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Skirmish at Waugh's Farm

 Location:

 Independence County

 Campaign:

 Occupation of Batesville

 Date:

 February 19, 1864

 Principal Commanders:

 Captain William Castle (US); Captain George Rutherford (CS)

 Forces Engaged:

 Detachments of Eleventh Missouri Cavalry and Fourth  Arkansas Mounted Infantry (US); First Arkansas Cavalry (CS)

 Estimated Casualties:

 4 killed, 10 wounded, 32 captured (US); 1 killed (CS)

 Result:

 Confederate victory

Colonel Robert Livingston and his small Union army entered Batesville (Independence County) on Christmas Day in 1863, having been sent to re-occupy the city, which had not had a continuous Union presence since June 1862. Their task was to keep the peace in the area and promote Federal control. That proved difficult, for they were surrounded by small mobile Confederate guerrilla units and outlaw gangs who preyed on small detachments, especially foraging expeditions, outside of Batesville.

The most disastrous Union loss in the Batesville area was at the farm of Virginian Lewis Waugh twelve miles west of town. On February 18, 1864, a foraging train of thirty-five wagons—escorted by 100 soldiers of the Eleventh Missouri Cavalry and Fourth Arkansas Mounted Infantry under the command of Captain William Castle—stopped and camped for the night on Waugh’s farm. A local account says that a girl on a neighboring farm slipped away across the White River to the west and revealed the train’s presence to people who would locate Captain George Rutherford and his First Arkansas Cavalry, which consisted mostly of county men.

The next morning, Rutherford’s cavalry attacked the train, killing four, wounding ten, and capturing thirty-two. Only one Confederate casualty is known, John Minnikin of Batesville. Most of the wagons were burned and the contents and horses seized. Stolen gear was later recovered from various locations in the area, such as Sylamore and Cross-Roads.

The Union and Confederate leaders later disputed (without results) whether the shooting of Capt. Castle was an atrocity or a battle incident, but Capt. Rutherford recovered Castle’s watch and pencil case from his men. He returned them to Col. Livingston, with kind words for Castle and a request that Livingston try to save his recently captured brother, James Rutherford, for a prisoner exchange. Livingston appears to have blamed Castle for being surprised, for he reported that the captain “paid the penalty for his neglect with his life.”

Records do not indicate whether the prisoner exchange was carried out. James Rutherford was not immediately released, and George Rutherford himself was captured a few months later and imprisoned in Little Rock (Pulaski County) until the end of the war. The exchange of men did not occur immediately because Rutherford said he could not exchange all of his prisoners, as he was under orders to deliver for military trial all Union soldiers who had been conscripted into Confederate units and had fled to join Union units. Livingston took the stance that he required that all of his men be treated equally as prisoners of war. The issue continued to be a problem for the rest of the war.

For additional information:
McAdams, Virginia. “The Battle of Waugh’s Farm.” Independence County Chronicle 2.4 (1961): 3–6.

Mobley, Freeman K. Making Sense of the Civil War in Batesville-Jacksonport and Northeast Arkansas, 1861–1874. Batesville, AR: P. D. Printing, 2005.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Vol. 34, Part I. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1891.

George E. Lankford
Batesville, Arkansas

Last Updated 7/20/2017

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