Expedition from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Eleven Point River (January 24–February 22, 1865)
Union troops initially undertook the expedition from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to the Eleven Point River in Arkansas in early 1865 to break up a reported concentration of Confederates near Jacksonport (Jackson County), but the expedition ended with the Federals hunting guerrillas in Arkansas and southern Missouri.
Union officials in Missouri received reports that Brigadier General Dandridge McRae was gathering as many as 400 men from the various bands of Confederate troops in northeastern Arkansas in late January so that “they could be clothed and furloughed to go home and make a crop.” Colonel John B. Rogers of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry requested permission to take troops from several scattered commands in southern Missouri and “to move on Pocahontas, scouring the country from there…to move rapidly to Jacksonport and endeavor to cut up McRae.”
Rogers left Cape Girardeau on January 24, 1865, at the head of 300 cavalrymen and the Second Missouri Light Artillery and headed south. At the Indian Ford on the St. Francis River, he was joined by 200 men from other bases in Missouri led by Captain Perry D. McClanahan, including Company G of the Second Missouri and a detachment from the Seventh Kansas Cavalry Regiment from Pilot Knob.
On January 26, it started to rain, “rendering the roads nearly impassible and filling the streams so as to cause much inconvenience in crossing them.” When the Federals reached the Current River at Arkansas’s northern border, they decided to abandon their supply train, taking five days’ rations and “wading for miles through water from one to three feet deep.”
On reaching Pocahontas (Randolph County), Rogers received “reliable information” that a separate Union force from DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) had already dispersed McRae’s troops, so he ordered the Pilot Knob troops back to Missouri, “thoroughly scouring the country, for the purpose of exterminating…guerrillas.” An officer of Company G, Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry out of Pilot Knob noted that they were “patrolling the country and killing quite a few guerrillas and capturing horses” during their 150-mile scout to Pocahontas.
Rogers’s column from Cape Girardeau continued on about ten miles past Pocahontas to the Eleven Point River, killing “several guerrillas” before turning back toward Missouri after “finding it nearly impossible to subsist either men or horses” in a “country almost destitute of forage.” The Federals targeted guerrillas led by chieftains Timothy Reves and Dick Bowles during their northward march, finally reaching their home base late on February 22, 1865. The Union commander summarized the expedition by saying “nineteen guerrillas were killed, and [the Federals] captured…over 77 head of horses, 26 mules, 21 head of cattle, and 1 jack.”
In an addendum to his report, Rogers wrote that the expedition escorted “large numbers of Union refugees” from northern Arkansas and southern Missouri who were worried that they “would almost certainly be conscripted into the rebel army, or, resisting that, be killed.” Around thirty families accompanied the Federal column, and Rogers reported feeding the “more destitute…from my own money…and at other times obtaining it from wealthy rebel citizens….It was starvation or food for women and children.”
For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 34. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1998.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 48, part 1, pp. 62–64, 621, 633–634, 657–658. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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