Skirmish at Rodger's Crossing

aka: Skirmish at White River (September 14, 1864)
aka: Skirmish at Huntsville


Rodger’s Crossing; White River; Huntsville (Madison County)


White River Campaign


September 14, 1864

Principal Commanders:

Captain J. I. Worthington (US); Carroll, Etter, and Raly (CS)

Forces Engaged:

First Arkansas Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS)


Unknown (US); 5 killed (CS)


Union victory

On September 12, 1864, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US), stationed in Fayetteville (Washington County), heard rumors that a Confederate group under Captain James Cooper intended to attack Union general John B. Sanborn’s train. Harrison ordered that Captain John I. Worthington escort the train to Little Sugar Creek and then move up the White River in the direction of Richland Creek and Huntsville (Madison County).

Capt. Worthington attacked Capt. Cooper’s approximately eighty Confederate troops close to Jennings’ Ferry on the White River. The skirmishes that ensued toward Richland Creek and Huntsville saw nine Confederate deaths, with five suffered at the Skirmish at Rodger’s Crossing. On the same day as Worthington’s attack, a Confederate lieutenant called Rogers (first name unknown) was captured with a large parcel of Confederate mail traveling to Missouri. His information indeed revealed that the Confederates knew of Sanborn’s train and were on their way to attack it about seven miles south of Cross Timbers. Misinformation, however, had caused the Confederate troops to leave twelve hours late. Worthington, after discovering the Confederate mishap, burned a Confederate tannery, along with a large amount of leather and some saddles. The Union loss was one soldier, slightly wounded.

The captured letters of Lt. Rogers also informed of a 12,000-man Confederate cavalry column currently moving, or about to move, north into Missouri, with Confederate major general Sterling Price as the commander of the cavalry, while General John B. Magruder was left to command Arkansas, with the Confederate troops expected to remain on the Arkansas River for the winter.

Scouts provided information that other Confederate commanders (Colonels William H. Brooks and Erasmus Irving Stirman) had crossed the Arkansas River on September 10 with 300 men. Camping one night on the White River and then crossing to Cane Hill (Washington County), Brooks and Stirman had met with Tuck Smith’s, Hugh T. Brown’s, and other Confederate troops, amounting to a combined force of 600 men. It was their intention to move some of the Confederate families in the area to safer ground and incorporate all of the wandering Confederate guerrillas into the main army.

Col. Harrison thought that there must be a guard for the wagon trains from Cassville, Missouri, to South Sugar Creek because he suspected that the Confederates had learned his style of escorting trains. Miscommunication started a chain of events that were essential to the Union’s attainment of future Confederate plans for attacking Union trains. Harrison requested Union forces to send advance word of trains in order to provide an escort for each train.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 41, Part I, p. 797. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Matthew Whitlock
Old Dominion University


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