On this date in Arkansas Civil War history, August 6, 1862 marked the third day of a fourteen day expedition to Helena and Clarendon. The same date also marked day 2 of a four day expedition to the mouth of the While River. On this date in 1863 the Union army was on day four of a six day scouting expedition to Yellville and day four of a fourteen day up the White and Little Red River. On this date in 1864 there was a Skirmish at Bull Creek and it was the first day of an 11 day expedition from Little Rock to the Little Red River.
The following is from the report of Major James F. Dwight of the 11th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, Aide-de-camp. Dwight kept a journal of events from August 6 through August 16, 1864 having set out from the vicinity of Little Rock. Dwight was under the command of Brigadier-General J.R. West of the U.S. Volunteers. General West was directed through the August 4, 1864 Special Order telling him to “proceed with all the available cavalry of this district in pursuit of the enemy’s, reported to be on Little Red River, and will pursue them until they are captured or dispersed.”
Saturday, August 6, 1864.-Left Huntersville, opposite Little Rock, at 7.30, Second Brigade, Colonel Stuart, having moved with train at 6. Road runs down river three or four miles, then turns to the left and north, and crosses railroad to Devall’s Bluff in a few rods. Pickets at turning. Passed broken-down wagon at railroad-cause, tongue broken; load transferred. Overtook train two miles and a half south of Bayou Metoe, train stalling badly, owing to the weakness of mules, one wagon unloaded. Pushed on to Bayou Metoe, twelve miles, where found bridge useless, flooring removed. Some buildings of heavy timbers near by with which it might be repaired. Artillery was crossing at rude string piece bridge, three-quarters mile above. Horses were taken out of the artillery, and guns run across by hand. Train same way when it came up. Bank easy slope, ten feet high. Ford, saddle skirt deep, a few rods above. When the train came up, pushed on with the command, leaving Third Missouri Cavalry as train guard. Road good to Bayou Two Prairies, five miles. Crossed it by ford; deep on left bank. Bridge just below might be repaired. Went on to Austin (or Oakland Post-Office), eight miles. Good road most of way. Some swampy tracts; carts passed by daylight. Went into camp at Austin. Trains could not get up, but went into camp five miles below. Steam grist-mill at Austin makes thirty barrels a day. Forty men of Twenty-second Ohio Mounted Infantry joined us by Brownsville road near Austin.
J.O. Shelby’s report continues on August 6, 1864. Shelby wrote about this date: The next day [August 6] they pounced down upon the plantations and turned loose upon them 1,000 rough and hungry horsemen. Then began a scene almost unparalleled in the history of the war. Cotton-gins and cotton, hay, corn, and oats, reaping machines and threshing machines, negro cabins and soldiers’ quarters, were burned, torn down, and destroyed. Yankee schoolmasters and schoolmarms were taken from their little flocks of gaping Africans and taught the secrets of rebel raiding; negro soldiers were shot amid the blazing rafters of their dwellings, and 300 horses and mules, much clothing and supplies, and 200 negroes brought safely off. Lieutenant-Colonel Erwin, sent to the plantations above Memphis, was also successful in destroying much Federal property, but being attacked and partly surprised, lost several good officers and men.
My operations in the rear of General Steele up to this time had so much annoyed him that he sent a very large force up by Searcy with the avowed purpose of driving me from the country. The odds were heavy against me in a pitched battle, for so many of my recruits were unarmed and ineffective, but I determined to try the issue at all hazards. Sending all the sick, wounded, and unarmed men one day’s march to the rear, I concentrated the largest portion of my effective men on the east side of Black River and waited for the coming storm. Before doing this, however, I sent Gordon and Dobbin to operate on both flanks of the enemy and annoy them as much as possible, while Major McDaniel with 200 men played boldly in their front.
For three days [August 6-8] they marched and threatened, but made no direct attack. McDaniel gradually worked around to their rear and charged it three times, killing and wounding many. Gordon had a severe fight on their right flank and worsted them, while Dobbin, from Augusta, held and preserved a menacing attitude. Either from these causes, or something unknown to me, they hastily retreated one night, leaving a strong rear guard at Searcy, which was almost immediately driven out and our old lines re-established. (continued on August 20, 1864)
According to Report Number 17 in the chapter on the “Advance Upon Little Rock” in the Official Records, the itinerary of the First Brigade, Second Division, under the command of Colonel William H. Graves, began on August 1, 1864 and the last entry was on September 10, 1864. The following dates are included in his report: August 1, August 6, August 8, August 13–17, August 22, August 24, September 1, September 2, September 6, September 7, September 10.
In today’s section of the itinerary, he notes that the 18th Illinois Infantry Regiment and the 54th Illinois Infantry Regiment were assigned to the First Brigade, Second Division.
Military actions in this “Today in Arkansas During the Civil War” column can be traced better using the Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas. You can trace the same roads they walked in many cases in this atlas. You can find obscure references to communities mentioned in Civil War records that can be located in this atlas. Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas is the perfect companion book for this “Today in History” series.
If you know of any other military actions or other things that happened that we did not post on a certain day, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.