Scout from Pilot Knob, Missouri, to Gainesville
aka: Expedition from Patterson to Bloomfield and Pilot Knob, Missouri
On May 10, 1864, Captain Herman J. Huiskamp led a force of forty-six men of Company D, Sixth Missouri Cavalry Regiment (US), from the Union base at Pilot Knob, Missouri, headed to Gainesville (Greene County) in Arkansas to disrupt the operations of Confederate soldiers and guerrillas in the area. Four days later, they linked with troops of the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) under Captain Abijah Johns, and then left Patterson, Missouri, to continue toward Arkansas.
The combined force rode toward Chalk Bluff (Clay County) on the St. Francis River, but on May 16, “when within two miles of that place, [Huiskamp’s Sixth Missouri troopers] took a right-hand road leading through a swamp in the direction of Gainesville.”
The Third Missouri continued forward and scouted into Cherokee Bay, the region between the Black and Current rivers in Randolph County where Johns had fought a sharp skirmish on May 8, scaring off a party of seven men on the opposite side of the Black River. They swam across the river on the morning of May 17 and found a store of medicine worth between $8,000 and $10,000, which they burned. The Federals encountered a squad of guerrillas that evening, but the bushwhackers fled into a swamp and escaped.
Huiskamp’s column, meanwhile, found “no regular force…at any place, but bushwhackers were in abundance,” according to a report from Colonel John F. Tyler of the First Missouri Militia Infantry (US), who added that “they r[a]n [Major Timothy] Reves [of the Fifteenth Missouri Cavalry (CS)] and his command, and ate a dinner that was prepared for him on Black River.”
Johns and his men crossed the Cache Swamp on May 18 and found “bushwhackers very bold, firing on the advance often.” They killed two guerrillas and took one prisoner during the day. The Missourians captured Confederate soldiers’ mail and took several prisoners while seizing cotton that was being sent to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, “under the protection of Major Reves.” The two Federal forces re-converged that evening and “entered Gainesville at the same time,” learning that Confederate Colonel Solomon G. Kitchen and his men had left the town a day earlier, heading toward the St. Francis River in search of supplies.
The combined force headed back toward Missouri that night, camping near Scatterville (Clay County). While he was visiting the pickets guarding the camp, Johns was fired upon by guerrillas, with the fusillade “shattering his left arm” and wounding him in the hip. The Missourians reached Pilot Knob on May 25, 1864, with many having ridden 350 miles. Huiskamp reported that “the country around Gainesville swarms with guerrillas, but no organized force is there; in fact, [one] could not subsist.”
For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 35. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1996.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 34, part 1, pp. 921–922, 938. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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