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Chalk Bluff, Skirmish at (May 1–2, 1863)

Chalk Bluff in Clay County, where Crowley’s Ridge is cut by the St. Francis River, was an important transit point during the Civil War between northeast Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel. It was the site of the last engagement of Major General John Sappington Marmaduke’s fighting withdrawal from his second Missouri raid, April 17–May 2, 1863, as the Confederate forces held off an initially determined but ultimately faltering Union pursuit to escape back into Arkansas across the St. Francis River on a makeshift floating bridge. Marmaduke entered Missouri with 5,000 men, of whom 1,200 were unarmed and 900 dismounted, planning to trap Union Brigadier General John McNeil at Bloomfield, Missouri. McNeil’s troops evacuated Bloomington ahead of Marmaduke and withdrew into …

Chalk Bluff, Skirmish at (May 15, 1862)

On May 15, 1862, Colonel Edward Daniels, commanding elements of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, forced Lieutenant Colonel William L. Jeffers’s independent command from the Chalk Bluff in Clay County, Arkansas, and temporarily restored a Union presence in the area. Upon hearing rumors of Confederate units in the Missouri Bootheel that could threaten his command at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Colonel Edward Daniels marched with six squadrons of his First Wisconsin Cavalry to eliminate this threat on May 9, 1862. The next day, he routed the small command of Colonel William J. Phelan ten miles from Bloomfield, Missouri, before turning his column toward a sizable force, rumored at Chalk Bluff, who were alleged to be pressing citizens into service and seizing supplies. …

Cherokee Bay, Skirmish at

 Continuing the Union strategy of raiding northeastern Arkansas from Missouri to harass guerrillas or Confederate regulars in the area, Captain Abijah Johns of Company A, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, engaged in a sharp skirmish before defeating the unknown Confederate forces near Cherokee Bay (Randolph County) on May 8, 1864. The term “Cherokee Bay” was often used by Union officers to refer to the general areas between the Current and Black rivers in Randolph County. In fact, Lieutenant Colonel George C. Thilenius of Fifth-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia simply referred to the swampy region as Cherokee Bayou. Therefore, any specific location in the Cherokee Bay area used by Union officers may be difficult to pinpoint, as it could mean …

Civil War Timeline

For additional information: Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. http://www.arkansascivilwar150.com/ (accessed January 17, 2019). “Arkansas in the Civil War.” http://www.lincolnandthecivilwar.com/Activities/Arkansas/Arkansas.asp (accessed January 17, 2019). Brothers in Arms: Civil War Exhibition. Old State House Museum Online Collections. Brothers in Arms Collection (accessed January 17, 2019). Buttry, Virginia A., and Allen W. Jones. “Military Events in Arkansas during the Civil War, 1861–1865.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 22 (Summer 1963): 124–170. Christ, Mark, ed. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994. ———. “The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled”: Civil War Arkansas, 1863–1864. Little Rock: Old State House Museum, 2007. Civil War Collection. Old State House Museum Online Collections. Civil War Collection (accessed January 17, 2019). DeBlack, Thomas A. …

Clarendon Expedition (August 4–17, 1862)

The Clarendon Expedition of August 4–17, 1862, resulted in the Union’s capture of the city of Clarendon (Monroe County). Subsequently, Clarendon’s location as a port on the White River served as a component of the Union’s river campaign that led to the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Clarendon served as an important troop and supply line to Federal forces in Arkansas. Brigadier General Alvin P. Hovey had been placed in charge of an expedition to operate along the Arkansas River in preparation for the upcoming campaign to capture Arkansas’s capital, Little Rock. He was commanded by Brigadier General Frederick Steele to take the Fourth Division of the Army of the Southwest from Helena (Phillips County) to Clarendon. Before …

Clarendon Expedition (October 16–17, 1864)

In the early fall of 1864, a combined Union cavalry and infantry force embarked upon a mission into eastern Arkansas near Clarendon (Monroe County) in an attempt to gather military intelligence and to limit Confederate guerrilla operations against Union vessels on the White River and tributaries. Included in these troublesome operations were those conducted by unidentified guerrilla bands and regular Confederate forces under the command of General Joseph Shelby. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on October 16, a force consisting of fifty troopers of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry Volunteers and fifty soldiers of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry—both under the command of Captain Albert B. Kauffman—boarded the steamer Celeste at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). The steamer made its way down the White …

Clarendon, Skirmish at (June 26, 1864)

Early on the morning of June 24, 1864, a Confederate cavalry brigade under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Shelby attacked and captured the USS Queen City while it was docked at Clarendon (Monroe County). After stripping the ship of weapons, the Confederates set it afire. It drifted down the White River until it exploded. Three additional Federal ships soon arrived on the scene and engaged the Confederates on the riverbank, eventually forcing them to retreat from the town. The Confederates returned to the town the next day but were once again driven away by fire from the Union ships. A hastily organized expedition under the command of Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr departed from DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) on June …

Clarksville, Affair at

As Federal outposts were created across the state throughout the Civil War, Union commanders had to patrol the surrounding areas constantly in order to ensure that enemy forces were unable to gather enough strength to launch attacks. These patrols also helped keep local citizens safe but could lead to bloody fighting when guerrillas were discovered. In the spring of 1864, Clarksville (Johnson County) was in Federal hands, and five companies from the Second Arkansas Infantry (US) guarded the town and surrounding area. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Gideon M. Waugh, the troops worked to keep lines of communication between Fort Smith (Sebastian County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) open. On March 15, 1864, Waugh received orders from Little Rock to make …

Clarksville, Skirmishes at

  Clarksville (Johnson County), located on the north side of the Arkansas River, was a prosperous town on the military road that ran from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Fort Gibson in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), as well as a major stage coach route. In addition, Spadra Bluffs, just three miles south of Clarksville, was a major river port. It was critical to keep the river and the military road open so the supplies and troops could be moved easily. Keeping control of both the river and the military road was of prime importance to both the Union and Confederate armies. On September 25, 1864, Major Thomas Derry of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry led a Federal expedition of 385 men starting …

Cotton Plant, Affairs at

The Affairs at Cotton Plant are two separate events that took place on successive days near the town of Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) and the Cache River. DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) served as a major Union outpost in eastern Arkansas. Supplies were brought up the White River and transported from the town by rail to the northern shore of the Arkansas River across from Little Rock (Pulaski County). Protecting the area immediately surrounding DeValls Bluff remained an important Federal objective for much of the war. Numerous Union units operated in and around DeValls Bluff, including at the towns of Augusta (Woodruff County) and Clarendon (Monroe County). Control of these towns in eastern Arkansas allowed Federal troops to protect the vital …

Crooked Creek, Skirmish at

Part of Union efforts in northwestern Arkansas to disrupt Confederate operations, this skirmish was one of several encounters over a four-week period in early 1864. In January 1864, the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) was stationed in Cassville, Missouri. Colonel John E. Phelps received orders from Brigadier General John Sanborn to move into Arkansas in an effort to disrupt a planned raid by Confederate forces into Missouri. Phelps led his unit into the state to link up with other Federal units. At the same time, troops from the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) under the command of Captain Charles Galloway were scouting in the area. Leaving Fayetteville (Washington County) on January 10, Galloway moved eastward, receiving reinforcements. Galloway’s troops joined the Second …

Cross Hollow, Skirmish at

  Federal forces in northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri used cavalry patrols to prevent Confederate regulars and guerrillas from organizing in the area. This skirmish was part of an effort by Union forces in Missouri to disrupt small bands of the enemy gathering near Cross Hollow. On June 20, 1864, Captain James Powell of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) received orders to embark on a scouting mission with an unspecified number of men. Moving southward from Cassville, Missouri, Powell and his men first encountered enemy forces near Sugar Creek but did not attack. The Federals continued to Cross Hollow where they turned southward to Fayetteville (Washington County) before moving to Bentonville (Benton County). On the third day of the scouting mission, …

Cross-Roads, Skirmish at

  During the 1864 Federal occupation of Batesville (Independence County), many detachments were sent out through the surrounding counties for information, forage, and seizure of bushwhackers. In an accidental encounter, one such detachment caught some brigands for the second time. Captain Albert B. Kauffman of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry Volunteers left Batesville on March 24, 1864, with a detachment of 200 men and six officers to scout to the southwest and west. They traveled up the White River to the mouths of Wolf Bayou and Briar Creek, then turned southwest until they reached Coon Creek. They camped at McCarles’s farm, where they found a mule harness that had been taken by Captain George Rutherford during a previous skirmish at Waugh’s …

Cypress Creek, Skirmish at (December 1, 1864)

The December 1, 1864, Skirmish at Cypress Creek was one of many military events of the Civil War to occur within the Arkansas River Valley, exemplifying both the contentious nature of the Union’s occupation of the area around the Arkansas River and the ongoing role of guerrilla fighting. The only known surviving document is a report by Colonel Abraham H. Ryan of the Third Arkansas Cavalry. According to this report, Captain Marvin C. Gates of Company C, Third Arkansas Cavalry, along with two men in the advance, came upon five of the enemy near Cypress Creek in Perry County, nine miles from Lewisburg (Conway County), where the report was composed. Capt. Gates charged and was killed. None of the enemy …

Cypress Creek, Skirmish at (May 13, 1864)

  This action was the first engagement between Federal and Confederate forces during Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s movement into northern and eastern Arkansas during the summer of 1864. Near the Arkansas River, Federal forces worked to determine the strength of Confederate forces and keep them from crossing the river if possible. After the conclusion of the Camden Expedition in early May 1864, Federal forces remained in several fortified cities across the state, while Confederate forces held southern Arkansas. Seeing an opportunity to operate more freely in central and northern Arkansas, Confederate commanders ordered units of cavalry to move across the state and determine Union strength, among other tasks. Shelby led his brigade of Missouri cavalry from southern Arkansas in …

Dardanelle and Ivey’s Ford, Actions at

The actions at Dardanelle and Ivey’s Ford were fought as Confederate troops from southwest Arkansas tested the strength of Union outposts scattered along the Arkansas River in a last attempt to challenge Union dominance of the river valley. On January 14, 1865, Colonel William H. Brooks led a Confederate force of 1,500 men consisting of his cavalry regiment, Colonel Robert C. Newton’s cavalry regiment, and Colonel Ras. Stirman’s cavalry brigade to the Arkansas River to assess the strength of Union garrisons along the river. The same day, a detachment of 276 Union men of the Cavalry Division, Seventh Army Corps, under Major J. D. Jenks of the First Iowa Cavalry Regiment disembarked from a small flotilla of Union steamboats and …

Dardanelle, Capture of

The Capture of Dardanelle marked the opening action of Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s summer operations north of the Arkansas River, much of which focused on trying to thwart shipping operations on the White River and raiding the Memphis to Little Rock Railroad. After the failure of Union Major General Frederick Steele’s Camden Expedition into south Arkansas, Federal troops consolidated at Little Rock (Pulaski County), DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Helena (Phillips County), and Fayetteville (Washington County). Scattered Union detachments were stationed at places such as Dardanelle (Yell County), Clarksville (Johnson County), Norristown (Pope County), and Lewisburg (modern-day Morrilton in Conway County) to operate against guerrillas and raiders preying on U.S. shipping and communications along the …

Dardanelle, Skirmish at (August 30, 1864)

  A short and brutal clash between a Federal unit from Arkansas and Confederate irregulars operating near Dardanelle (Yell County), this skirmish is typical of the engagements that were seen in the summer of 1864 in the state. After the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, most organized Confederate forces returned to southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. Some cavalry units continued to operate behind Union lines and were joined by irregulars or guerrillas. While the Federal commanders in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and other Union outposts focused much of their attention on the Confederate forces in southern Arkansas, some efforts were made to find and destroy these units operating nearby. By engaging these Confederate forces, the Federals prevented the enemy …

Dardanelle, Skirmish at (September 12, 1863)

  A small engagement occurring after the Action at Devil’s Backbone, this skirmish was part of an effort between Union forces in northwestern Arkansas to link up with their comrades moving toward Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Helena (Phillips County). The Action at Devil’s Backbone was fought on September 1, 1863, when a Union force under the command of Major General James Blunt defeated a Confederate unit under the command of Brigadier General William Cabell. The Union commander on the field at Devil’s Backbone, Colonel William F. Cloud, returned to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) after the battle, where he remained until September 9. On that date, Cloud took 200 men of the Second Kansas Cavalry and a section of artillery …

Des Arc and DeValls Bluff, Capture of

aka: Capture of DeValls Bluff and Des Arc
Des Arc (Prairie County) and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) became two important Union military outposts between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Helena (Phillips County). The capture and protection of these towns was a high priority for Federal commanders from 1863 until the end of the war. The towns were first captured by Federal troops in January 1863. An expedition was launched up the White River on January 13, 1863, after the capture of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County). Under the command of Brigadier General Willis Gorman, troops captured St. Charles (Arkansas County) on the first day of the expedition. Leaving the USS Cincinnati and several units behind, Gorman continued up the White River, and on January 18, the Federals captured DeValls …

Des Arc Bayou Expedition

aka: Searcy Expedition
aka: West Point Expedition
  As the Union’s Army of the Southwest marched across southern Missouri and northern Arkansas after the Battle of Pea Ridge under the command of Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis, numerous expeditions were sent out in search of supplies for the men and animals and a route to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). This expedition failed to find either, which would eventually lead Curtis to continue his trek and capture Helena (Phillips County), where resupply could be accomplished by ships on the Mississippi River. By May 1862, Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr, commander of the Second Division of the Army of the Southwest, was searching the area northeast of Searcy (White County) to find supplies and information about Confederate forces …

Des Arc Bayou, Action at

The Action at Des Arc Bayou was fought in the early morning hours of July 14, 1864, as a detachment of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry attacked the camp of a detachment from the Tenth Illinois Cavalry that had set out to confront and harass Shelby’s troops in northeast Arkansas. Shelby had taken control of all Confederate forces in northeast Arkansas in May 1864, and his troops had been raiding throughout the region, destroying a Union garrison at Dardanelle (Yell County), sinking the U.S. gunboat Queen City as it lay at anchor at Clarendon (Monroe County), and attacking trains on the Memphis to Little Rock Railroad that ran troops and supplies between the Arkansas capital and the large Federal base …

DeValls Bluff, Affair at (December 13, 1864)

Union forces guarded a number of important outposts across the state in 1864, creating an important line of defense against possible Confederate attacks from the southwestern corner of the state. In an effort to gather intelligence about enemy movements and possible threats more effectively, Federal commanders used patrols and guards in locations where their troops would not be expected by the Confederates. Even while the information gathered was not particularly important, Union officers passed any intelligence up their chain of command, allowing their commanders to make informed decisions. This affair is an example of such an incident. Brigadier General Christopher Andrews commanded the Federal garrison at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) in late 1864 and worked to gather information about the …

DeValls Bluff, Affair at (May 22, 1864)

One of the most dangerous missions Union soldiers could be assigned was to gather forage outside Federal outposts. Vulnerable to attack while they worked to gather food and other supplies, they often proved to be easy targets for Confederate units. This event shows how easily these groups could be surprised by the enemy. With hundreds or thousands of men in small garrisons across the countryside, Union supply lines strained to feed them all. Horses and mules had to be fed as well, so Union commanders often tried to gather as much forage nearby for their livestock as possible. West of the important Federal outpost of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), the Grand Prairie offered quality grazing opportunities for livestock. On May …

DeValls Bluff, Affair near (November 2, 1864)

aka: Affair at Hazen's Farm
With Union outposts scattered across the state during the Civil War, small parties of Federal troops became prime targets for Confederate forces and guerrillas. The need to gather necessary forage and other supplies forced Union troops outside the confines of their fortified positions, sometimes leading to their capture, as in this engagement. In November 1864, a company of the Twelfth Michigan Infantry was tasked with guarding the railroad between DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and what is now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Posted about seven miles to the west of DeValls Bluff under the command of Captain Nelson Claflin, the Federals were in a vulnerable and isolated position. On November 2, 1864, Claflin dispatched eleven of his men from their …

DeValls Bluff, Skirmish at (December 1, 1863)

A small inconsequential action, the December 1, 1863, Skirmish at DeValls Bluff was typical of the warfare the Union army faced as it manned isolated posts throughout Arkansas. As regular Confederate troops withdrew from central Arkansas, guerrilla groups continued to attack these outposts. DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) was an important Federal outpost on the White River. Supplies were transported up the White River to the Union garrison in the town, where they were loaded onto railcars for transport to the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. The troops stationed in the town protected both the river landing and rail station, as well as a large military hospital and other logistical infrastructure. The troops also patrolled the surrounding countryside for both regular …

Devil’s Backbone, Action at

aka: Action at Backbone Mountain
aka: Action at Jenny Lind
The Union victory at Devil’s Backbone secured the North’s capture of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on September 1, 1863. Although fighting continued in the region, Fort Smith remained a Union base until the war’s end. After driving other Confederate forces farther south into Indian Territory in late August 1863, Union Major General James G. Blunt rapidly turned toward Fort Smith. Blunt’s troops skirmished with Confederate Brigadier General William L. Cabell’s brigade southwest of Fort Smith on August 31. Cabell decided to retreat southeast and sent his baggage and ordnance wagons off that evening. Discovering this Confederate retreat the next morning, Blunt took an infantry regiment and captured Fort Smith without incident, while Colonel William F. Cloud led about 700 Union …

Elkin’s Ferry, Engagement at

aka: Battle of Okolona
The Engagement at Elkin’s Ferry was an April 3–4, 1864, battle in which Confederate troops attacked a Union column deep in southwestern Arkansas. The battle began what became known as the Camden Expedition. (The battle site is commonly known as Elkin’s Ferry because that is how the name was printed in the official records of the Civil War, but the Elkins family owned the ferry at the time, so the name is more properly rendered Elkins’ Ferry.) After capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in September 1863, Union forces were in control of much of the state. From these two occupied cities, Federal troops could launch an attack into southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and eastern Texas. …

Elm Springs, Skirmishes near

The Skirmishes at Elm Springs were small-unit Civil War engagements fought in northwestern Arkansas during the summer of 1864. While not part of any larger campaign, this series of skirmishes was typical of the warfare that existed throughout much of the state during this period. Federal units based at outposts patrolled their immediate areas to disrupt and destroy both regular Confederate units and guerrilla groups. These engagements were part of that effort. The Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) was stationed in southwestern Missouri, patrolling the surrounding countryside and recruiting men to the ranks. On July 28, 1864, Lieutenant John Phelps led a patrol of twenty-eight men from the unit out of Cassville, Missouri. The group accompanied another patrol from the First …

Eudora Church, Skirmish at

Conflict along the Mississippi River did not end with the Confederate defeat at the July 1863 Battle of Helena. Throughout 1864, Confederate forces attempted to harass Federal shipping from the Arkansas side of the river. The Skirmish at Eudora Church resulted from Federal efforts to stop this harassment. The forces engaged were small in number and irregular in nature. The Confederates fielded only a squad (a party smaller than a company), and Confederate forces operating in this area were described as “independent squads, deserters, skulkers fleeing from conscription” and “lawless bands.” On the Federal side, one infantry company of the Mississippi Marine Brigade fought at Eudora Church. This brigade was created to protect Federal shipping from Confederate attacks along rivers. …

Eunice Expedition

In August 1862, General Samuel Curtis, commander of the Army of the Southwest, dispatched a naval-escorted ground force from Helena (Phillips County) to Eunice (Chicot County). The purpose of the expedition was to capture a wharf-boat, gather useful information about Confederate forces in the area along the Mississippi River, and “annoy” the enemy. The venture was a complete success for the Union forces. On August 28, 1862, a Union force consisting of 200 men of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Ohio Volunteers and two pieces of artillery manned by men of the First Iowa Battery boarded the steamers White Cloud and Iatan. The slow-moving force, which was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William H. Raynor, was escorted by the gunboat USS Pittsburgh (often …

Fairview, Skirmish at

  On June 7, 1862, as part of a force under the command of Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr, Captain David R. Sparks led Company L of the Third Illinois Cavalry (US). They were ambushed and caught in a skirmish fourteen miles outside Fairview (White County). Prior to the skirmish, Gen. Carr’s forces had foraged around the Little Red and White rivers. They faced several problems, including losing three wagons from the Third Illinois Cavalry. Carr determined that, in its current condition, his force could not attack Little Rock (Pulaski County), so they remained near the two rivers and waited for word for the next mission. Capt. Sparks commented that the Confederate forces numbered 200 to 350 cavalrymen and some infantry, …

Farr’s Mill, Skirmish at

On July 4, 1864, the Fourth Arkansas Cavalry (US) was ordered on a scouting expedition to Caddo Gap (Montgomery County). About 250 men of the Fourth Arkansas set out on July 5 and almost immediately began skirmishing with Confederate irregulars. They proceeded to Farr’s Mill near the confluence of Gulpha Creek and the Ouachita River near Hot Springs (Garland County) and camped on July 8. A detachment of Union troops proceeded into Hot Springs the next day, chasing a band of Confederates through town. About 100 Confederates in Cook’s and Crawford’s bands of irregulars then attacked the camp at Farr’s Mill, where a fierce Federal counterattack drove them off. The Confederates lost four dead and six wounded, while the Fourth …

Fayetteville and Cane Hill, Skirmish between (November 9, 1862)

aka: Skirmish at Cane Hill (November 9, 1862)
aka: Skirmish at Fayetteville (November 9, 1862)
The Skirmish between Fayetteville (Washington County) and Cane Hill (Washington County) occurred on November 9, 1862, when General James Gilpatrick Blunt ordered Colonel William F. Cloud, Second Kansas Cavalry, to take a large reconnaissance force south and locate scattered Confederate picket and troop positions. Left to watch aggressive Confederate movements in northwest Arkansas, after numerous encounters with Southern troops in October, Gen. Blunt kept his cavalry constantly moving. The Second and Third divisions of the Army of the Frontier returned to camps near Springfield, Missouri, after the October skirmishing. Alone in the field with the First Division, Blunt served as the forward observation post of the Army of the Frontier. On November 7, from his position at Camp Bowen in …

Fayetteville, Action at (April 18, 1863)

The indecisive Action at Fayetteville on April 18, 1863, symbolized the Civil War in Arkansas as well as any other event in the state. The Confederates failed to achieve their goal of driving the Union forces out of Fayetteville (Washington County) and northwest Arkansas; however, it was only a few days after the battle that Federal authorities ordered the abandonment of the Fayetteville post. Confederate Brigadier General William L. Cabell’s cavalry brigade included the men of Colonel Charles A. Carroll’s Arkansas Cavalry and Colonel James C. Monroe’s Arkansas Cavalry, along with some Texas and Missouri troops. In opposition were Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison’s First Arkansas Cavalry and Colonel James M. Johnson’s First Arkansas Infantry. Cabell’s Confederate cavalry command of about …

Fayetteville, Action near (July 15, 1862)

Part of a Federal expedition from Missouri into northwestern Arkansas, this action is just one of many fought near Fayetteville (Washington County). In July 1862, Union forces in Missouri received word that Confederates were massing near Fayetteville. Brigadier General Egbert Brown ordered      troops at Cassville to move into Arkansas and destroy the enemy units. In order to achieve complete surprise, Brown ordered that the Federals arrest everyone they encountered on the road to Arkansas and to move at night in order to launch an early morning attack on the Confederates. Commanded by Major William Miller of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, the Federal force consisted of detachments from the Second Wisconsin, the Third Missouri State Militia, and the Tenth Illinois …

Fayetteville, Affair at

One of a series of hit-and-run actions across the state in 1864, this brief Civil War engagement demonstrates how Confederate forces could continue to engage Federal units with little fear of reprisal. The number of horses and mules required by armies during the Civil War necessitated enormous amounts of forage and supplies to care for these animals. As Union outposts in the state exhausted the available food near their camps, the Federal troops were forced to move farther away from their base of safety in order to ensure a continual supply of food. These small, isolated groups of men and animals made tempting targets for Confederate forces. On June 24, 1864, Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison of the First Arkansas Cavalry …

Fayetteville, Occupation of (February 23–26, 1862)

  Following the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, on August 10, 1861, the Southern troops began to stream into Arkansas. The Arkansas state troops were disbanded and were then recruited for service in the Confederate army, and rallying and enlistment began again in Fayetteville (Washington County). During the last few months of 1861, numerous companies were organized in and around Fayetteville. During the months after its defeat at Wilson’s Creek, the Union army rebuilt its strength. Early in February 1862, the Union army began to move into northwestern Arkansas. The Confederate forces withdrew southwardly as the Union advanced. The Confederate forces under General Benjamin McCulloch had accumulated abundant supplies in Fayetteville. McCulloch determined that not all the supplies could be …

Fayetteville, Operations around (October 25–November 4, 1864)

  Fayetteville (Washington County) was under Union control from September 1863 to the end of the Civil War. The First Arkansas Cavalry under the command of Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison was stationed at Fayetteville with orders to patrol and establish order in northwestern Arkansas. The area the troops oversaw covered several counties from the Missouri line to the Arkansas River. Troops kept communications open by maintaining the telegraph line (which was frequently cut) from Van Buren (Crawford County) to Cassville, Missouri. They also escorted supply, subsistence, and mail trains between Cassville, Fayetteville, and Van Buren, and tried to keep the area free of Confederate troops and roaming guerrilla bands. The problems with guerrilla bands occupied much of their time, as the bands frequently …

Fayetteville, Skirmish at (August 23, 1863)

With both Confederate and Federal units operating in northwestern Arkansas during this period, fighting was often haphazard as towns changed hands multiple times. This skirmish is an example of how confusing the war could be. Lieutenant Edgar Barker of the Second Kansas Cavalry received orders to lead a detachment of twenty men to guard a wagon train near Springfield, Missouri. Upon returning to that city, Barker found that his regiment had marched south in Arkansas, so he led his detachment in pursuit of the remainder of the unit. Departing Springfield on August 14, Barker’s men moved southward to Cassville, Missouri, arriving on August 16. The Federals remained at Cassville until August 19, when they crossed into Arkansas heading toward Bentonville …

Ferry Landing, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Ashley's Mills
Part of Federal efforts to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County), this engagement opened an avenue for Union forces to cross the Arkansas River to the east of the city. Confederate cavalry forces were pushed across the river to the west bank, where they remained for the remainder of the campaign. Brigadier General John Davidson commanded the cavalry division in Major General Frederick Steele’s Federal army as it approached Little Rock from Helena (Phillips County). Confederate cavalry guarded the approaches that the Federals were likely to take. Due to the death of Brigadier General Lucius Walker, Colonel Archibald Dobbins was commanding the Confederate cavalry division tasked with watching the area near Ashley’s Mills. Stretched thin, Dobbins’s command could place only the …

Fitzhugh’s Woods, Action at

The Action of Fitzhugh’s Woods was a Civil War action fought on April 1, 1864, as Union forces ventured from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Woodruff County in an attempt to stop Confederate recruitment efforts and disrupt Rebel attempts to attack Federal targets. As Major General Frederick Steele led a Yankee army into south Arkansas in March 1864 on what became known as the Camden Expedition, Confederate Brigadier General Dandridge McRae was recruiting troops in the area between the White and Mississippi rivers. Aided by forty-six commissioned officers who were left without commands because of the flood of Confederate desertions that followed the fall of Little Rock in September 1863, McRae sought to bring the former soldiers back into the Rebel …

Fort Smith Expedition (November 5–16, 1864)

In late 1864, the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department launched a final offensive into Missouri in an attempt to gather recruits and influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election by turning public opinion against Abraham Lincoln and the continuation of the Civil War. The Confederate forces under the command of Major General Sterling Price involved in this campaign were defeated at almost every turn and eventually retreated in confusion through Kansas and the Indian Territory in an effort to return to Arkansas. This Union expedition was tasked with gathering intelligence and finding any remnants of Gen. Price’s forces. On November 5, 1864, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn ordered Major James A. Melton of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) to move from Cassville, Missouri, …

Fort Smith Expedition (November 5–23, 1864)

After the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Confederate fortunes in Arkansas began to falter, and Confederates could no longer mount large-scale offensives to drive Federal troops out of the state. Union outposts were scattered throughout northern and central Arkansas, and much of the fighting that did take place was between Federal forces and irregular units. This expedition originated as a supply column and scouting party, but the Federal forces also participated in several engagements with Confederate troops who were retreating after Major General Sterling Price’s unsuccessful Missouri Raid. Federal units in Arkansas and Missouri searched for any sign of the enemy as Confederates under Maj. Gen. Price’s command continued to retreat southward after suffering multiple defeats during their …

Fort Smith Expedition (September 25–October 13, 1864)

By the summer of 1864, the Federal army was well established in a number of posts along the Arkansas and White rivers and along the railroad that linked Argenta—present-day North Little Rock (Pulaski County)—and DeValls Bluff (Prairie County). The large distances that separated many of these posts often made communication difficult for the Federals, due in part to the operations of Confederate cavalry and bands of enemy guerrillas. Major Thomas Derry of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry was ordered to lead a force from Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Fort Smith (Sebastian County)—over 180 miles—to deliver a number of dispatches to Brigadier General John Thayer, commander of the District of the Frontier. A large force was necessary because of the distance …

Fort Smith, Abandonment of

Following the election of 1860, Arkansas and the city of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) began to feel the tension and fear that accompany the threat of war. By February 1861, seven states had officially left the Union. Questions remained as to the allegiance of the remaining southern states and the Native American tribes residing in the Indian Territory. The Choctaw tribe officially sided with the Confederate cause, mainly to reinforce their claim to the 6,000 Choctaw-owned slaves. Other Native American tribes in the Indian Territory followed suit. Fort Smith was surrounded by a sea of turmoil. Political sentiments toward secession formalized during the winter and spring of 1861. Tensions grew even more throughout the region when ordnance stores were seized at Napoleon …

Fort Smith, Action at

Western Arkansas experienced the last years of the Civil War as a series of raids, ambushes, and small-unit actions. The Action at Fort Smith represented something out of the ordinary: an attack on a fortified town by Confederate forces. Following the successful Confederate raid that culminated in the Action at Massard Prairie on July 27, 1864, Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper sought to test Union defenses at Fort Smith (Sebastian County) with a larger force. This probe would also give Cooper an opportunity to escort pro-Confederate families out of Sebastian County. Assembling the brigades of Brigadier General Stand Watie, Brigadier General Richard Gano, and other units, Cooper arrived in the vicinity of Fort Smith at sunrise on July 31, 1864. …

Fort Smith, Affair at

This short and bloody Civil War engagement outside Fort Smith (Sebastian County) erupted when a foraging party of the Fourteenth Kansas Cavalry was attacked by a number of guerillas. The enemy reportedly consisted of a mixed group of white and Native American troops, leading to claims of barbarism after the fight. While the official records list the engagement as occurring on September 23, the actual skirmish was fought on September 26. A group of the Fourteenth Kansas under the command of Captain Benjamin Franklin Henry set out from Fort Smith to gather needed forage. Moving southward, the group stopped about thirteen miles from the post to gather corn. While the Federals were gathering their supplies, a group of Confederate guerrillas …

Frog Bayou Expedition

As Federal forces consolidated power in northwestern Arkansas, efforts were made to find and destroy any remaining Confederate cavalry or guerrilla units operating in the area. This expedition took the Union troops through several counties and combat in two skirmishes. On November 5, 1863, Brigadier General John McNeil ordered Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison to lead all of his mounted men accompanied by two howitzers in pursuit of a major unit of enemy forces operating in the area. This movement would be supported by another group of Union soldiers moving from Van Buren (Crawford County) in an effort to drive the enemy into Harrison’s men. Departing Fayetteville (Washington County) on the afternoon of November 7, 1863, Harrison led a total of …

Frog Bayou, Skirmish at (March 19, 1863)

With the defeat of Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s army at the Battle of Prairie Grove on December 7, 1862, major Confederate forces were compelled to leave the northwestern corner of the state. Federal forces occupied Fayetteville (Washington County) and used the town as a base of operations to keep any nearby Confederates disorganized. This skirmish was part of this effort. The major unit holding Fayetteville was the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) under the command of Colonel Marcus LaRue Harrison. The colonel sent regular patrols out of the city to determine Confederate intentions and, in mid-March 1863, sent out a small party under the command of Captain John Whiteford. Consisting of only nine men, the group moved south into Crawford …