Skirmish at DeValls Bluff (December 1, 1863)

Location: Prairie County
Campaign: None
Date: December 1, 1863
Principal Commanders: Colonel Jonathan Richmond (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Unknown (US); 8 guerrillas (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 3 wounded (US); 3 killed, 3 wounded (CS)
Result: Union victory

A small inconsequential action, the December 1, 1863, Skirmish at DeValls Bluff was typical of the warfare the Union army faced as it manned isolated posts throughout Arkansas. As regular Confederate troops withdrew from central Arkansas, guerrilla groups continued to attack these outposts.

DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) was an important Federal outpost on the White River. Supplies were transported up the White River to the Union garrison in the town, where they were loaded onto railcars for transport to the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. The troops stationed in the town protected both the river landing and rail station, as well as a large military hospital and other logistical infrastructure. The troops also patrolled the surrounding countryside for both regular Confederate troops and guerrillas.

On the afternoon of December 1, part of the Eighth Missouri Cavalry was drilling outside of the town. After returning to the post, Major William Teed discovered that he had lost his pocketbook. Along with Captain L. J. Matthews, Teed returned to the drill area to search for it. They were approached by eight guerrillas dressed in Federal uniforms, who demanded their surrender. The Federals refused and attempted to flee when the guerrillas open fire. Teed received five shots, and Matthews was struck three times. Teed was successful in returning to the fort, and Colonel Jonathan Richmond immediately dispatched a group from the Eighth Missouri to pursue the guerrillas and kill them all. The Federals quickly caught up with the fleeing enemy and, in a short fight, killed three and wounded three. One Union corporal was wounded in the fighting. Matthews was picked up by the cavalry and returned to the fort, where both he and Teed recovered and were eventually mustered out of the regiment.

Richmond reported the action to Major General Frederick Steele’s headquarters in Little Rock and explained his order to kill, rather than capture, the guerrillas, as they were wearing Union uniforms. The action was small and brief, but it represents the type of war that was being fought in Arkansas after the Union capture of Little Rock.

For additional information:
The War 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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