Skirmish at LaGrange

Location: LaGrange (Lee County)
Date: May 1, 1863
Campaign: Operations around Helena (Phillips County)
Principal Commanders: Captain John Q. A. DeHuff (US): Colonel Archibald Dobbins (CS)
Forces Engaged: Third Iowa Cavalry Regiment (US); Dobbins’s Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 3 dead, 8 wounded, 30 missing (US); 40 killed and wounded (CS)
Result: A draw

The Skirmish at LaGrange was fought on May 1, 1863, as Federal cavalrymen from the Union base at Helena (Phillips County) sought Confederate horsemen operating in the area.

Brigadier General Willis A. Gorman ordered Captain John Q. A. DeHuff of Company B, Third Iowa Cavalry, to lead 160 men of his regiment toward LaGrange (Lee County) on the morning of May 1, 1863, “and endeavor to learn the movements, if any[,] of the enemy”—most likely Confederate horsemen in Archibald Dobbins’s Arkansas Cavalry Regiment who were operating “between [the] White and Mississippi Rivers” at the time.

The Federal column had advanced to within a mile of LaGrange when its advance guard, twenty-nine men of Company D under Lieutenant William C. Niblack, were fired on by dismounted Confederates stationed on either side of the road. DeHuff deployed his men in squadrons on either side of the road and moved forward, with Second Lieutenant Cornelius A. Stanton receiving a severe arm wound as he led Company I on the attack.

As the Yankees prepared to charge the wavering Confederates, they were attacked by around 300 rebels, who struck DeHuff’s right and rear while delivering volley fire by platoon. Regimental Adjutant Glenn Lowe drew his sword and encouraged the men until being shot in the ankle and captured by Rebels, “who treated him with kindness, and left him at a neighboring house without paroling him.” As the Confederates to his front rallied and his men ran low on ammunition, DeHuff ordered them into column, and they raced three miles through the timber.

While the rebels pursued them “with vigor,” DeHuff’s rearguard troops reloaded their carbines and held them off. The Federals reentered the LaGrange road four miles from where the fighting began and fell back toward Helena, skirmishing constantly. At some point, Sergeant Alexander Breeding and Corporal Horatio L. Birdsall charged a group of Confederates holding five Union prisoners, killing two of the captors and freeing their comrades.

As they neared Helena, the rest of the Third Iowa and the Fifth Kansas Cavalry Regiment arrived to reinforce DeHuff’s command. They then returned to where the fighting began and found the Confederates had retreated, “taking their dead and wounded with them.” The Union commander reported losses of “3 killed, 8 wounded, and 30 missing, probably prisoners,” while “the loss inflicted upon the enemy was not less than 40 killed and wounded. Many of their dead were seen upon the field.”

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, series I, vol. 22, part 1, pp. 316–18; part 2, p. 832. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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