December 13, 1863: Skirmish at Meriwether’s Ferry, Bayou Boeuf, Arkansas


In studying the Civil War it is good to recall that their were countless skirmishes fought throughout the War, most utterly forgotten today.  One such minor skirmish was fought on December 13, 1863.  The report on the skirmish is well written and is interesting since it was the first time in action of the First Mississippi Cavalry, a Union regiment consisting of black former Mississippi slaves.  Here is the report:

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that on the 10th instant I sent 75 men of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry and 125 men of the First Mississippi Cavalry.(African Descent), under the command of Major Chapin, First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), across the Mississippi River to make a scout toward Lake Village and endeavor to capture some forty rebel cavalry who were hanging negroes end driving off stock. The scout proceeded to Meriwether’s Ferry, on Boeuf River, and encamped half a mile from the ferry — the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) at the house, and the Fourth Illinois Cavalry at the cotton gin, 150 yards distant, both house and gin being surrounded with swampy land covered by water. Although no force was known to be in the vicinity, each road was picketed with ten men, and also a camp guard of ten men. At 3 a. m. the picket was ordered to mount by Major Chapin and camp called. At 5 a. m., in the midst of most intense darkness (the men having breakfasted, saddled, and only waiting for daylight to march), the rebels, 140 strong, under Captain Adams, of Capers’ battalion, on foot-having during the night stolen into lines between picket stations in the swamp and formed all about the cotton gin-gave the Fourth Illinois Cavalry volley after volley, stampeding the horses and causing great confusion among the men, who rapidly retreated upon the house, where the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) were stationed. The rebels then charged the house, but could not dislodge the colored soldiers. The contest here for a long time was fiercely fought, and ended in the entire discomfiture of the rebels. Intense darkness prevented pursuit, and when daylight came it was found the rebels, after regaining their horses, had dispersed through the woods, each man running on his own account. Ten dead of the enemy were found, and numbers were seen helped or thrown upon horses, and thus carried sway. The enemy having dispersed, no pursuit could be made, and the number of wounded necessitated the return to camp, which was reached at 10 a. m. to-day. Two men too severely hurt to travel were left a few miles from here with a surgeon until sufficiently recovered to permit their removal. Horses and mules were captured–enough to cover our loss of stock, although the quality is not as good as our own. Too much credit cannot be given the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, who did all that men could do under the circumstances. Surprised, they fought hand to hand, and those who were taken prisoners were bodily earned away. The conduct of the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) could not have been excelled by veterans, wounded men refusing to go to the rear. If was the first fight for most of them, but, in the language of Major Cook, their commanding officer, “I could have held them till the last man was shot.” I inclose a rough sketch* of the country; also a list of our losses, which, owing to our being by the side of camp-fires, were necessarily severe. I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. D. OSBAND, Colonel First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), Comdg. Post. Lieut. Col. William T. Clark, Assistant Adjutant-General, Seventeenth Army Corps

The First Mississippi would be eventually designated the Third Cavalry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, and would be mustered out on January 26, 1866 after participating in quite a few campaigns.

Published in: on December 13, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 13, 1863: Skirmish at Meriwether’s Ferry, Bayou Boeuf, Arkansas  
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