One hundred and fifty years ago, the Arkansas troops under the command of Van Dorn, following the Battle of Pea Ridge, were steadily making their way east. Van Dorn’s objective was to take the entire Confederate force from Arkansas to head off any Northern aggression east of the Mississippi River. By the first week of April, Van Dorn’s vanguard found itself in the relative safety of Des Arc, Arkansas.
As Van Dorn was inching his way from Arkansas, two major armies were gathering near the banks of the Tennessee River near a place called Pittsburg Landing. In the immediate vicinity stood a small one-room cabin that served as a church that bore the name: Shiloh. Ironically, Shiloh is a Native American term that means “peace”. As the Confederate forces made their way from Corinth in a northward march in an effort to check the advance of the enemy, they found the Yankees camped near the Shiloh Church. In a pre dawn attack, the Confederate Army stormed into the Yankee camp. The Battle of Shiloh had begun.
Engaged from Arkansas were the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th,8th, 9th,10th, 13th, and 15th Arkansas Infantry Volunteer Regiments. Traditionally, a regiment consists of one thousand men. From the list of units from Arkansas at Shiloh was an estimated 10,000 troops. In a two day battle that left thousands dead on both sides, the Confederates were forced into a withdrawal from the field. Shiloh was the bloodiest battle in American history by April, 1862.
As the wounded began making their way to hospitals follow Shiloh, many Arkansas towns became hubs of activity, notably Little Rock and Pine Bluff. Homes were converted to makeshift hospital wards were countless Arkansawyers pitched in to comfort the sick and wounded soldiers.
As Van Dorn slipped across the Mississippi, Arkansas was bereft of an army.