The Fourth Arkansas Infantry Regiment was a unit of the Confederate army that served in the Western Theater during the Civil War.
The unit was organized in Lawrence County, Missouri, on August 17, 1861, from companies that marched from Arkansas to join the army organizing in southwestern Missouri. Known as the Southwestern Arkansas Regiment, the unit consisted of companies from Calhoun, Hempstead, Montgomery, Lafayette, Pike, and Polk counties. Evander McNair of Washington (Hempstead County) was selected to lead the new regiment. The regiment organized with only eight companies, but two more joined the unit in November 1861 to bring the unit to full strength.
Measles and other illnesses soon struck the unit, and a number of men died or were discharged. On August 31, the regiment moved to Maysville (Benton County) with several other units, and it remained there until October 12. The regiment joined a brigade under the command of Colonel Louis Hebert. The brigade also contained the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Arkansas Infantry regiments and the First and Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, as well as units from Texas and Louisiana. This brigade participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 6–8, 1862. The regiment lost five killed, thirty-six wounded, and fourteen captured during the battle.
The regiment moved with the rest of the army to the east bank of the Mississippi River and encamped at Corinth, Mississippi. It reorganized on May 8. McNair was reelected as the colonel of the regiment, and the unit served in a brigade under Brigadier General Thomas James Churchill. Participating in the Kentucky Campaign, McNair commanded the brigade, while Churchill led the division. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Bunn led the unit during the campaign. On August 31, 1862, the regiment fought in the Battle of Richmond in Kentucky, where it lost four killed and fourteen wounded. After the battle, the unit exchanged its weapons for new guns captured from the enemy.
McNair received a promotion to brigadier general on November 4, 1862, and took permanent command of the brigade as Churchill returned to Arkansas. The brigade also consisted of the First and Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, the Twenty-Fifth Arkansas Infantry Regiment, the Fourth Arkansas Infantry Battalion, and Humphrey’s Battery. At the Battle of Murfreesboro, the unit lost ten killed, sixty-four wounded, and seven missing. Due to heavy losses, the Fourth Arkansas Infantry Battalion consolidated with the Fourth Arkansas Infantry regiment after the battle.
In the summer of 1863, the brigade joined the Army of Relief that organized in central Mississippi to come to the aid of the Confederate forces besieged at Vicksburg. After that city fell to Union forces, the Army of Relief fought a series of actions around Jackson. The regiment lost four killed and ten wounded in those battles. After more losses, the Thirty-First Arkansas Infantry Regiment consolidated with the regiment in August. During the summer, between forty and fifty men deserted from the regiment. Many returned home to Arkansas.
At the Battle of Chickamauga, the regiment had a strength of 385 and lost a total of ninety-three men killed, wounded, or missing. Following the battle, the brigade served in Mississippi during the Meridian Campaign, and Brigadier General Daniel Reynolds took command of the unit in the spring of 1864. Moving to Georgia, where it participated in the Atlanta Campaign, the brigade was at the Battle of Resaca, where it lost twenty killed, ninety-five wounded, and seventeen missing. Numerous other battles followed, and Bunn was wounded at the Battle of Ezra Church on July 28.
After the fall of Atlanta, the Fourth Arkansas and the brigade saw action in the Franklin and Nashville campaigns. At Franklin, the brigade lost twenty killed and eighty-two wounded. More men were lost at the Battle of Nashville, and the regiment retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi, where the men rested over New Year’s. The Fourth Arkansas was severely understrength and consolidated into two companies that together numbered fewer than 200 men.
Moving through Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, the brigade rejoined the Army of Tennessee to participate in the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina. Reynolds lost a leg in the battle, and Bunn, who had recovered from his wounds the previous summer, took command of the brigade. The Fourth Arkansas had a total of forty-eight men at the Battle of Bentonville, making it the largest regiment in the brigade. The entire brigade numbered around 150, and it lost seven killed, thirty-three wounded, and one missing in the battle.
After the battle, the brigade reorganized into a single regiment that consisted of the First and Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles and the Fourth, Ninth, and Twenty-Fifth Arkansas Infantry regiments. Known as the First Arkansas Rifles (Consolidated), the unit was commanded by Bunn and numbered 196. It joined a brigade of other consolidated units under the command of Brigadier General Winfield Featherston.
The army surrendered in North Carolina, and the men of the regiment were paroled on May 1.
For additional information:
Gammage, W. L. The Camp, the Bivouac, and the Battle Field. Little Rock: Arkansas Southern Press, 1958.
Lavender, John. They Never Came Back, edited by Ted Worley. Pine Bluff, AR: Southern Press, 1956.
Willis, James. Arkansas Confederates in the Western Theater. Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1998.
Henderson State University