Skirmish at Gaines' Landing (July 20, 1862)

Location: Chicot County
Campaign: None
Date: July 20, 1862
Principal Commanders: Major General Samuel R. Curtis (US); unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Army of the Southwest (US); unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None reported (US); 1 killed (CS)
Results: Union victory

This Civil War skirmish occurred in relation to strategic considerations of Major General Samuel R. Curtis after he occupied Helena (Phillips County) and established operational headquarters there in the summer of 1862.

The location of Gaines’ (or Gaines) Landing in Chicot County—situated between Curtis’s base at Helena and the stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi—made it a useful base for Confederates to transport munitions and other supplies into Arkansas by flatboat and steamboat. In addition to his concern for the general strategic security of the Mississippi River, Curtis also worried that such activities could impinge upon possible operations against Little Rock (Pulaski County) and the area between Memphis, Tennessee, and the mouth of the Arkansas River.

To address these concerns, Curtis led a portion of the Army of the Southwest on a reconnaissance toward Gaines Landing. The Federals encountered, drove back, and pursued a picket force from an unidentified Confederate unit (possibly Colonel William Henry Parsons’s Texas Cavalry, which had conducted small-scale harassment actions against Federal troops in the area since June). The Federals killed one Confederate in this exchange; no Union casualties are reported for this action.

Curtis continued his pursuit southward along the Arkansas River for twenty-five miles, hoping to intercept a recent Confederate shipment of artillery pieces. This final phase of the operation proved unsuccessful, as Confederate forces had already transported the artillery pieces to Little Rock.

Curtis considered this operation a tactical victory, as the reconnaissance and skirmish confirmed his suspicions about Gaines Landing. Curtis remained concerned, however, that such activities would be renewed against Union troops and transports in the vicinity of Gaines Landing. He, therefore, also requested that Major General Henry W. Halleck address the long-term strategic consideration by committing additional naval resources to counter more effectively any threat to future Federal operations on the strategically important Mississippi River. Halleck endorsed this suggestion to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1. Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1885.

Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell


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