Affair at Clarksville

Location: Johnson County
Campaign: None
Date: April 3, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Gideon M. Waugh (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Second Arkansas Infantry (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 3 killed, 10 wounded (CS)
Result: Union victory

As Federal outposts were created across the state throughout the Civil War, Union commanders had to patrol the surrounding areas constantly in order to ensure that enemy forces were unable to gather enough strength to launch attacks. These patrols also helped keep local citizens safe but could lead to bloody fighting when guerrillas were discovered.

In the spring of 1864, Clarksville (Johnson County) was in Federal hands, and five companies from the Second Arkansas Infantry (US) guarded the town and surrounding area. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gideon M. Waugh, the troops worked to keep lines of communication between Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) open.

On March 15, 1864, Waugh received orders from Little Rock to make the surrounding countryside uninhabitable for guerrillas and their supporters. In response, Waugh increased his efforts to find and defeat any nearby enemy units. However, with only 180 infantry and fifty cavalry, he was somewhat limited in his actions.

On April 3, 1864, a patrol from Clarksville moved out to locate any evidence of enemy activity. Finding a group of guerrillas camped nearby, the Federal troops launched a surprise attack on them. The short engagement was an overwhelming Union victory. Waugh reported that his men killed three of the enemy, including their commanding officer, while wounding ten. The Federals also captured nineteen horses, five Sharps carbines, five Enfield rifles, and other assorted small-arms, blankets, and saddles.

While this engagement was quite successful for Waugh and his men in Clarksville, he struggled to keep the communication lines open with Little Rock and Fort Smith as more guerrillas began operating in the area.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 34, Parts I–III. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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