Scout to Arkansas River

aka: Skirmish at Threkeld's Ferry


Location: Washington, Crawford, and Sebastian counties
Dates: February 5–12, 1863
Campaign: None
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart (US); Colonel Charles A. Carroll (CS)
Forces Engaged: Tenth Illinois Cavalry, First Arkansas Cavalry (US); Carroll’s Cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 drowned (US); Unknown number killed, twenty-one captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

While northwestern Arkansas was tentatively under Union control by early 1863, many Confederate partisan units still maintained a noticeable presence in the area. Large-scale campaigning in the region had evolved into regular scouting and reconnaissance missions, which many times developed into brutal small-scale skirmishes.

On February 5, 1863, a force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart consisting of 100 troopers from his own Tenth Illinois Cavalry and an additional 125 men from the First Arkansas Cavalry moved out of Fayetteville (Washington County) on a scouting expedition south to the Arkansas River.

When the force reached the river (probably on February 7), approximately four miles below the mouth of Frog Bayou, it received intelligence revealing that a small Confederate force was camped some three miles below at Threlkeld’s Ferry on the southern bank of the river. After procuring an inadequate number of skiffs to ferry his force across the river, Lt. Col. Stuart ordered the construction of more skiffs. Some 100 troopers were ferried across the river with orders to surround the enemy camp and then attack. Stuart described the combat that ensued as a “lively engagement.” An unrecorded number of Confederates were killed, while the Union forces suffered only one casualty: a Private Douglass of the First Arkansas Cavalry, who drowned in the crossing.

At approximately the same time that the first detachment was preparing to attack the Confederate camp, a second—strengthened with two howitzers—was moving down the northern side of the river to destroy a collection of log buildings that Stuart felt the Confederates might use as a defensive position. The mission was soon discovered, with the Confederates evacuating the buildings without a fight.

After the engagement, the Union force moved up the river about twelve miles along the Ozark Stage Road. Approximately eight miles east of Van Buren (Crawford County), it was attacked by a Confederate force of about 100. Stuart promptly ordered a charge, and the Confederates were quickly routed. The Union force determined that the only Confederate force in the area was cavalry under the command of Colonel Charles A. Carroll.

The scout returned to Fayetteville on February 12, having captured some twenty-one prisoners, a substantial amount of arms, and a number of horses and mules.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 22, Part 1.Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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