Big Lake Expedition

Location: Mississippi County
Campaign: None
Dates: September 7–30, 1863
Principal Commanders: Major Frederick R. Poole (US); Not reported (CS)
Forces Engaged: Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, Eighth Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia Cavalry, two unidentified artillery pieces (US); Unidentified guerrillas (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 4 wounded (US); 13 killed, 26–30 taken prisoner (CS)
Result: Union victory

This Civil War expedition took place only two months after the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and constitutes a portion of an ongoing Union effort to assess loyalty in the Mississippi River counties of Arkansas and eliminate Confederate guerrilla activity.

On September 7, 1863, Colonel John B. Rogers of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry ordered Major Frederick R. Poole to lead 200 troopers and one artillery piece from Camp Lowry in the Missouri bootheel to Big Lake in Mississippi County, Arkansas, and return to camp via Pemiscot County, Missouri. When he reached New Madrid, Missouri, Poole received reinforcements that doubled the size of his command, with the addition of fifty men from the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, 100 from the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, and fifty from the Eighth Provisional Enrolled Missouri Militia Cavalry, as well as an additional artillery piece. The reinforcements came from Cape Girardeau and Bloomfield, Missouri, and rendezvoused with Poole on September 17. Poole then continued a general reconnaissance into northeastern Arkansas. At Osceola (Mississippi County), he received additional reinforcements when Colonel Chester Harding of the Twenty-fifth Missouri Infantry, stationed at New Madrid, received orders to support Poole’s operation.

During this operation, Poole’s command covered a distance of 700 miles without tents or blankets but remained in good general health at the conclusion of the mission. Poole singled out Captain Amos P. Wright of Company L, Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, for exceptional zeal and attention to duty. Poole assessed the riverside population of northeastern Arkansas as more loyal than the residents of Missouri, and, in his estimation, a show of Federal protection would solidify their adherence to the Union.

During its march, Poole’s force met no significant organized enemy resistance but engaged several small unidentified bands of Confederate guerrillas in brief but desperate fighting. Poole completed his mission on schedule and returned to camp. He reported thirteen guerrillas killed, twenty-six to thirty taken prisoner, plus the capture of several horses, mules, and guns. His own force’s casualties consisted of four slightly wounded. No Confederate reports of this operation exist.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 22, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.

Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell


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