Old cemeteries dot the Arkansas Delta like travel markers reminding us that life is just a journey with many paths but a common destination. Stopping at such a spot, you can always find a surprise or two, something that makes you wish you could talk to a person or—better still—just listen to them.
For example, in the cemetery pictured below, located between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, is a grave whose tombstone states that its resident served in the Third Arkansas Infantry during our country’s Civil War. It should set off a series of emotions for someone familiar with that period of our history.
The Third Arkansas was formed in Ashley County, a short distance west of where the land dramatically falls into the delta formed by the Mississippi River eons ago. Assigned to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the Third would witness some of the fiercest battles of the war. The regiment, along with others from our state, was eventually placed into the “Texas Brigade” of Longstreet’s Army. Students of the Civil War will remember that it was this brigade that saved the day, and General Lee, at a crucial moment during the Battle of the Wilderness.
A person can stand in the spot known as the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg and try to imagine the Third Arkansas attempting to scale the heights of Little Round Top under withering Federal fire. The little creek there, it is said of July 2, 1863, ran red with blood.
The Third gained the respect and admiration of their Texas comrades, prompting one soldier to say of the unit, “They’ll do to tie to.” This became the title of a book about the Third Arkansas—long out of print—written by Calvin L Collier. It established the Third as one of the unheralded fighting units of the war.
After Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, the survivors, 144 men of the 1,353 that served in the unit, were pardoned at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. A long time had gone by since November 29, 1861 when a lonely soldier of the Third, E.O. Hundley, wrote to his family from Staunton, Virginia:
“In your last you asked me for my opinion in relation to the duration of the war and I hope to give an opinion without giving a reason for the “faith that is in me” – and this sheet is too small and I do not feel much like writing anyway.”
Sitting in a lonely cemetery, at the grave of one of his comrades, you can't help wondering what his opinion was four years later.