Skirmish at Waddell's Farm (near Village Creek)

Location: Jackson County
Campaign: Skirmish at Waddell’s Farm, near Village Creek, Arkansas
Date: June 12, 1862
Principal Commanders: Colonel Albert Brackett, Ninth Illinois Cavalry (US); Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bell Burleson, Captain Richard Hooker (CS)
Forces Engaged: Ninth Illinois Cavalry, two companies of Bowen’s Cavalry Battalion (US); Hooker’s Company, elements of M. Jeff Thompson’s command, possible elements of the Twelfth Texas Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bell Burleson (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 1 prisoner (executed later) and 12 wounded (US); 28 killed, wounded, or taken prisoner (CS)
Result: Union victory

While on a foraging expedition on June 12, 1862, a detachment of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry engaged a Confederate force at Waddell’s Farm (also called Waddill’s Farm in some sources) near Village Creek in Jackson County, Arkansas. Bettering the Confederates, the Federals filled some thirty-six wagons with supplies before returning to Camp Tucker close to the junctions of the Black and White rivers.

When Confederate major general Earl Van Dorn stripped Arkansas of all valuable military supplies to support operations in the Western Theater, Jacksonport (Jackson County) was abandoned of all reasonable defenses. The new commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Major General Thomas Hindman, had to create a new army from scratch. Consequently, he appointed individuals across the state such as Captain Richard Hooker in Jackson County to raise local units to harass the Federals and provide manpower.

Noticing the lack of adequate defense in Arkansas, Union major general Samuel Curtis, commanding the Army of the Southwest, invaded Arkansas a second time with Little Rock (Pulaski County) as his objective. Brigadier General Frederick Steele, commanding a division of the District of Southeast Missouri, was placed under Curtis’s command and ordered south through Pitman’s Ferry (Randolph County) and Pocahontas (Randolph County). Foul weather and supply issues slowed their advance. On May 3, 1862, Curtis bogged down in Batesville (Independence County). The next day, advance units of Steele’s column arrived in Jacksonport. Waiting out the weather and attempting to improve their supplies, the Union forces became targets for various Confederate units and guerrillas in the region.

In Jacksonport, Steele established Camp Tucker near the junction of the White and Black rivers, placing it under the leadership of Colonel Albert Brackett of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry. Steele’s force, now the First Division of the Army of the Southwest, engaged the Confederates in Jackson County while he was meeting with Curtis in Batesville. On June 2, 1862, a Confederate gunboat and cavalry marched on the town and shelled Camp Tucker. Fearing that civilians could be harmed if the Federals remained in the camp and returned artillery fire, Brackett (who abandoned the camp prior to the appearance of the gunboat) did little, reoccupying the camp after the Confederates left the region.

On June 12, 1862, continuing supply needs required Brackett to dispatch Major Hector J. Humphrey with four companies of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry and thirty-six wagons to gather corn and bacon rumored to be at Waddell’s farm. Attacked by Confederates near the farm, Humphrey quickly called for reinforcements. Brackett rapidly moved forward with artillery and two companies from Bowen’s Cavalry Battalion. Deploying the artillery on the road near the farm, Brackett placed his troopers to the right in a cotton field, exchanging a couple of rounds with the Confederates before charging forward with sabers drawn. Scattering the Rebels, Brackett advanced while firing on Waddell’s building. Filling the wagons with the needed supplies, the Federals counted some twenty-eight Confederates as killed, wounded, and prisoners, including a private and a captain identified as members of Hooker’s Company. Brackett reported one Union man prisoner and twelve wounded. Union surgeon Dr. Charles Brackett noted that besides men from Hooker’s company, some men from Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson’s command were also taken prisoner. Furthermore, Dr. Brackett reports that the Federal soldier taken prisoner was found shot with fifteen rounds on June 15.

While no formal Confederate report has been located of this event, a letter was published in the Arkansas True Democrat describing the event differently. A man named only as Knox reported that the Confederates, under Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Bell Burleson of the Twelfth Texas Cavalry, were greatly outnumbered in the engagement, with some sixty Confederates fighting 600 Federals. According to Knox, the Confederates lost only one killed and two taken prisoner. The Federals’ count included five men killed and twelve wounded. Knox also spent several lines of the letter attacking Brackett, calling him a “mean villain and negro thief” and referring to his regiment as “convicts from the Illinois penitentiary.”

While the reports show different opinions about the statistics of the Skirmish at Waddell’s Farm, the most important factor is that the Union forces in Jacksonport were temporarily resupplied. Toward the end of June, supply issues forced more combat in Jackson County, such as the Skirmish at Stewart’s Plantation on June 27, 1862. Overall, supply and communication problems eventually forced Curtis to abandon his position in late June. After a taxing march south, Curtis’s army marched into Helena (Phillips County) on July 12, 1862.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 13, pp. 122–123. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

Watson, Lady Elizabeth. Fight and Survive: A History of Jackson County, Arkansas in the Civil War. Conway, AR: River Road Press, 1974.

Wheaton, James W. Surgeon on Horseback: The Missouri and Arkansas Journal and Letters of Dr. Charles Brackett of Rochester, Indiana, 1861–1863. Carmel: Guild Press of Indiana, Inc., 1998.

Derek Allen Clements
Black River Technical College


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