Skirmish at Monticello (May 24, 1865)


Location: Drew County
Campaign: None
Date: May 24, 1865
Principal Commanders: Captain John H. Norris (US); Captain William Burks (CS)
Forces Engaged: 60 men of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); 84 men of Wright’s Twelfth Arkansas Cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); Estimate of 84 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

In mid-1865, after four years of conflict, the Civil War was finally coming to a close. But Confederate troops still operated in southeastern Arkansas. This skirmish was part of the effort to get these troops to surrender to Union forces and thus conclude the war in the state.

On May 23, 1865, Captain John Norris of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry departed Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) with sixty men. Once outside of the city, he split his force into two groups. Taking different roads, the two parts of the unit rejoined that night about thirty miles from Pine Bluff. The Federals continued to patrol the countryside the next day before entering Monticello (Drew County) around sunset. Encountering the enemy for the first time, the Union soldiers pushed the Confederates out of the town in a small skirmish that saw no casualties on either side. Norris sent a message to the Confederate commander, Captain William Burks. The Federal officer called for the Confederates to surrender and vowed to remain in the area and eat what little food was available. Before sunrise on the morning of May 25, small groups of Confederate troops began to appear at the Federal lines under flags of truce. By that afternoon, all of the Confederate troops in the area had agreed to surrender. Norris offered the same terms that General Ulysses S. Grant offered to General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse.

A total of fourteen officers and seventy enlisted men surrendered to the Federal forces. Three horses belonging to West’s Battery were also taken. Norris also received orders to accept the surrender of Captain R. A. Kidd near Monticello. This was accomplished the same day with an undetermined number of men surrendering.

With most of the Confederate forces in the area surrendered, the Federals began their return journey to Pine Bluff. Norris encountered a group of civilians on the road from Pine Bluff who asked for an escort to protect them from bandits who were still in the area. Norris dispatched a detachment of fifteen men and one officer to help the civilians, and he returned to Pine Bluff on May 27. This action effectively ended most of the fighting in southeastern Arkansas.

For additional information:
TheWar of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 48, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


    Confederates lost thirteen soldiers and three civilians, and a mother from a broken heart from losing her three sons–two of whom were enlisted and one of whom was murdered. I’m a local and know the hidden information.

    Jake Ramsey Monticello, AR