The information on these pages was compiled from the Svc Records of Confederate Soldiers who Served in
Organizations from the State of Arkansas, National Archives Microcopy No. 317.
Introduction written by James Monroe Massey of West Helena, AR
Arch S. Dobbins was dubbed "The Intrepid Dobbins" by John N. Edwards, Major, Adjutant of General Joseph O. Shelby and author of the book, Shelby and His Men. He was honored by the people of his home county as one of the "Seven Generals" of the Confederacy who enlisted from Phillips County.
Dobbins served under many commanders, Generals Hindman, T. H. Holmes, Sterling Price, John B. Magruder, E. Kirby Smith, John S. Marmaduke, L. M. Walker, Joseph O. Shelby, James F. Fagan, and M. Jeff Thompson. Some have very impressive records. Dobbins was far from being a great soldier but was adjudged favorably on his comnand by Generals Hindman, Price and Shelby.
In 1862 Helena, county seat of Phillips County, was being occupied by General Curtis and his Union Army. Dobbins sent his family back to Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, and he crossed the Mississippi River to join General Hindman's regiment in Beauregard's Army of Tennessee at Corinth, Mississippi.
After Hindman was named by General Beauregard to take over the military command of Arkansas, he brought Dobbins with him to Little Rock. In the latter half of 1862 Hindman commissioned Dobbins a Confederate Colonel and assigned him to his general staff for the campaign ending at Prairie Grove, December 7, 1862.
Following service as volunteer-aide-de-camp on General Hindman's staff at Prairie Grove, Colonel Dobbins was given a brigade of cavalry composed mainly of northeast Arkansans and was termed
"Dobbins's Brigade" or the "First Arkansas Cavalry." With this comnand he eventually returned to Phillips County, a familiar territory in which he was well known. While quartered in the vicinity of Helena atop rugged Crowley's Ridge, Dobbins recruited many local citizens into his brigade.
It was not uncommon during the Civil War for a military unit to return near their home base and set up winter quarters. The bad weather curtailed most military action. This gave the soldiers a chance to visit their homes and take care of family needs before returning to combat.
Colonel Dobbins is said to have been the commander of most Confederate forces operating in Phillips County. Not much is known of Dobbins's actions. This can be attributed to the fact he was more or less his own commander and few detailed reports were turned in to his superiors. Judging from the mentions of Dobbins in the Northern records, there is indication that the enemy did not particularly admire him or his men. One Union report advised that Dobbins's brigade was "made up by the consolidation of the swamp guerrillas."
Not all of Dobbins's enemies wore blue uniforms. A feud existed between Dobbins and Colonel T. H. McCray, but they campaigned together under General Shelby during the summer of 1864 and again under General Fagan. Major General Marmaduke, however, was critical of Dobbins the entire time they served in the same army. Marmaduke hinted that Dobbins was incompetent. Afterward Dobbins's brigade was transferred to a division commanded by Brig. Gen. L. M. Walker, a fellow Tennessean Dobbins personally admired.
Following the Battle of Helena in July 1863, Marmaduke heaped verbal abuse on Walker and placed much of the failure at Helena upon him. By September, when the army was digging in to defend Little Rock, pride finally forced Walker to retaliate. He challenged the other officer, and Marmaduke readily accepted. On September 6 Walker lay dying, and Marmaduke emerged as victor in the most tragic duel in Arkansas history.
After the duel Dobbins assumed command of Walker's division. On September 10, 1863, he offered the final Confederate resistance to the Federals before they forded the Arkansas River to advance on Little Rock. Falling back from the river, Dobbins met General Marmaduke who informed him that he had been given command of all cavalry. Dobbins told the General he would not serve under such a command in protest of the duel and of Marmaduke's release from charges filed against him by General Price, but later reversed. Upon this outburst Marmaduke placed Dobbins under arrest for disobedience of orders and sent him to the rear. Arriving at General Price's headquarters, Dobbins was immediately released by Price and ordered back to his brigade. Dobbins returned as ordered but still refused to cooperate fully with Marmaduke on retreat south to Arkadelphia and Camden.
On Novenber 23, 1863, General Holmes, having taken command of Arkansas's Army, issued General Order No. 54 from his winter quarters at Camp Bragg. In it he announced that Colonel Archibald S. Dobbins had been found guilty of charges brought against him at a general court martial.
The court evidently recommended some punishment for his impulsiveness but decided against discharging Dobbins from the army. Holmes did not follow the court's decision; however, for at the close of the general order, he stated:
"the offense of which he was convicted is of a character so grave, and in an army like ours, might result in consequences so ruinous, that the recommendation of the members of the court cannot be regarded. Colonel Arch S. Dobbins accordingly ceases to be an officer of the C.S. Army, from this date."
Following the decision, Major General Sterling Price wrote Dobbins that the arrest had not been to his liking but that Holmes, his superior and a close associate of General Marmaduke, had ordered the arrest.
Dobbins returned to Phillips County following his court martial. During the spring of 1864 he was rather active around Helena and made an attempt to organize partisan groups operating to the north of Phillips County.
It is doubtful that Dobbins's discharge was ever officially enacted. When General Holmes was relieved of his duties in Arkansas, General Price sent General Joseph Shelby into the northeastern section of
the state. Shelby issued his first order in May of 1864, calling for reports from the various commanders in the area, including
"Colonel" Dobbins. Dobbins did report as asked, and his rank was never again in jeopardy. The events at Little Rock, though, most likely ended any chance he might have had to become a Brigadier General.
After the war the people of his home county honored him as one of the "Seven Generals" who enlisted in the Confederacy from Phillips County. The confusion is understandable for many authorities cite Dobbins as a General, including the Heitman Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, which included a listing of Confederate Generals supposedly taken from the Richmond Archives now housed in Washington, D. C.
In October 1864 Dobbins and Colonel McCray were detached from the main army at Fayetteville and returned to their bases in northeast Arkansas for the winter. Come spring, they were both appointed brigade commanders under the new leader, M. Jeff Thompson. Before any serious activity could take place, news reached Arkansas that Generals Lee, Johnston, and Taylor had all surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Department. For northeast Arkansas the official end occurred at Jacksonport, Arkansas, where Thompson, on June 4, 1865, watched the final reporting group of Confederates accept their paroles.
As Dobbins's Brigade was under Thompson at the close of hostilities, it could be assumed that he also surrendered. Some of his men probably did, but Dobbins himself was farther south in Falcon, Arkansas, writing his wife that "I am on my way to Anderson County, Texas, where my negroes are. I expect to send them to Cuba if possible and go to Mexico with my Brigade."
It is improbable that he ever reached Mexico as he signed a parole on July 1.3, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, still a good distance by horseback from the Mexican border.
A letter dated March 5, 1866, reveals that Dobbins contemplated bringing his family back to Phillips County, Arkansas. In the letter he asked his wife to come to Helena from Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee. Other letters written from the United States were from New Orleans and Memphis, Tennessee, all dated at various times during 1866.
During the early part of 1867, Arch Dobbins left the Union never to return. In a letter dated June 5, 1867, from Brazil, he wrote that
"I have been all over Europe and Brazil.... I never intend ta return to the States on account of my political difficulties." He asked Mrs. Dobbins to come to Rio, located in what he termed "the finest country in the world."
On November 26, 1867, the former Arkansas Confederate was at the port city of Santaren near the juncture of the Tapajos and Amazon Rivers. In a letter to his two daughters dated October 5, 1868, he wrote, "I am now on my own place thirty miles above Santarem." In the same letter he hinted as to why he left by telling them, "your father was a soldier and did his duty from the beginning to the close of the war faithfully and fearlessly and hoped that after the war to be allowed to live in peace and make an honest living for his wife and children, but the cursed Yankees were not satisfied and drove him from his wife and children to a foreign land."
In 1922 a man named T. J. Faegin wrote the Dobbins family from Hawthorne, Alabama, that he had known Arch Dobbins in Santarem, Brazil.
A final mention of Dobbins came from his own brother, Dr. Wilson Dobbins. The doctor had taken his family to Santaren on the basis of his brother's enthusiasm. Dr. Dobbins returned to Tennessee around 1870 and told the family that Brazil was impossible. The doctor told Mrs. Dobbins that her husband had rejected the idea of leaving Brazil.
Mary Patience Dobbins was preparing to join her husband in Brazil when the letters stopped. After waiting for further word and after her brother-in-law returned, she came to accept that he husband was gone. Mrs. Dobbins remained in Mt. Pleasant and passed away there on September 27, 1916, having spent the closing decades of her life reminiscing to her grandchildren about her life in Arkansas with Colonel Dobbins.
Wanda Ridge of Helena Arkansas transcribed the information and we give our sincere thanks to Wanda for allowing us to put this information on the Arkansas Civil War Pages.
Mary Patience Dawson Dobbins