Skirmish at White Springs

Location: Boston Mountains
Campaign: Marmaduke’s Expedition into Missouri
Date: January 2, 1863
Principal Commanders: Unnamed (US); Major Benjamin Elliott and Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Gilkey (CS)
Forces Engaged: Unnamed (US); First Missouri Cavalry Battalion (Elliott’s), Twelfth Missouri Cavalry (CS)
Estimated Casualties: 20 killed, 20 wounded, undetermined number of prisoners (US); one killed (CS)
Result: Confederate victory

The Skirmish at White Springs took place at the start of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s Expedition into Missouri.

On December 31, 1862, Brigadier General Joseph Orville Shelby’s command began its march northward from the vicinity of Lewisburg (Conway County) toward Missouri, with three regiments of Missouri cavalry, Elliott’s Battalion of Scouts, and Quantrill’s Company (commanded by First Lieutenant William H. Gregg). The first two days of marching proved comfortable due to temperate weather. By the third day, however, a cold rain began to fall, lasting for three days and causing much suffering.

Shelby’s force made no contact with the enemy for the first two days. On the third day, Elliott’s Battalion of Scouts came upon a force of bushwhackers and deserters at White Springs in the Boston Mountains, variously estimated at between sixty and 100 men, with whom they engaged in a fierce fight until reinforced by Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Gilkey’s cavalry regiment. Gilkey’s regiment is identified in Shelby’s report as the second regiment of his brigade but was officially designated the Twelfth Missouri Cavalry (CS). Elliott and Gilkey’s men pursued and scattered the enemy force.

Shelby reported only one Confederate casualty for this engagement, an enlisted man killed from Elliott’s Battalion. Shelby also reported twenty Federal troops killed and approximately twenty wounded, plus the capture of an unspecified number of prisoners.

Shelby declared the skirmish a success, which served as a prelude to later Confederate victories achieved at Springfield and Hartville, Missouri, during the remainder of Marmaduke’s expedition.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 22, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.

Robert Patrick Bender
Eastern New Mexico University–Roswell


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