Skirmish at Richland Creek (August 16, 1864)

Location: Washington County
Campaign: None
Date: August 16, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel Albert Bishop (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Unknown (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 2 wounded (US); at least 3 killed (CS)
Result: Union victory

A running battle in northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was typical of Federal efforts to keep guerrillas from establishing a foothold in the area.

On August 15, 1864, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) ordered Lieutenant Colonel Albert Bishop to lead an expedition against a band of bushwhackers operating near Fayetteville (Washington County) under the command of Tuck Smith. Departing at 1:00 a.m. the next morning, the Federals moved eastward and found signs of enemy activity about thirteen miles outside Fayetteville.

Around 7:00 a.m., the unit approached a home on Richland Creek. Between ten and fifteen horses were tied up there. The guerrilla riders were inside eating breakfast, and the Union troops surprised the entire group, causing them to flee across a nearby cornfield in confusion. Engaged by the Federals, the guerrillas had two of their men killed before making their escape. The Union troops returned to the house, where they finished all the remaining breakfast food and took the horses and associated equipment.

Continuing along the creek, the Federals encountered another group of the enemy about one mile from the location of the initial engagement. The Confederates deployed along a wooded bluff, and after several minutes of fighting, the Federals pushed the enemy back and caused them to flee in confusion.

One mile down the road, another group was engaged by the Federals, and one Confederate was killed in that engagement. Moving toward Huntsville (Madison County), the Union troops were fired upon by other enemy forces but were unable to track the enemy successfully in the thick undergrowth. By this time, it was 11:00 a.m., and the men rested near Phillips’ Mill until the afternoon.

Continuing their movement, they encountered the train of the First Arkansas Cavalry near the mill and reported losing a horse to enemy fire during their march. At about 4:00 p.m., the Federals received fire once again from a high bluff along the road, but after deploying to meet the threat, the Union troops found the enemy had disappeared. Shots continued to come from the woods on either side of the road, but little harm came to the men of the expedition. The men camped that night at McGuire’s Store and returned to Fayetteville the next morning.

During the expedition, the Union troops suffered two wounded, including one accidently. The Confederates lost twenty-five horses and mules and at least three men killed, as well as an undetermined number of wounded, as they used wagons to gather injured men from the field of battle before the Federals could capture them.

Bishop closed his report by pointing out that although Tuck Smith and his band of men were defeated in the field, they continued to pose a significant threat to Union forces in the area. Smith and other guerrilla leaders in the area would continue to threaten and aggravate Federal efforts in northwestern Arkansas for the remainder of the Civil War, but they never posed a significant threat for control of the area.

For additional information:
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


No comments on this entry yet.