Clarendon Expedition (October 16–17, 1864)

Location: Monroe County
Dates: October 16–17, 1864
Campaign: None
Principal commanders: Captain Albert B. Kauffman (US); none (CS)
Forces Engaged: Eleventh Missouri Cavalry Volunteers, Twelfth Michigan Infantry (US); none (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None
Result: Union objectives achieved

In the early fall of 1864, a combined Union cavalry and infantry force embarked upon a mission into eastern Arkansas near Clarendon (Monroe County) in an attempt to gather military intelligence and to limit Confederate guerrilla operations against Union vessels on the White River and tributaries. Included in these troublesome operations were those conducted by unidentified guerrilla bands and regular Confederate forces under the command of General Joseph Shelby.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on October 16, a force consisting of fifty troopers of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry Volunteers and fifty soldiers of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry—both under the command of Captain Albert B. Kauffman—boarded the steamer Celeste at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). The steamer made its way down the White River to the mouth of the Cache River, moving approximately one and a half miles upstream before the force disembarked on the east bank.

Leaving behind twelve soldiers to guard the Celeste, the remainder of the force moved inland to scout the area. Soon, they found a trail leading to the river that was believed to have been used by guerrilla forces suspected of firing on passing boats. Local informants stated that a guerrilla band under the command of a Captain Swan, known as the Independent Rangers, was responsible. Much of the guerrilla activity in the area was reported to have been instigated by Swan and his estimated force of 100. While scouting the area, Capt. Kauffman told the local population that they would be held responsible for any further firing upon passing boats, implying that they should take action to stop it.

Later that day, the force returned to the Celeste and established a camp for the night. The next morning, the infantry boarded the steamer and was sent above Clarendon. The remaining cavalry continued by land, fording the Cache River and then traveling an additional mile and a half before rejoining the infantry on the banks of the White River. Boarding the Celeste, the reunited expedition retraced its path back to DeValls Bluff, arriving on October 17.

While its forces did not engage the enemy in combat, the Union’s expedition was a success. Useful military information was gathered about area guerrilla forces, a road connecting DeValls Bluff to Clarendon was discovered, and the Cache River was found to be fordable in several locations. Further, a warning was issued to local residents concerning harassment of Union vessels.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part 1, Vol. 41. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1885.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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