Expedition from Memphis to Marion (January 19–22, 1865)

The January 19–22, 1865, expedition from Memphis, Tennessee, to Marion (Crittenden County) was undertaken to disrupt Confederate operations in northeastern Arkansas.

Colonel Herman Lieb, assistant inspector general for the Union Department of Mississippi, and Lieutenant Colonel Otto Funke of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry organized a force of 400 cavalrymen to cross the Mississippi River from Memphis and attack Confederate forces in Crittenden County. That number was reduced to 310 men because one of the steamboats to ferry them was too small to carry 200 horses. The Seventh Indiana and Second Wisconsin Cavalry Regiments boarded the John Baine, while elements of the Fourth and Eleventh Illinois Cavalry embarked on the steamer Belle Peoria.

Lieb had information that Colonel Oliver P. Lyles’s Twenty-Third Arkansas Mounted Infantry and men of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s command had headed north into Mississippi County, but around sixty of Timothy Reves’s band of irregular troops were camped about eight miles south of Marion, and Colonel Archibald Dobbins was at a house nine miles west of the city “with but a small escort.” The John Baine, with troops led by Captain John M. Moore of the Seventh Indiana, was sent after Reves, while the Belle Peoria’s soldiers would advance on Marion.

The latter steamboat landed at Mound City (Crittenden County) at 4:00 a.m. on January 20, 1865. About a mile from Marion, the Federal horsemen surprised and captured two Confederates, and a quarter mile farther, the Union advance hit a rebel cavalry outpost, wounding two men, one mortally, and capturing another man and seven horses while the rest of the outpost detachment fled. The Federals camped for the night.

Searching Marion at daybreak, they captured a man named Grider, “a notorious smuggler,” who first tried to take a gun from his guards and then “attempted to bribe them by giving them various sums of money.” Grider possessed written orders from Major General Thomas Hindman to gather quartermaster supplies in Crittenden, Jackson, and Mississippi counties for Confederate use. Around 11:00 a.m. on January 21, the Union horsemen fell back toward the river after learning that around 400 of Lyles’s men were nearby.

Moore’s troops had meanwhile disembarked several miles south of Marion and “found several small detachments of the enemy, had several skirmishes, killed 1, wounded 1, and took 1 lieutenant and 7 men prisoner; also captured 8 horses and 3 mules” while having one man dangerously wounded. The detachment linked up with Lieb and Funke at about 4:00 p.m. on January 21. They boarded the two steamboats, but heavy fog prevented them from reaching Memphis until the following day. Funke reported that the expedition resulted in “2 men killed, 3 wounded, and 1 lieutenant and 12 men taken prisoners; also 20 horses and 6 mules captured.”

The Expedition from Memphis to Marion was typical of Union operations in northeastern Arkansas in the last year of the war, with troops from Federal-occupied bases venturing into the region to attack rebel detachments.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, vol. 48, part 1, pp. 55–57. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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