One hundred and fifty years ago, military units were forming all over the South; Arkansas was definitely no exception. One of the units organized early in the War was the Second Arkansas Battalion. This unit is perhaps one of the least known and surely one of the most underestimated group of guys to see military service from Arkansas.
The Second Arkansas Battalion was one of only three units from Arkansas to see military service in the Eastern Theater as far away as Virginia; the other two were the 1st Arkansas and the 3rd Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiments. Following three months of service, officers from the 1st Arkansas returned home after having seen action at the 1st Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) for the purpose of organizing more troops for Confederate Service. Following an active recruiting campaign in South Arkansas, the Second Arkansas Battalion formed their ranks in September 1861 at Camp White Sulphur Springs, currently located about three miles west of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Camp White Sulphur Springs was one of the largest mustering grounds in South Arkansas.
Commanded by William Naylor Bronaugh, a former professor at St. John’s College in Little Rock, the Battalion spent their first few months in Virginia on picket duty along Aquia Creek in Virginia. Aquia Creek was the location the 1st Arkansas Infantry responded to the Union build up of forces at Manassas Junction in June 1861. Under the overall command of major General Theo. Holmes, the battalion spent the winter of 1861-2 along the banks of Aquia Creek and the Potomac River.
According to the late Arkansas Civil War historian Ed Gerdes, “The 2nd Arkansas Battalion was transferred to Brigadier-General William Dorsey Pender’s brigade, in Major-General Ambrose Powell Hill’s “Light Division,” in preparation for the campaign which would come to be known as the Seven Days’ Battles. With the 2nd Arkansas Battalion in Pender’s brigade were the 16th, 22nd and 34th North Carolina Regiments, and the 22nd Virginia Battalion. Heavily engaged throughout the campaign, the 2nd Arkansas Battalion failed to survive it. At Beaver Dam Creek, near the village of Mechanicsville, Virginia, on June 26, 1862, the little battalion led the assault on the Federal position, and was decimated.”
What was left of the battalion disbanded under Special Orders, No. 152, dated July 15, 1862. All 139 survivors were transferred to the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Regiment and saw action throughout the Civil War at major engagements such as the likes of the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.