Scouts from Huntersville and Clinton (June 4–17, 1864)
The scouts from Huntersville—modern-day North Little Rock (Pulaski County)—and Clinton (Van Buren County) were conducted in an effort to locate Confederate troops under Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby who were recruiting soldiers and attacking Union targets in central and eastern Arkansas during the summer of 1864.
Shelby drove off the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US) troops garrisoning Dardanelle (Yell County) in the early hours of May 17, 1864, and spent the next two days moving about 1,200 Confederate soldiers across the Arkansas River to begin operations behind Federal lines along the river. Union forces struggled to determine the location of the Confederate force and, by late May, had abandoned their bases at Batesville (Independence County) and Jacksonport (Jackson County). Shelby officially took command of all Confederate soldiers north of the Arkansas River on May 31 and set out to bring the bands of irregulars in the region under control, preferably by forcing them into Confederate service.
On June 4, 1864, Union lieutenant colonel James Stuart led a force of 273 men and seven officers of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry Regiment from their base at Huntersville toward Clinton in search of news of Shelby. Reaching Clinton on June 7, Stuart split his force, sending one detachment toward Kinderhook—modern-day Edgemont (Cleburne County)—and Batesville and another to Richwoods (Stone County) while he and the balance of the regiment scouted along the south fork of the Little Red River.
Regrouping at Clinton on May 8, Stuart found his information regarding Shelby’s movements unsatisfactory and decided to head to the important crossroads village of Kinderhook, making it easier to scout toward Shelby’s reported base at Batesville. The Federals determined that Shelby had gathered his troops and headed down the White River on May 9 “with the intent of attacking DeVall’s [sic] Bluff [Prairie County] if practicable; if not, to act along the White River, capture boats, and, at the same time, collect [Brigadier General Dandridge] McRae’s scattered forces, which had been disbanded prior to Shelby’s arrival.” The Confederate general had also sent Colonel John T. Coffee and Captain J. A. Schnabel north to recruit soldiers in Searcy, Newton, Carroll, Marion, and Izard counties.
Stuart accurately reported that Shelby was conscripting every male he could find between the ages of sixteen and fifty and that “without a doubt…Shelby had only 1,200 men and four pieces of artillery with him, and that his forces were purposely very much exaggerated by his own command,” adding that a scouting party from the Tenth Illinois had captured a lieutenant and two men of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (CS) during a raid toward Searcy (White County).
The Illinois horsemen returned to Huntersville on June 17 but would continue to spar with Shelby’s forces, killing and wounding five of them on July 8 before suffering a signature defeat at Shelby’s hands in the July 14, 1864, Action at Des Arc Bayou. Shelby’s command continued rampaging through the region, sinking the USS Queen City at Clarendon (Monroe County) and fighting a force of U.S. Colored Troops at Wallace’s Ferry in Phillips County before ending their summer of mayhem by capturing an entire Federal regiment in the August 24 Action at Ashley’s Station.
For additional information:
Christ, Mark K. “‘The Queen City was a Helpless Wreck’: J.O. Shelby’s Summer of ’64.” In “The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled”: Civil War Arkansas, 1863–1864, edited by Mark K. Christ. Little Rock: Old State House Museum, 2007.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, pp. 968–969. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
Last Updated: 05/13/2022