Skirmish at Norristown (September 6, 1864)

Location: Pope County
Campaign: Price’s Missouri Raid
Date: September 6, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenants Daniel Mason and Marvin Gates (US); Colonel Anderson Gordon (CS)
Forces Engaged: 60 men of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US); Gordon’s Arkansas Cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 0 (US); 0 (CS)
Result: Union victory

One of the earliest engagements between Confederate and Union forces during Major General Sterling Price’s 1864 raid into Missouri, this skirmish would ultimately prove to be bloodless.

In the late summer of 1864, Price was ordered by Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi, to prepare for an invasion of Missouri. The expedition would be used to gain new recruits and supplies, as well as to lower the morale of the civilian population across the north.

Based in southern and southwestern Arkansas, the Confederate troops taking part in the raid began to move northward in August 1864. The Confederate offensive operations were delayed for several days as munitions and other supplies were gathered, and Price’s first plan of crossing the Arkansas River below Little Rock (Pulaski County) while Brigadier General Joseph Shelby created a diversion was abandoned. The first major obstacle that the Confederates would face was the fact that most of the river was patrolled by Federal units posted along its banks.

Moving to the northwest, Price’s command approached Dardanelle (Yell County), and the Confederates began preparations to cross the river at that location. Union units in the area knew that the enemy was nearby but were unsure of the Confederates’ intentions or strength. Federal cavalry moved along the northern bank of the river searching for intelligence.

Colonel Abraham Ryan of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US) was posted in Lewisburg (Conway County), and he sent a patrol toward Norristown (Pope County) on the morning of September 6, 1864. Consisting of sixty men under the command of Lieutenants Daniel Mason and Marvin Gates, the Federals approached the settlement slowly. Learning that Confederate forces were in the town, the Union troops made a quick dash against the enemy. In the brief engagement, the Federals successfully pushed the Confederates out of the town and captured thirteen horses. Neither side suffered any casualties in the skirmish.

The Federals also reported that they sighted additional Confederate troops at Dardanelle across the river and spoke with a civilian who reported that Price was in command of the force. Additionally, the civilian informed the Federals that the Confederate objective was to capture Norristown before moving into Missouri. With this information, Ryan prepared his men to move against the Confederates again. He informed his superior, Brigadier General Eugene Carr, that he would mobilize his available men while making preparations to move supplies stored at Lewisburg in an effort to keep them from falling into enemy hands.

While only a brief engagement, this skirmish set into motion a series of battles that would ultimately lead to the destruction of much of Price’s force and an end to Confederate hopes of retaking Missouri.

For additional information:
Castel, Albert. General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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