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15th (Gee's/Johnson's) Arkansas Infantry (Confederate)
Flag of Arkansas.svg
Arkansas state flag
Active December, 1861–May 26, 1865
Disbanded May 26, 1865
Country Confederate States of America
Allegiance Dixie CSA
Branch Infantry
Size Regiment

American Civil War

Arkansas Confederate Infantry Regiments
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14th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Powers') 15th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Josey's)

The 15th (Gee's/Johnson's) Arkansas Infantry (1861–1864) was a Confederate Army infantry regiment during the American Civil War. The regiment was raised in January 1862 under Colonel James M. Gee. It served in Kentucky and was surrendered at Fort Donelson in February 1862. Reorganized following its parole and exchange under Colonel Benjamin W. Johnson, the regiment served in Louisiana and was again surrendered at Port Hudson in July 1863. Reorganized again following its second parole and exchange, the regiment was finally merged in September 1864 with several other Arkansas regiments into the 3rd Arkansas Consolidated Infantry Regiment.

Conflicting Designations[edit | edit source]

There were two other Confederate infantry regiments which received the designation "15th Arkansas". The first, which was originally commanded by Colonel (later Major General) Patrick Cleburne, was known as the 15th (Josey's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment and the other, originally commanded by Colonel (later Brigadier General) Dandridge McRea, was known as the 15th (Northwest) Arkansas Infantry Regiment.[1]

Organization[edit | edit source]

The 15th (Johnson's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment was organized at Camden, Arkansas, on January 2, 1862, with the following regimental officers:[2]

  • Colonel James M. Gee.
  • Lieutenant Colonel John C. Wright.
  • Major Paul Lynch Lee.
  • Adjutant Benjamin W. Johnson.

The regiment was originally composed of six volunteer companies from Columbia, Hempstead, Lafayette, Ouachita, and Union counties.[3] The original company commanders were:[4][5]

  • Company A – of Columbia County, commanded by Captain Samuel L. Proctor.
  • Company B – of Ouachita County, commanded by Captain Henry Purifoy.
  • Company C – of Ouachita County, commanded by Captain Robert Jordan.
  • Company D – of Union County, commanded by Captain Loderick W. Matthews.
  • Company E – of Columbia County, commanded by Captain William H. Perkinson.
  • Company F – of Lafayette County, commanded by Captain Alexander Byrne.

Before its completion as a regiment, the six original companies were sent to defend Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. They were then transferred to the garrison at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, some 12–15 miles (19–24 km) distant.[6]

Battles[edit | edit source]

In mid-December, 1861, the regiment was ordered to Memphis. Some of the companies began marching eastward from Camden in early January, and at Gaines' Landing on the Mississippi River, took a steamer to Memphis. One company was ordered to Little Rock, then went on to Memphis. The regiment camped for a few days at Memphis, and was then ordered to Fort Heiman, a new fort being constructed on the Tennessee River, arriving around January 28. On February 5, the regiment moved across the river to Fort Henry.[7]

Forts Henry and Donelson[edit | edit source]

The regiment participated in the defense of Fort Henry, and when it was obvious that the fort would be captured, it was hurriedly ordered to march to Fort Donelson to defend that position against the coming Federal attack, leaving behind much of their extra clothing and other gear. This would make their coming winter months much more difficult.[7][8] At Fort Donelson, the regiment manned the heavy artillery until they burst or were dismounted, and then led a sortie in the snow and sleet against the Federal trenches which were in the process of being constructed in their front. They took the first line of works, suffering great loss, at least one-fourth of the command. Captain Frank Jordan was among the killed, and Adjutant Ben W. Johnson among the wounded. Fort Donelson fell on February 16, 1862.[8] Men and officers were made prisoners by the "unconditional surrender". The men were sent to Camp Butler, the officers to Fort Warren. Lieut.-Col. John C. Wright made his escape, returned to Arkansas, was elected Colonel of cavalry in the service under General Thomas C. Hindman, who was organizing the Trans-Mississippi Department, and commanded Crawford's Brigade at the Battle of Marks' Mills. Gee's regiment had 7 killed and 17 wounded out of a total of 270 men during the siege of Fort Donelson. In late September, 1862, the survivors were released and sent to Vicksburg to be exchanged.[7]

The death rate in the regiment during its imprisonment was considerable. The reports of the company commanders show:[3]

  • Company A: 62 surrendered, 58 carried off, 5 escaped, 27 died, 27 returned.
  • Company B: 67 surrendered, 29 died in prison, 9 in hospitals, 34 returned.
  • Company E: surrendered at Donelson. Majority died in prison.
  • Company F: 50 surrendered, 22 died in prison, 26 returned.

Reorganization[edit | edit source]

The soldiers of the regiment were declared exchanged in September 1862, and the regiment was reorganized at Jackson, Mississippi, on October 16, 1862[7][8] and assigned to Beall's Brigade, Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.[2]

At the reorganization in 1862, four Arkansas companies which had originally been assigned to the 40th Tennessee Infantry Regiment were added to the unit to give the legally required ten companies for a regiment.[3] The companies were reorganized as follows:[7]

Colonel Benjamin W. Johnson

  • Company A – originally organized as Company I, 40th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by John H. D. Stevenson.
  • Company B – originally organized as Company D, 40th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by Joseph A. Daniel.
  • Company C – originally organized as Company A, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by James H. Franklin.
  • Company D – originally organized as Company G, 40th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by John C. Hubbard.
  • Company E – originally organized as Company F, 40th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, commanded by William Walker.
  • Company F – originally organized as Company B, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Edward C. Wilson.
  • Company G – originally organized as Company C, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Albert M. Reed.
  • Company H – originally organized as Company D, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by Theophilus Wilkerson.
  • Company I – originally organized as Company E, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by L. W. Matthews.
  • Company K – originally organized as Company F, 15th (Gee's) Arkansas Infantry Regiment, commanded by L.C. McClung.

The following regimental officers were elected:[2]

  • Colonel Benjamin Whitfield Johnson.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Paul Lynch Lee.
  • Major William E. Stewart.
  • Adjutant J. E. Baker.

Port Hudson[edit | edit source]

The reorganized regiment was sent south to Louisiana to resist Major General Banks, and fought in many minor engagements, including Cross Landing, Greenfield, Plum's Store, and with the First Alabama and Thirteenth Mississippi, engaged at Keller's Lane a largely superior force, which they routed, taking many prisoners and valuable stores.[8] The regiment was called into the fortifications of Port Hudson, when attacked by the army and navy of the United States. The unit fought at Plains Store, the first engagement of the siege. Captain Reed, of Company G, was killed on May 29, 1863; Captain Hubbard, of Company D, was also killed. Within a day or two, Captain Stevenson died from wounds received. Capt. E. Wilson died from concussion of the brain, caused by being struck with a shell.[8] This regiment sustained the highest number of casualties of any unit defending the post, eighty-one percent.[9] The regiment started the siege of Port Hudson with 484 men, and came out with only 92.[2]

Fort Desperate[edit | edit source]

Fort Desperate was the name given to the Confederate position sitting at the top of an exposed ridge on the northeastern corner of the Port Hudson defensive line. It was primarily defended by the men of Johnson's 15th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. On May 21, just before the garrison was placed under siege and a Union attack appeared imminent, the Confederate forces were reorganized and Colonel Johnson's unit was assigned to Colonel I. G. W. Steedman, who was given command of the entire left wing of the defenses.[10]

Colonel Johnson was ordered to move his men from their position at the center of the lines to a new position farther to the left, just six days before a massive Union attack took place. When he was given this order, no defensive fortifications existed at the location, and a frantic effort began to construct earthworks in anticipation of a coming assault. The men built a formidable parapet surrounding their camp on three sides, with an exterior trench running alongside it, to create a fortification known as a lunette. The ground dropped off steeply all around the wall, giving the fort a natural advantage. The timber was cut outside the wall, and the tangle of tree branches and brush covering the ground made the uphill approach very slow, difficult, and dangerous. Throughout the siege, work continued on the fortifications, mostly at night. Improvements were made, and damage caused by the continuous Union artillery bombardment was repaired.[10]

In the defense of Fort Desperate, the 15th Arkansas was joined by two gun detachments of Company B, First Mississippi Artillery Regiment, with their two twelve-pounder guns and about twenty-five men. These two guns were Johnson's only artillery. At the beginning of the battle, Johnson had a total of 262 enlisted men and 31 officers. At certain times small detachments of several other units were also under Johnson's command, and were used as a reserve, seeing little action. The men of the 15th Arkansas were at the front without relief throughout the siege.[10] This vital section of the Confederate line was never breached by Union forces, despite constant bombardment and repeated attacks by vastly larger forces.[11] On July 9, 1863, after a 48-day siege, the longest in American history, Port Hudson surrendered. Following the surrender the enlisted men were paroled but the officers were sent to various Northern prison camps, including Johnson's Island, Ohio.[12]

Consolidation[edit | edit source]

After being exchanged following the fall of Port Hudson, the survivors of the regiment were consolidated with the remains of Hardy’s Arkansas Infantry and the 20th Arkansas to form the 3rd Arkansas Consolidated Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. H.G.P. Williams.[13]

Surrender[edit | edit source]

The 3rd Arkansas Consolidated Infantry Regiment was surrendered with the Department of the Trans-Mississippi, General Kirby Smith commanding, on May 26, 1865.[14][15] When the Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered, all of the Arkansas infantry regiments were encamped in and around Marshall, Texas (war-ravaged Arkansas no longer able to subsist the army). The regiments were ordered to report to Shreveport, Louisiana, to be paroled. None of them did so. Some soldiers went to Shreveport on their own to be paroled, but in general the regiments simply disbanded without formally surrendering.[3][16]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Sikakis, Stewart, Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Florida and Arkansas, Facts on File, Inc., 1992, ISBN 978-0-8160-2288-5, page 96,99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Col. John M. Harrell, "Confederate Military History, a library of Confederate States", Military History: Volume 10.2, Arkansas Clement Anselm Evans, Ed., Page 313, Accessed 21 July 2011, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2001.05.0254%3Achapter%3D11%3Apage%3D292
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Howerton, Bryan "15th Arkansas Infantry, No. 1", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 8 February 2007, 5:04 pm, Accessed 25 July 2011, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=14671
  4. Odom, Danny; "Cocke's Regiment", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 27 November 2011, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?read=25139
  5. Howerton, Bryan R. "Re: 15th Arkansas Infantry", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 10 September 2009, Accessed 4 June 2012, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=20862
  6. Sikakis, Stewart, Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Florida and Arkansas, Facts on File, Inc., 1992, ISBN 978-0-8160-2288-5, page 98.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "The Fifteenth Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Gee-Johnson)", Hardys in the Civil War, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://pth.thehardyparty.com/ft_desperate/15th_regiment.htm
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Arkansas Confederate Regimental Histories". Internet Archive Wayback Machine. http://web.archive.org/web/20071212052703/http://asms.k12.ar.us/armem/welch/ar_infy.htm. Retrieved May 24, 2012. 
  9. National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, Confederate Arkansas Troops, 15th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (Johnson's). Retrieved 25 July 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Fort Desperate" Hardys in the Civil War, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://pth.thehardyparty.com/ft_desperate/fort_desperate.htm
  11. "Colonel Benjamin W. Johnson's Report on Fort Desperate", Hardys in the Civil War, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://pth.thehardyparty.com/ft_desperate/bwj_report_p7.htm
  12. Hardy, Gary: "The Battle of Port Hudson", Hardys in the Civil War, Accessed 27 November 2011, http://pth.thehardyparty.com/index.htm
  13. Howerton, Bryan, "Hardee leaves Arkansas, with which units?", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 25 July 2011, 4:17 pm, Accessed 25 July 2011, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=24458
  14. Howerton, Bryan, "1st, 2nd & 3rd Consolidated Arkansas Infantry Regiments", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 26 July 2011, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=24472
  15. Sikakis, Stewart, Compendium of the Confederate Armies, Florida and Arkansas, Facts on File, Inc., 1992, ISBN 978-0-8160-2288-5, page 75.
  16. Howerton, Bryan, "Re: 17th/1st/35th/22nd Arkansas Infantry Regiment.", Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board, Posted 26 October 2011, Accessed 26 October 2011, http://history-sites.com/cgi-bin/bbs53x/arcwmb/webbbs_config.pl?noframes;read=24907

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