Skirmish at Smithville, Arkansas
McKinney Farm, June 17th 1862

by Jay Brent Tipton

According to the “War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” (OR), and the book “Annuals of the Army of Tennessee”, a small Skirmish took place on the evening of June 17th 1862 near Smithville, Arkansas. At that time Smithville was the County seat of Lawrence County, Arkansas, which included all of present day Sharp County.  A portion of the Military road ran through Western Lawrence County at Smithville and branched off into the Hookrum (Evening Shade) Road while the main road continued to Batesville, Arkansas. A gristmill on the Strawberry River the Taylor Mill, was an important logistical location. The Confederates were maintaining a garrison to guard the mill.
A Federal (U.S. Army) Garrison was being maintained near Smithville, at the William Lane place, now located off a County Road that is commonly/currently referred to as the “Pete Wasson Road.” Another Union Garrison was maintained during this period at what is now known as “Milligan Campground” in what is now Sharp County.
The Milligan Campground location is the “camp” referred to in the OR report.
Apparently elements of The 5th Illinois Cavalry Regiment USA was assigned the Smithville/Lawrence County region as their area of operations.  The Garrison or Post, which was maintained during this time must have been a Battalion sized element since a Major was in command, and only 3 companies were listed in the reports of the action.

Captain Wiley C. Jones, a prominent citizen, of the Smithville area,( after the War), was the commander of the Confederate Forces in the area. He was a company commander of mounted troops, in Coleman’s Regiment.
According to the “Annals of the Army of the Tennessee” the 5th Illinois had 2 men killed and 4 wounded.  The Confederate loss was listed as 4 wounded and 15 missing.
It is interesting to note that the “Annals of the Army of the Tennessee” records the date as June 18th, and not as June 17th, as the Report from the Commanding Officer of the Union Forces engaged in the action indicates.  This discrepancy occurred for two reasons; (1) Major A.H. Seley wrote and dated the report on the 18th, but was describing the action that occurred on the 17th of June 1862. (2) Brigadier General W. Scott Ketchum, the Inspector General, officially reported the events on the 18th of June 1862.
General Ketchum in his report dated June 20th, 1862 states that Captain Jones, and 14 of his men were captured during the Action.
Major Seley, Commander of the 5th Illinois Cavalry wrote two reports regarding the action.

The first Report as it appears in the OR:

Report # 2 Reports of Major Able H. Seley, Fifth Ill. Cav.

Smithville, Arkansas June 18, 1862

Dear Sir: We had a fight yesterday evening;
Captured Captain Jones and 7 men who are in camp. The dead and wounded have not got into Camp yet. There were several wounded and 4 or 5 killed. What Shall I do with the prisoners? I cannot keep them here well. I will give detail as soon as I get them all in. I sent to regiment and got some more men, they are hovering around us. They say Coleman is coming down to clean me out. I will give them a warm reception if they come.

Your obedient Servant,
A.H. Seley Commanding Post

Smithville, Arkansas June 18th 1862

Dear Sir: This morning I gave you a condensed account of the fight last evening near this place. Yesterday morning I sent out Lieutenant Wilson, of Company D, with 15 of his men, for some beef cattle and to assist a Union man and his family and effects into camp. They had collected the cattle and started for town, when a woman came out of a neighboring house and informed them that there was a force of 100 men after them.
They retreated toward camp and sent a messenger in. I immediately dispatched a force to their relief, under the command of Captain H.A. Organ of Company D, Captain H.P. Mumford, of Company F  and Captain H. D. Caldwell, of Company L.  They followed them to the residence of one McKinney, where they were taking shelter. On approach of our troops to the house the rebels commenced an attack by firing a volley into our men. To prevent their escape it was necessary to make a charge by the house within 12 feet of the same. The nature of the country was such as to prevent their escape. They captured Captain Jones and 11 of his men. Killing 1 and wounding 2, and took 9 horses.
We had 1 man killed, 2 mortally wounded, and 5 slightly wounded.

…Great credit is due the officers and men for the courage and bravery displayed on the occasion, as the circumstances were perplexing and knowing nothing of the strength of the enemy. It was raining in torrents during the whole engagement and the enemy was concealed in log buildings.

I have the honor to be, in haste, your obedient servant,

A.H. Seley,
Major, Commanding Post

In the “Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas”, the biographical sketch of Wiley C. Jones sheds some light on what happened to the Confederate prisoners.
According to the biographical, sketch, Mr. Jones and his men were captured in what is now present day Sharp County and conveyed to St. Louis Missouri. Captain Jones was then taken to Alton Illinois for about 3 months. Then while being conveyed to Memphis, Tennessee, he jumped into the Mississippi River and escaped with bullets singing by his head.

Research of Coleman’s Regiment reveals it was a Missouri Cavalry Regiment (Partisan Rangers) commanded by W.O. Coleman of Missouri.
It is believed that Coleman’s Regiment was originally formed as a Missouri State Guard Unit, (4th MO Cavalry, 7th Division, MSG). Coleman organized a Partisan Ranger Regiment, It thought it was formed in the West Plains, MO area, and that Coleman used members of the 4th to form the backbone and cadre of the unit. It is thought that some of the members were from Arkansas, Especially Lawrence County.)

Captain Wiley C. Jones was Company Commander of Company E, Coleman’s Regiment. Captain Jones later served as Company Commander
Of Company C, 45th Arkansas Cavalry.

Original research by Jay Brent Tipton
Smithville, Arkansas (January 4, 2003)

This information and article is copyrighted by the Jay Brent Tipton & the Edward G. Gerdes Civil War pages.  If you wish to contact Mr. Tipton, please contact him at the email address above.