Skirmish at Buckskull (November 20, 1864)

Location: Randolph County
Campaign: Expedition from Cape Girardeau to Patterson, Wayne County, Missouri with Skirmishes at Reeves’ Mill, and at Buckskull, Randolph County, Arkansas
Date: November 20, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel George C. Thilenius, Fifth-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia (US); None (CS)
Forces Engaged: Fifty-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia, Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, Captain A. Tacke’s Company Enrolled Missouri Militia (US); None (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 2 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

After attempting to clear communication lines in Missouri, Lieutenant Colonel George C. Thilenius of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia led a raid into Arkansas to catch Confederate colonel Timothy Reeves at Cherokee Bay (Randolph County). Near Buckskull, on the Arkansas-Missouri border, Thilenius’s command killed two guerrillas believed to be members of Reeves’s command before charging the undefended town of Buckskull to find no opposing force.

Located where the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) passes into northeastern Arkansas, Buckskull sits on the Arkansas-Missouri line near the Current River and across from the town of Pitman (Randolph County). As Pitman’s Ferry was critical for movement of men and materials between northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri during the Civil War, a number of skirmishes occurred on both sides of the ferry. To protect the ferry approach from the north, Confederates were periodically stationed there.

Fearing that Confederate forces would disrupt communication in Missouri between Cape Girardeau and Pilot Knob, Lieutenant Colonel Thilenius of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia, commanding a combined 240-man force including elements of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry and Captain A. Tacke’s Company Six Month Volunteers Enrolled Missouri Militia, marched to Patterson, Missouri, on November 18. Finding no Confederates in the area to hamper communications, Thilenius combined with Captain McClanahan’s 120-man element from the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry near Doniphan, Missouri, to strike at Colonel Reeves who was rumored to be at Cherokee Bay (called Cherokee Bayou in Thilenius’s report).

After marching through Doniphan on November 20, a squad of the Second Missouri State Militia engaged a group of guerrillas about six miles from Buckskull, killing two of them. Examination of the bodies revealed documents identifying these casualties as members of Reeves’s command. Believing that Reeves had moved to Buckskull from Cherokee Bay, the Union forces charged the town only to find no rebels present. Continuing onward, the command camped at Cherokee Bay that same day.

After finding no Confederates in the Randolph County area, Thilenius divided his command on November 21. McClanahan’s command plus the forty-man Second Missouri State Militia marched through Pocahontas (Randolph County) to Powhatan (Lawrence County) and back to Pilot Knob. Thilenius took the remainder of his force through Cherokee Bay toward Poplar Bluff, arriving in Cape Girardeau without incident on November 25.

While not strategically important, the Skirmish at Buckskull is typical of the raids and small skirmishes occurring in Randolph County during the later stages of the war.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1890–1901, pp. 924–925.

Derek Allen Clements
Black River Technical College


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