Scout from Waldron to Mount Ida, Caddo Gap and Dallas
On the morning of December 2, 1863, Colonel James M. Johnson of the First Arkansas Infantry Regiment (US) led a force out from the Union base at Waldron (Scott County), which the Federals had occupied a few weeks earlier, with a goal of scouting for enemy troops as far away as Arkadelphia (Clark County).
The Union force consisted of 230 men of the Second Kansas Cavalry under Colonel Owen A. Bassett, a company of the First Arkansas Infantry, and two guns of Rabb’s Second Indiana Battery. After “making no halt of consequence,” the Union force reached Mount Ida (Montgomery County) on the morning of December 4. Johnson sent three patrols out to scout the area; all returned “reporting nothing worthy of note.”
Johnson returned to Waldron the next day with Rabb’s Battery, whose “horses were so much fatigued that they would not make Arkadelphia,” and thirty Second Kansas troopers whose horses were “worn out.” Bassett continued on to Caddo Gap (Montgomery County), from which he sent out three scouting parties. One, led by Captain Arthur Gunther, went southeast and captured three Confederate soldiers, while another under Lieutenant Elias S. Stover encountered a group of nineteen men of Colonel William H. Brooks’s Cavalry under Lieutenant John Ransom; the Kansans charged them, killing two while taking four prisoner. The third party found “nothing worthy of note.”
Leaving Caddo Gap on December 5, Bassett’s troops rode to the Ouachita River before heading northwest to the Waldron and Dallas Road. He sent Gunther and Stover with sixty-three men to scout Dallas (Polk County) while the rest of the column bivouacked on the Fourche La Fave River. They returned on the evening of December 6 with two Confederate soldiers captured at Dallas. The Union troops returned to Waldron on December 7, having ridden 156 miles during the scout.
In addition to the prisoners, the Second Kansas Cavalry scouts determined that Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke was camped near Murfreesboro (Pike County) with about 6,000 men while Major Robert C. Wood with 300 men was disassembling the machinery at Henry Merrell’s Arkansas Manufacturing Company for transport to a new facility in Prairie Mound, Texas. Other Confederate troops were concentrated in Clark, Hempstead, Ouachita, and Dallas counties and in the Indian Territory.
The Federals would remain wary of Confederate troops and guerrillas, sending additional scouting expeditions east toward Yell County on December 9–13 and back to Dallas on December 11–13. Another scouting expedition to Baker Springs (Howard County) resulted in the deaths of six Confederates and the capture of twenty-nine on January 24, 1864, and other scouting expeditions were almost continual during February. The Union would eventually abandon Waldron on March 22, 1864, burning the town behind them.
For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 21. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1994–2001.
Skinner, James L., III, ed. The Autobiography of Henry Merrell, Industrial Missionary to the South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 22, part 1, pp. 769–773. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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