Scout from Springfield, Missouri, toward Fayetteville (April 28–May 7, 1864)
As the guerrilla war intensified in the Ozarks region in the spring of 1864, it became an increasing challenge to maintain telegraphic communications between the Union stronghold at Springfield, Missouri, and Fayetteville (Washington County). On April 28, 1864, Major John Cosgrove of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry led eighty men and two officers out of Springfield to restore the telegraph line between the two posts.
On arriving at Cross Hollow in Benton County, however, the Missourians encountered a detachment of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) already guarding a repairman as he fixed the downed telegraph line, so Cosgrove and his men moved toward Bentonville (Benton County), near where Colonel William Penn Adair was reported to be with around 200 men of the Second Cherokee Regiment (CS).
Surmising that the Confederate Indians were planning an attack on Neosho, Missouri, Cosgrove drove his men rapidly toward Cowskin Prairie in the Indian Territory to try to head them off. After skirmishing with stragglers from Adair’s command, the Federals learned that the Cherokee troops had been ordered back across the Grand River, so Cosgrove decided to head toward Neosho.
The column attacked a house defended by a pair of Confederates. One Missourian was mortally wounded and one Confederate was killed in the attack. Continuing into Neosho, they found Major John D. Brutsche of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry preparing for an attack, apparently by Adair’s men.
Cosgrove’s column returned to Springfield on May 7, 1864, having “killed 6 rebels, wounded 2, [taken] 3 prisoners, and captured 8 horses…and 6 guns.” The Union officer noted: “I found the inhabitants of Benton County, Ark., and McDonald County, Mo., to be the most disloyal I have seen since 1861, disposed to give all the aid and comfort in their power to the rebellion.”
While a relatively minor affair, the scouting expedition of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry detachment under Major Cosgrove was typical of Union operations in the Ozarks as the war dragged into a fourth year.
For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, pp. 904–905. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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