Skirmish at Benton Road (July 19, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Little Rock (July 19, 1864)


Location: Pulaski County
Campaign: None
Date: July 19, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Thomas G. Black (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Patrol of the Third Missouri Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 killed, 2 wounded (US); Unknown (CS)
Result: Confederate victory

After the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and rejoined the defenses of that city. Confederate forces, flush with their success in the Camden Expedition, began to probe the Union positions in a prelude to a large-scale offensive. This skirmish was one such action.

After returning to Little Rock from the Camden Expedition on May 7, 1864, the Third Missouri Cavalry was stationed about four miles southwest of the city on the road to Benton (Saline County). The unit was tasked with outpost duty, and half of the regiment was on duty every day. This routine continued until July 13, when an eight-man patrol of the regiment was attacked by an enemy force of approximately fifty men. Three Federal soldiers were wounded, and one was killed in the exchange. The patrol quickly retreated back to the regiment and informed them of the action, but a pursuit of the enemy was unsuccessful.

Similar events transpired on July 19, when another patrol of the Third Missouri was ambushed about four miles from camp. The Union soldiers suffered one man killed and two more wounded. The patrol retreated, and another group of Federal soldiers searched for the Confederates but were unable to find them. According to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Black, commander of the Third Missouri, the Confederates were likely hiding between the Union outpost and the Saline River.

This type of action was typical at this point in the war. The Confederates in the southwestern corner of the state could not effectively challenge the Union fortifications at Little Rock, Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and other Federal strongholds and relied on hit-and-run tactics to engage the enemy. While this particular action did allow Confederate forces to engage Union troops, their success was negligible and they were forced to retreat.

For additional information:
Petty, A. W. M.A History of the Third Missouri Cavalry: From its Organization at Palmyra, Missouri, 1861, up to November Sixth, 1864: With an Appendix and Recapitulation. Albany, MO: Century Reprints, 1997.

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


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