Texas and Arkansas Sharpshooters 1862 -
The Creation of Bridges Battalion and Stirman’s Regiment of Sharpshooters
Captain Henry W. Bridges, enlisted his company of Texas Rangers into the Army, of the Confederate States of America on the 12th of September, 1861. They had just returned from the Indian Territories, where they had been responsible for the capture of Union forts in the Wichita Mountains. The company returned when the Texas government notified them that there were no more monies to fund their actions. In Dallas they could look forward to 12 months of good pay in the Army, and they might be allowed to shoot Yankees. They also discovered they would be issued uniforms, as most of their present clothing was tattered. It is thought that Company I was called “Titus Grays,” as was Company I of the 9th Texas Cavalry, though Bridges company had mostly come from Henderson and Dallas Counties with a sprinkling from across North Texas.
On September 21st the company had moved from Camp Bartow, in south Dallas, to McKinney in Colin County. Both Henry Bridges’ and James Throckmorton’s companies, being fully-trained Rangers, were ready to move to war. Bridges’ company was designated as Company I, as it had been in the Ranger regiment. Company K, Throckmorton’s, was similarly named. Both units filled out their muster rosters in McKinney, and their regiment assignment was Colonel B. Warren Stone’s 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Stone recruited another regiment in 1862, and it was known as the 2nd Regiment, Texas Cavalry, which creates unit name problems in the National Archives’ records.
On September 28th, 1862, the regiment was at Boggy Point, near present day Eufaula, Oklahoma, in the Indian Territory. A day or two later they were in Fork Town. They were receiving conflicting directions from Fort Smith. They reached Fort Smith and then moved north to Missouri. On the 31st of October, the 6th had moved to Flat Rock, Missouri, and were preparing to stop Union forces heading toward them. Five companies were sent on a reconnaissance toward Springfield. Major Sul Ross led the detachment. Certainly the Rangers and those like John Griffith’s and Robert White’s, trained militia companies were the ones in the detachment. Cutting the Union supply line, they captured equipment and stock. Two companies went forward with Major Ross to view the Union force. Ross later reported he saw an army of 50,000 fully equipped and ready for battle. The Confederate force under General McCulloch decided to retreat until more of their troops arrived.
The Confederate Army wintered in northern Arkansas in 1862, and many men died from cold and illness. Also some of the soldiers, being near home, just went back to Texas, to return in the spring ready for battle. The winter encampment was cut short in December, however, when a call came from Colonel Douglas Cooper, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who needed help. The 3rd and 6th Texas put together detachments for this purpose. Additionally, a detachment from the 9th Texas Cavalry came straight from muster. They had been on the way to Arkansas and were diverted. The 4th Battalion of Texas Cavalry commanded by Major John Whitfield and a few separate Arkansas companies rounded out the non-Indian forces. The 1,380 men under Colonel McIntosh answered the call. In the last few days of December, alongside Confederate Indians, they dealt the Union Indians a blow with effects that lasted for several months.
In February of 1863, Sul Ross and the 6th Texas were again sent to recon the Union positions in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Ross circled the Union forces and provided General McCulloch and Van Dorn with much needed information. The Confederates entered the Boston Mountains of northern Arkansas without sufficient winter clothing, food, or ammunition because General Van Dorn felt it necessary to take on the Union force. Just north of Elkhorn Tavern or Pea Ridge they met the enemy. The battle was sharp, and the South lost both General McCulloch and General McIntosh the first day. Short commanders, and ammunition because the wagon train was lost, Van Dorn decided to retreat.
General Van Dorn dismounted much of his Cavalry to meet the need for infantry troops in southwestern Tennessee at Shiloh. Brook’s 1st Battalion of Arkansas Cavalry, Company I, 6th Texas Cavalry, Company H, 9th Texas Cavalry and Company B, 27th Texas Cavalry were among those dismounted. These companies were the basis for a future Sharpshooter Regiment.
The 1st Battalion, Arkansas Cavalry was recruited in Carroll, Marion, Pope, Scott, Van Buren, and Washington counties, Arkansas, from August to October 1861 with Company G recruited in February. The unit was blooded at Pea Ridge. Soon it was transferred east of the Mississippi and dismounted. Major William H. Brooks was in command. Brooks’ failing to win re-election created a scramble to see who would be elected. The fourth most eligible officer was Lieutenant Ras Stirman, but he came out on top.
The designation, Sharpshooter Battalion, was a surprise, as was the addition of another company transferred in from Whitfield’s Regiment, Texas Cavalry on June 4th, 1862. This company was Murphy’s or Catterson’s Company B, Arkansas Cavalry. It was soon designated Company H.
General Van Dorn of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate States of America, issued Special Order # 114, June 15, 1862. It read, “As it is at present impracticable to organize a battalion of sharpshooters for each brigade as contemplated in General Order # 34 from the War Department - each division commander will designate one regiment from each brigade to act as sharpshooters. They will be particularly instructed … and carry long range arms.”
General Maury’s Division sent out Special Order #59 dated August 1, 1862, stating, “Paragraph II, Major Bridges Battalion of Sharpshooters will at once be consolidated with Lieutenant Colonel Stirman’s Battalion of Arkansas Cavalry (dismounted) and the whole to be under the command of Lt Col Stirman as the regiment of Sharpshooters of Phifer’s Brigade.”
Captain Bridges was the commander of Company I, 6th Texas Cavalry, from his election in September, 1861, until June, 1862. In June the company was detached, and Bridges was promoted to Major in command of a sharpshooter battalion. Company H, 9th Texas Cavalry, was a second company attached to his command and Company B, Whitfield’s Legion went straight to Stirman’s Battalion on 4 June 1862. On August 1, 1862, Bridges was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of Sharpshooters. At the same time his companies became part of Colonel Erasmus J. Stirman’s Regiment of Sharpshooters for Colonel Charles W. Phifer’s Brigade. Bridges became the Deputy Commander. At this time Col. Ras Stirman commanded a ten company regiment all dressed in grey as he described it in a letter to his sister, Rebecca, in camp, August 10, 1862, near Tupelo, Mississippi.
The battalions were encamped at Camp Maury in May-July 1862. After that, they were probably at Camp Armstrong though this is not documented at this time. In September, they were at Camp Rodgers, Mississippi near Tupelo, Mississippi and camp Baldwin, Mississippi on 24 September probably near Holly Springs. The men trained as sharpshooters, skirmishers, and as infantry as they moved closer to Corinth.
Early in September, Colonel Stirman led his regiment sharpshooters on a 60 mile circuitous route from Saltillo toward Iuka, Mississippi. They advanced with each company having a turn in front as skirmishers. At Iuka, they took up positions near the town, ready to fight. Captain James Bates of Company K (H/9th) says in his diary they could see the battle, which would have placed them on the northwest side of Iuka. Leading General Price’s Army, the 3rd Texas Cavalry and 1st Texas Legion ran into a full Union division northwest of Iuka. After fighting all day, General Price was ready to continue, but General Van Dorn directed that they break off the battle and join his force on the way to Corinth.
Two weeks later the sharpshooters were probably spread as skirmishers across the front of Phifer’s Brigade when the Battle of Corinth began on October 3, 1863. They steadily pushed the Union forces back, and at dark were only 300 yards from the main lines. During the fight, they lost Lieutenant Colonel Bridges who received a severe wound to his right arm. He had to be helped from the field and sent to the hospital in Quitman. The regiment slept on their weapons ready to fight. If they had anything they ate, water was in short supply and ammunition was scrounged from those that had fallen.
The sharpshooters were reformed into a line infantry regiment on the left flank of Phifer’s Brigade for the last day of battle, October 4th. The attack kicked off at 10:30 A.M., and the regiment quickly captured the four gun 10th Ohio Artillery Battery to its front. A seam existed between the 50th Illinois Brigade of DuBois’ Division and the 39th Ohio Brigade of Fuller’s Division of Union forces. The regiment, receiving fire from three directions, drove toward the center of the town. Their losses mounted, but the regiment gained the Tishomingo Hotel with Ras Stirman planting the regimental flag in front of the hotel. They had pushed General Rosecrans from his headquarters. Then came Union rallies, and the regiment weak from losses, low on ammunition and water, began to retreat. Ras Stirman and Major White were the last two to leave the hotel, located about a hundred yards behind Battery Robinett. The remnants of the regiment made it to the Confederate lines at dark.
The following morning Stirman’s Sharpshooters were third in the line of march of the Confederate Army in retreat. They made the Hatchie Bridge at Davis’ farm, Tennessee, when cannon fire opened from their front and flank. Ahead, the First Texas Legion and Moore’s Brigade with Adam’s skirmishers and Dawson’s St Louis Battery of 4 guns, were being mauled by the Union blocking force. Many were captured or killed. The rest chose to scatter and swim the river or drown trying. Major Hawkins of the 1st Legion, was able to lead a small detachment back, but most of the Legion were captured or killed. The sharpshooters ran the gauntlet of the bridge and took up positions on the bluff above the river. The 6th Texas and Colonel Ross fought a delaying action allowing the remaining pieces of Moore’s Brigade to re-cross as did Hawkins’ troops. Most of a brigade and the Legion had been killed or captured.
Now it was the Confederate turn. The sharpshooters, well positioned, were pouring fire into the attacking Union regiment that had crossed the bridge. Two more regiments crossed, but had no place to maneuver. If they moved, they were fired upon. Cabel’s Brigade came on line with artillery. This, added to the 6th Texas and the soldiers of Moore and Hawkins troops and the one cannon that Dawson was able to bring back, was enough to halt the Union force and to allow Van Dorn’s Army to find a new crossing and escape back into Mississippi.
Now comes the difficult part to explain. For some reason, the highly successful Stirman Sharpshooter Regiment was broken up. The two Texas companies returned to their home regiments. Soldiers were returning from parole, wounded were healing, and the return of horses from Texas, they were soon able to go on the Holly Springs Raid and make the move into Tennessee in 1863 as part of the Texas Brigade and Van Dorn’s Corps.
Stirman’s Battalion was at Camp Donaldson, Mississippi, in January as dismounted cavalry. Company B, 27th Texas Cavalry, never returned to the Legion. It was originally an Arkansas company, so it stayed with Stirman’s Battalion as Company H. The Legion never replaced the company and went the rest of the war without a Company B. Stirman’s Battalion records at the National Archives are not complete for the period May through December of 1862. Many of the records for Companies A through G are lost from muster to January 1863. Thus their efforts at Corinth and Hatchie Bridge go unremembered. Their dead and wounded lost in history.
Major Bridges, regained his health and reported back for duty on the 28th of December, 1863. He was probably still weak, and was placed on leave. He returned to the Mississippi River area in March while his company was still in Tennessee. General Stephen D. Lee put him to work commanding an ad hoc battalion of cavalry companies.
Company I, 6th Texas Cavalry, continued to fight till January, 1865, when it was combined with Company K. Its officers resigned or transferred. Of its 102 men, six were killed in battle, twenty were wounded, five died of wounds, and twelve were made prisoners. Four deserted, twenty were discharged or dropped, and at parole in Jackson, Mississippi, 15 May 1865, thirteen were present and thirty-three were on leave or had deserted after returning from the Tennessee Campaign. Two were missing, and three had transferred to other units. Illness had caused eighteen deaths.
Company H, 9th Texas, had a large desertion in August-September, 1863, when it lost thirty-seven men. Only three returned. The remainder of its company was placed in support of the regimental headquarters. Four had died in battle, and three had died of wounds. One had transferred, and six had no records after 1862. Additionally, fifteen had been discharged or dropped, and eleven died of illness. Ten men were paroled at Jackson, Mississippi, and three from northern prisons. Of 106 men, nineteen had deserted or were on leave in 1865 when no record was kept.
Stirman’s Battalion, 1st Battalion Arkansas Cavalry (dismounted), continued to on fight as infantry and sharpshooters with distinguished service at Vicksburg. The battalion designated Bridge’s Arkansas Cavalry and listed in the Vicksburg Order of Battle was not the original Bridge’s Battalion and was likely not under Pemberton’s command, but instead, the ad hoc unit probably authorized by Stephen D. Lee. This was Henry W. Bridges, of the 6th Texas Cavalry, but without his Texas Cavalry companies, I/6th; H/9th. They were not in the Vicksburg siege area, and the companies may not have been from Arkansas.
This regiment of sharpshooters came close to breaking open the Battle of Corinth, yet it received little or no fame because of Van Dorn’s decision to retreat and his subsequent loss of the battle. It survived its surprise at the Battle of Hatchie Bridge and greatly contributed to the Confederate cause in holding until Van Dorn was able to take his army into Mississippi. The combination of Stirman’s and Bridges’ units was one of the best of the war, but its only reward was to be broken up.
Stirman died of old age in Colorado, and Bridges, a hero’s death in battle in the Meridian Campaign in Mississippi in February 1864. He led a charge with a detachment of Cavalry and was left wounded on the field. Dying nine days later, he has lain in an unmarked grave in Jackson, Mississippi until now, but through the actions of members of the UDC and SCV, he will receive his deserved recognition in the summer of 2011.
The complete story of the Stirman Battalion and Regiment has not yet been told, but the above tells of the blending of Texas and Arkansas units that almost won Corinth. The major portion of this narrative comes from the National Archives records of both the units and from the service records of Major Bridges and Colonel Stirman. Important information has pieced together from comments at the Texas and Arkansas Civil War History message boards by many different authors. Mrs. Sue Burns Moore has discovered more about Bridges and his family than anyone could have imagined from articles, in books and papers and diaries. The writings of Peter Cozzen in his book about the Battle of Corinth and the writings of Stephen D. Lee in the Southern Historical Papers fill out the detail as does James C. Bates diary. Bates was commander of Company K of Stirman’s Regiment and Company H, 9th Texas Cavalry. Bridges’ history from March to February 1864 is sketchy, containing only a few records for that time. Mrs. Moore’s detail on Bridges adds to that information and will soon be published. Prepared by William K. Nolan, LTC Retired USAR, SCV 1938.