On September 20, 1862 Colonel William Vandever of the 9th Iowa Infantry wrote up his report after skirmishing near Helena. He noted that the night before, about an hour before the sun went down a group of four men serving on picket duty was fired upon by Confederates, wounding three in the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry. The attack on the Federal picket was made about a mile and a half from Vandever’s camp.
The morning of the 20th of September Vandever noted that a picket of seven men were fired upon, stationed a half mile south of Jimison Rice’s house near his negro quarters. This picket was about two and a half miles from Vandever’s headquarters. His report relayed that one of his men was killed and two are missing.
The picket fired into the morning of the 20th was attacked by about fifty Confederates who charged the group of seven men from opposite directions. “My men think they recognized some of the people of the country in both of these parties.” Vandever continued, “From what I learn of negroes I think the attacking party was composed of Anderson’s men and Texans [but] The party who made that attack this morning was led by an officer in gray uniform-a small man, dark hair and whiskers.”
Bands of Confederates in the countryside were quite common. Vandever even made mention that , “I hear of parties hovering around us on all sides.” Before drafting his report, however, he sent out a scout this morning and intelligence places a party of about a hundred Confederates near the Lick Creek Bridge on the Little Rock Road, located about five miles distant from Vandever’s camp.
His report continued, “Last night and yesterday the Rangers were all through the woods, in the neighborhood of Bush’s, about 7 miles out, on the Spring Creek road…I would like more cavalry.” He pointed out that the 6th Missouri (US), “understands the country, and I could make good use of the Fifth Kansas or First Indiana.” He concluded, “I have sent reconnoitering parties to-day on the different roads, with directions to arrest all persons they may find. I have stopped giving passes.”
In a post-script, Vandever wrote, “I have made a number of arrests of persons living near us, who are reputed to be in the habit of riding about a good deal, supposed to be for the purpose of giving information. A gin-house was burned in the evening within a mile of my headquarters.”
Also on September 20, 1862 Brigadier General E.B. Brown drafted a report to Brigadier General James Totten that was full of intelligence on operation in Missouri and in Arkansas. Of the latter he noted that Confederate General Thomas C. Hindman relocated his headquarters to Yellville. Hindman was reportedly in Little Rock at the time of the report on business.
He also made mention of, “A notorious jayhawking preacher by the name of Turner, of Gadfly, was 7 miles south of this place a few days ago in company with three others and one of our spies.” He continued, “In the night the spy stole part of their arms-two guns, a revolver, and an immense bowie-knife of Turner [and] With the knife and pistol he attacked the party, stabbed Turner twice fatally, shot one of the others in the breast, and the other two men ran away.” Brown noted, “The story is true; Turner was taken home in a dying condition.”
Also on September 20, 1862, information was sent to General Schofield that placed McBride with two thousand men eight miles north of Pocahontas and he wrote of a force at Smithville and another three miles south of Pocahontas. He observed five pieces of artillery under McBride’s command. A prisoner relayed that troops were scattered from Little R ock to Pocahontas, “and are concentrating near Pocahontas and Smithville to wait for Price or Hindman. Boyd’s dispatches stop here.”
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.
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