Skirmishes at Kingston

Location: Madison County
Dates: January 10, 1863; November 10, 1863
Campaign: January 10, 1863: General Francis Herron’s movement to Helena to join the Vicksburg Campaign

November 10, 1863: None

Principal Commanders: January 10, 1863: Major J. W. Caldwell (US); unnamed Confederate lieutenant (CS)

November 10, 1863: Brigadier General John McNeil (US); Colonel I. L. Brooks (CS)

Forces Engaged: January 10, 1863: Detachment of First Iowa Cavalry (US); Small force manning saltpeter works (CS)

November 10, 1863: First Arkansas Cavalry (US); Brooks Company (CS)

Estimated Casualties: January 10, 1863: None (US); 17 captured (CS)

November 10, 1863: Unknown (US); 1 killed, several wounded, 1 captured (CS)

Result: Union victories

Only two Civil War skirmishes are known to have occurred near Kingston (Madison County). One of the best-known area skirmishes occurred when a detachment of the First Iowa Cavalry captured and destroyed a saltpeter works southeast of Kingston on January 10, 1863. (Saltpeter is a major component of gunpowder.) Information about the operation of these works reached General Francis J. Herron in early 1863, and he was determined to destroy the works at once, thus depriving the Confederacy of the means of obtaining powder for its troops that were so near his lines.

He ordered Major J. W. Caldwell of the First Iowa Cavalry, then encamped at Huntsville (Madison County), to take 300 men of his regiment and proceed to Kingston and then to the works. The major left Huntsville on the morning of January 9 and encamped that evening four miles east of Kingston, having ascertained the exact location of the saltpeter works. He resumed the march the next morning before daybreak and, at daylight, surprised the small force at the works, capturing seventeen of twenty men employed, including a lieutenant in charge. The entire plant—consisting of fourteen new buildings, two steam engines, three boilers, and seven large iron kettles with half a ton of saltpeter—was destroyed.

The second skirmish occurred on November 10, 1863, when Colonel I. L. Brooks, with a force of about 650 Confederates, encountered Brigadier General John McNeil, who commanded a force of about 1,000 Union soldiers and a number of mounted howitzers. Although not much is known about the skirmish, locals reported that the Union army was having difficulty in providing food for the horses and mules that were pulling the supply wagons. The first night the army was encamped, the horses and mules chewed off seventeen wagon tongues to which they had been tethered. The skirmish resulted in the Confederate troops under Brooks’s command being driven southward toward Clarksville (Johnson County).

For additional information:
Britton, Wiley. The Civil War on the Border. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1899.

Chappell, James L. A History of Kingston. Huntsville, AR: Madison County Genealogical and Historical Society, 1966.

“Civil War Trans-Mississippi Theater Timeline.” Arkansas State Archives. (accessed December 7, 2021).

History of Northwest Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.

Kevin Hatfield
Huntsville, Arkansas


No comments on this entry yet.