Scout from Little Rock to Bayou Meto and Little Bayou

Scout from Little Rock to Bayou Meto and Little Bayou (May 6–11, 1865) a.k.a. Scout from Pine Bluff to Lewis’ Landing (May 7–11, 1865)

A combined Union force from Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) scouted the Arkansas River below Pine Bluff in early May 1865 as several bands of Confederate irregulars sought to surrender amid the collapse of all of the major Rebel armies.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard G. Ward of the Seventy-Ninth U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) left the Union base at Little Rock aboard the steamboat Rose Hambleton on the evening of May 6, 1865, with 250 men of his regiment and seventy-five troopers of the Fourth Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (US) and headed for Pine Bluff. Arriving the next morning, Brigadier General Powell Clayton requested that Ward’s troops cooperate with a scouting expedition of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry under Major Gurnsey W. Davis leaving that day to scout along the north side of the Arkansas River.

Ward and his command headed down the river, stopping and scouting the island plantation of a Doctor Price before going to the mouth of Little Bayou, where he sent out several detachments of scouting parties. They discovered that Captain S. Husband’s Texans had recently camped at a General Williams’s plantation.

Davis, meanwhile, rode down the north side of the river, reaching Plum Bayou on May 8, where his advance troops spotted guerrilla chieftain Marcellus 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) and their men were ready to surrender. They pledged to meet the Federals on the evening of May 10 to lay down their arms.

Davis and Ward connected on May 9, and Ward, “being out of rations, and considering the main object of the expedition gained,” headed back to Little Rock, arriving there on May 11. Davis, noting that Vaugine and Maybery had failed to make their appointed meeting on May 10, rode as far as Lewis’ Landing, where Husband met him and asked to surrender, provided he and his men could be “allowed their horses and side arms for self protection against jayhawkers and robbers.” Federal authorities decided that the “commanding officers” of Husband’s band could keep their horses and weapons and that the remainder would be provided transportation “as near their homes as possible.” Husband and twenty-five men surrendered and headed back to Texas.

The Thirteenth Illinois continued scouting, and Major Davis arranged a meeting with Vaugine and Maybery, whom he described as “very cautious and distrustful,” at Wabbaseka Bayou, where 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 this country immediately.” Fifteen of their men, though, surrendered during the meeting.

On May 14, in a “personal altercation,” Maybery killed Vaugine, with Clayton reporting that “he was shot through the head and died almost instantly.” Two days later, he noted that “nearly all of Vaugine’s and Maybery’s men have come in and given themselves up” and on May 20, 1865, “Captain Maybery, with one lieutenant and ten men,…surrendered from the opposite [side] of the river.” Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith officially surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Confederate army six days later, ending the Civil War.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 48, part 1, pp. 258–259; part 2, pp. 384, 404, 418, 451–452, 466, 488–489, 569–570. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

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