The Civil War Hub of ArkansasOn September 29, 1862 Major-General William T. Sherman wrote to Samuel R. Curtis in Saint Louis. He began by noting Confederate General Thomas Hindman was back in Little Rock and had reestablished his communications. Since Hindman’s letters dealt with matters west of the Mississippi River, Sherman forwarded those matters to Curtis.

So as to keep Curtis informed, Sherman tells his that he responded to Hindman’s questions about Lieutenant Tollisen, who was, “arrested on the river for being concerned in some guerrilla raid, but had escaped prison; that of the others I know nothing and would refer to you.”

Sherman continued, “Of course I mentioned incidentally the ridiculous portion of his [Hindman’s] communication, his claiming the rights of civilized warfare for ununiformed, cowardly guerrillas, firing form ambush on unarmed steamers loaded with women and children, and his regret that his efforts to teach us the rules of civilized warfare had proven a failure.”

A previous question was raised by Sherman: “To my inquiry, ‘Why this flag of truce from Hindman–where is Holmes?’ I received answer. ‘Holmes is sick.’ [and] Hindman has no right to use a flag of truce if Holmes be at Little Rock; so I infer Holmes is on the march and Hindman sent to Little Rock to kick up a dust.” Sherman pokes, “You can draw your own inference.”

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On September 29, 1864 Lieutenant William Chandler, the Acting Assistant Adjutant General for the District of Eastern Arkansas in Helena drafted for Lieutenant A.F. Rice, commander of a scouting mission, a report of a scout from September 22 through the 28th. Written from Headquarters on Battery D Fortifications in Helena, it leaves historians believing it was drafted from the Colored Troops barracks on Military Road in Helena. The six day scouting mission is recorded in this dispatch.

Rice, having left out from Helena on September 22 at 5pm with twenty-one men from the 60th USCT (United States Colored Troops), they marched out to Ramsey’s Ferry situated on the St. Francis River. There, they crossed the river and murched pstream a mile and camped for the evening at Staton’s where they arrived at 2am.

The following morning of the 23rd they moved out from camp at 6am and continued upriver where at 8pm they made camp in a cane break less than a mile from Alligator Bayou. It was here that they captured a horse found tied in the brush. The horse beloned to John Maley. They picketed the roads in the vicinity and ended up sending six soldiers to observe a few homes for deserters from the 4th Arkansas Cavalry. The troops ended up capturing a deserter Benjamin Davis who belonged to Company I of the 4th Arkansas Cavalry (US). Stephen Oatman was also captured the same night. The latter turned himself in.

By 7am on the 24th the scouting mission made their way a mile to the mouth of Alligator Bayou. Pickets were thrown across the roads and it was here they camped until the following morning.
The morning of the 25th the command marched to Ball’s Point and, “pressed in horses enough to mount ten men.” Rice noted there was no Confederate force to be found in the area. He then, “sent a sergeant and ten men in charge of the prisoners, with a guide, through the canebrakes to Hamlin’s Landing, with orders to keep themselves secreted, with a picket to watch the road, and for them to remain there until I arrived.”

Rice noted that he took ten mounted men, “with Hardin and two citizens, proceeded to Burnt Cane Bend and Cut-Off, on Saint Francis River, also to the head of Fifteen Mile Bayou and Mud Lake.” He wrote that he ended up capturing, “in the rounds 4 prisoners, 3 horses, 1 mule, and 1 revolver; camped at Palmer’s plantation midnight; moved on the morning of the 26th to Council Bend, arriving there at 11 a. m.”

On the 26th at 3pm he took five men and went to Alligator Bayou where they collected some cattle. He wrote that he, “left Hardin with the men and prisoners at Council Bend, with instructions for him to take five men on the morning of the 27th and proceed up the river some five miles to collect some cattle.”

The report continued, “He, hearing of some rebels when he got there, started in pursuit, came upon their party, numbering six, and he reports that he killed 2 of them; the rest escaped.” In the action he ended up capturing three double-barreled guns, which he destroyed. This took place near Fifteen Mile Bayou.

“He came back in the evening, capturing on his return 2 prisoners, 1 a deserter from Battery E, Second U. S. Colored Artillery (light); the other claimed to be a citizen, but had a furlough on his person, which he claims to have written himself, for the purpose of keeping him from being conscripted in the rebel army.”

The morning of September 27, he reported, Rice began at daylight to round up some cattle, “and proceeded with them to Council Bend, bringing some belonging to a man by the name of Cook, that was out with me on the scout, arriving at Council Bend at 12 o’clock.” He continued, “The boat having arrived we proceeded to put the cattle on board.”

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Rice continued his report, “The second squad that were after cattle succeeded in getting about sixty head within one mile and a half of the boat, then had to leave them on account of its being too dark to see to drive them [and] That night left Hardin and eight men on shore mounted, taking the prisoners and balance of the men on the boat, and anchored out in the river until morning.”

On the morning of September 28, they, “landed and took six men and went in search of the cattle, but could not find them, they having strayed off in the canebrake, then went on board the boat, started for Helena, and arrived here at five o’clock last evening.”

Before closing he reported that two prisoners, Benjamin Davis and John West, escaped on September 26. “Davis escaped in the morning at daylight, through neglect of duty of the guard, he going asleep. West escaped in the evening, through the window of the house where the prisoners were kept. We captured and brought in all, told, 5 horses, 1 mules, 14 head of cattle, and 1 revolver.”

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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 info@arkansastoothpick.com.