Skirmish at Gaines' Landing (June 28, 1863)

Location: Chicot County
Campaign: None
Date: June 28, 1863
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Nasmith (US); Colonel John B. Clark (CS)
Forces Engaged: Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry, Fourth Ohio Artillery, and 200 cavalry of the Fifth Illinois (US); Eighth Missouri Infantry, Ninth Missouri Infantry, Ruffner’s Missouri Battery (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None
Result: Union victory

Located on the western bank of the Mississippi River in Chicot County, Gaines’ (or Gaines) Landing was a busy shipping point between Helena (Phillips County) and Vicksburg, Mississippi. A road heading west from Gaines’ Landing through Drew County was one of few in the area leading inland away from the river, making it very important to settlers, immigrants, and merchants. During the American Civil War, Gaines’ Landing was one of many points along the river used by Confederate troops to harass Federal steamboats. Long bends of the river were ideal for the Confederates’ hit-and-run tactics: they could attack a boat as it entered the bend and then race across the narrow neck of land to attack it again as it came out of the bend; this was particularly effective when boats were moving slowly upstream.

Hidden behind trees or plantation levees, Rebels with muskets and cannon would shoot at passing vessels. In retaliation, gunboats would shell the area. Often, infantry, cavalry, and sometimes artillery units would disembark and chase the Rebels away. The Confederates could head up or down the river or use the road as a reliable escape route to the west.

Parson’s Texas Cavalry (CS) arrived in the area in June 1862 and began harassing Union transports with small arms. On July 20, 1862, Major General Samuel R. Curtis (US) reported that his men drove some pickets from Gaines Landing and killed one man. His troops destroyed a large number of flat boats and a small steamboat that had been used to carry ammunition, guns, and artillery across the river from Mississippi.

On December 23, 1862, Sergeant Major E. Paul Reichhelm of the Third Missouri Infantry (US) described the sacking and burning of houses and farms at Gaines Landing. Apparently, Rebels had fired at transports carrying some of Sherman’s Federal force, though not everything was destroyed.

On June 15, 1863, Lieutenant Edward E. Brennand, commanding the USS Prairie Bird, reported that a coal barge used to store fuel for his and other vessels was set on fire by Rebel guerrillas. The following day, Confederates fired at the USS Marmora while its crew was loading coal. Union acting lieutenant Robert Getty sent a landing party to destroy most of the houses at Gaines Landing. The next morning, landing parties from both gunboats burned a large house that was being used as a headquarters.

Colonel William H. Parsons (CS) was ordered to move his Texas cavalry to Lake Providence, Louisiana. They were replaced by the command of Colonel John B. Clark (CS), which included the Eighth Missouri Infantry, the Ninth Missouri Infantry, and Ruffner’s Missouri Battery of four six-pounder cannon.

During the night of June 27, 1863, a convoy of five troop transport ships was fired on by artillery hidden on shore near Gaines Landing. One man on board was wounded and another was killed. The USS Prairie Bird and USS Kenwood shelled the area with their large cannon.

The next day, the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry (600 men), the Fourth Ohio Artillery with four guns, and 200 cavalry of the Fifth Illinois—all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel J. Nasmith—landed at Spanish Moss Bend, ten miles southeast of Gaines Landing. They engaged Clark’s army in a running skirmish. The Confederates fell back to Gaines Landing and then headed west. Darkness and the lack of a guide caused the Federals to withdraw back to their transports at Spanish Moss Bend, where they destroyed 12,000 to 20,000 bushels of corn, a mill used for grinding corn, and a cotton gin. There were no reports of additional casualties.

For additional information:
Anderson, John Q., ed. Campaigning with Parsons’ Texas Cavalry Brigade, CSA. Hillsboro, TX: Hill Junior College Press, 1967.

Bearss, Edwin C. The Campaign for Vicksburg. Vols. 1–3. Dayton, OH: Morningside House, 1985–86.

Simons, Don R. In Their Words: A Chronology of the Civil War in Chicot County, Arkansas, and Adjacent Waters of the Mississippi River. Sulphur, LA: Wise Publications 2000.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vols. 13, 22, and 24. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1890–1901.

The War of the Rebellion: Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. Vol. 25. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1912.

Don R. Simons
Mount Magazine State Park


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