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January 24, 1865
Lieutenant Colonel James M. Steele (US); Unknown (CS)
150 men of the Eleventh Regiment, United States Colored Troops, detachment of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US); Part of Newton’s Fifth Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (CS)
None (US); Unknown (CS)
A short engagement in rural Yell County, this skirmish is notable for pitting Arkansas Confederate troops against a combined Federal force consisting of both white and African-American troops from Arkansas.
By January 1865, major Confederate offensive operations had ceased in the state. But while most Confederate units remained in southern Arkansas, small units of cavalry continued to operate in Union-held territory alongside guerrilla bands. Without access to regular supplies, these units were forced to forage and otherwise acquire supplies to the best of their abilities. Boggs’ Mills, located about twelve miles from Dardanelle (Yell County), served as both a location for the grinding of corn and a place for Confederate units to gather and organize.
Federal forces were well aware of the importance of Boggs’ Mills to Confederate forces. In an effort to keep the enemy off balance, Union forces under the command of Colonel Abraham Ryan prepared a raid on the mills. Receiving intelligence that Confederate troops under the command of Colonel Robert Newton would be grinding corn at the mills on the night of January 24, Ryan ordered his men to move to the area. Known as Newton’s Tenth Arkansas Cavalry, the Confederates planned to arrive at the mills under the cover of darkness and depart before sunrise.
The Federal forces were under command of Lieutenant Colonel James M. Steele of the Eleventh Regiment, United States Colored Troops. Joining Steele and his 150 men from the Eleventh was a detachment of the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US). Moving from Lewisburg (Conway County) at midnight, the Union forces immediately charged the enemy upon arriving at Boggs’ Mills. The Federal troops were able to surprise the Confederate cavalry and forced them to flee in confusion. The Union force was able to capture eighteen horses, twenty stands of arms, assorted camping supplies, the ground corn, and Newton’s papers. The Federals did not report suffering or causing any casualties and, shortly after the end of the engagement, returned to Lewisburg. Ryan later reported that Newton and his men were fleeing in the direction of Caddo Gap.
While just a brief engagement that did not cause any casualties, this skirmish was typical of the encounters between Union and Confederate forces in Arkansas during this period.
For additional information:The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Part 1, Vol. 48. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.
David SesserHenderson State University
Last Updated 10/11/2016
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