One hundred and fifty years ago, military units were organizing more frequently throughout the state. Among those that would be heading off to Virginia soon were the men that would fill the ranks of the infamous 3rd Arkansas Regiment. This new unit consisted of men from South Arkansas and they were the first Arkansas regiment to have enrolled in Confederate service for the duration of the War; the 1st and 2nd Arkansas Infantry Regiments had enlisted for only twelve month’s service initially. The men of the 3rd Arkansas would become among the hardest and most recognized fighters from Arkansas throughout the War.
This week in 1861, a company of soldiers in the 3rd Arkansas Regiment was presented silk Confederate flag. Company K, also known as the Ashley Volunteers, were organized at Hamburg, Arkansas, and in a flag presentation to the newly organized company in June, 1861, a pertinent question was posed: “What has induced you to exchange the consecrated fireside, around which the brightest associations cluster—for the field of battle, where you will encounter so many hardships, and perchance, yield your lives in the struggle? Duty calls, freedom leads the way, and patriotism, that same great passion which fired the bosom of your ancient prototypes lures you on!”
In many cases, Arkansawyers in 1861 had not ventured far from their homesteads; unlike today, the infrastructure and technology would not allow ease of travel to far off places. For many of the men being organized into military service, reality was starting to play a vital role in the mindset of Arkansawyers, as her sons made preparations for a long and difficult journey for the duration of a War that had not really gotten underway quite yet. How long would the War last? When would these boys return home to their loved ones?
This regiment would eventually find themselves in some of the most hotly-contested battles in the entire Civil War, including the sunken road at Sharpsburg, the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, and many others under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment sustained some of the highest casualty rates, as only about twenty-five per cent of Company A survived through Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.