Skirmish at Benton (August 18, 1864)


Location: Saline County
Campaign: None
Date: August 18, 1864
Principal Commanders: Captain Miles Kehoe (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Detachment of the First Missouri Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); Unknown (CS)
Result: Union victory

After the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces were concentrated in the southern part of the state and lacked the strength to launch a full-scale assault on Union positions in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Rather, Southern units engaged in a campaign of harassment and quick strikes of little military value. The units occupied positions near the Federal lines to engage the enemy when the opportunity arose, and this skirmish is one such action.

The Federal position after the Camden Expedition did not extend far outside of the Little Rock city limits. Confederate forces operated outside of the Federal lines, especially south of the city. Benton (Saline County) was an important city for both sides, as it lay near the Saline River and on the Southwest Trail that led to Little Rock. After the initial capture of Little Rock in September 1863, fortifications were constructed in the Benton area but were subsequently abandoned.

On August 18, 1864, a detachment of the First Missouri Cavalry (US), under the command of Captain Miles Kehoe, was dispatched from Little Rock to Benton. Upon arriving in the city around 4:30 p.m., the Federals were fired upon by a group of Confederate cavalry numbering around 100. The Confederates quickly retreated across the Saline River, but the Union soldiers were able to capture one enemy soldier who was also wounded. He informed the Federals that a brigade of Confederate cavalry had occupied the city but retreated across the Saline about two hours before the detachment arrived on the scene. The Confederates had been warned by a woman from Little Rock who rode ahead of the Federals as they departed the capital city. The prisoner also informed Capt. Kehoe that the Confederate army was preparing to move on Little Rock and that two brigades of cavalry were currently on the other side of the Saline River and were preparing to cross the next day. Kehoe also reported that a different source informed him that another group of Confederates was moving toward Monticello (Drew County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Kehoe concluded his report to his superiors by stating that he fell back about two miles from Benton to obtain forage for his horses and planned to cross the Saline River the next day in the direction of Hot Springs (Garland County).

While this engagement was not a major battle, it does show the type of war being fought in Arkansas in 1864. Towns were taken and abandoned, while actual battles were not common.

For additional information:
TheWar of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


No comments on this entry yet.