Scout from Little Rock to Fagan’s Ford (November 17–18, 1864)
The Civil War scouting expedition from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Fagan’s Ford was undertaken by Union troops to try to determine the strength of Confederate forces based in Princeton (Dallas County) in late 1864.
On November 16, 1864, Union headquarters ordered Colonel William Thompson, commander of the Cavalry Division of the Seventh Army Corps’ Second Brigade, to “send a reconnoitering party to Benton, and from thence to Princeton,” leaving “as early tomorrow morning as possible.”
The next morning, Major George S. Avery of the Third Missouri Cavalry Regiment (US) left Little Rock at the head of thirteen officers and 490 men of the Third U.S. Cavalry Regiment, First and Third Missouri Cavalry (US), and First Iowa Cavalry, heading for Fagan’s Ford across the Saline River on the plantation of Confederate major general James F. Fagan two miles west of Benton (Saline County).
After riding twenty-seven miles in the rain, they arrived at the ford, with about ten Confederates on the south side of the Saline firing on the Union advance troops without effect. Though Avery deemed the river fordable, he decided to camp on the north side of the river since the rain-swollen Saline was rising, sending a party to Benton to seize forage for the Federal horses. Avery noted that some civilians who had just crossed the river said that Colonel William Ayers Crawford was about a mile south of the ford with about 100 men, “in readiness to move.”
The next morning, November 18, the Federals found that the Saline River had risen during the night to where it was at least ten feet deep and “running very rapidly,” so Avery decided to head back to Little Rock. They encountered water about six feet deep near the Twelve-Mile House with a much slower current, so they crossed without incident other than a First Iowa trooper losing his carbine when his horse fell into the water.
Avery reported that civilians claimed that there were about 700 men from two Confederate regiments at Princeton—Colonel Lucien Gause was stationed there with his regiment, the identity of the other is unknown—along with Colonel John L. Logan’s Eleventh Arkansas Mounted Infantry (CS). Two infantry brigades were said to be at Arkadelphia (Clark County) and a handful of Arkansas State Troops at Rockport (Hot Spring County), while Major General John B. Magruder was rumored to have sent 8,000 Confederate cavalrymen to support Major General Sterling Price after his return to Arkansas following his disastrous Missouri raid “with his command totally cut to pieces.” Avery and his men reached Little Rock at 4:00 p.m. on November 18.
While largely uneventful, the scout from Little Rock to Fagan’s Ford was emblematic of the frequent expeditions sent out from Union bases in Arkansas to determine the strength and location of Confederate troops.
For additional information:
Rushing, Anthony. Ranks of Honor: A Regimental History of the Eleventh Arkansas Infantry Regiment & Poe’s Cavalry Battalion C.S.A., 1861–1865. Little Rock: Eagle Press of Little Rock, 1990.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 41, part 1, pp. 899–900; part 4, pp. 584, 1022. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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