Dobbins’ Arkansas Cavalry Regimental Colors
The 1st Arkansas Cavalry Regiment was a mounted cavalry unit that served in the Confederate Army and was commanded by Colonel Archibald S. Dobbins. Colonel Dobbins first served on the staff of General Thomas C. Hindman after Hindman was appointed to take over the military command of Arkansas in Little Rock on May 30th, 1862. After serving on Hindman’s staff, Dobbins was given command of the 1st Arkansas Cavalry, later to become known as “Dobbins Arkansas Cavalry”. The core of Dobbins Cavalry was made up of the four companies of Major Francis Marion Chrisman’s battalion of the Department of the Trans-Mississippi organized on September 28, 1862. Dobbins Cavalry was then assigned to a division commanded by Gen. Lucius M. Walker and fought in several major engagements throughout eastern and northeastern Arkansas beginning on July 4, 1863, at the Battle of Helena, then the Battle of Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Price’s Missouri Expedition which lasted from September 27th, – October 28th, 1864. They were also engaged in several raids and skirmishes throughout the course of the war. Just before the Battle of Little Rock, General Walker was killed in a duel with fellow general John S. Marmaduke, Dobbins then assumed command of Walker’s division. Soon after this, Marmaduke became Dobbin’s superior and Dobbins refused to serve under him because of the killing of Walker. Marmaduke ordered that Dobbins be arrested and court-martialed. On November 23, 1863, Dobbins was dismissed from the army, but never officially surrendered his position and continued to command his brigade from the Helena area. Also, dispatched communications from General Joe Shelby in 1864 to his commanders in northeast Arkansas were also sent to Colonel Dobbins. Towards the end of the war, Dobbins received a “battlefield promotion” to general, but this promotion was never made official because of the chaotic state of the Confederate army and government by this stage of the war. The majority of Dobbin’s Cavalry surrendered and was paroled at Wittsburg, Arkansas on May 25, 1865. Most of the former companies of the regiment still bore the designation of “1st Arkansas Cavalry”. Two other companies were paroled at Jacksonport on June 5, 1865. Colonel Dobbins was paroled at Galveston Texas on July 13, 1865, signing his parole as “Colonel commanding 1st Brigade, Arkansas Cavalry”.
Dobbins’ regimental flag was described as having a red “upright” or “Saint George’s” cross on a dark blue field with 13 white, 5-pointed stars arranged in a linear pattern along the red crossbars. The flag is considered by some to be a “Polk” patterned flag after the flag used by General Leonidas Polk’s Corps east of the Mississippi River because of the upright orientation of the cross. Dobbins’ unit, however, never served in Polk’s Corps. Dobbins’ flag is also slightly different from the “Polk” pattern, so other historians consider the Dobbins’ flag to be a “Trans-Mississippi” pattern because that is the department the regiment served under. The Dobbins regimental colors were captured near Tulip, Arkansas, on October 11th, 1863 by the 1st Indiana Cavalry led by Colonel Powell Clayton. With three hundred and fifty men from the 1st Indiana and 5th Kansas cavalries along with four “Mountain Howitzers” (light artillery), Colonel Clayton embarked on a circuitous route, traveling ninety miles in thirty-three hours, thus surprising Colonel Dobbins’ cavalry while they were encamped in their tents, thus capturing the flag along with almost all of their equipment and an unknown number of men. The only Union casualty was Clayton himself who received a minor glancing bullet wound. The 1st Indiana claimed the captured flag and took it back to Indiana as a battle trophy. A note was attached to the flag that read “Headquarters Ind. Cav., Pine Bluff, Ark. October 20, 1863, This Rebel flag was captured at Tulip, Ark. October 11, 1863, from Col. Dobbins Ark. Vols., by the 1st Indiana Cavalry.” It remained in Indiana until 1962 when it was sent back to Arkansas during the Civil War Centennial which was a period when many captured Confederate Battle Flags were returned from Northern states as gestures of conciliation with their former enemies. The flag is now in the possession of the Old State House Museum in Little Rock Arkansas.