Although Arkansas seceded from the union in May 1861, a Peace Society developed in the Ozarks in early 1862. The Civil War around the Buffalo River was absent of large scale military maneuvers or battles. It was more consumed with jay hawking, terrorism, and guerilla tactics. This left in its wake a civilian culture that had been ripped to shreds by the stresses of murder, rape, and thievery. The strain of war also turned neighbor against neighbor in the name of survival.
(Continued Part 5)
Richland Creek May 1864
May was a pivotal month in Arkansas. Rebels gained a momentum as Federals fell back from Arkansas Valley and Red River due to defeats and the Federals fell back into southern Missouri due to forage problems in northern Arkansas. The Buffalo River region continued to experience Federal and Rebel presence and movements.
May began with Rebels reported in the Huntsville area. However, on May 3 Rebels attacked and destroyed a Federal forage train on Richland Creek. Forage in north central Arkansas was an increasing problem since Federals arrived in January, but was worse in southern Missouri. General Sanborn noted that he had half his stock in Arkansas grazing and received his forage from Rolla, but also noted that the grass in southern Missouri was growing and provided some feed for horses.
The search for forage more than anything dictated the direction and objectives of Federal scouts. Richland Valley, noted for its agricultural bounty, once again lured Federals into an attack by opportune rebels. Following this attack, Federal troops began pulling back into the border region of Missouri.
The Official Records report that after crossing the Buffalo, the advanced guard, escort, and train-rearguard were separated when Jackman attacked down from Point Peter Mountain. The location of the advance guard, giving accounts from oral histories and James Johnston, seem to have been where the Point Peter-Snowball Road joins with the Richland Valley Road near Hall school and the cemetery. This point is about ¾ mile from the Campbell-Wasson ford where oral history claims that the Federal wagon train was burned. The Maddox account claims that the Federals moved up the valley from the main body about ¾ of a mile when they saw the Rebels coming down the mountain. If the advance guard was about ¾ mile ahead of the train on the other (east or south) side of Wasson Ford, then where was the escort? They may have been on the same side of Richland Creek as the advance guard, but a little north of Hall School, thus separated by the creek from the train and separated by distance from the advance guard and by the quickly advancing Jackman. The escort came under attack as well, but upon finding the advance guard wiped out, they escaped, leaving the wagon trains behind. The Maddox account claims that the Confederates, after destroying the train, went into camp at the mouth of Dry Branch, one mile up the Richland Valley. The junction of the Richland Valley and Snowball roads was about one mile from Dry Branch camp.
Jackman claimed to have spotted the Federal wagons from two and a half miles away from the top of Point Peter. Jackman either spotted the trains while he was rounding the old Point Peter Road near the mouth of Richland and the train was nearing Christy Ford, or Jackman was in Point Peter (the Snowball Road) watching the wagons crossing the Buffalo. The second choice is unlikely since he had to travel at least 12 miles to get to this point, while the Federals crossed the Buffalo in the morning of the same day.
What is significant is that Col. Phelps’ follow up attack on the 5th ended when he could not pursue the enemy due to the bad conditions of his horses. This was no doubt true given other correspondence between Phelps and Col. Sanborn. In addition, Phelps marched all night (May 4) to attack Jackman on the morning of May 5.
General Sanborn pondered what to do with the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry. He suggested either moving the troops south of the Boston Mountains and reassigning them to the Department of Arkansas or keeping them north in Missouri. But, he mentioned that without this force he could not operate in northern Arkansas. Sanborn opted to pull his troops back to Cassville, Mo., Berryville, Ark., and Forsyth, Mo., where apparently, forage along the White River had improved with spring growth. Major Murphy at Yellville was ordered back to Cassville while Col. Phelps was advised to fall back on Berryville and Forsyth.
Read More Next Week or go to https://www.nps.gov/buff/learn/historyculture/civil-war-along-the-buffalo-river.htm