Affair at Sugar Loaf Prairie

Location: Boone County
Campaign: None
Date: January 12, 1865
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Willis Kissel (US); Alfred Cook (CS)
Forces Engaged: 25 (US); 14 (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 11 captured, 3 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

The 1865 Affair at Sugar Loaf Prairie was a unique encounter between Union troops and guerrillas in extreme northern Arkansas in which a cave was used as a hiding place.

On January 8, 1865, a scouting mission of twenty-five men of the Seventy-third Infantry Enrolled Missouri Militia under the command of Lieutenant Willis Kissel moved from Forsyth, Missouri, in an effort to look for two bands of guerrillas who were operating in the southern part of the state. Moving into Arkansas, the Federals learned from a local family that the guerrilla band under the command of Alfred Cook was hiding in a cave near Sugar Loaf Prairie about two miles away.

Kissel captured Cook’s son, and the youth led the Union troops to the cave. Surrounding the cave, the Federals demanded the surrender of Cook and his thirteen men, with the promise that any who surrendered would be taken to Springfield, Missouri, and turned over to the authorities. Giving the enemy four hours to decide, the Union troops guarded the mouth of the cave. After the time expired, nine of the men surrendered. Moving against the enemy, the Federals killed Cook and two others before capturing the two final guerillas. The scouting party returned to Missouri, where the captured guerillas were turned over to provost marshal in Springfield on January 17.

This brief encounter saw the destruction of a band of guerrillas and the continued efforts of Union forces to stop the enemy from disrupting operations in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I,, Part 1, Vol. 48. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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