Scouts from Lewisburg (September 6–12, 1864)

A flurry of Union scouting expeditions set out from Lewisburg (Conway County) between September 6 and 12, 1864, as Colonel Abraham H. Ryan tried to determine the locations of Confederate troops while Major General Sterling Price was beginning his invasion of Missouri in the fall of 1864.

Ryan, commanding the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US) from its base at Lewisburg on the Arkansas River, began sending scouting expeditions into the region on September 6 to determine where Price’s troops were operating; they, in fact, were beginning to cross the Arkansas at Dardanelle (Yell County) on September 6. A patrol of the Third Arkansas scattered Confederate pickets and captured thirteen horses at Norristown (Pope County) on the same day.

Ryan dispatched scouts toward Clinton (Van Buren County), Dover (Pope County), Russellville (Pope County), and Norristown on September 8. Mindful of the precariousness of his remote outpost, he began preparations to move his men and supplies toward Little Rock (Pulaski County) in view of the growing Confederate presence in the area.

A detachment of 130 troopers under Lieutenant Colonel Irving Fuller ran into a force of Confederate cavalry and infantry led by Brigadier General William L. Cabell on the Springfield and Dover Road near Glass Village (Pope County) on September 8 as they were returning to Lewisburg. The surrounded Federals cut their way out, though three officers and thirty men were left behind. Several of them made their way back to the Union base that night, leaving Ryan to report: “I do not think our loss will exceed 15 killed, wounded and missing.”

On the morning of September 9, 1864, Captain James F. Clear of Company D, Third Arkansas Cavalry, headed out with thirty-eight men. They charged into Russellville, where they killed two Confederates, and into Norristown. Ryan, meanwhile, fearing that Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Confederate cavalry would cut him off, conducted a forced march to bring his men and supplies to Palarm Creek in Conway County. They were ordered to report to Huntersville—present-day North Little Rock (Pulaski County)—the next day and would remain there until returning to Lewisville in October.

Captain Clear’s men struggled to make it back to Union lines, most of their horses having given out. Twenty-two were hiding out “in the brush and will remain till relieved.” Clear and fifteen others hid their equipment and swam Cadron Creek to make their way to the Arkansas River. Clear and five men boarded the steamboat Chippewa at Palarm Creek and sailed to Little Rock, while the other ten traveled overland to rejoin their comrades on September 12. Clear brought news that Price was heading toward Burrowsville—present-day Marshall (Searcy County)—with 15,000 men and eighteen artillery pieces, intent on invading Missouri.

For additional information:
Sinisi, Kyle S. The Last Hurrah: Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition of 1864. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 41, part 1, pp. 743–744, 758–759; part 3, pp. 104, 117, 138. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

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