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Re: Rieff's Arkansas Cavalry
In Response To: Re: Rieff's Arkansas Cavalry ()


Joseph Bates, a member of the company, stated about Wilson's Creek, "While Captain Rieff's company was under fire, they did not participate in the engagement."

During a preliminary engagement at Dug Springs on August 2nd, half of Rieff's company were seriously engaged when approximately twenty cavalrymen from Company C, 1st U.S. Cavalry charged on them while they were on foot acting as skirmishers. Since only half of the company took part in the engagement, it's hard to tell if Elias Boudinot was involved, unless he left some record indicating he had. I recently posted the following accounts on a website that was covering this engagement when I realized the significant role played by Rieff's company seemed to be forgotten. The accounts I saw on the internet seemed to indicate that the only Confederate combatants were Rains' Missouri State Guard.

Here are four accounts which discuss the fight. Two of them were written by participants (Joseph Young Bates and Joseph M. Scott). The other two are second hand accounts written in letters home by soldiers of the 3rd Arkansas State Infantry. They knew people in Rieff's company who had obviously talked to them. For a small engagement these accounts are very descriptive. As is typical, the number reported killed is somewhat exaggerated. The total loss suffered by Co. C, 1st U.S. Cavalry was five killed and six wounded. I hope this is of some use.


Recollection of Joseph Young Bates (1):

"I enlisted in Captain A.V. Rieff's Independent Scouting Company June 27th, 1861. This Company was called General Ben McCulloch's Escort. Why they were called an Escort, we never knew. The Company was large, consisting of about 120 men. General McCulloch kept a part or all of the Company on the scout all the time. When on the march, if near the enemy, the Company was divided into four squads of 30 men each, one in charge of the Captain, and the other three squads, each in charge of a lieutenant.

Our campaigning through the summer of 1861 was in Southwest Missouri. The first engagement in which the Company participated was at Dug Springs, 25 or 30 miles southwest of Springfield, on August 2nd, 1861. General Rains of the Missouri State Troops was in command. About one-half of Rieff's Company was in the engagement, the other half being out on scouting duty. General Rains ordered Captain Rieff, with what men he had, and one company of the Missouri State Troops, to make a flank movement to the right and locate and ascertain the strength of the enemy. When within about one-half mile of the enemy, we were ordered to dismount and leave one man to hold four horses; the others deployed at five paces and advanced as skirmishers. We soon encountered the enemy, armed with Sharp's rifles. Our men being armed with double-barrelled shotguns, they had the range on us and opened fire on us. The officer in command saw a regiment of cavalry forming to charge us, and knowing we were not strong enough to meet them, ordered a retreat.

The regiment of cavalry made the charge, but when they got sight of our horses in the woods, mistook them for a body of infantry, and all halted except 15 or 20, who overtook our Captain and 12 men. The Federals were nearly all killed, Captain Rieff killing four of them in less than one minute; their horses were shot out from under them and we had a general mix-up. One of General Rains' men mistook the subject of this sketch for a Federal, and they had a hand to hand encounter which lasted until the Missourian surrendered to the Arkansas lad. This was the first experience our Company had with Federal bullets and sabers."

Excerpt from letter written by James M. Harrison, August 4th (2):

"The advanced guards of both parties had skirmishes day before yesterday. Meck Rieff and his company was in it. He killed four men. Jim Mitchell killed a man that had his pistol presented at Meck Rieff. Joe Bates had a combat with a missourian, a southerner too. The Missourian fired his pistol at Joe, and Joe told him that he was a southern man. Yes, said the Missourian, I know you, you are one of those damned union men. Then he bursted two caps at Joe. Joe had a cartridge about half down his gun so he could not shoot. He turned the but of his gun and broke it off at the britch over the fellows head, and then beat him down to the ground and then wrenched the pistol out of his hand and took him prisoner. The fellow then found that he was fighting a man on his own side. They all got off safe. They went back afterwards and found ten or eleven of enemy dead."

Recollection of Joe. M. Scott (3):

"I was in the war between the states from May, 1861, until the surrender of the Confederate forces. I first belonged to Captain Mack Rieff's company, which was made up at Fayetteville, Arkansas. The company was composed of about one hundred and fifty well mounted men. We served as advance guard for McCulloch's army during the campaign of 1861, in Missouri. My first experience in battle was at Dug Springs, the 2nd day of August, 1861. While here we came in contact with the first Federals I ever saw and we felt confident we could defeat twice our number in battle. Gen. McCulloch ordered Capt. Rieff to attack their lines and find what their strength was. We moved to the right flank until we were in position desired by our gallant leader, Rieff. We were ordered to dismount, every fourth man holding horses. The word, "forward march," was given. We found the enemy after we had gone about a half mile; the word "charge" was then given and on we went, but soon found we were outnumbered. We made an attack on Lyon's entire force, firing two rounds; we were then ordered to our horses. More than double our number of Federal cavalry were soon upon us with drawn sabers, and a hand to hand fight was the result. I never had a much closer call during the war than at this place. A man by the name of Hunter, a negro who was with us, as cook, the Rev. J.N. Brigance and myself were surrounded by a bunch of cavalry, who made a dash at us. Three of us fired at them but missed our aim; they made their way to us, cutting Hunter on the head and arm as he fell to escape the blow given. I was about ten feet from Hunter trying to shelter behind a sapling. The Federal raised himself in his stirrups and made for me; I stood him off with my bayonet until the negro came to my rescue, shooting him, and he fell before me, the first dead man I ever saw in battle.

Just to my left was Dr. A.M. Bourland, of Van Buren, Ark., and perhaps two or three others. Just to my right was James Mitchell, of the Arkansas Democrat, Frank Smiley, of Benton county, and several others whose names I have forgotten.

A hand to hand contest was going on, the Confederates unsaddling the Federals as fast as they made their appearance. While we were in the heat of this fight and trying to cut our way out, they opened fire on us with a four-gun battery, throwing grape and shell among us. Some of our horses got frightened and broke loose, but while we were in the thickest of the fight, that brave fellow, John Marrs, who lost his life in 1863 in a northern prison, came to us with what horses he had. My horse was gone. Rev. J.N. Brigance was completely exhausted and said he could go no farther. I mounted his horse, the bullets and bomb-shells were falling thick, the negro threw Brigance up behind me and put his young master , Horace Beneux, on his (the negro's) horse and the negro behind him, and we made our escape. We went back about three miles and met Gen. McCulloch who told us to get back out of danger and rest.

The result of this fight cost the Federals thirteen men killed, while we lost only one man, Henry Fulbright, of Bentonville, Ark., and he died from overheat. Hunter, the man mentioned, was the only man wounded, and he was just cut on the head and arm with a saber."

Excerpt from letter written by Ras Stirman, August 4th (4):

"Meck Rieff and a few missourians came in contact with the whole dutch force five miles from us. Meck did not loose but 3 men two were Supposed to have been taken prisoners and one Henry Fulbright died from Suffication. The missourians ran like Scared dogs but our arkansaw boys killed Several and got their Sabers and Pistols."

(1) Bates, Joseph Young "A Sketch of the Service of Joseph Young Bates as a Confederate Soldier." Washington County Historical Society (Fayetteville, AR.) Flashback (March, 1962, pp. 31-2)

(2) Harrison, James M., Collection of Harrison letters 1861-1865 on microfilm (roll 367), University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Special Collections.

(3) Scott, Joe. M., Four Years Service in the Southern Army. Mulberry, Ark., 1897. (pp. 1-3)

(4) Stirman, Ras (ed. Pat Carr) In Fine Spirits The Civil War Letters of Ras Stirman with Historical Comments by Pat Carr. Washington County Historical Society, Fayettteville, AR 1986. (p. 15)

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