Expedition from Fayetteville to Huntsville (December 21–23, 1862)

The expedition from Fayetteville (Washington County) to Huntsville (Madison County) in late 1862 was typical of Union efforts to locate and attack Confederate forces in the area after the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) occupied Fayetteville following the December 7, 1862, Battle of Prairie Grove.

After learning that Confederate troops were in Huntsville, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison, post commander at Fayetteville, ordered Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry to gather a force to attack them. Stuart assembled detachments from his own regiment as well as the First Arkansas Cavalry and the Eighth Missouri Cavalry (US), setting out on December 21, 1862.

After riding through the night, Stuart’s force arrived in Huntsville around daybreak on December 22 and found that around 150 Confederate guerrillas had been there on the night of December 18 and “committed depredations on all of the Union families in the vicinity.” They were particularly cruel to relatives of prominent Unionist Isaac Murphy, “the ladies of whose family they stripped of everything but what was on their bodies, leaving them in a destitute condition.”

Stuart reported that the guerrillas had split into groups of two or three riders and moved down War Eagle Creek or toward Carrollton (Carroll County), “scattering all through the country.” The Union force did capture and parole fifteen Confederates who had apparently deserted after the fight at Prairie Grove (Washington County).

The Illinois officer noted that roads to Mud Town (present-day Lowell in Benton County), Cross Hollow (near present-day Rogers in Benton County), Elkhorn Tavern on the Pea Ridge (Benton County) battlefield, and Keytesville and Cassville, Missouri, radiated from Huntsville, “making five roads from which a rebel party might choose from on arriving at Huntsville if they desired to molest our lines of communication,” with Springfield, Missouri, a major Union base in the region.

Noting that there was ample forage for horses in the area, Stuart urged Harrison to base a sizeable cavalry force in Huntsville permanently, “as there is no other route the enemy can cross the Boston Mountains until they get about 100 miles east of that gap.” The expedition returned to Fayetteville on December 23, 1862. While it is uncertain that the move was spurred by Stuart’s observations, the Second Division of the Army of the Frontier occupied Huntsville for a short period beginning in mid-January 1863.

For additional information:
Smith, John I. The Courage of a Southern Unionist: A Biography of Isaac Murphy Governor of Arkansas, 1864–68. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1979.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 22, part 1, p. 165; part 2, pp. 34, 38. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


No comments on this entry yet.