A Civil War Biography
McRae was born 10 October 1829 in Baldwin County, Alabama. He was
educated on the family's plantation by a private tutor then attended
the University of South Carolina from which he graduated in 1849.
Following graduation he moved to White County, Arkansas where he
helped his mother run her plantation. She had moved to Arkansas
shortly after her husband had died in March 1849. McRae moved to
Searcy, Arkansas in 1853 and began to study the law. He was admitted
to the bar in 1854 and established a law practice. In 1856 he was
elected clerk of the county and circuit courts of White County.
When the war erupted McRae was serving as the inspector general of
his adopted state engaged in organizing troops. He resigned as
inspector general to enter Confederate service becoming a major in
the 3rd Arkansas battalion. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on
15 July 1861 and led the 3rd at Wilson's Creek. The 3rd eventually
became the 21st Arkansas infantry regiment and McRae became its
colonel on 3 December. He commanded the 21st at Elkhorn Tavern and
Corinth. On 20 May 1862 he declined reelected to the colonelcy of
the 21st and returned to Arkansas where he helped organize the 28th
Arkansas becoming the regiment's colonel when it was mustered into
service that June. The 28th served mostly in Arkansas. Although
praised by many of his superiors he was criticized by Theophilus
Holmes for the lack of discipline shown by his troops in October.
McRae, however, was promoted to brigadier general on 5 November and
was given command of a brigade in Thomas Hindman's division. During
the campaign to relieve Vicksburg in July 1863 Holmes again attacked
McRae's abilities. Holmes accused McRae of misbehaving
before the enemy for failing to support Thomas Fagan's troops in
front of Hindman's Hill. It wasn't until December 1864 that E. Kirby
Smith cleared McRae of the charges. Sterling Price came to McRae's
defense. McRae had served under Price during the Red River campaign.
Shortly after serving with Price, McRae resigned his commission and
returned to Searcy and his law practice.
Following the war McRae continued practicing the law until 1881 when
he was appointed Deputy Secretary of State, a position he held for
four years. He was acting commissioner for Arkansas during the 1885
to 1886 World's Fair in New Orleans, Louisiana. He served as vice
president of the Bureau of Emigration for Arkansas in 1887. On 26
December 1888 he was appointed an expert in gathering information by
the US Treasury Department. McRae died 23 April 1899 in Searcy.
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