Skirmish at Hickory Plains

Location: Prairie County
Campaign: Expedition from Little Rock to Little Red River
Date: August 7, 1864
Principal Commanders: Colonel Washington Geiger (US); Colonel Sidney Jackman (CS)
Forces Engaged: 1 cavalry brigade (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 4 killed, 7 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

This skirmish was part of a larger expedition launched to gather information and destroy Confederate supplies north of the Arkansas River. Several Confederate forces, including troops under Brigadier General Joseph Shelby, operated in this area during the summer of 1864. Federal forces used expeditions like this one to gather intelligence.

In August 1864, Federal commanders in Little Rock (Pulaski County) learned about Confederate cavalry operating near the Little Red River in north-central Arkansas. Brigadier General Joseph West received orders to lead a force of Union cavalry to capture or disperse these troops. Divided into two provisional brigades, the force was stationed at both Little Rock and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). West departed the capital city with one brigade, while a second brigade under the command of Colonel Washington Geiger moved out of DeValls Bluff.

Moving to the northwest to meet the remainder of the Union force, Geiger and his men departed DeValls Bluff at noon on August 6. After covering about twenty miles, the Federals camped near Des Arc (Prairie County). The next day, the command moved toward Hickory Plains.

As the Union forces moved forward, they surprised a line of Confederate pickets. Under the command of Colonel Sidney Jackman, these troops were part of Shelby’s cavalry brigade. A short skirmish ensued, which led to the Confederates suffering four killed and seven captured; the Federals did not suffer any casualties. The Confederates fell back and broke off from the engagement. Geiger’s men did not pursue the enemy and continued their march to link up with the remainder of the command.

The Federal troops that were engaged in the skirmish met their counterparts near Bull Creek later that day, and the entire force moved northward to Searcy Landing. The remainder of the expedition covered ten more days, and several more skirmishes took place, as well as the destruction of facilities used to support the Confederate war effort.

Ultimately proving to be a brief skirmish in a larger movement, this engagement did warn Confederate forces that Union troops were moving toward the Little Red River. Although little was accomplished in the fighting, the warning given to the Confederates allowed them to fall back and avoid any large engagements.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part 1, Vol. 41. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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