Expedition from Helena to Kent’s Landing (August 11–13, 1864)

The expedition from Helena (Phillips County) to Kent’s Landing (Desha County) on the Mississippi River was undertaken to track down deserters from a U.S. Colored Artillery unit and seek information on Confederate forces in the area.

Captain Eli Ramsey of the Sixtieth U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) left Helena at 5:30 p.m. on August 11, 1864, at the head of four officers and seventy-five men of the Sixtieth and an artillery battery. Though Ramsey identified the artillery unit as Battery C of the Second U.S. Colored Light Artillery, it appears that the gunners were actually from Company I of the Sixtieth USCT, which reported that Lieutenant Joseph A. Goodnough participated in the expedition with “a gun squad of six men.”

The Union troops boarded the steamboat H. A. Homeyer and arrived at Kent’s Landing five hours later. Ramsey left a small party behind to guard the boat while the rest marched to a Mr. Miller’s plantation, where two deserters from Battery C, Second U.S. Colored Light Artillery, were believed to be hiding, “but they, having heard us while effecting a landing, made their escape.” They proceeded to a Mr. Nash’s place intent on “capturing a rebel soldier by the name of Bell,” but he also slipped away.

The next day, after seizing four horses at a Mr. Short’s place, they returned to the Homeyer and steamed upriver to Hamlin’s landing, where Ramsey sent a lieutenant and a party of scouts out on horseback “to obtain what information they could.” They soon returned with a report that there were between 200 and 300 Confederates in the area intending to receive a shipment of arms and ammunition from the Mississippi side of the river. Ramsey ordered the steamboat to head to Buck Island north of Helena and anchor midstream near there for the evening to stymie the Confederate shipment.

At daylight on August 13, they returned to Miller’s place, this time succeeding in capturing the two deserters from the artillery unit. The expedition returned to Helena at 9:00 p.m., “having taken…6 horses, 3 mules, and 7 head of cattle.” Ramsey reported that between bad roads and almost continual rainfall, “it was impossible, under the circumstances, to accomplish more.”

For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 78. 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. 41, part 1, pp. 241–242. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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