Affair at Benton

Location: Saline County
Campaign: None
Date: July 25, 1864
Principal Commanders: Captain John Ing (US); Brigadier General George Holt (CS)
Forces Engaged: Patrol of the Third Missouri Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 1 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

In this extremely brief exchange, a brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia was killed, with the Union soldier who killed him earning the Medal of Honor for it.

With the failure of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Union forces retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) while Confederate units in southwestern Arkansas began to push northward. Major General Frederick Steele, the Federal commander of Little Rock, watched these movements with trepidation and pushed his troops to patrol the approaches to the city on a regular basis.

Located southwest of Little Rock, Benton (Saline County) was the scene of numerous engagements during the war and—with its location along the Saline River—served as a dividing line between the opposing armies. Union patrols often visited the area and sighted enemy forces on several occasions.

On July 25, 1864, a patrol from the Third Missouri Cavalry (US) entered Benton under the command of Captain John Ing. Upon entering the town, the Federals surprised a small party of Confederates under the command of George Holt. Holt was a local physician and also served as a brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia. He was visiting family in the area and was accompanied by a small group of guards. The Union troops chased the Confederates, who fled in confusion, and Private George Lucas of Company C shot Holt. After killing Holt, Lucas seized the dead officer’s armaments and horse. The remaining Confederates escaped. The Federals returned the body of Holt to local citizens for burial, and after scouting the area for any additional enemy troops, Ing led his men back to Little Rock.

No additional information about this skirmish appears in the official records. Private Lucas received the Medal of Honor in December 1864 for killing Holt.

For additional information:
Petty, A. W. M. A History of the Third Missouri Cavalry from Its Organization at Palmyra, Missouri, 1861, up to November Sixth, 1864: With an Appendix and Recapitulation. Little Rock: J. Wm. Demby, 1865.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41, Part I. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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