Expedition from Batesville to Elgin
The First Nebraska Cavalry occupied Batesville on Christmas Day 1863, joined soon after by elements of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry Regiment (US) and Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry (US). While much of the garrison’s time would be spent in anti-guerrilla patrolling, the troops also needed supplies for their remote outpost, leading to foraging expeditions through the region.
Second Lieutenant Almeron N. Harris of Company K, Eleventh Missouri Cavalry, led forty troopers out of Batesville on such an expedition on January 15, 1864, seeking “possession of a herd of beef-cattle said to be grazing in the canebrake on Black River.” Heading east, the Federals rode for twenty-two miles “over a good country, inhabited mostly by Union people” to Harrison’s Mill, where they pitched camp. Captain James E. Conner “obtained several recruits” for Company C, Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry, while there.
Harris sent scouting patrols out from his camp on the morning of January 16, “who brought in 4 secesh [sic] prisoners found lurking about in the neighborhood,” before heading to Smith’s Ferry Landing, which was located on the Black River across from the steamboat landing at Elgin. Seeing a Confederate camp across the river, Harris had his men hide in a canebrake next to the river while a civilian guide talked to the Rebels. Though the enemy was in range of the Federals’ carbines, the lieutenant declined to engage them, “knowing that it would foil a future and perhaps better expedition” and noting that the “ice [was] quite rotten, channel open.”
The Union soldiers learned that the best cattle in the reported herd had already been driven off, so they spent “a half day’s hard labor” gathering “21 head of inferior cattle” that had been left behind. Driving the cows four miles from the river, they camped for the night. The expedition set out in a mixture of rain and snow and was back in Batesville by 4:30 p.m. on January 17, with Harris “reporting the scout returned in good order, with 21 cattle corralled in the stock-yards of Batesville” and four prisoners turned over to the provost marshal.
While Lieutenant Harris and his men had little contact with Confederate troops during their foraging raid, the expedition from Batesville to Elgin is typical of some of the more mundane operations conducted to keep a garrison supplied while deep in enemy territory.
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 2, pp. 105–106. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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