Benjamin Riggs, a twelve year old boy when the war begin, was the son of James Riggs and Elizabeth Rogers. James was a partner with his brother-in-law, A.A. C. Rogers, in the mercantile business. James was a devoted Confederate and Rogers was a starch Unionist. Therefore, when it was certain that the Union Army was going to occupy Pine Bluff Riggs sold out of his partnership with Rogers and left town leaving his wife and four children behind.
The oldest child was Benjamin, who was 14 by the time the Yankees came to Pine Bluff. He was allowed to go where he wanted to within the town limits but was not allowed to leave town. The family was treated well by the Union Army because of the connection to Rogers, but Elizabeth was worried about James. He was supposed to be in Washington, in Southwest Arkansas but she had not heard from him. Young Benjamin devised a plan to travel to Washington to see about his father. He had a friend that had the privilege of going outside the town limits and asked him to ride his pony out of town for him and hide it out where he knew where it was. The friend agreed and that night Benny swam the lake, which lay on the southern edge of town, retrieved his pony and headed west for Washington to check on his father.
When Benny reached the town of Princeton he was greeted by the Confederate Army seeking information about the Yankees at Pine Bluff. He told them how many soldiers were station there and where their guns were set-up, everything the Confederates needed to make an attack on the town. The next morning they begin their march to the Battle of Pine Bluff. Benjamin continued his trip to Washington.
When he arrived his father had been there but had left, possibly on his way back to Pine Bluff. Benny traded his pony for a mule and joined a Company of Confederate Independent Scouts. It was normal for the Rebel Army to use young boys as scouts because they could move around unnoticed much easier that a grown man could. He took part in a number of activities in Southeast Arkansas. Including keeping the telegraph lines cut between Pine Bluff and Little Rock.
One of the most interesting stories, he told in his journal, was that he and two other boys were sent on a scouting mission North of the Arkansas River. When they arrived at the river they found that a steam boat had ran a ground on a sandbar. The boat had passengers, and was loaded with Union supplies on the way to Little Rock. It even had aboard General Fredrick Steele’s prize race horse and a number of contraband slaves. The three boys decided to capture the boat and it’s prized cargo. As they went aboard a few shots were fired but the boys quickly took procession of the boat and it’s contents.
As they started unloading the cargo Benny was guarding the blacks while the other two unloaded the boat and they over powered him and got away. During the scuffle Benny was hit across the head with a sword and cut severely. He was taken to a nearby home where the lady of the house and her two daughters attended to his wound and for the next several weeks and nursed him while his wound healed. He said that the General’s prize race horse made a handsome gift to Col. Wright, their commander.
When the war was over Benny went to Shreveport, Louisiana and surrendered. He then moved back to Tennessee with his family where he lived to be an old man.
Confederate Bushwhackers will continue in the next issue; Come ride with the notorious bushwhacker Capt. Jonas Webb.