Skirmish at Monticello Road (May 16, 1865)


Location: Jefferson County
Campaign: None
Date: May 16, 1865
Principal Commanders: Captain John H. Norris (US); Captain R. A. Kidd (CS)
Forces Engaged: 30 men of Company M, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); 10 men of Anderson’s (Arkansas) Cavalry Battalion (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 1 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

Even with the surrender of most of the military units of the Confederacy, the Civil War continued in Arkansas during the spring and early summer of 1865. Many of the southern units in the state were no longer organized and operated to the best of their abilities. Soldiers at Federal outposts throughout the state continued to hunt down these enemy fighters, and this skirmish is an example of one such action.

On May 15, 1865, Captain John Norris of Company M, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry led a scout of thirty men from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The patrol started quietly and moved past several farms to determine if the enemy was present in the area. A local farmer’s wife reported that her husband had been taken from their farm twelve days before and that she had not seen him since. Early on the morning of May 16, the patrol found a fresh set of horse tracks on the Monticello Road. Norris found out that a party of between eight and twenty men of Captain R. A. Kidd’s company was in the area.

The Federals set up an ambush late on the afternoon of May 16. Norris split his command into two units and watched the road. About an hour later, a group of mounted men approached the Union soldiers. The Confederates noticed the hiding Federals and began to gallop away. Stopping only long enough to fire a single volley, the Confederates fled into the underbrush on the other side of the road. The Federals returned fire but were not able to stop the enemy’s retreat.

The Union soldiers did not suffer any casualties and captured one prisoner, as well as some official orders and documents. The documents and prisoner were taken to Pine Bluff, and the Federals continued their scout for another day before returning to Pine Bluff. Norris recommended that a strong force to be sent to Monticello (Drew County) and said that many Confederates in the area would take the opportunity to surrender.

While this was a small and somewhat insignificant action at the very end of the war, this engagement shows that the conflict was still ongoing in Arkansas at this late date.

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


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