Expedition from Batesville after Freeman's Command

The Expedition from Batesville after Freeman’s Command was an attempt by the Union garrison at Batesville (Independence County) to attack Confederates led by Colonel Thomas R. Freeman, who had recently fought Federals from the garrison at Lunenburg in Izard County, Sylamore in Stone County, and Morgan’s Mill in Sharp County.

Union troops under Colonel Robert R. Livingston’s First Nebraska Cavalry (US) occupied Batesville on December 25, 1863, and shortly afterward Confederate major general Sterling Price commissioned Colonel Freeman to maintain a regiment of Confederate cavalry in northern Arkansas, which Livingston described as “pestiferous hybrids who infest the swamps and mountains of the district.” On February 12, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel William Baumer led the First Nebraska Cavalry Regiment out from Batesville in a bid to destroy Freeman’s command.

When about twelve miles from Batesville near the Curia (Independence County) post office, Confederates rode up under a flag of truce to turn over Captain Peter B. Rouch and eighteen men of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry (US) who had been captured at Morgan’s Mill in exchange for Confederates held captive by the Yankees. The Federals rode through Hookram (Sharp County) before camping for the night.

Leaving at 6:00 a.m. on February 13, the Nebraskans were soon joined by cavalry squadrons under captains Thomas J. Majors and John C. Potts. Baumer sent small groups of the regiment into the surrounding area “to search for information of the enemy.” While they did not find out anything about Freeman, one party did capture “Captain Adams, a noted character,” and a Mr. Smiley, riding a mule with a Union saddle, was also taken prisoner.

The Union column continued north the next day, capturing a farmer named Smith and seven of Freeman’s cavalrymen before stopping that night near Salem (Fulton County). The Federals chased several small parties of horsemen without success on February 15, though a foraging party under Quartermaster Lewis Lowry killed a bushwhacker named Martin and his son, burning a crib of corn “hidden for the use of a gang that made Martin’s their headquarters.”

Baumer sent the prisoners and captured horses to Batesville the next day under the guard of detachments of First Nebraska troopers led by lieutenants Thomas H. Griffin and John G. Whitelock while the rest of the column continued on, passing through Wild Haws (Izard County). On February 17, he dispatched troopers under Captain Majors and Captain Thomas J. Weatherwax to take alternative routes before meeting the main command at West’s plantation six miles northeast of Hookram. Weatherwax’s party found a group of six jayhawkers “in the act of plundering the house of a citizen” and attacked, killing three and capturing three. Two squadrons under Captain Edwin Lawler and Lieutenant John B. Murphy were sent to Ash Flat (Sharp County) and Richwoods (Stone County) at dusk; they captured two more of Freeman’s men.

On February 18, Baumer received orders to ride to Pocahontas (Randolph County), apparently to seek Confederate soldiers under Colonel Joseph C. Porter; they captured Captain W. J. Sanders of Colonel Robert Shavers’s regiment near Smithville (Lawrence County) and Lieutenant Alfred Phillips of Freeman’s command within the town. A Nebraska trooper drowned the next day as the regiment crossed the Eleven Point River, and a scouting party was fired on by a group of forty Confederates, with one Nebraskan suffering a foot wound. The Federals executed two of the captured jayhawkers “in accordance with orders from district headquarters,” and the third, a man named Barker, was killed as he tried to escape.

Reaching Pocahontas, the Federals found a ferryboat full of rebels crossing the river ahead of them. The Confederates opened fire once across the stream, and “a brisk fire of a few minutes was kept up between them and our advance.” One southerner was wounded. Finding no sign of Porter, Baumer turned his command back toward Batesville, arriving on the afternoon of February 20 after riding 240 miles. “The total loss on the part of the enemy was, killed, 8; wounded, 1; captured, 31. Three took the oath of allegiance and were released,” Baumer reported, adding that they killed four horses and captured fifty others, bringing them into Batesville: “Loss on part of our forces during the expedition was, drowned, 1; wounded, 1; horses, 12 disabled and were killed or abandoned.”

For additional information:
Blevins, Brooks. A History of the Ozarks. Vol. 2, The Conflicted Ozarks. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2019.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, pp. 139–143. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 04/19/2022

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