Scout to Mount Elba (October 3–4, 1864)

The October 3–4, 1864, scout to Mount Elba (Cleveland County) was one of several sorties undertaken by Union soldiers from the base at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to determine the numbers and locations of Confederate troops in southern Arkansas in late 1864.

On October 3, 1864, Brigadier General Powell Clayton ordered Second Lieutenant William F. Grove of the Seventh Missouri Cavalry Regiment (US) to take fifty men and scout the area around the crossing of the Saline River at Mount Elba. Grove returned the next day with a lieutenant and eight men of Brigadier General James P. Major’s Second (Texas) Cavalry Brigade, who were captured at Mount Elba and at Chowning’s Ferry near present-day Kingsland (Cleveland County).

Grove ascertained that Major’s brigade had been ordered to cross the Saline, but rain had swollen the river to where it was impassible; some of the Texans who had previously crossed were moving from Monticello (Drew County) to Warren (Bradley County), leading Clayton to conclude that “there can be no doubt but that the enemy are for some reason changing their base.”

Clayton advised Major General Frederick Steele that the intelligence Grove gathered on his scouting expedition showed a vulnerability in Confederate forces as they were in motion in southern Arkansas, and “if we had cavalry re-enforcements here now I think we might strike them a timely blow,” especially the Texans stranded north of the rain-swollen Saline River.

Steele would dispatch a reconnaissance in force toward Monticello and Mount Elba on October 4, with Colonel John Ritter leading nearly 800 men from Little Rock to be joined by 250 troopers from the Pine Bluff garrison.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 41, part 1, p. 866; part 3, p. 607. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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