Clerking for Cleburne

Patrick Ronayne Cleburne is perhaps one of the best known and most respected Confederate generals who served in the Army of Tennessee during the American Civil War. As a young man, he immigrated from Ireland and settled along the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas. Cleburne moved up quickly in society and soon became a lawyer in his adopted home town. Although he owned no slaves, he sided with the South in the conflict that erupted in 1860 and became Captain of the Yell Rifles which was formed on April 8, 1861 at Helena. Cleburne’s company was soon mustered into service as Company F of the 1st Regiment, Arkansas State Troops. Captain Cleburne was also made Colonel of the new regiment. On July 23, 1861, the men were enrolled in Confederate service at Pittman’s Ferry, Arkansas and re-designated the 1st Regiment Arkansas Volunteers. Because some of the companies refused to enter Confederate service, the Yell Rifles became Company B of the new regiment.

General Patrick Cleburne

When it was learned that another regiment had already been given the designation as the 1st Arkansas, the new regiment’s number was changed to the Fifteenth. The Fifteenth would serve throughout the war as part of the Army of Tennessee and their original colonel would quickly win promotions and laurels as an able and capable commander. On March 6, 1862, Patrick Cleburne was appointed Brigadier General and promoted to Major General on December 13, 1862. He would rise from brigade to division to corps command, before being killed at Franklin, November 30, 1864. A commander needs a staff though and much of that staff would come from the 15th Arkansas. Others would be appointed, as he rose though the army command staff. One of these would be Captain Irving Buck, who actually wrote a book about his time with General Cleburne. This staff included not only officers who served as aides, but enlisted men that served as clerks. Two of these clerks were cousins from Helena. Their names were Charles H. and Ralph N. Bailey.

As an avid Civil War fan, I first read about Charlie Bailey in a book titled, “Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War,” written by Craig Symonds. Mr. Bailey was described in the following manner:

Even more revealing was the presence at divisional headquarters of the general’s clerk, Charlie Bailey, an irreverent Arkansan, who treated everyone from private to general with the same offhand familiarity. Bailey had a habit of peppering his speech with vivid profanity, which was a source of mirth to many members of the staff but which Cleburne chose to ignore. “He swears as long and loud when he is sitting beside General C as when we are alone,” Captain Irving Buck confided in a letter home. “But with all he is one of the merriest best hearted fellows in the service and the life of our headquarters.”

After reading this colorful description, I pictured Charlie Bailey as a “rough and tumble frontiersman,” who had floated up and down the Mississippi River on a flatboat. He probably carried an Arkansas toothpick and was more than willing to use it in one of the many saloons found at Helena. That was the picture I had created in my mind, but reality is sometimes much different from a man’s imagination.

Charles H. Bailey was born in Arkansas on June 14, 1839. His parents were named Henry W. and Mary Bailey. They had moved to Helena around 1836 from Connecticut and Henry opened a retail establishment. The Baileys were soon joined by other family members including Ralph, who had been born in Connecticut in 1832. Henry and his family prospered in the growing river town. Charles and Ralph were soon employed as merchants as well. Life looked bright until 1861 and the coming of civil war. Being from the North, Henry Bailey and most of the family decided to leave Helena. Like many Arkansas families though, there was a division of loyalties. Charles and Ralph chose to enlist in the Yell Rifles under Patrick Cleburne. The Baileys would not see each other again until after the Civil War.

Ralph and Charles Bailey joined the Yell Rifles in April and were mustered into Confederate service at Pittman’s Ferry on July 23, 1861. Ralph was third sergeant and Charles was a private, as the men of Philips County marched off to war. In August 1861, Charles Bailey was detached from the company to become Patrick Cleburne’s clerk. Ralph Bailey would eventually be detached from the company in May 1862 to become clerk for Cleburne. Both re-enlisted for the war on May 8, 1862. The two loyal cousins would follow General Patrick Cleburne as he moved up in command.

After the death of Major General Patrick Cleburne at Franklin, Charles chose to remain with the division staff. He was paroled in accordance with the terms of a Military Convention entered into on the 26th day of April, 1865, between General Joseph E. Johnston and Major General W.T. Sherman at Greensboro, North Carolina. Ralph enlisted in Key’s Arkansas Battery as a sergeant and was captured at Macon, Georgia on April 20, 1865.

Charles and Ralph made their way back to Helena and re-opened their business. In 1869, the two men became partners in a dry goods firm known as the C.H. & R.N. Bailey Firm. They only stayed in Helena a short time though. After marriage, Charles moved to St. Louis, Missouri where he opened a business. Ralph went to Nashville, where he married and began a business. The cousins prospered in their respective cities. Ralph Bailey died at the Old Soldier’s Home, near Nashville in February 1910. His death was noted in the “Confederate Veteran,” with the following remark. “He was born in Middleton, Connecticut in June 1832 and enlisted in the Confederate army at Helena, Arkansas in June 1861 in Captain Phillips Company, under General Patrick Cleburne. He was transferred to Keys Battery in 1864 and paroled at Macon, Georgia the following year. He was highly respected at the Home.” Charles passed away on June 4, 1913 and was buried at Zion Cemetery in St. Louis County, Missouri. His obituary described his life in the following way. “He was born at Helena, Arkansas, and served in the Confederate army under General Patrick Cleburne. After the Civil War he came to St. Louis. He had been ill two years. He is survived by his wife, a son, and three sisters. He was an Odd Fellow and a member of the Elk Council, Royal Arcanum.”

The Bailey cousins had chose loyalty to home and friends over the wishes of their family when they enlisted in the Confederate army. After the war, like many other young men, they came home and worked to become productive citizens. They lived many years after the death of the man from Ireland who they followed , but the two were always linked with his memory. The memory of General Patrick Cleburne and their time as clerks.


Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations Form the State of Arkansas, Roll 139, Fifteenth (Josey’s) Infantry, A-C. The National Archives. Washington D.C. 1960.

“Helena Weekly World” Helena, Arkansas. Wednesday, September 22, 1869.

“Helena Weekly Clarion” Helena, Arkansas. Wednesday, April 6, 1870.

“St. Louis Post-Dispatch” St. Louis, Missouri. Friday, June 7, 1912

“Confederate Veteran” Volume 18. February 1910, page 183.

Symonds, Craig L. “Stonewall of the West: Patrick Cleburne and the Civil War, University Press of Kansas. 1997. page 103.



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