Skirmish at Bentonville


Location: Benton County
Campaign: None
Date: May 22, 1863
Principal Commanders: Colonel William F. Cloud (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Second Kansas Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 1 killed, 14 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

A small engagement in extreme northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was part of a larger scouting expedition launched from Cassville, Missouri. Gathering intelligence for Union forces in Missouri, this scout also disrupted Confederate operations in the area.

On May 21, 1863, Colonel William F. Cloud of the Second Kansas Cavalry embarked from Cassville with his regiment on a movement into Arkansas. Crossing the state line, the expedition approached Bentonville (Benton County).

A Confederate unit was in the town, and Cloud led his men in a surprise attack on the enemy. The Confederate soldiers fled in disarray, and the Federals captured fourteen of the enemy and killed one. Cloud was also able to recover three Federal soldiers who had previously been captured by the Confederates.

At the end of the engagement, Cloud learned that Confederate forces under the command of Colonel John T. Coffee were near Pineville, Missouri. The Federals returned to Missouri in pursuit of the Confederates. Over the course of the following week, Cloud and his men chased the enemy cavalry across southwestern Missouri before returning to Cassville. The Federal force continued to scout the surrounding countryside in an effort to keep the Confederate units from reorganizing.

Cloud also gathered important intelligence on the scout, which he shared with Major General John Schofield, the commander of the Department of Missouri. Several wounded and ill Federal soldiers were left behind in Fayetteville (Washington County) after the April 18 action in that city, and Cloud’s men were able to recover their comrades under a flag of truce. It was from these men that Cloud learned that only 400 to 500 Confederates were in northern Arkansas and were scattered across several counties. Additionally, he learned that Brigadier General William Cabell was at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and that the only other Confederate troops in the state were far to the east. Cloud closed his report by informing Schofield that he did not have sufficient men or horses to effectively patrol the area and requested instructions.

This scout successfully accomplished its mission of gathering intelligence and relaying that information to other Union commanders. The engagement was typical of those fought between small units in Arkansas during this period.

For additional information:
TheWar of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 22, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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