Capture of Wagon Train at Salem

Location: Fulton County
Campaign: None
Date: May 29, 1864
Principal Commanders: Unknown (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: 150 civilian men, unknown number of civilian women and children (US); 300 guerrillas (CS)
Estimated casualties: 80 killed (US); Unknown (CS)
Result: Confederate victory

This engagement involved Union forces escorting a wagon train of Unionist Arkansans to Missouri. Guerrillas attacked the wagon train, inflicting heavy casualties.

Unionist families fled to Federal outposts during the Civil War, seeking sanctuary from both Confederate sympathizers and guerrillas. After Jacksonport (Jackson County) fell to Union forces, families from the surrounding area began to take refuge at the town under the protection of the Federal troops. The town also served as the headquarters of the District of Northeast Arkansas under the command of Colonel Robert Livingston of the First Nebraska Cavalry. In an effort to relieve some of the pressure that the refugees were placing on his resources, Livingston ordered the families sent to Rolla, Missouri.

Departing Jacksonport in late May 1864, the group of about 150 men and an unknown number of women and children were escorted by a detachment of 200 men of the First Nebraska. After moving northward, the soldiers received orders to return to Jacksonport. The wagon train continued without any security. Near Salem (Fulton County), a group of approximately 300 guerrillas attacked the party. During the fighting, about eighty men were killed, along with an unknown number of women. All of the wagons were burned, and the guerrillas were able to escape without any reported casualties.

Union forces in Rolla learned of the attack on the wagon train and sent a group of men from the Second Wisconsin Cavalry to meet the party and provide security. These troops escorted the wagons safely into Missouri and helped provide food and other provisions to the now destitute civilians.

The attack on the wagon train is an example of the blurred lines between civilian and military targets in the state during the war.

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

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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