Marcellus Vaugine (1841–1865)

Marcellus Vaugine was a Confederate guerrilla chieftain who was active in the Jefferson County area during the final months of the Civil War before being murdered by a fellow bushwhacker.

Very little information is available about Marcellus Vaugine’s early life. He was born on February 9, 1841, and is listed in the 1860 census in the household of F. G. Vaugine, age twenty-nine and apparently an older brother, in Jefferson County’s Plum Bayou Township. Marcellus Vaugine’s occupation is listed as “gentleman.” There is no evidence that he served in the Confederate military, although his older brother was a captain in the First Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (CS).

Marcellus Vaugine first appears in the Official Records in a report by a captain in the Seventh Missouri Cavalry (US), who fought Vaugine’s men in the January 9, 1865, Skirmish at Pine Bluff. The Federals fought off several charges by Vaugine and his band, killing four and wounding four while suffering one man severely wounded.

Following the February 9–19, 1865, scout from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), a Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Regiment officer wrote that they “encountered Lightfoot’s, Husband’s and Tibbitt’s men under Vaugine, and had several skirmishes with them, killing two and wounding some.” The Federals later found Vaugine with three Union prisoners, but the guerrilla and his men escaped, with the Illinois captain writing “they hung around us, shooting occasionally at my advance, then the rear, then the flanks, for at least twenty-five miles; and being mounted on good horses, they would always escape when pursued.”

On March 11, 1865, a group of Confederates attacked a detachment of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment at Clear Lake near present-day England (Lonoke County), killing one, mortally wounding one, wounding three others, and capturing several. The National Democrat newspaper reported that Vaugine was leading the Confederates. While a Union officer said Vaugine had 200 men in the fight, the National Democrat reported that the two sides were evenly matched.

A Union patrol nearly captured the bushwhacker a week later during the expedition from Pine Bluff to Bass’s Plantation. Having learned that Vaugine and his wife were staying at a Dr. Bass’s house, a detachment led by Captain Guernsey Davis of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry was sneaking up to surround the house on March 17, 1865, when one of his men blew a bugle. “Vaugine,” Davis reported, “at the sound of the bugle, sprang from his bed and made his escape,” leaving his wife behind. She told the Federals that Vaugine “had no intimation of our approach until the bugle sounded, and that we would undoubtedly have captured her husband.” As the Federals continued their patrol the next day, Vaugine taunted the Union column, with Davis reporting the bushwhacker “playing around us at a respectful and safe distance, showing himself at certain points, I suppose more for annoyance than any purpose of attack.”

Davis and the Thirteenth Illinois next encountered Vaugine during the May 6–11, 1865, scout from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Bayou Meto and Little Bayou. The Federals were near Plum Bayou on May 8 when his advance troops spotted Vaugine and fired at him; Vaugine escaped into a canebrake. Davis and a few of his men crossed the bayou and “discovered Vaugine making signs for a truce.” The bushwhacker announced that he and Captain Michael F. Maybery (or Mayberry)—who had led an attack on the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad in the April 2, 1865, skirmish at Hickory Station—and their men were ready to surrender. They pledged to meet the Federals on the evening of May 10 to lay down their arms. The guerrillas failed to make the meeting.

The Thirteenth Illinois continued scouting, and Davis arranged a meeting with Vaugine and Maybery, whom he described as “very cautious and distrustful,” at Wabbaseka Bayou. There, the bushwhackers pledged that “they and their men have fired their last shots at us.” The guerrilla leaders said that “threats had been made against them which made it inconsistent for them to voluntarily surrender” at Pine Bluff, “but…it was their intention to leave the country immediately.”

Vaugine would not survive to surrender. On May 14, 1865, in a “personal altercation,” Maybery killed Vaugine, with Union general Powell Clayton reporting that “he was shot through the head and died almost instantly.”

Marcellus Vaugine is buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Pine Bluff.

For additional information:
“Capt. Marcellus T.R. Vaugine (1841–1865), Find a Grave. (accessed July 7, 2023).

Ross, Margaret. “U.S. Detachment Falls in Trap; Captain Dies.” Arkansas Gazette, March 10, 1965, p. 6B.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 48, part 1, pp. 24–25, 105–106, 138, 141–142, 259; part 2, pp. 451–452, 384, 466. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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