Events

Entries - Entry Category: Events

Arkadelphia, Skirmish at

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. In March 1864, an attack on northwest Louisiana and eastern Texas was launched from both Arkansas and New Orleans, Louisiana. Leaving Little Rock on March 23, Major General Frederick Steele set out to help the Union column from New Orleans capture Shreveport, Louisiana, which was the headquarters for the Confederate Trans-Mississippi. Arriving in Arkadelphia (Clark County) on March 29, Steele remained for three days waiting for reinforcements from Fort Smith under the command of Brigadier General John …

Arkansas [Nuclear Test]

“Arkansas” was the code name for one of thirty-six nuclear tests conducted by the United States in the Pacific in 1962 as part of a program called Operation Dominic. By 1958, the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union (USSR) had established a tacit agreement toward a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, however, the Soviets announced on August 30, 1961, that they would resume atmospheric testing. U.S. president John F. Kennedy, following the first test by the USSR, announced on October 10, 1961, that the United States would also resume such tests. To conduct the tests, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff established Joint Task Force 8, …

Arkansas Cannon, Seizure of

aka: United States v. Six Boxes of Arms
This court case involved the seizure of a cannon in the North intended for a state in the South on the cusp of secession and, thereby, epitomized the political and military tensions that characterized the final months of sectional breakdown prior to the Civil War. The decision rendered in this case also established an important legal precedent in relation to lawful seizure of property and the retention of legal ownership with war on the horizon. On February 15, 1861, William J. Syms and Samuel R. Syms of the New York City munitions supply firm of W. J. Syms and Brother contracted with the State of Arkansas for an order of munitions to be delivered in two parts in early April. …

Arkansas Post, Battle of

aka: Battle of Fort Hindman
aka: Battle of Post of Arkansas
The Battle of Arkansas Post, also known as the Battle of Fort Hindman, was a Civil War battle fought January 9–11, 1863, as Union troops under Major General John A. McClernand sought to stop Confederate harassment of Union shipping on the Arkansas River and possibly to mount an offensive against the Arkansas capital at Little Rock (Pulaski County). In the fall of 1862, Confederate officials ordered construction of fortifications on the Arkansas River. They selected high ground at a horseshoe bend in the river near the territorial-era village of Arkansas Post (Arkansas County) and constructed a large, square, heavily armed fortification. It was called Post of Arkansas by Confederates and Fort Hindman by the Union side. Brigadier General Thomas J. …

Arkansas River and Prairie Grove, Skirmishes at

Two related skirmishes that took place in northwestern Arkansas, these events were part of Confederate efforts to disrupt Union occupation activities. While ultimately inconsequential, these actions frustrated Federal commanders and led to more active campaigning in the state in an effort to stop Confederate forces. On the night of April 6, at least 500 Confederates crossed the Arkansas River near Fort Smith (Sebastian County). Colonel William Judson of the Union District of the Frontier claimed that they were Missourians working to disrupt agricultural efforts in the state. Union troops from the Fort Smith area engaged the Confederates that night, with six Federals being killed. On the evening of April 7, 1864, a party of Federal soldiers from the First Arkansas …

Arkansas River, Scout to

aka: Skirmish at Threkeld's Ferry
  While northwestern Arkansas was tentatively under Union control by early 1863, many Confederate partisan units still maintained a noticeable presence in the area. Large-scale campaigning in the region had evolved into regular scouting and reconnaissance missions, which many times developed into brutal small-scale skirmishes. On February 5, 1863, a force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Stuart consisting of 100 troopers from his own Tenth Illinois Cavalry and an additional 125 men from the First Arkansas Cavalry moved out of Fayetteville (Washington County) on a scouting expedition south to the Arkansas River. When the force reached the river (probably on February 7), approximately four miles below the mouth of Frog Bayou, it received intelligence revealing that a small Confederate force was …

Ashley’s Station, Action at

aka: Action at Jones' Station
aka: Action at DeValls Bluff
The Action at Ashley’s Station was Confederate Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s attack on Union hay-cutting operations west of DeValls Bluff (Prairie County) and the final action of a summer of Confederate raiding against Union targets in northeast Arkansas. In the summer of 1864, DeValls Bluff was a major depot for Federal cavalry stationed along the White River. Union authorities contracted with civilian hay cutters to operate in the Grand Prairie west of the White River stronghold and supply fodder for its thousands of horses and mules. On August 20, 1864, Shelby set out from camps around Searcy (White County) with 2,000 to 2,500 men to strike the railroad from Memphis, Tennessee, to Little Rock (Pulaski County), believing he would …

Augusta Expedition (December 7–8, 1864)

Fearing that several Confederate guerrillas and partisan bands were operating in northeastern Arkansas, Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Andrews dispatched 100 men under Captain Joseph H. Swan to Augusta (Woodruff County) to capture enemy groups believed to be there. The expedition resulted in no combat, but intelligence was gathered regarding the movement of Confederates and the deprived condition of the civilian population. For Union troops stationed in northeastern Arkansas, constant rumors of the movement of guerrilla and partisan units kept Union troops busy. During November and early December 1864, Andrews, commanding the Second Division, Seventh Army Corps at DeValls Bluff (Prairie County), had received reports on the movements of small enemy units under the command of Howell A. “Doc” Rayburn and …

Augusta Expedition (January 4–27, 1865)

In an effort to continue to conduct expeditions into northeastern Arkansas to disrupt Confederate and guerrilla activities, Union colonel Washington F. Geiger was dispatched with 1,050 men to occupy Augusta (Woodruff County) on January 4, 1865. Wet and cold conditions made travel difficult. Nonetheless, Geiger occupied the town from January 11 to January 24, 1865. Holding it for thirteen days, Geiger returned to Brownsville (Lonoke County); he had not engaged the enemy, but he captured seven prisoners and gained supplies from the region. The fatiguing task of occupation duty often meant moving troops to demonstrate projection of force capabilities, gathering intelligence, and/or acquiring supplies. Concerned about the movements of small Confederate and guerrilla groups in northeastern Arkansas in late 1864 …

Augusta, Skirmish at

Attempting to locate and destroy Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby somewhere in the Little Red River valley, Union forces under Colonel Washington F. Geiger engaged in a small skirmish in the town of Augusta (Woodruff County) on August 10, 1864. The small Confederate force fled the city. The presence of Brig. Gen. Shelby’s command in northeastern Arkansas plagued Union forces there. After two failed expeditions to destroy Shelby, Union major general Frederick Steele outfitted Brigadier General Joseph R. West in August 1864 with 3,094 men to locate and destroy Shelby, who was believed to be in the Little Red River valley. Brig. Gen. West divided his command into two provisional brigades. The first, commanded by Col. Geiger of the Eighth …

B-17 Flying Fortress Explosion of 1943

On March 12, 1943, the nine-man crew of a B-17F Flying Fortress perished after one of the plane’s engines caught fire and exploded mid-air during a flight from Smoky Hill Air Field in Salina, Kansas, to Morrison Field in West Palm Beach, Florida. The plane crashed in a wooded area five miles northwest of Sheridan (Grant County). In 2015, the crash site became home to a memorial park honoring the nine airmen; it also honors Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers who fought in the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, along with the soldiers from Grant County who have been killed in action since World War I. The nine-man crew consisted of Second Lieutenant George Davis of Dubuque, Iowa (pilot); Second Lt. Robert …

B-47 Bomber Crash of 1960

On the morning of March 31, 1960, aircraft number 52-1414A was set to take off from the Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) in Jacksonville (Pulaski County). This B-47E was part of the 384th Bombardment Wing, which was established at the LRAFB on August 1955. The aircraft was destined for Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. The typical B-47 crew consisted of three crew members: pilot, co-pilot, and navigator. However, this flight was carrying four crew members on the morning of March 31: Captain Herbert J. Aldridge (pilot, Air Force Reserve), First Lieutenant Thomas G. Smoak (co-pilot, Air Force Reserve), Lieutenant Colonel Reynolds S. Watson (navigator, Air Force Reserve), and Kenneth E. Brose (civil engineer, Regular Air Force.) With …

Bailey’s, Affair at

aka: Affair at Crooked Creek
A brief encounter between a Union scouting party and a band of Confederate guerrillas, this skirmish was one of many used by Federal forces to disrupt enemy efforts in northwestern Arkansas during the Civil War. Colonel John E. Phelps of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) received orders from Brigadier General John Sanborn to move from Cassville, Missouri, into Arkansas in an effort to interrupt Confederate efforts to launch a raid into Missouri. On January 17, 1864, Phelps led two companies of his regiment into Arkansas and arrived at Berryville (Carroll County) the next day, joining three more companies already in the town. Due to a large number of sick and absent men, Phelps remained at Berryville until January 20, when …

Batesville Expedition

While escorting a treasury agent to Batesville (Independence County), a detachment of the Second Arkansas Cavalry (US) commanded by Captain William F. Orr defeated various Confederate units around the area of Independence County in late March and early April 1864. Accomplishing their mission, known as the Batesville Expedition, the unit returned to its base at Rolling Prairie (Boone County) with no reported losses. Surprising Confederate forces in Batesville on Christmas Day 1863, Union colonel Robert R. Livingston occupied the town with no real resistance, reestablishing the Union presence there. An outstanding victory for Livingston, the Federals soon discovered that yet again they lacked the strength to occupy Batesville continually due to supply issues. The necessity to maintain a strong link …

Batesville, Skirmish at (February 4, 1863)

On December 31, 1862, General John S. Marmaduke and 8,000 cavalry launched a raid into Missouri from near Lewisburg (Conway County) in the Arkansas River Valley, only to meet defeat at Hartsville, Missouri. The Confederate retreat back into Arkansas took them to Independence County, retracing the steps of Brigadier General Samuel Curtis’s army eight months earlier. Gen. Marmaduke established his troops at Oil Trough (Independence County), and Colonel Joseph O. Shelby set up camp at the farm of Franklin Desha. Both bivouacs were south of the White River, but Marmaduke’s headquarters were at the Cox house in Batesville (Independence County). Union forces in Missouri gathered at West Plains, Missouri, on January 29, 1863. The next day, Brigadier General John Davidson …

Batesville, Skirmish at (May 3, 1862)

On March 6–8, 1862, one of the most important Civil War battles west of the Mississippi River was fought at Pea Ridge (Benton County) in northwest Arkansas. The Army of the Southwest under Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis defeated the Confederate army of Major General Earl Van Dorn, with the result that Missouri remained in the Union and the path into Arkansas was open to the Union army, hampered only by Confederate units who were trying to block the paths south and east of Pea Ridge. Gen. Curtis was following his orders to take his large army of more than 20,000 and seize Little Rock (Pulaski County), thus securing Arkansas for the Union. His Army of the Southwest contained regiments from …

Bayou Fourche, Engagement at

aka: Battle of Little Rock
The Engagement at Bayou Fourche, also known as the Battle of Little Rock, was a Civil War battle fought on September 10, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to stop Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army from capturing Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. With the exception of the short Action at Bayou Meto (or Reed’s Bridge) on August 27, the Union approach to Little Rock had seen relatively light resistance. As the Union army prepared for its final assault on the Arkansas capital, Steele had some 10,477 men present for duty and fifty-seven …

Bayou Meto, Action at

aka: Action at Reed's Bridge
The Action at Bayou Meto, also known as the Action at Reed’s Bridge, was a Civil War battle fought on August 27, 1863, as Confederate troops sought to hinder the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s Union army toward Little Rock (Pulaski County). Steele had advanced steadily across eastern Arkansas during August with a combined force of infantry from Helena (Phillips County) and cavalry that had come down Crowley’s Ridge from Missouri. Though they were harassed by Confederate cavalry and partisans, the Union troops had encountered little opposition, with the exception of a sharp clash around Brownsville (north of present-day Lonoke) on August 25. A Union probe toward the Confederate works on Bayou Meto (at present-day Jacksonville) was turned back …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish at (February 24, 1865)

By 1863, guerrilla activity had become so prevalent in the territory surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) that local citizens requested that Federal forces move into the area to reduce the threat of violence. Later that year, forces under the command of Colonel Powell Clayton were ordered to Jefferson County. The city remained occupied for the remainder of the war. To secure the area, scouting patrols were regularly sent out to assess enemy activity. On February 22, 1865, Captain George W. Suesberry took a detachment of eighty troopers of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry Volunteers to the north side of the Arkansas River to monitor enemy movements. Only sixty-five troopers crossed the river but were shortly joined by twenty-five additional men. As …

Bayou Meto, Skirmish near (February 17, 1865)

  On February 16, 1865, a seventy-five-man scout detachment of the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US) was sent out from its headquarters at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The scout detachment, commanded by Captain John H. Norris (US), was sent to search for Confederate troops along Bayou Meto. Early in the morning of February 17, the scout detachment, fifty miles downriver from Pine Bluff, began crossing Bayou Meto. After one platoon had successfully crossed the bayou, Capt. Norris ordered Lieutenant Z. P. Curlee to take the platoon and search an area two miles surrounding the bayou. Lt. Curlee was instructed to engage any Confederate force he encountered and report to Norris no later than noon. During the scout detachment’s search of the …

Beatty’s Mill, Skirmish at

  By 1864, much of Conway County and the surrounding area was routinely overrun by marauding bands of Confederate guerrillas. In April 1864, Colonel Abraham Ryan and the recently formed Third Arkansas Cavalry were dispatched to Conway County to help secure the area. Col. Ryan established his base of operations at Lewisburg (Conway County). The regiment remained on almost constant watch, as it had been engaged in several skirmishes during scouting missions. On September 1, 1864, Colonel David Hamilton and a force of sixty-five troopers were dispatched upon a short scout into Yell County. On that same day, Col. Hamilton engaged an estimated force of 160 Confederates led by John A. Conly. Upon seeing the approaching enemy, Hamilton immediately ordered …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (July 19, 1864)

aka: Skirmish at Little Rock (July 19, 1864)
  After the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, Federal forces under the command of Major General Frederick Steele retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and rejoined the defenses of that city. Confederate forces, flush with their success in the Camden Expedition, began to probe the Union positions in a prelude to a large-scale offensive. This skirmish was one such action. After returning to Little Rock from the Camden Expedition on May 7, 1864, the Third Missouri Cavalry was stationed about four miles southwest of the city on the road to Benton (Saline County). The unit was tasked with outpost duty, and half of the regiment was on duty every day. This routine continued until July 13, when an eight-man patrol of …

Benton Road, Skirmish at (March 23–24, 1864)

  In the spring of 1864, Major General Frederick Steele, commander of Federal forces occupying Little Rock (Pulaski County), was ordered to work in conjunction with Major General Nathaniel Banks in Louisiana to capture Shreveport and move into Texas. Steele was reluctant to participate in the scheme and departed Little Rock only after receiving direct orders to support Banks. This action was the first contact between Steele’s forces and the enemy after the march from Little Rock began. The Federal army departed Little Rock on March 23 and marched to the southwest. Cavalry units were placed at the front of the army to warn the following units if the enemy approached. The Third Arkansas Cavalry and the Second Missouri Cavalry …

Benton, Affair at

In this extremely brief exchange, a brigadier general in the Arkansas State Militia was killed, with the Union soldier who killed him earning the Medal of Honor for it. With the failure of the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864, Union forces retreated to Little Rock (Pulaski County) while Confederate units in southwestern Arkansas began to push northward. Major General Frederick Steele, the Federal commander of Little Rock, watched these movements with trepidation and pushed his troops to patrol the approaches to the city on a regular basis. Located southwest of Little Rock, Benton (Saline County) was the scene of numerous engagements during the war and—with its location along the Saline River—served as a dividing line between the opposing …

Benton, Skirmish at (August 18, 1864)

  After the Camden Expedition, Confederate forces were concentrated in the southern part of the state and lacked the strength to launch a full-scale assault on Union positions in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Rather, Southern units engaged in a campaign of harassment and quick strikes of little military value. The units occupied positions near the Federal lines to engage the enemy when the opportunity arose, and this skirmish is one such action. The Federal position after the Camden Expedition did not extend far outside of the Little Rock city limits. Confederate forces operated outside of the Federal lines, especially south of the city. Benton (Saline County) was an important city for both sides, as it lay near the Saline River …

Benton, Skirmish at (December 1, 1863)

After the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863, Federal forces established defensive lines around the capital city but sent patrols and forage trains into nearby communities to gather both information and supplies. One city temporarily occupied by the Union troops was Benton (Saline County). A small engagement, the inconsequential Skirmish at Benton was a Confederate attack on one such patrol. On December 1, 1863, Colonel Cyrus Bussey dispatched a patrol of forty men to scout the road between Benton and Hot Springs (Garland County). Departing at 3:00 a.m., the patrol was commanded by Lieutenant Alexander D. Mills of the First Missouri Cavalry (US). Moving out from Benton, the patrol rode about twenty-five miles before beginning its return …

Benton, Skirmish at (July 6, 1864)

  With the conclusion of the Camden Expedition, some Confederate forces in Arkansas became emboldened and began preparations for an invasion of Missouri. Other Confederate units continued to probe Federal lines around Little Rock (Pulaski County), to which Union forces responded by continuing patrols into the nearby countryside to break up possible enemy gatherings. The Skirmish at Benton resulted from one such patrol to disrupt Confederate preparations. The Fourth Arkansas Cavalry (US) was ordered on July 4, 1864, to embark on a scouting mission. Ordered to move from Little Rock to Caddo Gap by Brigadier General Frederick Salomon, the unit moved out at once. Every man in the unit was required to accompany the scout. Moving quickly through the countryside, …

Bentonville, Action at

The Action at Bentonville occurred on February 18, 1862, as Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis sought to maneuver Confederate forces from their winter encampment at Cross Hollows in the Boston Mountains. Curtis had entered Arkansas the previous morning in pursuit of Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard, troops he had chased from southwest Missouri. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest rolled forward with little opposition until encountering Confederate regulars under Colonel Louis Hebert just south of Little Sugar Creek at a place called Dunagin’s Farm. Hebert’s force of infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery, fought a stubborn rearguard action that halted Curtis’s advance, costing the Federals thirteen dead and around twenty wounded while suffering as many as twenty-six dead on the Rebel …

Bentonville, Skirmish at

  A small engagement in extreme northwestern Arkansas, this skirmish was part of a larger scouting expedition launched from Cassville, Missouri. Gathering intelligence for Union forces in Missouri, this scout also disrupted Confederate operations in the area. On May 21, 1863, Colonel William F. Cloud of the Second Kansas Cavalry embarked from Cassville with his regiment on a movement into Arkansas. Crossing the state line, the expedition approached Bentonville (Benton County). A Confederate unit was in the town, and Cloud led his men in a surprise attack on the enemy. The Confederate soldiers fled in disarray, and the Federals captured fourteen of the enemy and killed one. Cloud was also able to recover three Federal soldiers who had previously been …

Berryville Expedition

aka: Carrollton Expedition
aka: Huntsville Expedition
The Berryville Expedition (a.k.a. the Carrollton Expedition or the Huntsville Expedition) took place November 10–18, 1863. Major Austin A. King Jr. of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) commanded this expedition from Springfield, Missouri, into northwestern Arkansas. He reported his activities to his commanding officer, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, who commanded the District of Southwestern Missouri. In compliance with Special Orders No. 231, Headquarters Southwestern District of Missouri, dated November 10, 1863, Major King left Springfield with a command of 200 men. This force was composed of men of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) and Eleventh Missouri Volunteer Cavalry (US). They marched to Linden, Missouri, and then southeast of Forsyth, where their wagon train was left. …

Big Indian Creek, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Big Creek
aka: Skirmish at Indian Creek
Following victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Major General Samuel R. Curtis (US), commander of the Army of the Southwest, received orders on May 2, 1862, to send a portion of his forces to march from Pea Ridge (Benton County) along the White River into northeastern Arkansas and set up headquarters at Batesville (Independence County) and Jacksonport (Jackson County). His orders were to get supplies and advance on to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Curtis gave the Second Division to Brigadier General Eugene A. Carr (US) and the Third Division to Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus (US), who commanded the Seventeenth Missouri Infantry, made up mostly of German immigrants. The April departure of the defeated Major General Earl Van Dorn (CS) …

Big Lake Expedition

This Civil War expedition took place only two months after the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and constitutes a portion of an ongoing Union effort to assess loyalty in the Mississippi River counties of Arkansas and eliminate Confederate guerrilla activity. On September 7, 1863, Colonel John B. Rogers of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry ordered Major Frederick R. Poole to lead 200 troopers and one artillery piece from Camp Lowry in the Missouri bootheel to Big Lake in Mississippi County, Arkansas, and return to camp via Pemiscot County, Missouri. When he reached New Madrid, Missouri, Poole received reinforcements that doubled the size of his command, with the addition of fifty men from the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, 100 from …

Boggs’ Mills, Skirmish at

  A short engagement in rural Yell County, this skirmish is notable for pitting Arkansas Confederate troops against a combined Federal force consisting of both white and African-American troops from Arkansas. By January 1865, major Confederate offensive operations had ceased in the state. But while most Confederate units remained in southern Arkansas, small units of cavalry continued to operate in Union-held territory alongside guerrilla bands. Without access to regular supplies, these units were forced to forage and otherwise acquire supplies to the best of their abilities. Boggs’ Mills, located about twelve miles from Dardanelle (Yell County), served as both a location for the grinding of corn and a place for Confederate units to gather and organize. Federal forces were well aware of …

Branchville, Skirmish at

  By late 1863, the area surrounding Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was routinely occupied by violent guerrilla bands. When local citizens asked for assistance, Major General Frederick Steele dispatched Colonel Powell Clayton and his Fifth Kansas Cavalry (US) to secure the area. After repelling a major attack on the city on October 25, 1863, Clayton mainly patrolled the surrounding area to maintain control locally. His units occasionally clashed with enemy forces; one such clash was the 1864 Skirmish at Branchville. Around midnight on January 18, 1864, a detachment of some 600 troopers from the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, First Indiana Cavalry, Seventh Missouri Cavalry, and four pieces of light artillery, under the command of Col. Clayton, rode out of Pine Bluff …

Brooks-Baxter War

The Brooks-Baxter War, which occurred during April and May 1874, was an armed conflict between the supporters of two rivals for the governorship—Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter. The violence spilled out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into much of the state and was resolved only when the federal government intervened. The result of the war, recognition of Elisha Baxter as the governor, brought a practical end to Republican rule in the state and thus ended the era of Reconstruction. Questions concerning the results of the state’s 1872 gubernatorial election brought about the Brooks-Baxter War. In that election, Joseph Brooks—a carpetbagger with a radical reputation and the leader of the party faction known as the “Brindletails”—ran as a Reform Republican, supporting …

Brownsville, Skirmish at (August 25, 1863)

A brief and inconsequential engagement during the Federal campaign to take Little Rock (Pulaski County), this skirmish took place near the present-day city of Lonoke (Lonoke County). Confederate forces engaged Union troops to delay the advance of Major General Frederick Steele’s forces as they moved westward. The movement of the Federal army on Little Rock was hampered more by sickness than by Confederate forces. Nevertheless, the enemy engaged Union forces with increasing frequency as they approached Little Rock. With the bulk of Steele’s infantry slowly making their way across the Grand Prairie, Union cavalry forces scouted ahead of the main body of troops. On the morning of August 25, 1863, a brigade of Union cavalry under the command of Colonel …

Brownsville, Skirmish at (July 13–14, 1864)

  On July 13, 1864, a detachment of Confederate forces from Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s command moved toward a camp near Brownsville (Lonoke County). Colonel Oliver Wood of the Twenty-second Ohio Infantry (US) reported that Confederates numbering around 150 attacked his picket line but were driven away. Due to the small number of men under Wood, he decided not to move beyond the defenses until the next day, as an immediate response would have left the camp vulnerable to attack. By afternoon of July 14, Wood had followed the Confederates fifteen miles southeast of Brownsville to Snake Island. At that point, the Confederates divided into smaller forces and separated, whereupon Wood decided to halt. Union forces captured five guns, and …

Buck Horn, Skirmish at

On May 5, 1864, Brigadier General Joseph Shelby was ordered from his position south of the Arkansas River to “occupy the valley of White River and to prevent its navigation in every possible manner and fashion.” Colonel Robert R. Livingston (US), who maintained a small detachment in Batesville (Independence County), had left Colonel John Stephens in command of the city, but in a letter dated May 11, 1864, Livingston advised Stephens of probable evacuation: “I may deem it best for you to evacuate Batesville, and should you find it necessary to do so, fall back upon this point,” being Jacksonport (Jackson County). Shelby and his Confederate troops moved from Clarksville (Johnson County) and crossed the Arkansas River at Dardanelle (Yell …

Buckskull, Skirmish at (November 20, 1864)

After attempting to clear communication lines in Missouri, Lieutenant Colonel George C. Thilenius of the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia led a raid into Arkansas to catch Confederate colonel Timothy Reeves at Cherokee Bay (Randolph County). Near Buckskull, on the Arkansas-Missouri border, Thilenius’s command killed two guerrillas believed to be members of Reeves’s command before charging the undefended town of Buckskull to find no opposing force. Located where the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) passes into northeastern Arkansas, Buckskull sits on the Arkansas-Missouri line near the Current River and across from the town of Pitman (Randolph County). As Pitman’s Ferry was critical for movement of men and materials between northeastern Arkansas …

Buckskull, Skirmishes at (October 1 and 10, 1863)

  On September 28, 1863, Captain William T. Leeper with elements of the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry moved into Randolph County, Arkansas, to engage guerrillas in the area. On October 1 and October 10, skirmishes occurred on the Arkansas-Missouri border near Buckskull due to its location near Pitman’s Ferry on the Current River. Traffic crossing the Current River just south of the Arkansas state line on the Southwest Trail (also called the Military Road, Congress Road, or the Natchitoches Trace) made Pitman’s Ferry a major entrance point in the region. Over time, the towns of Pitman (Randolph County) in Arkansas and Buckskull on the Arkansas-Missouri border developed around the location. Periodically, Confederate forces were stationed in this region to …

Buffalo Mountains, Skirmish at

  In the autumn of 1863, Colonel Joseph O. Shelby launched a raid from Arkansas into his home state of Missouri. After meeting organized Federal resistance at the Action at Marshall, Missouri, Shelby returned to the relative safety of Arkansas. This skirmish was one of the final engagements between Shelby and Federal forces during the raid. Shelby and 600 men from his brigade departed from Arkadelphia (Clark County) on September 22, 1863, and moved northward to the Arkansas River. Engaging Federal forces as they appeared, Shelby crossed the Arkansas River on September 27 and moved into Missouri on October 2. Moving through the countryside capturing supplies and dispersing small Union garrisons, Shelby and his men were finally stopped by a …

Buffalo River Expedition

  By 1863, much of northwestern Arkansas was loosely controlled by Union forces but still home to many Confederate partisan forces. In many instances, isolated areas in the mountains were used as sites by these and others for the manufacture of saltpeter, an ingredient necessary for the production of gunpowder. On January 9, 1863, following orders issued by Brigadier General Francis J. Herron, Major Joseph W. Caldwell led a detachment of 300 Union troopers of the First Iowa Cavalry into the mountains in the direction of Kingston (Madison County) in search of Confederate activity. They rode out of Huntsville (Madison County) at 8:00 a.m., arriving in Kingston at 2:00 p.m. Here, Caldwell forwarded recently acquired information to Herron concerning area …

Bull Bayou, Skirmish at

During an expedition to attempt to catch Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby in the Little Red River valley, Union forces under Colonel James Stuart engaged in a small skirmish at the bridge on Bull Bayou on August 7, 1864. Defeated, the unidentified Confederate force fled. Frustrated by the inability of Union troops to catch Confederate brigadier general Joseph Shelby, Union major general Frederick Steele dispatched a third expedition to destroy the Confederate leader on August 6, 1864. Placing Brigadier General Joseph R. West in command of 3,094 men, Steele envisioned a movement toward the Little Red River and possibly beyond until the enemy was defeated. West divided his force into two provisional brigades commanded by Colonel Washington F. Geiger of …

Burrowsville, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Tomahawk
  The Skirmish at Burrowsville during the Civil War was part of a larger attempt to drive Confederate and guerrilla forces from northern Arkansas. The overall effort was deemed to be a success by Federal commanders, but their success was somewhat embellished in their official reports. In early January 1864, Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, commander of the District of Southwest Missouri, received reports of a major Confederate force massing in Newton, Searcy, Izard, and Carroll counties. Sanborn ordered units of the First and Second Arkansas Cavalries (US), along with part of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, to move into the area and flush the enemy out in an effort to push the Confederates south to the Arkansas River. As part …

Cache Bayou, Skirmish at

On July 6, 1862, dismounted members of Company “I” of the Third Iowa Cavalry turned back a Confederate attempt to halt the Federal Army of the Southwest’s movement into eastern Arkansas. A significant skirmish occurred that day at Cache Bayou approximately fifteen miles north of Clarendon (Monroe County). After encountering a barricade along the Clarendon Road, the Iowa cavalrymen pushed through the obstacle and effectively forced the Confederates to retreat across the Cache River. The Federal victory at Cache Bayou allowed the barricade to be removed successfully, thus permitting the army’s continued trudge south into Arkansas. The Federal movement during the summer of 1862 occurred as part of the orders of Major General Henry Halleck—Federal supreme commander in the West—to …

Cache River Bridge, Skirmish at

On May 28, 1862, a reconnaissance under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hiram F. Sickles of the Ninth Illinois Cavalry prevented Captain Richard Hooker’s Confederates from completely destroying the Cache River bridge near Augusta (Woodruff County). Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn’s departure from Arkansas to the Western Theater with the bulk of Arkansas’s defensive capabilities left the city of Jacksonport (Jackson County)—and the rest of the state—unprotected. Hastily attempting to build a substantial Confederate defense of Arkansas, Major General Thomas Hindman—the newly appointed commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department—commissioned a number of local officers, such as Capt. Hooker in Jackson County, to raise units across the state. These units were encouraged to harass the Federals wherever they were found while …

Caddo Mill, Skirmish at

On December 14, 1863, a detachment that consisted of two companies from the Second Kansas Cavalry headquartered at Waldron (Scott County) surprised and overwhelmed a fifteen-man camp of Confederate forces near Caddo Mill (Montgomery County). On December 13, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Owen A. Bassett sent a detachment of forty men, led by Lieutenants P. Cosgrove and B. B. Mitchell from the Second Kansas Cavalry headquarters located at Waldron, toward Caddo Gap (Montgomery County). In an attempt to maneuver away from a detachment of General Joseph Shelby’s Confederate cavalry, the two lieutenants continued to Farrar’s Mill. At Farrar’s Mill, they received a report that fifteen Confederate soldiers were encamped a short distance ahead near Caddo Mill. The Union detachment completed the …

Camden Expedition

Part of the Red River Campaign, the Camden Expedition resulted from Union brigadier general Frederick Steele’s orders to strike south from Little Rock (Pulaski County) and converge with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s column in northwest Louisiana before marching to Texas. Because of poor logistical planning, horrible roads, and strong Confederate resistance, Steele abandoned this plan to occupy Camden (Ouachita County). Losing battles at Poison Spring (Ouachita County) and Marks’ Mills (Cleveland County), Steele became unable to supply his army and retreated toward Little Rock. The Confederates caught Steele while he was crossing the Saline River engaging in the last battle of the campaign at Jenkins’ Ferry (Grant County). In 1864, the Trans-Mississippi Theater presented several problems for Union general-in-chief …

Camden, Skirmish at (April 15, 1864)

  The Skirmish at Camden on April 15, 1864, occurred after Union brigadier general Frederick Steele had forced Major General Sterling Price’s troops and cavalry out of Camden (Ouachita County) on April 12. Realizing his opportunity, Steele marched his army approximately forty miles to the east toward Camden. This would prove to be an important turning point within the Red River Campaign for the Union troops. In the early hours of April 15, the Thirty-third Infantry of Iowa began its march toward Camden, still eighteen miles away. Its first movement on the Confederate lines forced a battery on the main road to cease firing, allowing the troops to continue advancing toward the city. By 10:30 a.m., the Thirty-Third Infantry had …

Cane Hill, Engagement at

aka: Engagement at Canehill
aka: Engagement at Boston Mountains
The Engagement at Cane Hill on November 28, 1862, was the prelude to the Battle of Prairie Grove fought on December 7, 1862. Union brigadier general James G. Blunt, with 5,000 men and thirty cannon in the Kansas Division of the Army of the Frontier, surprised 2,000 Confederate cavalry and six cannon under Confederate brigadier general John S. Marmaduke while they were gathering winter supplies. The struggle lasted nine hours and covered about twelve miles over the wooded and rocky terrain between Cane Hill (Washington County) and the Cove Creek valley. While it was a Union victory, casualties were light on both sides. Blunt’s decision to remain at Cane Hill set in motion the entire Confederate force at Fort Smith …