Colonel W. H. Brooks

Col. W. H. Brooks was probably the most active representative of the Southern cause for Washington County. Among the first organizations was Brooks’ battalion of cavalry (State troops), which afterward became E. I. Stirman’s battalion, and later on was transferred to the Cis-mississippi Department, where it was known as the Sharpshooters’ battalion. A few of these were Washington County men. Capt. Lafayette Boone’s company, which served at Elkhorn, was officered as follows: First lieutenant, L. P. Beavert; second lieutenant, Sam. H. Smithson, and third lieutenant, John O. Parks.

Battle of Prairie Grove

The well-known Thirty-fourth Arkansas Infantry then fell to the command of Col. Brooks, and for an account of its formation a portion of the address of Col. J. R. Pettigrew, delivered at the Grand Reunion of ex-Confederates at Prairie Grove, on August 19, 1886, is here inserted: “Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: Twenty-five years ago this beautiful valley was a military camp; red battle had stamped his foot, and the nation had felt the shock. Peaceful pursuits had been abandoned, and all was busy preparation for the inevitable conflict. In September, 1862, at this place, the Thirty-fourth (Brook’s) Regiment of Arkansas Infantry was organized; shortly thereafter the regiment went into camp at Mount Comfort, then at Elm Springs, then to Elkhorn, thence to Camp Reagan, then to Spadra, on the Arkansas River, where we received our arms, Enfield rifles; thence we marched to Mazzard Prairie, near Fort Smith, where the regiment became a part of Fagan’s Brigade. All the points named were camps of instruction, and the ‘tramp, tramp’ of the soldier was heard on every hand. The hot blood of youth coursed in our veins then, and the ‘pomp and circumstance of glorious war, was hailed with delight. The enemy was approaching; patriotism and desire to defend homes and firesides was at fever heat. The order to march at length came; the Arkansas River was crossed. At Lee’s Creek the head of the column was halted, the different commands massed, and the solemn ceremony had of presentation of battle flags to each regiment. No more impressive scene was ever witnessed in all this land than on that calm winter morning, to see thousands of soldiers kneeling with their faces northward, and the solemn invocation commending them and their fortunes to the arbitrament of arms and the God of battles. Thenceforth the red flag of battle waved over each command. The march was resumed, and on the 7th day of December Prairie Grove was reached.

“The stillness of the early morning was broken by the clash of arms. about 200 of the enemy’s cavalry were captured near the church. Our infantry coming up, met the prisoners; enthusiasm and eagerness for the fray were aroused to the highest pitch. We moved rapidly to the battle-field, and the long line of infantry and artillery was placed in position, where we awaited the approach and attack of the enemy. About noon the cavalry were withdrawn, pickets driven in, and the enemy charged the whole line of Fagan’s Brigade; the battle of Prairie Grove had opened in earnest, and Fagan’s Brigade, from that time until shortly before sundown, repelled charge after charge of the enemy under the gallant Herron. About an hour before sunset the enemy withdrew his infantry, and opened a terrific fire upon our lines. The enemy was reinforced by Gen. Blount’s command, which at once opened a terrible fire upon our left. Gen. Parsons and his invincible Missourians met him with great gallantry and success. The battle of Prairie Grove, while of short duration, will compare, perhaps, with any fought during the war, in fierceness and desperate gallantry. The rattle of musketry often rose above the roar of artillery, and the bright sunlight gleamed from bayonets held by hands as steady as Napoleon’s veterans at Austerlitz or Waterloo. Officers and soldiers were alike brave, and there were feats of individual prowess that stamped the actors heroes. Thus it was the logic of fate that Brooks’ regiment received its first shock of battle, and baptism of blood, almost on the very spot of its origin. Many a gallant life went out in that fierce conflict; Capt. William Woosley (or Owsley), Lieuts. Ben Boone and James Pollard, as brave and good men as ever breathed the breath of life; Tell Duke, the gifted and intrepid lieutenant, whose spirit rose from the din of battle, the rattle of musketry, and the roar of artillery to the peaceful bosom of its God; William Gray, color-bearer; John Sharp, Henry Morrison, Cy Graham, Clem Kirksly, James Gray, and others whose names I cannot now recall, went down in the shock of battle to fill heroes’ graves, and left names with immortality synonymous. Brooks’ regiment can well claim to be the child of Prairie Grove. It had its origin here, and aided in making its fields and groves historic. Night closed the scene at Prairie Grove with the victorious Confederates occupying the field, and the wearied soldier sought whatever of repose he could get on the perilous edge of battle, which he expected to be resumed on the morrow, dreaming, fitfully, perchance, of home and loved ones whom he expected soon to greet; but late at night the order was silently passed along the lines to prepare to march. The soldiers who expected to follow up the victory were not slow in getting ready; such, however, was not the case; it was a retreat, and Gen. Hindman’s army were subjected to the trying ordeal of turning their faces from home and loved ones, and a hard-earned victory. Thus we came to Prairie Grove, and thus we left its fields, made forever historic by the valor and blood of patriots.”

The regiment served after this at Helena, and were in the retreat from Little Rock. At the action at Jenkins’ Ferry they sustained greater losses probably than during all their career; here it was that Capt. Walker was killed and Col. Brooks was wounded.

The most reliable information obtainable gives the following regimental organizations of Col. Brooks’ command, with changes, and as complete as possible where companies are from Washington County: Colonel, W. H. Brooks; lieutenant-colonels, T. M. Gunter, J. R. Pettigrew; majors, James Owsley, J. R. Pettigrew, F. R. Earle; adjutants, M. C. Duke, Peter Carnahan; quartermaster, James Trott; commissary sergeant, Capt. Robert Tyus; sergeant-majors, Frank Watson, Henry Keyser; surgeon, Dr. W. B. Welch; assistant surgeon, Dr. J. M. Lacy; hospital steward, G. M. Cox. Company A–Captains, T. M. Gunter, J. W. Walker; acting captain, Lee Taylor; first lieutenant, Pomroy Hart; second lieutenant, J. M. Roark. Company B–Captains, F. R. Earle, James Mitchell, George Gibson; first lieutenants, James Mitchell, Peter Carnahan; second lieutenant, William Buchanan. Company C–Captain, Samuel H. Smithson; first lieutenant, John O. Parks; second lieutenant, Isaac Roark; third lieutenant, James Pollard; orderly sergeant, Robert Anderson. Company D–Captain, William Owsley. Company E–Captain, James E. Wright; second lieutenant, J. M. Pittman. Company F–Captain, C. L. Pickens. Company G–Captain, James Owsley. Company H–Captain, Wallace; first lieutenant, Mayes; second lieutenant, Albert Brodie; third lieutenant, J. L. Duke. Company I–Captain, A. V. Edmondson. Company K–Captains, J. R. Pettigrew, A. Wilson; first lieutenants, M. C. Duke, S. P. Pittman; second lieutenants, B. F. Boone, C. F. Reagan; third lieutenants, A. Wilson, James Beard. At Camden the following consolidation seems to have been completed in 1863: Companies C, H and A were consolidated into Company A, Company G was merged into Company D and Company I was placed in Company K.

Back to: Washington County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.


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