Skirmish at Bayou Meto (February 24, 1865)

Location: Jefferson County
Campaign: None
Date: February 24, 1865
Principal Commanders: Captain George W. Suesberry (US); Captain Hicks, Captain Husband, Marcellus Vaugine, Major R. A. Watkins (CS)
Forces Engaged: Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers (US); unidentified Confederate units
Casualties: None (US); 13 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

By 1863, guerrilla activity had become so prevalent in the territory surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) that local citizens requested that Federal forces move into the area to reduce the threat of violence. Later that year, forces under the command of Colonel Powell Clayton were ordered to Jefferson County. The city remained occupied for the remainder of the war.

To secure the area, scouting patrols were regularly sent out to assess enemy activity. On February 22, 1865, Captain George W. Suesberry took a detachment of eighty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers to the north side of the Arkansas River to monitor enemy movements. Only sixty-five troopers crossed the river but were shortly joined by twenty-five additional men. As they moved south, Suesberry quickly encountered the enemy, capturing three Confederate soldiers from the command of a Captain Hicks. At about four o’clock that afternoon, the Federals routed the unit of a Captain Husband at a place dubbed Mrs. Vosche’s farm, capturing three more. Before camping at a plantation for the night, two additional prisoners were taken.

At approximately nine o’clock on the morning of February 24, the Thirteenth Illinois clashed with Major R. A. Watkins’s unit at Bayou Meto, about thirty miles below Pine Bluff. What ensued was described by Suesberry as a “sharp skirmish.” Company M, led by Lieutenant Temple, led a charge that completely routed the Confederates. During the skirmish, Federal troopers were instructed to pick an enemy soldier and capture him. Seven were captured, including Watkins, who was run down and apprehended by Lieutenant Temple. Gathering their prisoners, the Federals headed back to Pine Bluff, arriving there by nine o’clock that night. In his report, Suesberry stated that his force had traveled about 100 miles, fighting two skirmishes and capturing thirteen with no loss to his unit.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part I, Vol. 48. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1896.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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