Scout from DeValls Bluff to Augusta (November 22–24, 1864)
Union brigadier general Christopher Columbus Andrews issued orders on November 20, 1864, for a combined infantry-cavalry detachment to go up the White River to Augusta to capture Confederate soldiers and determine the location of rebel forces in the region. Andrews suggested landing 100 infantrymen on the north shore of the Little Red River, after which they would march overland to a location across the White River from Augusta. The remaining fifty infantrymen and fifty cavalry troopers would then steam up the White so that the foot soldiers could surround Augusta and the horsemen would scout “down the rich country called the Point, taking prisoners, able-bodied negro men, and stock” before re-embarking and joining the infantry at the Little Red. “By great promptitude and rapidity of movement the country visited can be surprised, in which case, doubtless, some important prisoners can be captured,” Andrews wrote. “Economize every minute; thoroughly search every house and out building where there is a probability of there being any rebels secreted.”
Captain Henry S. Goodspeed of the Sixty-first Illinois Infantry Regiment led 150 men of the Sixty-first and a cavalry detachment aboard the steamboat Mattie on November 21, 1864, to conduct the raid. The infantrymen hit Augusta at 4:00 a.m. on November 23, but the Mattie had approached too near the town, alerting and allowing fifteen men in a Confederate picket party to escape. They were able to capture three lieutenants and three other soldiers, however, and the cavalry were dropped off at Des Arc (Prairie County) to scout along the White River; they would go as far as a saltworks west of the White before the entire command returned to DeValls Bluff on November 24.
In addition to capturing the six soldiers, they learned that two battalions containing 800 men led by Washington McDaniel and another man identified only as Tucker were stationed on the levee above Augusta and that Confederate soldiers under colonels Thomas McCray and Archibald Dobbins were roaming east of the Cache River, most likely near Cotton Plant (Woodruff County).
While largely uneventful, the scout from DeValls Bluff to Augusta was typical of the intelligence-gathering operations conducted by the Union outposts stationed along the White and Arkansas Rivers in the latter months of the Civil War.
For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II, Vol. 12, pp. 492, 521. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1995.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 41, part 1, p. 935; part 4, pp. 628, 639–640. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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