Skirmish at Knight's Cove

 Location:  Stone County
 Campaign:  None
 Date:  June 19, 1862
 Principal Commanders:  Lieutenant Ferdinand Hansen (US); William Chitwood (CS)
 Forces Engaged:  Fifth Missouri Cavalry, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, Eighteenth  Indiana Infantry (US); Freeman’s Regiment, First Missouri  Cavalry (CS)
 Estimated Casualties:  1 wounded (US); 1 killed (CS)
 Result:  Confederate munitions effort at Ennis Cave (Stone County)  and Salt Peter Cave (Independence County) secured

In the absence of Colonel Thomas Freeman (CS), who had been captured at the Battle of Pea Ridge, a somewhat disorganized band was left in charge of protecting the Confederate munitions efforts in the White River valley under the direction of William Chitwood. On May 11, 1862, ferry owner Charles Grigsby and Chitwood, the husband of Grigsby’s cousin, Sarah Fulks, had rigged the ferry, a vital means of crossing the White River, with explosives mimicking a snag in the water, thus sinking the Grigsby Ferry and killing eleven Union soldiers, including Captain Thomas McClelland. “The Union army has very little options in crossing the White River,” General Samuel Curtis wrote in his report. The Union officially deemed it an accident and rebuilt Grigsby Ferry.

In the early hours of June 19, 1862, Lieutenant Ferdinand Hansen and forty of his men crossed the river, both utilizing the ferry and riding across the lower waters. The McClellan family, who lived upriver, sometimes worked the ferry and were known to “sing the songs of which ever side was crossing.” Due to this lack of loyalty, when it became known that a McClellan boy (first name unknown) was to be a guide for the Union to Riggsville in Stone County, Chitwood and his men hogtied McClellan, replacing him with William (Bill) Marion Turner. The troops crossed the river bottomland of what is now the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Martin Access and Younger Access, moving along the Searcy County Road, which ran from Batesville (Independence County) to Harrison (Boone County). Official records indicate that the Union made it to the area of Hunt’s Ferry on the Little Red River (now under the waters of Greers Ferry Lake), then turned back, crossing the ridge into the settlement of Rich Woods (the top of Dodd Mountain in Stone County) and descending through Riggsville along what is presently known as Freeze Mountain. Turner had led them on a planned route, descending at present-day Bob Davis Mountain (formerly Knight’s Mountain) into Knight’s Cove.

According to the official records of Lt. Hansen, he was told that the guerrillas had gone to Fairview—present-day Timbo (Stone County)—where they had joined some Texas Rangers coming in through Van Buren County and Searcy County to assist during the capture and imprisonment of Col. Freeman. The Confederate soldiers, meanwhile, gathered in the hills above the cove that lay at the bottom of the mountain on the Knight family farm. According to the Confederate account, as well as the official records, a group of Union soldiers was foraging food for both the men and the animals of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry and Eighteenth Indiana Infantry; they were going through Knight’s corn bin, raiding the farm of its corn and livestock, when the Union soldiers under Hansen descended the mountain to find them. Waiting until these two units were approaching each other, the Confederate soldiers began their attack, wounding a number of men, including Private William Becker, whose horse was shot out from under him. The Federals returned fire, killing Jody Culp. James Harvey Henry and his son John were in charge of the ambush under the direction of Chitwood and William Hatfield. Hansen arrested anyone he could, including Andrew Jackson Hight, who lived near McGuire’s Store in Batesville, accusing him of being a spy for the guerrillas.

The Union reported only the one man injured and stated that they loaded him onto a wagon transporting him back to the camp at Batesville. Col. Freeman was released from Union captivity on June 18, 1862, after signing an oath of allegiance. He then returned to the White River valley, where he continued his campaign to defend the munitions efforts throughout the area.

For additional information:
Phillips, Freda Cruse. Places of Our People: Stone County, Arkansas. Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2011.

Phillips, Freda Cruse. Voices of Our People: Stone County, Arkansas. Kearney, NE: Morris Publishing, 2009.

The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1885.

Freda Cruse Phillips
Mountain View, Arkansas


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