Expedition from Batesville to Devil's Fork of the Little Red River
The Civil War expedition from Batesville (Independence County) to the Devil’s Fork of the Little Red River in late February 1864 was undertaken by Union forces to try to recover government property captured by Confederates in the Skirmish at Waugh’s Farm.
Confederate captain George Rutherford’s forces attacked a detachment of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry and Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry (US) at Waugh’s Farm west of Batesville on February 19, 1864, killing four soldiers, wounding ten, and capturing thirty-two. In addition, they captured a Union supply train and a considerable herd of mules.
On February 25, Colonel Robert R. Livingston, commanding Union forces at Batesville, sent a force of 200 men of the Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry under Colonel Elisha Baxter “to capture the mules &c., captured by Captain Rutherford.” On March 1, Livingston reported that Baxter had “sent back 14 prisoners captured from [Rutherford] with intelligence that they were close on him and with a fair prospect of overtaking him.”
Baxter and his men, traveling in “very inclement weather,” had caught up with part of Rutherford’s force near the Devil’s Fork of the Little Red River and attacked. In the resulting action, they “captured 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 19 enlisted men of the Confederate service, 18 horses, 9 mules, and 2 yoke of oxen, with 2 wagon loads of provisions en route to the enemy.”
Unfortunately, Livingston reported, they did not capture Rutherford, who had crossed the Little Red with 140 mules taken at Waugh’s Farm. The Union colonel reported that Rutherford and the mules were between the Little Red River and Arkansas River in Conway County as of March 8, vulnerable to attack by Union troops posted along the Arkansas River. However, no other reports show that Rutherford was pursued, so it appears that the guerrilla escaped with the herd of purloined mules.
The expedition from Batesville to the Devil’s Fork is typical of activities emanating from the Union base, where the garrison was almost constantly scouting for and skirmishing with the many groups of Confederate irregulars that operated in the area.
For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1 p. 132; part 2, p. 426, 475–476, 530. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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