Skirmish at Maysville (July 20, 1864)

Location: Benton County
Campaign: None
Date: July 20, 1864
Principal Commanders: Captain James Powell (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: 43 men of the First and Second Arkansas Cavalries (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 missing (US); 2 killed, 1 wounded (CS)
Result: Union victory

While most Confederate forces in Arkansas were concentrated south of the Arkansas River by the summer of 1864, some guerrilla units continued to operate behind Union lines. A small engagement near the border with the Indian Territory, this skirmish was typical of the fighting during this period.

Federal units from Arkansas worked with Union units from other states to patrol the northwestern corner of the state and keep guerrilla activity to a minimum. Cassville, Missouri, was used as both a headquarters for Federal troops and as a staging point for these missions. On July 18, 1864, Captain James Powell of the Second Arkansas Cavalry received orders from the commanding general of the District of Southwestern Missouri, Brigadier General John Sanborn. Powell was ordered to proceed from his camp near Cassville with twenty-five men of his regiment as an escort for Lieutenant Nathan Burns, provost-marshal for Springfield, Missouri, as he moved into Arkansas on a scouting mission.

Leaving the same day, the Federals arrived in Fayetteville (Washington County) on July 20 and were reinforced by eighteen men of the First Arkansas Cavalry. Continuing their journey the same day, the Union soldiers moved first to Brown’s Mill and toward Maysville (Benton County). Approximately twenty-two miles from Fayetteville, the Federals encountered Confederate guerrillas.

Powell quickly led his men in an attack on the enemy, who numbered around nine. The Federals killed two and wounded a third, who escaped with his comrades. The Union troops did not suffer any casualties during the engagement, and Powell decided to give his men a chance to rest before continuing. However, around 9:00 p.m., Powell received word that a large enemy force was gathering nearby in an effort to surprise his men. The Union commander knew that his men would not be able to defeat such a large force and ordered his men to withdraw. The Federals moved out in good order, returning to Cassville on July 22. During the return trip to Missouri, the Federals suffered their only casualty when one man disappeared and was subsequently listed as missing. (Powell reported that he believed that the soldier slipped over to join the guerrillas.)

While the outcome of this minor skirmish had little to no effect on the conduct of the war in Arkansas, it was typical of the actions that were occurring at this point in the conflict.

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


No comments on this entry yet.