Scout from Helena to Mount Vernon (August 22–25, 1864)

The scout from Helena (Phillips County) to Mount Vernon (St. Francis County) was undertaken to seek Confederate forces that were organizing in the area and to arrest citizens thought to be collaborating with the rebels.

Union major Eagleton Carmichael of the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry Regiment led a detachment of the regiment, including a lieutenant and thirty-five men of Company I, out from Helena on August 22, 1864. The cavalrymen boarded the steamboats Dove and H. A. Homeyer and traveled up the St. Francis River to a point four miles past the mouth of the L’Anguille River, where they disembarked.

They headed into St. Francis County, scouting local plantations. They began at Hughes’s farm then proceeded to a Dr. Ward’s place, stopping by Gill’s farm, where they arrested K. Y. Gill. The horsemen continued to the farms of Weatherly, Dayle, and Mrs. Roberts before crossing the lower end of Cow Bayou in modern-day Lee County. Riding on, they went to Mickey’s farm, where they arrested P. B. Mickey, and then proceeded to Linden (St. Francis County) and Madison (St. Francis County), “passing through several places I do not remember the names of,” as Carmichael reported, adding, “I divided my command in passing through most of the settlements where I could, so there was but very little of the country but what we scouted through.”

Carmichael noted that the scouts continued to Mount Vernon, “through large settlements, where I heard there was a detachment of rebel cavalry, but found none,” before stopping at McDaniel’s place to rest during some of the night of August 23, burning a mill while they were there. The next day, they took a different route back toward the steamboats, passing the upper mouth of Cow Bayou before reaching the St. Francis River, apparently late on August 24 or early on August 25, and heading back to Helena.

Carmichael reported that Confederate companies led by a man named Briscoe and by Lieutenant W. F. Coates of Colonel Archibald Dobbins’s regiment had been in the area conscripting troops and seizing horses and had left on August 20, with a few men “left behind to get the stragglers together and follow the companies.” The Illinois horsemen captured Lieutenant J. M. Grigg and Private Thomas M. Short of Company A, Dobbins’s Cavalry, along with a conscript named Luther Drum. They also arrested four other civilians, seized eight horses and five mules, and “destroyed a large number of shotguns and rifles.”

The scout of the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry into St. Francis County gathered valuable information on Confederate operations in the area and was typical of the almost constant Union activity in the vicinity of Helena.

For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 8. 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, pp. 270–271. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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