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8th Missouri Infantry Regiment (Confederate)

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8th Missouri Infantry Regiment
7th Missouri Infantry Battalion
Mitchell's Missouri Infantry Regiment
Flag of the Confederate States of America (1861–1863).svg
Flag of the pattern originally issued to the regiment
ActiveSeptember 2, 1862 to June 7, 1865
Country Confederate States of America
Branch Confederate States Army
TypeInfantry
Size450 (December 7, 1862)
EngagementsAmerican Civil War

The 8th Missouri Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The American Civil War began in April 1861 with the Battle of Fort Sumter, and fighting soon escalated. Beginning in May, events in the state of Missouri led to an expansion of the war into that state. In 1862, Confederate recruiting activities took place in Missouri, and a cavalry regiment was formed in Oregon County. On September 2, the unit entered Confederate service, but was soon reclassified as infantry. After many of the unit's men transferred to other units, the regiment was reclassified as a battalion and named the 7th Missouri Infantry Battalion. Under the name Mitchell's Missouri Infantry, the unit was part of a Confederate offensive at the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7. During the battle, the unit made several charges against the Union lines, but was repeatedly repulsed by artillery fire. The regiment spent most of early 1863 encamped near Little Rock and Pine Bluff in Arkansas, and may have been part of an expedition to the Mississippi River.

On July 23, the unit was officially named the 8th Missouri Infantry Regiment. Later that year, it was part of the abortive Confederate defense of Little Rock before retiring to Camp Bragg near Camden. In March 1864, the regiment was sent south into Louisiana to help defend against the Red River campaign. It was then part of a failed attack at the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9. After the Union troops involved in the Red River campaign retreated, the 8th Missouri Infantry was sent back to Arkansas, where it pursued a retreating Union column led by Major General Frederick Steele. The regiment was part of a failed attack against Steele on April 30 at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry. For the remainder of 1864 and the first half of 1865, the unit was stationed at various points in Louisiana and Arkansas. The Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered on June 2, 1865, and the men of the 8th Missouri Infantry Regiment was paroled on June 7, ending its combat career.

Background and formation[edit]

In the United States during the early 19th century, a cultural divide developed between the northern states and the southern states over the issue of slavery. By the time of the 1860 United States Presidential Election, slavery had become one of the defining features of southern culture, with the ideology of states' rights being used to defend the institution. Eventually, many southerners decided that secession was the only way to preserve slavery, especially after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860. The election was decided largely along regional lines, as much of Lincoln's support was from the northern states, while he received no electoral votes from the Deep South. Many southerners rejected the legitimacy of Lincoln's election, and promoted secession.[1] On December 20, the state of South Carolina seceded, and the states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed suit in early 1861. On February 4, the seceding states formed the Confederate States of America; Jefferson Davis became the nascent nation's president.[2] In Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, the important military installation of Fort Sumter was held by a Union Army garrison.[3] On the morning of April 12, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the American Civil War.[4] The fort surrendered on the 13th.[5] Shortly after Fort Sumter was attacked, Lincoln requested that the states remaining in the Union provide 75,000 volunteers for the war effort. In the following weeks, the states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy.[6]

Map of key points in Missouri, including Jefferson City, Boonville, and Carthage

Meanwhile, the state of Missouri was politically divided. The state legislature voted against secession, but Governor Claiborne F. Jackson supported it. Jackson decided to mobilize the state militia and train them outside St. Louis, where the St. Louis Arsenal was located. Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, the commander of the arsenal, moved to disperse the militiamen on May 10 in the Camp Jackson affair; a pro-secession riot in St. Louis followed. In turn, Jackson created the Missouri State Guard as a new militia organization on May 12, appointing Major General[a] Sterling Price as the organization's commander. When it became obvious that there would be no peaceable compromise, Lyon moved against the state capital of Jefferson City, ejecting Jackson and the pro-secession elements of the state legislature on June 15; the Missouri State Guard and the pro-secession legislators withdrew to southwestern Missouri.[8]

Lyon pursued the secessionists, and Price was eventually joined by Confederate States Army troops commanded by Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, who commanded the combined force. On August 10, Lyon attacked the mixed camp near Wilsons Creek. The ensuing Battle of Wilson's Creek was envisioned as a pincer attack, but Lyon was killed and his men routed; the Union troops retreated all the way to Rolla after the defeat.[9] Price followed up the victory at Wilson's Creek by driving north towards the Missouri River. On September 13, the Missouri State Guard encountered Union troops near Lexington; the city was soon placed under siege. On September 20, the Union garrison surrendered, ending the siege of Lexington. However, Union pressure soon led Price to withdraw back to southwestern Missouri.[10] On November 3, Jackson and the pro-secession elements of the state legislature voted to secede and join the Confederate States of America as a government-in-exile; the anti-secession elements of the legislature had previously voted against secession.[11]

In February 1862, Major General Samuel R. Curtis began pressuring Price's position in Springfield, leading Price to abandon Missouri for Arkansas. On March 7 and 8, Price, McCulloch, and Major General Earl Van Dorn were defeated by Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge, giving the Union Army control of Missouri.[12] However, later that year, the Confederates reestablished some presence in Missouri through guerrilla activities and recruiting efforts.[13] On August 7, former veterans of the Missouri State Guard began forming a cavalry unit in Oregon County, Missouri. The unit officially entered Confederate service on September 2, while it was stationed at Evening Shade, Arkansas. Despite entering service as a cavalry unit, Major General Theophilus Holmes, the commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, ordered that the unit be converted to infantry on September 12.[14] That same month, the regiment was presented with a war flag of the first Confederate national flag pattern. However, the regiment lost many men due to transfers to other units, necessitating the consolidation of the regiment into six companies and a reclassification as a battalion on October 19.[15] Lieutenant Colonel[16] Charles S. Mitchell commanded the unit.[17]

Service history[edit]

1862[edit]

Map of key points in Arkansas, including Van Buren, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff

On October 27, the battalion, officially designated the 7th Missouri Infantry Battalion, began moving towards Fort Smith, Arkansas, where a Confederate army was being organized. The unit did not reach the camp of Brigadier General Mosby M. Parsons, to whose brigade the battalion was assigned, until November 28. One day later, three companies from Frazier's Missouri Infantry Battalion were added to the 7th Missouri Infantry Battalion; the combined unit was still considered a battalion. When Parsons moved northward in the direction of Prairie Grove on December 3, the battalion accompanied the brigade. Four days later, Parsons' brigade saw action at the Battle of Prairie Grove.[15] Early in the fighting, Parsons' brigade was aligned in a position guarding the Confederate left, along with Brigadier General John S. Roane's brigade. The 7th Missouri Infantry Battalion, known as Mitchell's Missouri Infantry during the battle, served as Parsons' reserve.[16]

Later in the fighting, Parsons' brigade counterattacked Union troops from Brigadier General James G. Blunt's division. Parsons moved Mitchell's unit to the left of his line under the belief that his flank was endangered. Later, Roane detached Clark's Missouri Infantry from his brigade, sending it to Parsons; it was then aligned on Mitchell's left.[18] Artillery fire from the 1st Kansas Battery slowed the momentum of the Confederate attack, but the weight of Confederate numbers eventually drove the Union line back.[19] Advancing to the new Union line, Mitchell and Clark outflanked the 10th Kansas Infantry Regiment, but again ran into the 1st Kansas Battery. Two salvos of canister halted Mitchell's and Clark's attack, but Parsons' right drove Blunt's line back, leading the troops in front of Mitchell to withdraw.[20] Clark and Mitchell attempted to follow up with another attack, but this was quickly driven off by the 1st Kansas Battery and the 10th and 13th Kansas Infantry Regiments.[21] Mitchell's unit had taken 450 men into Prairie Grove; 20 of them became casualties.[15][22] That night, the Confederates retreated from the field, eventually reaching Van Buren, Arkansas. On December 23, elements of Frazier's Missouri Infantry Battalion were amalgamated together to form a tenth company; with ten companies, the unit could again be called a regiment.[14] The ten companies were made up of recruits from Missouri and were designated with the letters A–I and K. Mitchell was the unit's colonel, John S. Smizer was its lieutenant colonel, and W. H. L. Frazier, the former commander of Frazier's Missouri Infantry Battalion, was its major.[14]

1863[edit]

In early 1863, Parsons' brigade was transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas. However, before reaching its destination, Mitchell's Missouri Infantry Regiment was reassigned to Colonel John Bullock Clark Jr.'s brigade. After reaching Little Rock, the regiment went into winter quarters.[23] The regiment moved again on February 7, to a point known as White's Bluff, via steamboat. Less than a month later, it was sent to Fort Pleasant, which was a military installation on the Arkansas River near Pine Bluff. On June 12, Clark's brigade left Fort Pleasant to begin an expedition to the Mississippi River, with the purpose of harassing Union Navy shipping.[24] While the historian James McGhee states that Mitchell's regiment did not take part in the campaign, instead remaining at Fort Pleasant,[24] the Encyclopedia of Arkansas states that the regiment was engaged in a skirmish near Gaines' Landing on the Mississippi on June 28.[25] Eathan Allen Pinnell, a member of the regiment, wrote a diary entry on July 5 stating that the regiment had left Fort Pleasant for the first time in 127 days.[26] On July 23, the Confederate States War Department gave Mitchell's regiment the designation of the 8th Missouri Infantry Regiment.[24]

Later that year, Clark's brigade was transferred from Fort Pleasant back to Little Rock, in order to build fortifications around the city. Union Major General Frederick Steele was threatening the Confederate defenses in the Little Rock campaign, and outflanked the fortifications, leveraging the Confederates out of Little Rock on September 10 without a fight. Clark's brigade retreated to Camp Bragg, which was in the vicinity of Camden. The regiment engaged in no noteworthy actions during the remainder of 1863, and performed only routine camp duty.[24]

1864–1865[edit]

River at Jenkins' Ferry
Jenkins' Ferry battlefield

Early in 1864, Union Major General Nathaniel Banks drove a force up the Red River with the intent of capturing Shreveport, Louisiana; this offensive constituted the Red River campaign. The 8th Missouri Infantry was then sent into Louisiana to reinforce the Confederates under the command of Major General Richard Taylor who were resisting Banks. By the second half of March, Clark's brigade had reached the Shreveport vicinity. On March 25, by order of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Parsons was elevated to division command; Clark's brigade became part of the new division. The division left Shreveport on April 3 to join Taylor, and was engaged in the Battle of Pleasant Hill six days later.[24]

At the opening of the fighting, Parsons' division held the right of the main Confederate line, with Clark's brigade on the right and Colonel Simon P. Burns' brigade on the left. A small cavalry force was positioned to the right of Parsons, although that force's purpose was to exploit a potential breakthrough, rather than participate in the planned Confederate attack.[27] Parsons' division, as well as that of Brigadier General James Camp Tappan, hit Colonel Lewis Benedict's Union brigade, shattering it in the process.[28] However, the 58th Illinois Infantry Regiment counterattacked, driving back part of the Confederate right flank. Additional Union units reentered the fray, and the Confederate right was forced to retreat.[29] While the withdrawal was initially orderly, Parsons' and Tappan's divisions became panicked as night fell, and it became a rout.[30] Meanwhile, the Confederates to the left of Parsons and Tappan had failed to make any meaningful progress against Union breastworks, and the battle ended with nightfall.[31] Banks could claim victory, as he had repulsed the Confederate attacks, but after consulting his subordinates, he decided to withdraw to Grand Ecore. This decision was made in part because some of Banks' subordinates had lost confidence in him earlier in the campaign; one had even briefly entertained ideas of a mutiny.[32] The 8th Missouri Infantry suffered 76 casualties at Pleasant Hill, including 16 fatalities.[33]

Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Steele occupied Camden on April 15. With Banks out of the way, General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, prepared to concentrate his forces against Steele. The Union forces in Camden began running low on food, and two expeditions intended to forage food from the countryside were defeated at the Battles of Poison Spring and Marks' Mills. With little food remaining and in the knowledge that Banks had retreated, Steele's command left Camden on April 26 with hopes of reaching Little Rock. Smith pursued, and caught up with Steele at the crossing of the Saline River on April 30. The Confederates then attacked, bringing on the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry.[34] Parsons' division arrived on the field at 09:00, but did not fully deploy until 10:00, with Burns on the left and Clark on the right.[35] As Parsons' division moved forward to attack, it was joined by Colonel Lucien C. Gause's brigade, which was to align with Clark. The two brigades, despite maneuvering through thick mud, advanced close to the Union line while being supported by Ruffner's Missouri Battery and Lesueur's Missouri Battery.[36] Clark and Gause assaulted the Union line at a point held by the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment. The fighting was relatively even until another Union regiment arrived, which poured enfilade fire into the Confederates' ranks. At this point, the brigades of Clark and Gause broke, leaving the batteries unsupported. The 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry then attacked the guns, capturing three of them.[37] Further Confederate attacks were defeated, and Steele was able to escape across the Saline, reaching Little Rock on May 2.[38] At Jenkins' Ferry, the 8th Missouri Infantry suffered 29 casualties, including 7 men killed.[33]

Jenkins' Ferry was the regiment's last major action; it spent the rest of the war at various camps in Arkansas and Louisiana.[33] The last battle of the war was fought in mid-May, and on June 2, Smith surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Department. On June 23, Confederate Brigadier General Stand Watie surrendered, becoming the last Confederate general officer to surrender his command.[39] The survivors of the 8th Missouri Infantry had been paroled on June 7; the men were later shipped back to Missouri via steamboat. Over the course of its combat career, 166 men died while serving in the regiment: 25 combat-related deaths and 141 deaths from disease.[33]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Of state troops.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Holmes, Singleton & Jones 2001, p. 35.
  2. ^ Bearss 2007, pp. 22–23.
  3. ^ Bearss 2007, pp. 23–24.
  4. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 4.
  5. ^ Bearss 2007, pp. 30–31.
  6. ^ Bearss 2007, p. 34.
  7. ^ Kennedy 1998, p. 20.
  8. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 19–20.
  9. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 20–21, 23.
  10. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 23–25.
  11. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 20, 25.
  12. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 34, 36–37.
  13. ^ Gerteis 2012, pp. 141, 144–145.
  14. ^ a b c McGhee 2008, pp. 210–211.
  15. ^ a b c McGhee 2008, p. 211.
  16. ^ a b Shea 2009, p. 216.
  17. ^ McGhee 2008, p. 210.
  18. ^ Shea 2009, pp. 225–228.
  19. ^ Shea 2009, pp. 231–233.
  20. ^ Shea 2009, pp. 233–235.
  21. ^ Shea 2009, pp. 235, 237.
  22. ^ Shea 2009, p. 240.
  23. ^ McGhee 2008, pp. 211–212.
  24. ^ a b c d e McGhee 2008, p. 212.
  25. ^ Simons, Don R. (January 17, 2019). "Skirmish at Gaines' Landing (June 28, 1863)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  26. ^ Pinnell 1999, p. 81.
  27. ^ Johnson 1993, pp. 149, 154.
  28. ^ Johnson 1993, pp. 149, 157.
  29. ^ Johnson 1993, pp. 160–161.
  30. ^ Johnson 1993, pp. 161–162.
  31. ^ Johnson 1993, p. 162.
  32. ^ Johnson 1993, pp. 162–165.
  33. ^ a b c d McGhee 2008, p. 213.
  34. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 273–274.
  35. ^ Forsyth 2003, p. 159.
  36. ^ Forsyth 2003, p. 162.
  37. ^ Forsyth 2003, pp. 164–165.
  38. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 274–275.
  39. ^ Kennedy 1998, pp. 437–438.

Sources[edit]