Arkansas Infantry.

Cleburne’s old regiment finally recovered its original designation, after a fashion, in the massive reorganization of the Army of Tennessee in March 1865, when the survivors of the 15th Arkansas' four long years of war were consolidated into a single understrength company—Company H—of the 1st Consolidated Arkansas Regiment.

Since the Army of Tennessee always played second fiddle to the Army of Northern Virginia in the attention of the politicians and newspapers, the 15th Arkansas never achieved the fame of the 3rd Arkansas; but the war records of the two regiments are equally magnificent. The 15th Arkansas was Cleburne’s “Old Reliables,” always in the thickest of the fight, never far from Cleburne himself. I once read an historical assessment of the three most effective regiments from each State in the Confederacy. This assessment rated the best Arkansas regiments as the 3rd Arkansas, the 15th Arkansas, and the consolidated 6th & 7th Arkansas.

Anyway, next on the list is the third 15th Arkansas Regiment. New post to follow.