Expedition on the Arkansas River near Little Rock (February 8–9, 1865)

At least one regiment of United States Colored Troops (USCT) conducted an expedition to attack Confederate guerrillas who were raiding east of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in early February 1865.

After receiving reports of guerrilla activity east of Little Rock, Union officials dispatched Lieutenant Colonel John G. Gustafson and the 112th United States Colored Troops to seek them out. They headed down the Arkansas River on the evening of February 8 aboard the steamboat Davenport. The soldiers landed on the north side of the river about ten miles below Little Rock.

The bushwhackers, though, had fallen back down the river at 9:00 p.m. on February 8, “without molesting our outposts and doing no damage, except to rob a few families and carrying off some negroes, men, women, and children; number not known.” The 112th returned to Little Rock on February 9.

Gustafson reported that there were about eighty guerrillas in the band and that Colonel Lauriston W. Whipple “will be in soon,” indicating that Whipple’s 113th USCT may also have been involved in the expedition.

While it was unsuccessful in locating the bushwhackers they were pursuing, the February 8–9, 1865, expedition down the Arkansas River represented a rare example of field maneuvers by Black regiments that primarily performed labor and guard duties.

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, p. 102. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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