Skirmish near the Halfway House (October 25, 1864)

The Skirmish near the Halfway House took place on October 25, 1864, when Confederate cavalrymen confronted a Union force protecting a telegraph line repairman.

The telegraph lines that connected the various Union outposts in Arkansas were a favorite target of Confederate soldiers and guerrillas, and Captain Gurnsey W. Davis of Company D, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, led fifty troopers of his regiment out from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on the morning of October 25, 1864, to escort a man who would repair the cut line between Pine Bluff and Little Rock (Pulaski County).

Their ride was uneventful until they were a mile and a half from a place known as the Halfway House. There, Illinois cavalrymen patrolling along the left flank of the detachment as it headed up the Little Rock road spotted a pair of armed horsemen. They fired at the men, who fled.

Riding another half mile, Davis’s party found the telegraph line cut and saw signs that some enemy horsemen had taken a side road toward the Arkansas River while a smaller group had continued up the Little Rock road. Davis halted to form his men into line of battle moments before his advance men and flankers opened fire on a group of between twenty-five and thirty Confederates of Colonel John Logan’s Eleventh Arkansas Mounted Infantry (CS) hiding in ambush in a ravine about 300 yards away. The rebels fired a volley at the advance guard and then formed in line, “apparently for the purpose of making a charge.”

Instead, the Illinois cavalrymen guarding the left and right flanks attacked as the main force charged up the road, sending the Confederates on a “precipitate flight.” The Yankees rode after Logan’s men “at full speed to the Half-way House, over a mile from where we discovered them, firing on them at every opportunity.” The Confederates were mounted on better horses than their Federal pursuers, so Davis called off the chase. Finding more than a mile of telegraph line down and lacking sufficient supplies to make repairs, he decided to return to Pine Bluff, reaching the base at 8:30 p.m.

Davis reported that one of his men was mortally wounded, and they had to leave him at a house about three miles from the Halfway House when he could no longer ride on his horse; another Illinois trooper was severely wounded, and Davis did not know if any of their foes had been killed or wounded.

The Skirmish near the Halfway House illustrates the dangers faced by Union troops as they struggled to maintain communications between their far-flung posts while Confederate soldiers and guerrillas did all they could to disrupt them.

For additional information:
Rushing, Anthony. Ranks of Honor: A Regimental History of the Eleventh Arkansas Infantry Regiment & Poe’s Cavalry Battalion C.S.A., 1861–1865. Little Rock: Eagle Press of Little Rock, 1990.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 41, part 1, pp. 859–860. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1893.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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