It seems the Union forces called on Pocahontas every couple of months during the civil war, just checking to see what they might find going on here. Sometimes battles resulted. This article doesn’t dwell long on Pocahontas, but shows the hard times endured by Randolph County in the final year of the war. Union armies moving through the area found a county with an abundance of horse-thieves and murderers, and a great shortage of food and other supplies. In those days it was hard for an army to “live off the land” here because the land was bare and empty.
The report was written by Union Major James Wilson, sworn enemy of Confederate Colonel Timothy Reves. Reves, who has figured prominently in many of the previous posts of Pocahontas and the Civil War, captured Major Wilson a few months after the report below was written, and had Wilson executed by firing squad. There’s a report on that here.
MARCH 16-25 1864
Scout from Pilot Knob, Mo., to the Arkansas line, and skirmishes.
Report of Major James Wilson, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, commanding expedition.
On the 20th, I took the Alton and Pocahontas road and moved forward in the direction of Pocahontas. About noon we came upon a rebel conscripting party. The advance charged upon them, killing 8, wounding 1 mortally, and capturing the remainder of the squad. On the afternoon of the same day a man was shot and killed by the advance guard in attempting to make his escape from a house. We encamped at McElroy’s, 10 miles from Pocahontas.
On the morning of the 21st, I moved forward to Pocahontas. Finding nothing there I took the road to Warm Sulphur Springs, then a due west course to Eleven Points River, and encamped.
On the 22nd, I marched toward the headwaters of the Fourche a Thomas. Moving up that creek, about 5 o’clock in the afternoon we encountered Captain Payton with his company of horse-thieves and murderers. He drew up in line and fired upon the advance without effect, when, bringing my men forward at the gallop, I ordered a charge. The men went into them with a yell, killed 11, and pursued the remainder for miles across the hills, dispersing them in every direction. I encamped at this place for the night.
On the 23rd, took the Van Buren road, passed through that place and Patterson, arriving at this post on the evening of the 25th, having been absent nine and one-half days, traveled more than 300 miles, killed 21 guerrillas, captured 11 prisoners, some 12 horses, some arms, etc. The whole country through which I passed is infested with small bands of guerrillas, their principal headquarters being in Oregon County, and commanded by Captains Payton, Long, and Evans. Kitchen, Freeman, and Love have concentrated for some purpose a force of about 500 men east of Black River, near Jacksonport. Reves has about 90 men 15 miles southeast of Pocahontas. No considerable force can exist for any length of time north of Pocahontas, there being no forage in the country. It was with the utmost difficulty that I could obtain forage for 100 men by taking all I could find. There was about 15 feet of water in Black River at Pocahontas. I could not find any of Colonel Livingston’s scouts; they never came up to the Missouri line.
Major 3rd Mo. State Militia Cavalry, Commanding Expd. to Ark.