Skirmish at Spring River near Smithville

aka: Skirmish at Spring River (April 13, 1864)
aka: Skirmish at Smithville (April 13, 1864)

Location: Lawrence and Sharp counties
Date: April 13, 1864
Principal Commanders: Major Lewis C. Pace (US); unknown (CS)
Forces Engaged: Elements of Eleventh Regiment Missouri Cavalry Volunteers (US); unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 5 killed and 7 captured (CS)
Result: Union victory

Union forces sought to solidify their control in northeast Arkansas and safeguard important supply lines after Federal troops occupied Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863 and the state’s Confederates fled to establish a new capital at Washington (Hempstead County). Colonel Robert R. Livingston and his Union forces reoccupied Batesville (Independence County) on Christmas Day 1863 to establish the headquarters of the District of Northeastern Arkansas. Union forces at Batesville attempted to suppress small bands of regular and irregular Confederates in the region during the following months. Confederate bands were especially active in the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County. Union forces collided with a larger Confederate force composed of elements of Freeman’s Brigade on February 8 at Morgan’s Mill, resulting in a Confederate victory, and Confederate bands remained elusive in the region during the ensuing months.

A small skirmish occurred on April 13, 1864, when a Union scouting party comprising elements of the Eleventh Regiment Missouri Cavalry under the command of Major Lewis C. Pace encountered a band of forty Confederates along the Spring River near Smithville. Maj. Pace reported that his Union forces charged and routed the Confederates “about 8 miles west of Smithville, on Spring River,” killing five men and capturing seven. The Union scouting party suffered no casualties.

The April 13 skirmish was representative of the sporadic fighting in the region between small Union scouting and foraging parties and bands of Confederates between January and May 1864. By April 16, 1864, Col. Livingston moved the Union army’s headquarters of the District of Northeastern Arkansas to Jacksonport (Jackson County) to improve access to supplies and communication on the White River, leaving only a few forces in Batesville. Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. Shelby began moving into the region with large numbers, and the remaining Union troops at Batesville left that town on May 20; Jacksonport was abandoned a few days later on May 26. Shelby’s forces subsequently gained the upper hand in northeast Arkansas, and Confederates continued to harass Federal forces in the region for the remainder of the war.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 34, Part I, pp. 886. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Blake Perkins
West Virginia University


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