Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas Expedition

Location: Boone County
Campaign: None
Dates: November 8–13, 1862
Principal Commanders: Captain Milton Burch, Lieutenant John R. Kelso (US); Unidentified (CS)
Forces Engaged: Fourteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia), Second Battalion of Missouri State Militia (US); Unknown (CS)
Estimated Casualties: None (US); 4 killed, 2 wounded, 25 prisoners (CS)
Result: Union victory

By late 1862, much of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas was overrun by large armies of both the Union and Confederacy. After they marched off to other campaigns outside the region, the area was left in the hands of smaller Federal and Confederate forces that were in frequent competition, both sides attempting to gain an advantage. Information-gathering incursions, such as this one initiated by Federal forces into Boone County in late 1862, were typical of the smaller military operations.

On November 8, 1862, Captain Milton Burch of the Fourteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia) was ordered to lead a detachment of Missouri militia from Ozark, Missouri, into northern Arkansas to gather information about Confederate forces in the area. The force of approximately eighty troopers covered about thirty-five miles on November 8, reaching Lawrence Mills, Missouri, the next morning. In the meantime, a number of scouts were sent out in all directions to determine the presence of enemy forces. These scouts returned by the evening of November 10, reporting that the nearest strong Confederate force was at Yellville (Marion County), as well as a “considerable” number of provost guards near Dubuque (Boone County). Burch decided to proceed to Dubuque, approximately thirty miles distant, in an attempt to capture these guards.

A small number of the militia rode out of camp at dusk, traveling through the night and halting briefly in the morning to rest and prepare food. At daybreak on November 11, the expedition stopped within three miles of Dubuque. With the main part of the force concealing itself in the brush, Lieutenant John R. Kelso and ten militiamen disguised themselves as Confederates. On November 11, these disguised troopers continued to Dubuque with four additional troopers acting as their prisoners. The plan was to entice the provost guards to gather as a group to take the prisoners. The provost guards could then be more easily taken.

Just outside the town, Kelso approached the home of a man named Yandel, who was believed to have contact with the provost guards and could call them together. After reaching the house, one trooper was sent back, pretending to pull picket duty. His true role was to inform Burch (when the opportunity presented itself) to capture the provost guards. Due to poor communication, however, Branch advanced too early, resulting in the capture of only two Confederates.

The Federals remained only briefly before twelve troopers led by Kelso advanced into Dubuque, which was believed to be the headquarters of Captain Hudson’s provost guards. All but three Confederates had fled. The Federals pursued the rest, overtaking them and killing two and capturing one. The men killed, whom the Federals described as armed, were a Dr. Wilson and the town postmaster named Oldham.

Ending the pursuit, Kelso and his men returned to the main Federal body, which then advanced up the White River taking prisoners all along the way. It was reported that most surrendered with little resistance. The Federals rested until midnight of November 11 and then marched on to Clapp’s Mills, Missouri, where they surprised a Confederate force, taking several more prisoners. The Federals once again rested, arriving back at Ozark just after dark on November 12.

In his final report, Branch reported that he and his force were gone for four days, traveling some 130 miles and killing four, wounding two, and taking some twenty-five prisoners. They also captured a cache of weapons and twenty-five horses.

For additional information:
Ingenthron, Elmo, and Kathleen Van Buskirk, eds. Borderland Rebellion: A History of the Civil War on the Missouri-Arkansas Border. Ozark Regional History Series. Branson, MO: Ozarks Mountaineer, 1980.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 13. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1885.

Mike Polston
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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