Skirmish near Dudley Lake (December 16, 1864)

aka: Scout from Brownsville (December 15–18, 1864)

The December 16, 1964, Skirmish near Dudley Lake took place during a routine scouting expedition by men of the Third Michigan Cavalry Regiment from the Union base at Brownsville (Lonoke County).

Seventy-five men of Companies E, F, and G, Third Michigan Cavalry, under Captain James G. Butler of Company F, rode out of Brownsville on December 15, 1864, on a scout into what is now Lonoke County. After crossing Bayou Meto at Eagle’s Ford, they camped at Smith’s Mill, having traveled sixteen miles.

The next morning, Butler dispersed his men along three different roads heading south. The troops converged before reaching Flyn’s farm near Dudley Lake, south of present-day Coy (Lonoke County). There, they ran into a small party of Confederate soldiers and opened fire, mortally wounding Private Howell B. Watton of Company G, First Arkansas Cavalry (CS), and capturing two other First Arkansas privates and Private F. H. Flyn of Company F of Colonel Charles H. Carlton’s Arkansas Cavalry (CS). They camped that night at Flyn’s farm.

On the morning of December 17, Butler left the prisoners guarded by twenty men under Lieutenant Sidney R. Callender and sent a party of ten men toward Dudley Lake while he led forty-five men from Companies E and F five miles west to Sommer’s farm. The Michiganders encountered another group of Confederates there and captured William C. Edwards “with a rebel mail going south,” along with four horses and “arms and equipments, including those of a rebel lieutenant, who escaped to the swamp.” Butler’s party rejoined the rest of the expedition at Smith’s Mill.

They returned to Brownsville the next day after having to “swim the horses and raft [the] wagons” because Bayou Meto had risen four feet since they had crossed it on December15, concluding an eighty-mile patrol. Butler reported that the Third Michigan troops had destroyed caches of forage “at points known as the haunts of guerrillas” after determining that wagons from Brownsville would not be able to collect it. He concluded that “the country is a low flat bottom land, heavily timbered, and frequently covered with water for miles in extent,” though the scattered farms in the area could supply ample forage.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41, part 1, p. 979. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

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