Civil War

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Entries - Entry Category: Civil War - Starting with S

Salem, Capture of Wagon Train at

This engagement involved Union forces escorting a wagon train of Unionist Arkansans to Missouri. Guerrillas attacked the wagon train, inflicting heavy casualties. Unionist families fled to Federal outposts during the Civil War, seeking sanctuary from both Confederate sympathizers and guerrillas. After Jacksonport (Jackson County) fell to Union forces, families from the surrounding area began to take refuge at the town under the protection of the Federal troops. The town also served as the headquarters of the District of Northeast Arkansas under the command of Colonel Robert Livingston of the First Nebraska Cavalry. In an effort to relieve some of the pressure that the refugees were placing on his resources, Livingston ordered the families sent to Rolla, Missouri. Departing Jacksonport in …

Saline Bottom, Skirmish at

This skirmish served as a prelude to the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry in Grant County and was part of the Camden Expedition, a Federal operation undertaken by Major General Frederick Steele’s Seventh Army Corps to assist Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Red River Campaign in Louisiana. On March 23, Steele moved out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) toward Camden (Ouachita County), intending to re-supply prior to his scheduled rendezvous with Brigadier General John Milton Thayer’s Fort Smith (Sebastian County) column at Arkadelphia (Clark County) on April 1. After this, they planned to join Banks at Shreveport, Louisiana, to form a joint movement toward Texas. The link with Thayer, however, did not occur until April 9, south of the Little Missouri …

Scatterville, Skirmish at

  During a raid of northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri in the late summer of 1864, a battalion of Union cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John T. Burris defeated a Confederate recruiting party and a group of guerrillas at Scatterville (Clay County) on July 28, 1864. After the skirmish, the Union forces burned several structures in the town. In an effort to clear northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri of small bands of Confederate regulars, guerrillas, and general bushwhackers who had been menacing the countryside, Burris left New Madrid, Missouri, with a battalion consisting of the Second Cavalry Missouri State Militia and the First Cavalry Missouri Volunteers on July 21, 1864. From July 21 to July 26, Burris’s battalion …

Searcy County, Skirmish at

The July 4, 1864, Skirmish at Searcy County was a Union response to the operations of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby north of the Arkansas River after the Camden Expedition in 1864. During most of the summer, Shelby and his men had operated freely behind Union lines, causing much havoc, but this engagement was a rare Federal victory. After the conclusion of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Shelby received orders to move northward across the Arkansas River and behind Federal lines. The Confederates were tasked with gathering recruits and stopping lawless bands roaming the area from preying on civilians. Shelby also used this opportunity to make strikes against Federal outposts and generally make himself and his men …

Searcy, Affair at

A small engagement fought during a scouting mission by Union troops, this action is typical of the type of fighting during this point of the war in the state. Federal outposts worked to keep their supply lines open and disrupt any enemy movements by sending out multiple scouting parties. Colonel Oliver Wood commanded the Federal post at Brownsville (Lonoke County) and worked to ensure that Confederate forces in the area remained off balance and unable to launch an effective attack on the men stationed in the area. Scouting parties also gathered food from the surrounding countryside to supplement the meager rations issued to the Union troops. In May 1864, Wood accompanied a scouting party as it searched for enemy troops …

Searcy, Fairview, and Augusta Expeditions

aka: Attack on Steamers Celeste and Commercial
  The purpose of the Searcy, Fairview, and Augusta expeditions was to aid Union forces previously engaged in conflict with Confederates northeast of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and then to pursue Confederate general Joseph O. Shelby. Brigadier General Joseph R. West departed Little Rock on August 27, 1864, with 600 cavalrymen to assist Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Clark and his 800 men of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry. Prior to West’s arrival, Clark’s men had engaged Shelby’s forces on August 26 at Cypress Bayou, four miles north of Austin—now called Old Austin (Lonoke County). He then followed Shelby’s rear guard to Bull Bayou, where ten Confederates and two Union soldiers were killed. Because he had not heard from Union forces and his …

Searcy, Skirmish near (August 13, 1864)

Starting in May 1864, Brigadier General Joseph Shelby was in sole command of all Confederate forces north of the Arkansas River; he actively recruited local men of fighting age and mustered his force effectively to harass Union garrisons and supply lines along the White River. Within Shelby’s Iron Brigade, munitions were in short supply and were acquired through raids on the enemy. By mid-July, a detail led by Colonel Thomas H. McCray and his brigade had procured for Shelby more than 800 firearms and badly needed ammunition from a transport on the Mississippi River. Successful hit-and-run tactics over the summer sufficiently frustrated Union command at Little Rock (Pulaski County) and warranted more than one expedition mounted to deal with Shelby. …

Searcy, Skirmish near (September 13, 1864)

    After the Union’s Red River Campaign of 1864 failed, most military action in Arkansas was limited to guerrilla maneuvers and quick cavalry strikes for the remainder of the war. By this time, Confederate forces across the state were too small and thinly concentrated to mount an effective frontal assault on Union-held areas. Local Union commanders were focused more on protecting their own garrisons and maintaining a hold on Arkansas’s rivers than on conquering additional territory, which would bring logistical problems of protecting longer supply lines and imposing local order. This was the climate in which Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. (Jo) Shelby operated following his promotion on May 27 as commander of Confederate forces north of the Arkansas …

Shallow Ford, Skirmish at (August 30, 1863)

A Civil War engagement during the Little Rock Campaign, the Skirmish at Shallow Ford was fought as Federal forces crossed Bayou Meto. Confederate forces tried to hold the enemy back but were ultimately unsuccessful. Confederate colonel Robert Newton and his cavalry brigade were tasked with covering the Shallow Ford crossing of Bayou Meto to obstruct Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele. In late August 1863, Newton’s brigade moved around the area near the ford in response to multiple reports of Federal movements. On August 29, he received word that no sign of Union troops had been found in the immediate vicinity. He moved his command near Shallow Ford, where they camped that night. The next morning, …

Shallow Ford, Skirmish at (September 2, 1863)

A brief and inconsequential Civil War skirmish, this engagement was part of the Little Rock Campaign and saw Federal troops working to establish a foothold near the capital city. Confederate forces worked to prevent Union troops marching out of Helena (Phillips County) from capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County). However, the losses suffered at the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena—coupled with a disorganized command structure—hampered defensive efforts. Confederate units were shifted around to meet the Federal threats, but the lack of troops prevented every avenue of approach to the city from being consistently guarded. Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry brigade was posted east of Little Rock with other units in an effort to watch Federal movements. Shelby was …

Smithville, Skirmish at (June 17, 1862)

  After securing Missouri for the Union by routing the Confederate Army of the West at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, the Union Army of the Southwest under General Samuel Curtis moved into northeast Arkansas and occupied Batesville (Independence County) on its mission to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). There, Curtis divided his force in the region, and the Fifth Illinois Cavalry (US) moved into Pocahontas (Randolph County) from Doniphan, Missouri, to reinforce a Union division under General Frederick Steele. From there, a battalion of the Fifth Illinois under Major A. H. Seley was sent to the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County and a strategic location along the Military Road that connected …

Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas Expedition

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 …

Spring River near Smithville, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Spring River (April 13, 1864)
aka: Skirmish at Smithville (April 13, 1864)
Union forces sought to solidify their control in northeast Arkansas and safeguard important supply lines after Federal troops occupied Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863 and the state’s Confederates fled to establish a new capital at Washington (Hempstead County). Colonel Robert R. Livingston and his Union forces reoccupied Batesville (Independence County) on Christmas Day 1863 to establish the headquarters of the District of Northeastern Arkansas. Union forces at Batesville attempted to suppress small bands of regular and irregular Confederates in the region during the following months. Confederate bands were especially active in the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County. Union forces collided with a larger Confederate force composed of elements of Freeman’s Brigade on February …

Spring River, Action at

aka: Battle of Salem
The largest Civil War engagement in Fulton County, the Action at Spring River occurred when Union forces from Missouri ventured into north-central Arkansas in search of Confederate cavalry bands seeking to unite as a regiment. Fought over the space of four hours, the battle resulted in the temporary elimination of a Confederate presence in southern Missouri, as well as sixteen Union and well over 100 Confederate casualties. Lieutenant Colonel. Samuel N. Wood of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry Regiment led a force of 250 troopers of his regiment and 130 men of the Third Iowa Cavalry led by Major William C. Drake south from Missouri on March 10, 1862. They were in pursuit of Confederate troops commanded by Colonel W.O. Coleman, …

St. Charles, Capture of

A bloodless engagement, the January 13, 1863, capture of St. Charles (Arkansas County) was part of a larger Federal movement up the White River after the capture of Fort Hindman earlier that month. St. Charles served as an important Confederate stronghold before its abandonment and subsequent capture. Located on high ground on the west bank of the White River, St. Charles is the first defensible location north of the junction of the White and the Arkansas rivers. Fortified by Confederate forces in June 1862, St. Charles was attacked by Federal forces the same month. While Union troops did take St. Charles, it was only after a substantial engagement that saw massive casualties among the Federal sailors in the expedition. With …

St. Charles, Engagement at

After the fall of Memphis, Tennessee, the Confederate navy was on the defense. Three Confederate war ships made their way up Arkansas’s White River to save themselves and also to defend the White River from invasion by the Union troops. Union major general Samuel R. Curtis and his Army of the Southwest advanced from Pea Ridge (Benton County) through the Ozark Mountains to Batesville (Independence County). Curtis later set up headquarters at Jacksonport (Jackson County), where the White and Black rivers converged. Confederate major general Thomas C. Hindman, the “Lion of the South,” was in charge of the defense of Arkansas. Hindman’s main objective was to slow the Union side’s movement so that the Confederates could prepare to defend Arkansas. …

St. Francis Road, Skirmish at

This brief engagement in Phillips County occurred in relation to some of the earliest Federal operations against Vicksburg, Mississippi. Brigadier General Willis A. Gorman, commander of the District of Eastern Arkansas headquartered at Helena (Phillips County), reported that an unspecified unit of Texas cavalry had attacked a Federal outpost of pickets on the St. Francis Road near Helena on December 23, 1862. Casualties at the outpost included two Federal soldiers killed and sixteen wounded, with no report of Confederate losses. Federal cavalry vigorously pursued the Texans and forced them to scatter in order to make their final escape through a patch of woods. Although unidentified in the official reports, the attack may have been conducted by Captain Alfred Johnson’s Company …

Steamer Alamo, Attack on

As the Civil War in Arkansas progressed and Federal forces advanced farther into the interior of the state, the rivers became important byways for the transportation of soldiers and supplies. The steamboat Alamo was one of the many steamers put into service on the Arkansas River by Federal authorities. In November 1864, on a routine supply trip to Fort Smith (Sebastian County), the steamer was attacked by Confederate forces. Such attacks along the rivers were common. On November 29, 1864, a detachment of thirty soldiers of the Fortieth Iowa Volunteers under the command of Second Lieutenant John T. S. Fry boarded the steamer Alamo at Dardanelle (Yell County). The detachment was to guard the steamer on a supply run to …

Steamer Miller, Capture of

The capture and destruction of the Union stern-wheel steamer J. H. Miller illustrates the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, almost a year after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Union. In February 1864, the J. H. Miller, displacing 130 tons of water, joined the Union navy’s Mississippi River Squadron serving under charter on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. According to Captain Stephen R. Harrington of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, reporting from camp thirty miles from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on the north bank of the Arkansas River, unidentified Confederate guerrillas attacked and captured Miller on August 17, 1864, from the south side of the Arkansas River and burned the …

Steamer Perry, Attack on

The 1864 attack on the Union side-wheel steamer John D. Perry illustrates the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, one year after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Union. In the spring of 1863 the Union Army’s Quartermaster Department chartered the John D. Perry for service on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. According to Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews, who commanded the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps headquartered at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), approximately 100 unidentified Confederate partisans attacked the Perry on September 9, 1864, just below Clarendon (Monroe County) from the east side of the White River while the vessel transported a portion of Major General Joseph …

Steamer Resolute, Attack on

The 1864 attack on the Union steam tug Resolute illustrates the ongoing battle for control of significant interior rivers in the Trans-Mississippi Department, more than a year after the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Union. Chartered on January 1, 1862, by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department for use as an auxiliary vessel, the steam tug Resolute displaced thirty tons of water and served with two barges transporting troops and supplies on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. According to Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews, commanding the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps headquartered at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), an indeterminate number of unidentified Confederate partisans fired at the Resolute at 8:00 p.m. on October 11, 1864, …

Stewart’s Plantation, Skirmish at

Following his victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, General Samuel Curtis, with intentions of capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County), moved his Union Army of the Southwest into northeast Arkansas, occupying Batesville (Independence County). Here, he split his force into three divisions, with one division under the command of General Frederick Steele dispatched to occupy the river port town of Jacksonport (Jackson County). While on a foraging expedition, made necessary by major supply problems that would lead to a cross-country march to Helena (Phillips County) to establish a supply line on the Mississippi River, Steele’s forces engaged Confederate forces in the Skirmish at Stewart’s Plantation on June 27, 1862. As supplies began to run low, Steele received …

Sugar Creek, Action at

aka: Battle of Dunagin's Farm
aka: Action at Little Sugar Creek
 The Action at Sugar Creek, commonly known as the Battle of Dunagin’s Farm, was the first battle of the Civil War wholly fought in Arkansas and was part of the tug of war between the North and the South for control of Missouri. In late 1861, after the victory at Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, the Missouri State Guard under Major General Sterling Price occupied Springfield, Missouri, and settled into winter quarters, not expecting pressure from Federal troops until spring. But on January 1, 1862, Major General Samuel R. Curtis and the Union’s Army of the Southwest prepared to march on Springfield and rid Missouri of enemy troops. Price, aware of the Federals’ advance, knew that he could not …

Sugar Loaf Prairie, Affair at

The 1865 Affair at Sugar Loaf Prairie was a unique encounter between Union troops and guerrillas in extreme northern Arkansas in which a cave was used as a hiding place.  On January 8, 1865, a scouting mission of twenty-five men of the Seventy-third Infantry Enrolled Missouri Militia under the command of Lieutenant Willis Kissel moved from Forsyth, Missouri, in an effort to look for two bands of guerrillas who were operating in the southern part of the state. Moving into Arkansas, the Federals learned from a local family that the guerrilla band under the command of Alfred Cook was hiding in a cave near Sugar Loaf Prairie about two miles away. Kissel captured Cook’s son, and the youth led the …

Sylamore, Skirmishes at (January 23 and 26, 1864)

After Arkansas seceded from the Union in May 1861, the Confederate Congress urged state leaders to make provisions for the manufacture of arms and munitions, including saltpeter, a major component of gunpowder. On August 21, the steamboat New Moon arrived at Sylamore (Stone County) with a cargo of thirty huge kettles, a steam engine, and a hammer mill to produce gunpowder for the Confederacy. They were brought up the North Fork of Sylamore Creek to what became known as Gunner Pool (now located in the Ozark National Forest). Governor Henry Rector placed Colonel Thomas R. Freeman in charge of the militia units to protect the munitions efforts. As steamships loaded and unloaded cargo and supplies for all of northern Arkansas …