Reconnaissance to Berryville (March 3–7, 1862)

Colonel Calvin A. Ellis led a force of 140 men of the First Missouri Cavalry (US) from their camp on Sugar Creek in Benton County on March 3, 1862, to ensure that a wagon train of supplies was coming from Missouri and then to head east to look for any Confederate troops in the area.

Accompanied by Colonel Henry Pease from the staff of Union Third Division commander Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, Ellis and his troops rode to Keetsville, Missouri, and ordered the commissary train to bring its load of supplies to the Army of the Southwest at Pea Ridge (Benton County). The expedition then headed toward the Roaring River north of Cassville, Missouri, and bivouacked for the night.

The next morning, they proceeded toward Morris’ Mill on the White River to look for Confederates reported to be there. Finding the reports to be false, they headed south toward Berryville (Carroll County) “over the most broken country it is possible to conceive, crossing the White River six times in travelling 8 miles” before making camp at 10:00 p.m.

Moving out at daylight on March 5, the Missourians captured “two men of suspicious appearance” about two miles from Berryville who told them a Confederate company was organizing there. As they approached Berryville, they saw a group of horsemen moving north. Ellis and two companies pursued them as Pease led the rest of the First Missouri troopers to surround the town, “taking some 50 prisoners, 22 horses, and 50 stand of arms.” Returning from his unsuccessful pursuit, Ellis destroyed “three wagons partially loaded with stores belonging to the enemy” and camped that night on the Kings River.

Rising at dawn on March 6, Ellis found that his “men and horses were exhausted and a snowstorm prevailing” and decided to rejoin the Army of the Southwest, arriving at 2:00 a.m. on March 7. A few hours later, the First Missouri Cavalry would be heavily involved in the opening engagements of the Battle of Pea Ridge.

For additional information:
Shea, William L., and Earl J. Hess. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 8, pp. 186–187. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1883.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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