Scout from Brownsville (June 27–29, 1864)
The scout from Brownsville (Lonoke County) was conducted to ascertain the number of Confederate troops located between the White and Mississippi rivers in the days after Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby attacked and sank the USS Queen City at Clarendon (Monroe County).
Shelby and his troops had been active in eastern Arkansas for about a month by June 1864, and Federal officials were on edge following an attack on Union troops based at the mouth of the White River on June 22. When Shelby’s forces sank the Queen City on June 24, some 2,750 U.S. infantry and cavalry were sent in pursuit, depleting the forces based at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and potentially making Little Rock (Pulaski County) vulnerable to attack.
Colonel Oliver Wood, commanding the Union outpost at Brownsville, sent Captain William C. Miller and a detachment on June 27 to scout the area between Brownsville and St. Charles (Arkansas County) to determine whether there were Confederate troops operating in the area. The scouting party returned on June 29, with Miller reporting “the country full of bushwhackers and Confederate soldiers,” though none of the individual bands numbered more than forty men. While acknowledging that there were no organized Confederate troops between the White and Mississippi rivers, Wood observed that “if the men were organized in a body they could give us some trouble while so many of our forces are away.”
The Union scouts reported that Confederate brigadier general James Fagan was at Monticello (Drew County), Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke was at Red Fork (Desha County), and Brigadier General William Cabell was stationed fifteen miles north of Monticello. Wood, who sent scouts toward Searcy (White County), Peach Orchard Gap, and Springfield (Conway County) on June 29, reported that the three rebel generals were planning to move, with the Union base at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) as their target. While Confederate and Union troops skirmished near Pine Bluff on June 17 and July 22 and 30, 1864, there would be no major attacks on the city after the October 25, 1863, attack led by Marmaduke.
For additional information:
Christ, Mark K. “‘The Queen City was a Helpless Wreck’: J.O. Shelby’s Summer of ’64.” In “The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled”: Civil War Arkansas, 1863–1864, edited by Mark K. Christ. Little Rock: Old State House Museum, 2007.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, p. 1058. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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