Scouts from Bellefonte
The scouts from Bellefonte were conducted by troopers of the Second Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (US) from their base in the field as they conducted search-and-destroy missions against Confederate guerrillas operating in north-central Arkansas.
Elements of the Second Arkansas Cavalry were ordered into northern Arkansas from their base in Cassville, Missouri, on March 9, 1864. After moving initially to Yellville (Marion County), they transferred to Rolling Prairie (Boone County), after which they moved periodically “for foraging purposes.” By the end of March, Companies F, I, and K were based at Bellefonte (Boone County), while Company G was stationed at nearby Clepper’s Mill.
On March 29, 1864, Captain Martin E. O’Brien set out toward Searcy County with fifty men. They rode to Old Lebanon (Searcy County), where they found around seventy-five “poorly armed” guerrillas under captains James Harrison Love, John Cecil (Major James Melton referred to him as Sessill in his report), and Cordwell. They attacked, killing bushwhackers James Angel, John W. Garrett, Temple Garrett, and John Riggins of Marion County.
O’Brien continued as far as Burrowsville (present-day Marshall in Searcy County) before crossing the Buffalo River at the mouth of Central Big Creek and then continuing to Yellville, where he reported to Major George W. Murphy that there were around 300 guerrillas under a Captain Relliford at Sylamore (Izard County) and 500 formerly led by Brigadier General Dandridge McRae at Richwoods (Stone County), in addition to the bands he attacked at Old Lebanon. O’Brien’s patrol returned to Bellefonte on the evening of April 1.
Melton also reported that Sergeant Harrison Tramel of Company G, Second Arkansas Cavalry, left his camp with six men on March 29 on a scout during which they ran into a band of fifteen bushwhackers; they killed four while the rest scattered into the woods. Tramel set out on another scout on either March 30 or April 1 with twenty men and encountered a group of ten bushwhackers. The Federals attacked and killed eight of them and wounded one, while the remaining guerrilla escaped. He immediately gave his late foes’ weapons “to Union men who were then under his protection.”
Melton reported that two companies of the Second Arkansas who were at Batesville (Independence County) were “within striking distance,” saying that “I feel confident that I can hold the country against all forces the rebels can muster below here with my six complete companies.” The Second Arkansas soldiers would engage in the skirmishes at Whiteley’s Mills and Limestone Valley before moving to new posts later in April.
For additional information:
Hewett, Janet B., et al., eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 2. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1994.
Johnston, James J. The Civil War in Searcy County Month by Month. Marshall, AR: Searcy County Publications, 2015.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 34, part 1, p. 859. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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