Richland Creek, April 1864
The April 13-14 skirmishes on Richland Creek once again involved Capt. Love, whom Sanborn had ordered wiped out in early January. Col. John Phelps to General Sanborn:
Captain Turner, Sixth Missouri State Militia, at the above date [April 13-14, 1864] arrived at Yellville from a reconnaissance on Richland. The 13th instant he had attacked a camp of 63 rebels and routed them completely; one Captain Watkins and 4 others were killed, several were wounded, 1 made prisoner.
The next day two or three of the guerrilla bands gathered together to the number of 100 or more, under Captains Love and Cordelle. Captain Turner followed them up and attacked their advance. In the engagement Cordelle was killed, and 2 others wounded. [OR Series I vol. XXXIV, Pt 1, pp. 886-887]
Though many Rebels and their leaders were killed over the preceding four months from January to April, many remained. Even Union commanders on the Arkansas River at Clarksville noted the guerilla problems in the Boston Mountains and Carroll and Newton Counties.
In mid April Union commanders became informed of Rebel intentions to disrupt spring planting in Missouri, thus upsetting the stability of Union sentiment and force in that state, let alone northern Arkansas. However, General Rosencrans did not want to alarm citizens in those areas by moving in additional troops. As Major Melton pursued Cooper in King’s River and Osage, Col. Harrison at Fayetteville was very concerned over Confederate Col. Jackman being loose near Huntsville where he was recruiting “quietly.”
General Sanborn favored driving the rebels across the Arkansas River and then holding the river line strong enough to release troops north of the river for duty elsewhere. Yet he hoped to retain troops in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas long enough to wipe out guerilla bands and raise home guards to police the areas. Otherwise, Sanborn felt the only other option was to destroy everything in northern Arkansas so that no one could live there. By late April, Union commanders in northern Arkansas began hearing of Union setbacks and reverses in the Red River campaign.
As Capt. Turner skirmished on Richland Creek, Major Melton set out to seek these Rebel groups operating in the upper Buffalo River region. As a three-pronged Union attack, Cooper hit Federal supply lines in their rear on King’s River. Major Melton took off in pursuit but eventually had to report back to camp due to lack of rations, underscoring the acute forage and food situation in the region.
Supply needs for the Buffalo River region’s Union troops were enormous. Supply problems in the region were compounded by Union resources being funneled east to Sherman at Chattanooga-Atlanta Campaign. Capt. Owen, Quartermaster for Sanborn, reported on the supply efforts and necessities in the district. Daily forage demands at Springfield required 13,000 pounds of grain, not including hay. Daily rations to Yellville and Rolling Prairie required 40 wagons at 2,400 pounds of rations. Problems mounted as animals and transportation equipment wore out. River transport provided unreliable means of support.
In late April, Union troops were again heading for the Richland Valley. In addition, Col. Phelps, 2nd Arkansas Cavalry, noted the conditions in northern Arkansas: forage becoming exhausted, guerillas hiding in mountain hideouts assisted by friendly residents who remained in the region; Union people gone; animals dying; rains swelling rivers to make fords impassible. With this last mention of rain, Phelps suggested the possibility of moving all or part of his command to Buffalo City or nearby to forage and receive supplies. Thus, he would be at an old river station crossroads and be closer to Rebel forces south of the Buffalo River near Sylamore and Richwoods in Izard County. Phelps’ request could have made the mouth of the Buffalo River a major supply depot and regional headquarters for the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry. Yet, Phelps also noted the poor condition of his troops: less than half were operation due to miserable horses.
By the end of April, Confederate officials called for all available supplies in Texas to be pushed into Arkansas and Louisiana, as Confederate forces pushed back Union advances. Rebel guerillas remained in northern Arkansas and Union cavalry continued to pursue them.