Eunice Expedition

Campaign: None
Dates: August 28–September 3, 1862
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel William H. Raynor (US); Colonel Starke (first name unknown)
Forces Engaged: Fifty-sixth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, First Iowa Battery (US); Colonel Starkes’s Brigade, unidentified guerrilla band
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 1 killed, 1 wounded, 1 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

In August 1862, General Samuel Curtis, commander of the Army of the Southwest, dispatched a naval-escorted ground force from Helena (Phillips County) to Eunice (Chicot County). The purpose of the expedition was to capture a wharf-boat, gather useful information about Confederate forces in the area along the Mississippi River, and “annoy” the enemy. The venture was a complete success for the Union forces.

On August 28, 1862, a Union force consisting of 200 men of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Ohio Volunteers and two pieces of artillery manned by men of the First Iowa Battery boarded the steamers White Cloud and Iatan. The slow-moving force, which was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William H. Raynor, was escorted by the gunboat USS Pittsburgh (often Pittsburg). Their destination was the river port town of Eunice, also known as Eunice Landing. At Carson’s Landing, information that a Confederate force of 200–300 camped nearby was obtained from a local “contraband” slave. No immediate action was taken, as night was approaching. The three-vessel force anchored for the night.

After the USS Pittsburgh shelled the shoreline on the morning of August 29, a force of 175 men and one cannon disembarked and marched approximately two miles inland. Having detected the Union forces the day before, the Confederates had evacuated most of their valuable supplies before the enemy approached. Remaining behind to offer resistance, the Confederates fled the field after one volley. Another additional Union force of fifty soldiers, commanded by Captain Manning of Company A, engaged a guerrilla force, killing one, capturing one, and wounding another.

After boarding the steamers, the Union forces once again disembarked at Montgomery’s Point on the Arkansas side of the river, where they expected to find two Confederate cannon. However, no artillery was located. Still, the Union commander landed his force anytime he received intelligence that the enemy was nearby. The expedition was made more difficult by the slowness of the river vessels and the fact that the Union infantry was pursuing Confederate cavalry.

At approximately noon on August 30, the Federals had reached Eunice. The wharf-boat was promptly captured and prepared for towing to Helena. A man named Mason, who was suspected of riding with local guerrillas, was arrested, as was the river watchman John McDonald. After gathering up the military supplies left behind by the Confederates, the force turned north with wharf-boat in tow. Raynor’s force retuned to Helena on September 3 without further incident.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

The War of the Rebellion: Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. Series I, Vol. 23. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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