Affair at Kendal’s Grist Mill

Location: Phillips County
Campaign: Expedition up the White River from Helena
Date: September 3, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Albert Collins (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: 1 company of the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); 18 cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 1 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

Part of a Union expedition to disrupt Confederate operations in eastern Arkansas, this action helped deny Confederate forces needed food and other supplies.

In late August 1864, Colonel John Hudson of the Sixtieth U.S. Colored Infantry received orders to lead an expedition of troops against suspected enemy concentrations along the White River. Hudson created a force of approximately 500 men, including detachments from his regiment as well as troops from the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry, Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Troops, and Second U.S. Colored Light Artillery. The planned route took the troops down the Mississippi River to the White River before marching back to Helena (Phillips County).

Aboard the steamers Dove and Hamilton Bell, the expedition departed Helena at 8:00 p.m. on August 29 and arrived at the mouth of the White River at 6:00 the next morning. Continuing to Maddox Bayou, the command disembarked at 6:00 p.m. and went into camp. Early on the morning of September 1, the Federals moved about thirty miles and continued their movements the next day before returning to Helena on September 3.

While most of the expedition was quiet, the Federals did find one enemy force. On September 3, Lieutenant Albert Collins was dispatched with a company of the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry to burn Kendal’s grist mill near Big Creek. While en route to the mill, the Union troops encountered a group of mounted Confederates. Engaging the enemy, the Union troops captured one soldier, while the remainder escaped.

Collins and his command continued with their mission and burned the grist mill. In total, sixty-five buildings were burned on the expedition.

It was through these expeditions that the Federal forces in Helena and other isolated outposts were able to keep the enemy off balance and prevent any major attacks.

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 I. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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