Union Army in Helena Rounds up Runaway USCTOne hundred and fifty years ago desertions were high in both the Union and Confederate armies. Little do we read about deserted colored troops from the Union army. Forty men in Company C of the 60th United States Colored Troops set out from Helena to find Willis Harbert.

Harbert was apparently a former slave on the Harbert plantation before the Civil War began. A Union officer commented in a dispatch, “[we landed] on the Mississippi shore about two miles below Harbert’s plantation, landing the mounted infantry and dashed up to the Harbert place, surrounding it, to try and capture one Willis Harbert, colored deserter.” The dispatch continued, “[we] found him out in a corncrib, about one mile from the place, asleep, with a horse saddled outside, ready for him to escape if in danger of capture.”

While on their expedition, the Union troops began filling their wagons with food supplies found in the countryside on their forage mission. On this specific expedition, the officer reported, “During the day two white families and one colored, refugees, desiring to come within the lines of the Union army, came aboard; all of their effects were brought in and the cotton they had raised during the season.”

Military actions that took place this week one hundred and fifty years ago include an affair at Sugar Loaf Prairie on the 12th; a skirmish at Dardanelle on the 14th; a skirmish in Madison County on the 15th; a skirmish on the 17th at Ivey’s Ford; and a skirmish on the 18th in Clarksville. For a complete list of military actions that took place in Arkansas during the Civil War, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com.