Skirmish at Maysville (May 8, 1864)

Location: Benton County
Campaign: None
Date: May 8, 1864
Principal Commanders: Captain Henry Anderson (US); Colonel William P. Adair (CS)
Forces Engaged: Detachment of Third Indian Home Guard (US); Detachment Second Cherokee Mounted Volunteers (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 2 wounded (US); 6 killed (CS)
Result: Draw

A brief and indecisive engagement on the western edge of Arkansas, this skirmish was part of the war in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) that spilled into the state. Pitting Union Cherokee troops against Confederate-allied Cherokee, this skirmish is typical of the actions fought in the area at this point of the war.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, various tribes in Indian Territory disagreed about which side, if any, they should choose in the coming conflict. The Cherokee Nation split, with some members continuing to support the Federal government and others aligning themselves with the Confederacy. Both sides organized military units to participate in the war, with numerous Confederate units and three Union regiments organized.

The Union regiments—the First, Second, and Third Indian Home Guards—spent the bulk of their service scouting enemy movements in the Indian Territory after a failed Federal invasion of the area in 1862. Organized into an Indian Brigade, these regiments were under the command of Colonel William Phillips. Many of the members of the Third Indian previously served in the Confederate-allied First Cherokee Mounted Rifles before becoming discouraged and deserting in 1861 and 1862.

On May 8, 1864, Captain Henry Anderson and a number of his men were scouting east of Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, in an effort to locate Confederate forces under the command of Colonel William Penn Adair, who led the Second Cherokee Mounted Volunteers. Crossing into Arkansas, the Federals were about ten miles northeast of Maysville (Benton County) when they discovered a Confederate force. While it is unclear which side attacked, a short engagement followed. The Federals suffered two severely wounded men, while the enemy reportedly lost six killed. At the conclusion of the skirmish, the Federals returned to their command at Fort Gibson.

While extremely brief and seemingly inconsequential, this skirmish illustrates how fluid the war was at this point. Two units of Cherokee soldiers attacked each other in the state of Arkansas, with both sides suffering casualties and the ultimate outcome seemingly a draw.

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. 34. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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