Skirmish at Brownsville (August 25, 1863)

Location: Lonoke County
Campaign: Little Rock Campaign
Date: August 25, 1863
Principal Commanders: Colonel Washington Geiger (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: 1 cavalry brigade (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); Unknown (CS)
Result: Union victory

A brief and inconsequential engagement during the Federal campaign to take Little Rock (Pulaski County), this skirmish took place near the present-day city of Lonoke (Lonoke County). Confederate forces engaged Union troops to delay the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s forces as they moved westward.

The movement of the Federal army on Little Rock was hampered more by sickness than by Confederate forces. Nevertheless, the enemy engaged Union forces with increasing frequency as they approached Little Rock. With the bulk of Steele’s infantry slowly making their way across the Grand Prairie, Union cavalry forces scouted ahead of the main body of troops.

On the morning of August 25, 1863, a brigade of Union cavalry under the command of Colonel Washington Geiger moved from Two Mile Prairie Bayou in the direction of Brownsville (Lonoke County). The Federals slowly covered about six miles until they were engaged by Confederate pickets concealed in underbrush on the edge of the prairie. Geiger ordered two regiments into a line of battle and slowly pushed forward. A battery of Union artillery deployed and opened up on the Confederates while part of the Federal force moved to the left in an effort to flank the enemy. Before this could be accomplished, a Union detachment launched a saber charge against Confederates. This action caused the Confederates to fall back in confusion.

Geiger and his command pursued the enemy to Brownsville, where the Confederates tried to mount a defense. Unable to organize their forces, they continued to retreat. The Federals pursued the enemy for about seven miles before darkness began to fall. Geiger and his men returned to Brownsville, where they spent the night before continuing their approach on Little Rock the next morning.

While only a small skirmish without any casualties listed, this action saw the capture of Brownsville by Union forces and their continued pressure on Arkansas’s capital city.

For additional information:

Christ, Mark K. Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010.

Papineau, Clement J., Jr. “The Battle of Brownsville.” Arkansas Military History Journal 10 (Winter 2016): 1–29.

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

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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