Dandridge McRae: A Courageous General in the American Civil War

Dandridge McRae, born on October 10, 1829, in Baldwin County, Alabama, left an indelible mark in the history of the American Civil War. As an American lawyer, court official, and Inspector General of Arkansas State...


Dandridge McRae, born on October 10, 1829, in Baldwin County, Alabama, left an indelible mark in the history of the American Civil War. As an American lawyer, court official, and Inspector General of Arkansas State Troops, McRae displayed exemplary leadership and bravery as a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army. His pivotal role in securing Arkansas for the Confederacy helped prolong the war in the Western Theater.

Early Life and Military Service

McRae's journey began at South Carolina College, where he graduated in 1849. After moving to Searcy in White County, Arkansas, he became a prominent figure in the legal field, serving as clerk of the county and circuit courts. However, it was his military service that would define his legacy.

McRae in the uniform of the Arkansas Guards

In September 1860, McRae was commissioned as the captain of the volunteer militia company named the "Arkansas Guards" in the 21st Arkansas Militia Regiment. He played a crucial role in the militia forces' seizure of the Federal Arsenal at Little Rock in early 1861. As captain, McRae led the Border Rangers, a volunteer cavalry troop he organized in Searcy, Arkansas. He was also appointed as the inspector general of the new Arkansas State Troops.

Rising through the Ranks

McRae's leadership skills and bravery propelled him up the ranks of the Confederate Army. He was elected as lieutenant colonel in command of the 3rd Arkansas Infantry Battalion in July 1861. McRae's battalion participated in the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri, where his coolness under fire and leadership were commended.

Confederate General

In December 1861, McRae assumed command of the newly formed 15th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Northwest) as its colonel. His regiment was transferred to Missouri under the Army of the West's command. McRae's leadership was instrumental in the success of the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, where he received commendations from his commander, Earl Van Dorn.

McRae's commendable service led to him being commissioned as a brigadier general on November 5, 1862. He played a significant role in the Battle of Helena in 1863, even though the attack failed to secure the river port for the Confederacy. McRae faced accusations of willful failure to provide assistance during the attack on the Graveyard Hill, but he was ultimately found not guilty by a court of inquiry.

The Final Years

During the 1864 Red River Campaign's Camden Expedition, McRae's brigade fought under General Sterling Price. They participated in battles at Marks' Mills and Jenkins' Ferry, successfully forcing Union forces out of southern Arkansas. McRae continued to lead his brigade in battles in northern Arkansas and Missouri until his resignation from the Confederate Army.

After the war, McRae returned to Searcy, where he practiced law. He also became involved in the promotion of Arkansas' commercial interests, serving as the deputy secretary of state. Despite his contributions to the state, McRae faced controversy as he was part of the White County chapter of the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction.

McRae's physical health declined after suffering a stroke in 1897, and he passed away on April 23, 1899, in Searcy, Arkansas, where he was laid to rest.

Dandridge McRae's courage and leadership during the American Civil War left an enduring legacy in the history of Arkansas and the Confederate States Army. His dedication to the cause and strategic military maneuvers played a crucial role in the war's outcome in the Western Theater.


  • [Arkansas Military Department Records, List of Commissioned Officers in State Militia 1827-1862, Microfilm Roll 00000038-8, Page 349.]
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  • [Price, Jeffery R. "A Courage And Desperation Rarely Equaled: The 36th Arkansas Infantry Regiment (Confederate States Army), 26 June 1862-25 May 1865". MA thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2003.]
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  • [Thompson, Alan. "Dandridge McRae (1829-1899)", Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Retrieved April 27, 2012.]
  • [United States National Archives and Records Service, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume 22, Part 1, General Order 100.]
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