Skirmish at Scatterville

Location: Clay County
Campaign: Operations in southeast Missouri and northeastern Arkansas, with skirmishes at Scatterville, Ark. (July 28), at Osceola, Ark. (August 2), and at Elk Chute, Mo. (August 4)
Date: July 28, 1864
Principal Commanders: Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris (US); Unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Detachments of the Second and Third Cavalry Missouri State Militia, and detachments of the First and Sixth Cavalry Missouri Volunteers (US); Unknown Confederate recruiting party, John Fugate Bolin’s Confederate guerrillas (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 wounded (US); 1 killed, unknown number wounded, and 1 prisoner (CS)
Result: Union victory

During a raid of northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri in the late summer of 1864, a battalion of Union cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris defeated a Confederate recruiting party and a group of guerrillas at Scatterville (Clay County) on July 28, 1864. After the skirmish, the Union forces burned several structures in the town.

In an effort to clear northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri of small bands of Confederate regulars, guerrillas, and general bushwhackers who had been menacing the countryside, Burris left New Madrid, Missouri, with a battalion consisting of the Second Cavalry Missouri State Militia and the First Cavalry Missouri Volunteers on July 21, 1864. From July 21 to July 26, Burris’s battalion scouted the Missouri counties of New Madrid, Mississippi, and Stoddard for enemy forces, engaging several small bands of bushwhackers and guerrillas in inconsequential actions. Rendezvousing with a battalion consisting of the Third Cavalry Missouri State Militia and the Sixth Cavalry Missouri Volunteers, Burris moved his forces down different roads to screen for enemy contact as he moved into the Missouri Bootheel.

Crossing over the St. Francis River south of Chalk Bluff (Clay County), Burris’s combined force entered Arkansas, arriving at Scatterville—a dead town in the present day located approximately two miles to the northwest of Rector (Clay County)—on July 28, 1864. In Scatterville, Burris engaged two small enemy groups. First, he routed a Confederate recruiting party under an officer only identified as Colonel Clark. Additionally, a group of guerrillas identified as Bolin’s guerrillas was defeated. While Clark is difficult to identify, the guerrillas were mostly likely relatives and followers of the late John F. Bolin, a notorious guerrilla who was lynched by a Unionist mob while a prisoner in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a few months earlier in February 1864. After hostilities ceased, Burris ordered the structures that the guerrillas used as cover to be burned in retribution for the attack.

Burris reported that only his chief scout, E. T. Jenkins, was wounded. The Confederates had one lieutenant killed, one captain captured, and an unspecified number of arms and mounts lost.

On July 29, the Federals left Scatterville to continue their operations in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri, which resulted in additional skirmishes at Osceola (Mississippi County) on August 2 and Elk Chute, Missouri, on August 4.

The Skirmish at Scatterville was a small part of a successful Federal expedition. Total Confederate and guerrilla losses are estimated by Burris to be approximately fifty killed, with wounded numbers ranging from thirty to forty. The Federals claimed to seize fifty-seven prisoners, 200 stands of arms, and 230 horses and mules. Burris also reported the recapture of approximately twenty previously liberated African Americans whom guerrillas were attempting to re-enslave. While Burris did not give total Union losses in his report, four different wounded individuals (one mortally wounded) are noted in the Union reports.

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, pp. 77–81. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Derek Allen Clements
Black River Technical College


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