Affair near Pine Bluff


Location: Jefferson County
Date: March 4, 1865
Campaign: None
Principal Commanders: Captain John H. Norris (US); Captain R. A. Kidd (CS)
Forces Engaged: Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); Unidentified guerrillas (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 5 killed, 2 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

The Federal army expended considerable energy in maintaining control of Jefferson County and the surrounding area after the occupation of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in late 1863. By 1865, patrols to discourage guerrilla bands who routinely created havoc were dispatched on a regular basis. These patrols, such as the one dispatched on March 4, 1865, were often on a mission to repair vital telegraph lines.

At noon on March 4, thirty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry under the command of Captain John H. Norris left Pine Bluff with orders to repair the area telegraph lines. After being hampered by high water, they discovered that the telegraph wires were intact.

Earlier, Norris had received information that Confederate guerrillas were operating in the area. He turned his force in a southwesterly direction hoping to intercept any enemy troops. At about sunset, he picked up a trail of what was suspected to be Confederates. The trail was near the home of a Dr. Ursury. Upon questioning the doctor’s family, Norris received questionable information that there were approximately fifty Confederates nearby. Picking up a trail once again, the Federals, at about 9:00 p.m., spotted a light some distance ahead.

Norris immediately halted his cavalry and sent two men ahead; they returned to report that about twenty-four Confederates were camped near a group of houses. Norris immediately split his force, dispatching fourteen dismounted troopers forward, with their mounts being led a short distance behind by the remaining Federals. The strategy was to surprise the Confederates and draw their fire. Once engaged, the troopers were to remount, and the entire detachment would charge with sabers and revolvers in hand.

The dismounted troopers approached within forty yards of the camp. The firing of two volleys completely surprised the Confederates, causing them to disperse in disorder. The entire detachment of the Thirteenth charged the camp, completely routing the Confederates. Five enemy troopers were killed, and two were taken prisoner. A cache of small arms and horse tack were captured. Most of the small arms were destroyed, and the tack was taken back to Pine Bluff.

After driving the Confederates from the field, Norris led his men back to Pine Bluff. The detachment arrived at about 7:00 a.m. on March 5, having completed an approximate fifty-five-mile journey.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 48. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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