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Carroll, Marion, and Searcy counties
Campaign against Confederate guerrillas in northern Arkansas
December 16–31, 1863
Captain John I. Worthington (US); Captain Marshall (first name unknown), Major Louis M. Gunning, Colonel Thomas H. Freeman, Captain James H. Love(CS)
First Arkansas Cavalry (US); unidentified guerrilla forces (CS)
4–6 killed, 6– 8 wounded (US); at least 25 killed and 32–42 wounded (CS)
On December 16, 1863, Captain John I. Worthington of Company H, First Arkansas Cavalry (US), left Fayetteville (Washington County) to scout Carroll, Marion, and Searcy counties looking for bands of Confederate guerrillas. Company H was recruited from Arkansas refugees in Missouri, and one third of them were from Searcy County. Capt. Worthington’s scouting party had 112 men from his own company and one gun from the howitzer battery under Lieutenant Robert M. Thompson, attached to the First Arkansas.
Worthington’s scouting party reached Carrollton (Carroll County) on December 19 and skirmished with Confederate bushwhackers. On December 22, they marched to William P. Stroud’s Store near Marshall’s Prairie in southeastern Carroll County (now in southeastern Boone County) after dispersing and breaking up the small Confederate bands in Carroll County. Worthington reported that he killed eleven Rebels and had two of his own soldiers wounded.
The Federals resumed their march from Stroud’s Store at daybreak on December 23 toward Yellville (Marion County) and were almost immediately attacked within a quarter of a mile by Captain Marshall’s force, estimated by Worthington to be between 200 and 300 strong. Worthington dismounted seventy-five men and attacked, routed, and pursued Marshall’s men through the brush for five miles, scattering the men in every direction. Apparently Worthington’s men camped at Yellville the night of December 23 and, on December 24, took up the march to Searcy County.
Capt. Marshall’s men regrouped and, with other Confederates, shadowed the Federals as they chopped the way for their cannon over a primitive track from Yellville across the Buffalo River and across Point Peter Mountain to Richland Valley in western Searcy County. They camped on the west bank of Richland Creek about two miles south of the Buffalo River. On December 25, Worthington sent out two scouting parties under Lieutenant Lawson D. Jernegan, which were attacked and driven in by the reinforced Confederates. Missourians Major Louis M. Gunning, coming from Yellville, and Colonel Thomas H. Freeman, marching from Izard County, had augmented the Rebels under Capt. Marshall and Searcy County’s Captain James H. Love’s company of irregulars. The Federals had four killed, including Searcy County resident Private John Forehand, and four wounded, including Lt. Jernegan. Two were reported taken prisoner and killed. Two were wounded, left in Searcy County, and later died, including Richland resident Private Larkin L. Hendrix.
At 3:00 p.m., the Confederates approached Worthington under a flag of truce and requested a suspension of hostilities until daylight the next morning to bury the dead, care for the wounded, and exchange prisoners. The Federal captain denied the long suspension, but he granted an hour-and-a-half suspension to recover the wounded and bury the dead. The Federal wounded were held by the Confederates and skirmishing recommenced. At dark, a Confederate. force estimated at about 200 tried to capture the howitzer that was located on a small spur of Horn Mountain west of and overlooking fields bordering Richland Creek. Lieutenant Robert M. Thompson, commanding the howitzer, double-shotted the cannon and fired it into the charging Confederates, killing many and foiling the attempt. A cannonball from this repulse remained in a nearby tree until the 1930s.
Worthington learned that Maj. Gunning and Capt. Marshall were encamped a mile downriver from him and that Col. Freeman’s men were two and a half miles upriver and intended to attack him at daybreak on December 26. The Federals immediately assumed the offensive and attacked Gunning and Marshall at 8:00 p.m. After fighting ten or fifteen minutes, the Confederates withdrew, with fourteen killed and between thirty and forty wounded, Worthington estimated. The whole Rebel force fell back during the night to Clapper’s Mill, then in Carroll County (now Boone County), and the Federals returned to Fayetteville through Newton County, arriving on December 31. Worthington reported a loss of four killed and six wounded. Worthington’s superior Major Thomas J. Hunt reported six killed and seven or eight wounded. Federal service records state that three were killed in action, two killed after surrendering, and two left wounded on Richland Creek who later died. Two casualties were from Searcy County.
There are no accurate figures for total Confederate casualties. Mid-afternoon on December 25, Worthington heard that Confederate casualties were nine killed and five wounded. Henry Cole of Captain Love’s band was wounded, taken to a nearby house where his uncle Dr Samuel Cole treated him, and nursed back to health by his new wife in a remote cave, safe from Union guerrillas. Fellow Richland resident Private Larkin L. Hendrix, Company H, First Arkansas Cavalry, was also seriously wounded on December 25 and was taken to a cave near his relatives, but he died on January 10, 1864.
A forty-man detachment from Company M, Second Arkansas Cavalry (US), was also in Searcy County on December 25 and within ten miles of Capt. Worthington during his engagements, but could not join him. The next day, this detachment had an affair near Burrowville—now Marshall (Searcy County)—with some of the local Confederates who had been in the December 25 fight. Captain Giles M. Wright, an officer in James H. Love’s command, was pursued by the Second Arkansas. After they wounded his horse, they caught him near Lebanon on Bear Creek and shot him eight times. They left him lying near Spout Spring and returned to Lebanon and took Lieutenant John M. Hensley of Love’s company prisoner at his home. Wright was buried in the cemetery in Burrowville. Hensley died on April 9, 1864, in the Gratiot Street Prison Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. The Second Arkansas scouting party returned to Berryville (Carroll County) before January 18, 1864, when Colonel John E. Phelps made his report. Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, reporting on this scouting mission, wrote that six Rebels were killed, four wounded, and sixteen taken prisoner.
For additional information:“Civil War on Richland Creek,” Searcy County Ancestor Information Exchange, August 1995, 3–8.
Johnston, James J. Searcy County, Arkansas, during the Civil War. Norman, OK: 1963.
Ledbetter, Mary Pell. “Civil War Writings Portray Hardships Experienced by Citizens of Area.” Marshall Mountain Wave, December 24, 1964, pp. 3B, 6B.
Report of the Adjutant General of Arkansas for the Period of the Late Rebellion, and to November 1, 1866. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1867.
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. 22. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1888.
William, Mollie E. A Thrilling Romance of the Civil War: The History of Mrs. Mollie E Williams: Forty-two Days in Search of a Missing Husband. Chicago: 1902.
James J. JohnstonFayetteville, Arkansas
Last Updated 11/6/2012
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