Skirmish at Clarendon (June 26, 1864)

Location: Monroe County
Date: June 26, 1864
Principal Commanders: Brigadier General Eugene Carr (US); Brigadier General Joseph Shelby (CS)
Forces Engaged: Clarendon Expedition, 2,750 troops (US); Shelby’s Iron Brigade (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 12 wounded (US); 12 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

Early on the morning of June 24, 1864, a Confederate cavalry brigade under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Shelby attacked and captured the USS Queen City while it was docked at Clarendon (Monroe County). After stripping the ship of weapons, the Confederates set it afire. It drifted down the White River until it exploded. Three additional Federal ships soon arrived on the scene and engaged the Confederates on the riverbank, eventually forcing them to retreat from the town.

The Confederates returned to the town the next day but were once again driven away by fire from the Union ships. A hastily organized expedition under the command of Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr departed from DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) on June 26 and arrived in Clarendon the same day. Consisting of 2,000 infantrymen and about 750 cavalry and a battery of artillery, the group was constructed of units pulled from around DeValls Bluff and the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area exclusively to engage Shelby.

Quickly occupying the town, the Federals pushed to the east, where they located the bulk of Shelby’s men near the hamlet of Pikeville (Monroe County). Deploying in an open field, the Union infantry slowly advanced in the face of the Confederate fire, pushing Shelby back several miles. The Federals captured two pieces of artillery, including one taken from the Queen City. Darkness fell before any further actions could take place.

The next morning, Shelby retreated and Carr continued to pursue the Confederates. Occasionally, Shelby would turn and fight, but both sides spent much of June 27 marching across the Arkansas Delta. Carr gave up his pursuit the next day and returned to Clarendon on June 29. They burned the town and boarded ships for the return trip to DeValls Bluff.

Shelby continued to operate in eastern Arkansas for the next month, attacking forts between DeValls Bluff and Carlisle (Lonoke County) and federally operated plantations. While Carr and his men were not able to defeat Shelby in open battle, the Federals were able to push the Confederates away from the river so they could not continue to affect shipping. The Federals also captured one of the guns that had been taken from the Queen City.

For additional information:
Christ, Mark K. “‘Sun stroke & tired out’: Chasing J. O. Shelby, June 1864.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 68 (Summer 2009): 201–212.

Sesser, David. “‘A Gallant Mail Clad Vessel’: The Capture and Sinking of the USS Queen City.” Academic Forum 25 (2007–08): 64–72.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 34. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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