While Garner's statement seems a little extreme, nevertheless the mindset of the 14th Arkansas was very interesting. About half the regiment was from Marion County, and the remainder were from the neighboring counties of Fulton, Izard, Newton and Searcy. The men pretty much lived in "Snuffy Smith" country, in isolated communities and farms, and were fiercely independent.
There was little or no sense of loyalty to the Confederate States, and little sentiment, pro or con, on the issue of slavery. The fact that a Confederate regiment was formed at all in this area had more to do with local defense of their homes and farms than anything else. The men could just have easily formed a Union regiment, were it not for the fact that the threat of invasion was deemed to be more likely from the North than from the South.
The unifier of these independent mountain men was Arkansas State Senator William Christmas Mitchell. He, like his constituents, had no emotional attachment to the Confederate States, but he was a loyal citizen of Arkansas. He began organizing volunteer companies for the defense of Arkansas in general, and his district (Marion and Searcy counties) in particular. Mitchell was well-respected and highly popular, and seems to have been a leader who inspired confidence and loyalty -- even among the independent cusses of the Ozark Plateau. He reminds me of Sterling Price in that regard.
The companies recruited with the unofficial understanding that they would be deployed to defend northern Arkansas, and for a term of 12 months. However, after the battle at Pea Ridge in March 1862, Van Dorn moved his Army of the West across the Mississippi River, lock, stock and barrel. Upon arriving at Corinth, Mississippi, the regiments were ordered to reorganize and their term of service was extended to three years or the duration of the war.
You can imagine how this news was greeted in the 14th Arkansas. First, they were now in Mississippi instead of back in Marion County defending their homes. Second, their "contract" with the Confederate States had been unilaterally amended to extend their term of service. Third, they were ordered to elect new officers. A final factor was the absence of the one man who could influence the men -- Colonel Mitchell had been captured at Pea Ridge, and was currently a POW in the notorious Johnson's Island military prison.
Eli Dodson, Jr., was elected colonel in the reorganization, but he was unable to quell the unrest in the 14th Arkansas, so Col. Frank P. Powers, a good, but no-nonsense officer, to take charge of the 14th Arkansas. This was perceived by the 14th Arkansas as the final insult -- their choice of officers being overriden by the Confederate States -- so they deserted in droves in June 1862. The 14th Arkansas never recovered from the mass desertion. The remnants were field consolidated with other regiments until the surrender at Port Hudson the following summer.
In the meantime, the mountaineers who left the regiment made their way back to Arkansas. Some of them landed at Helena, where they joined the Union army, most of them returned to their homes, where they were conscripted -- mostly in the 27th Arkansas Regiment. Ultimately, a large number of the men ended up in the Union army.
Colonel Mitchell died in 1863 at home in Marion County shortly after his release from prison. If he had not been captured at Pea Ridge, he might have been able to hold the regiment together.