Skirmish at White River Station

Location: White River, Arkansas River
Campaign: White River Campaign
Date: June 22, 1864
Principal Commanders: Captain Joseph R. C. Hunter, Ensign Henry Booby (US); Colonel Robert R. Lawther (CS)
Forces Engaged: Twelfth Iowa Infantry, Gunboat Lexington (US); Tenth Missouri Cavalry (CS)
Casualties: 1 killed, 4 wounded (US); 24 killed or wounded (CS)
Result: Union victory

The Skirmish at White River Station was a small but important push for Union forces along the White River. On the evening of June 21, 1864, a detachment of 300 Confederate men from the Tenth Missouri Cavalry under Colonel Robert R. Lawther crossed the Arkansas River in small boats near the mouth of the White River. Leaving their horses on the opposite side of the river, the Confederate cavalry marched through the night and arrived on the White River at 4:00 a.m. on June 22. With a Union garrison of only fifty soldiers traveling along the White River, the Twelfth Iowa Infantry under the command of Captain Joseph R. C. Hunter defended its encampment, near the mouth of the White River, as it was slightly entrenched with an erected stockade. After thirty minutes, the Confederate cavalry retreated into the woods, with the gunboat Lexington under the command of Ensign Henry Booby opening fire upon the retreating cavalry.

Initially, it was assumed that thirty Confederates were killed or wounded, with five of the wounded (one of whom was an officer) being captured by the Union forces. One Union soldier was killed, and four others were wounded. Captain Joseph Hunter reported that he was unable to pursue the Confederate forces, as he lacked the manpower and the Lexington was under strict orders to remain at White River Station. But he did report that the Confederates appeared to be panic-stricken as they retreated. Capt. Hunter reported that he was unsure of the Tenth Missouri Cavalry’s position following its retreat but noted that his infantry would be prepared for another attack. A request for a minimum of 200 cavalry was mentioned in order to reinforce the small garrison and protect the station.

The following afternoon, June 23, a refugee captured by Union forces returned with different news. He reported that the enemy consisted of 600 Confederates, and their loss was twenty-four killed or wounded, including one lieutenant under Union control. Out of the fifty Union soldiers reported the previous day, Hunter stated that only forty-eight were capable of fighting. The Confederate forces, however, believed that he had more than 1,000 troops under his command. While the Confederates did not attack on June 23, the refugee reported the potential for an attack in the near future.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 34 Part 1, pp. 1043–1046. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Matthew Whitlock
Old Dominion University


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