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Skirmish at Richland

Location:

Jefferson County

Campaign:

None

Date:

December 24, 1864

Principal Commanders:

Lieutenant Thomas Stevenson (US); Unknown (CS)

Forces Engaged:

19 men from the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and 20 from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry (US); Unknown (CS) 

Estimated Casualties:

1 killed (US); 1 captured (CS)

Result:

Draw

Providing enough food to the men assigned to them was difficult for the numerous Federal outposts spread across the Arkansas countryside late in the war. Gathering supplies could be dangerous work, as Union troops were vulnerable to enemy action while outside their heavily fortified outposts. This skirmish took place when Federal troops moved from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) as an escort to a beef contractor.

On December 24, 1864, Lieutenant Thomas Stevenson received orders to escort a beef contractor to the post commissary. Departing at 5:00 a.m., the escort consisted of nineteen men of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and twenty men from the Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry. Leaving Pine Bluff, the Union troops moved toward Richland.

Finding a bayou too deep to ford, the men constructed a floating bridge and crossed, driving enemy pickets back. Continuing their march, about one mile below Richland along the Arkansas River, the Federals saw an enemy cavalry force of around 100. While the Confederates halted and watched the movements of the Federals, Stevenson led his men back to the bridge, where they re-crossed the bayou. The lieutenant determined that he should focus on gathering cattle on the opposite side of the river from the Confederates.

Near the house of a Dr. Waters, the Federals discovered a number of cattle, which they seized. Moving back toward Pine Bluff, the advance guard was fired upon by enemy forces concealed in a gin house and in fallen timber. Stevenson deployed his men and quickly drove the Confederates across a narrow field and captured one soldier from the Twenty-First Texas Cavalry. The Union force had one man killed in this engagement.

Realizing that the Confederates could move to surround his slow-moving force, Stevenson quickly returned to Pine Bluff with the cattle.

While only a brief skirmish, this engagement is typical of those fought during the waning months of the Civil War in Arkansas.

For additional information:
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 41. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated 5/4/2015

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