Skirmish at Bayou Beouf


10 men from the 4th Illinois Cavalry were prisoners at Camp Ford, Texas.


In October of 1863, the War Department gave the authorization to organize and recruit ex-slaves into the First Mississippi Cavalry Regiment (African Descent). On March 11, 1864, the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) was renamed the Third United States Colored Cavalry. The regiment was organized by former officers of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry. The first commander was Lieutenant Colonel J.B. Cook. The majority of the enlisted men were ex-slaves from Mississippi and Tennessee. Captain E.D. Osband, who had commanded General Grant's escort, Company A, Fourth Illinois Cavalry, at the Battle of Vicksburg, then became commander of the renamed unit. Originally from New York and Chicago, at the end of the war, Osband moved to Yazoo City, MS, and that is where he died in 1866.

Report of Skirmish at Bayou Beouf

December 13, 1863. -- Skirmish at Meriwether's Ferry, Bayou Boeuf, Ark.

Report of Col. Embury D. Osband, First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent).

Headquarters of the Post, Skipwith's Landing, Miss., December 14, 1863.

Colonel: I have the honor to report that on the 10th instant I sent 75 men of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry and 125 men of the First Mississippi Cavalry.(African Descent), under the command of Major Chapin, First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), across the Mississippi River to make a scout toward Lake Village and endeavor to capture some forty rebel cavalry who were hanging negroes end driving off stock. The scout proceeded to Meriwether's Ferry, on Boeuf River, and encamped half a mile from the ferry the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) at the house, and the Fourth Illinois Cavalry at the cotton gin, 150 yards distant, both house and gin being surrounded with swampy land covered by water. Although no force was known to be in the vicinity, each road was picketed with ten men, and also a camp guard of ten men. At 3 a. m. the picket was ordered to mount by Major Chapin and camp called.

At 5 a. m., in the midst of most intense darkness (the men having breakfasted, saddled, and only waiting for daylight to march), the rebels, 140 strong, under Captain Adams, of Capers' battalion, on foot-having during the night stolen into lines between picket stations in the swamp and formed all about the cotton gin-gave the Fourth Illinois Cavalry volley after volley, stampeding the horses and causing great confusion among the men, who rapidly retreated upon the house, where the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) were stationed. The rebels then charged the house, but could not dislodge the colored soldiers. The contest here for a long time was fiercely fought, and ended in the entire discomfiture of the rebels. Intense darkness prevented pursuit, and when daylight came it was found the rebels, after regaining their horses, had dispersed through the woods, each man running on his own account. Ten dead of the enemy were found, and numbers were seen helped or thrown upon horses, and thus carried sway. The enemy having dispersed, no pursuit could be made, and the number of wounded necessitated the return to camp, which was reached at 10 a. m. to-day.

Two men too severely hurt to travel were left a few miles from here with a surgeon until sufficiently recovered to permit their removal. Horses and mules were captured enough to cover our loss of stock, although the quality is not as good as our own. Too much credit cannot be given the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, who did all that men could do under the circumstances. Surprised, they fought hand to hand, and those who were taken prisoners were bodily earned away. The conduct of the First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent) could not have been excelled by veterans, wounded men refusing to go to the rear. It was the first fight for most of them, but, in the language of Major Cook, their commanding officer, "I could have held them till the last man was shot." I enclose a rough sketch of the country; also a list of our losses, which, owing to our being by the side of camp-fires, were necessarily severe. I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. D. Osband, Colonel First Mississippi Cavalry (African Descent), Comdg. Post.

Lieut. Col. William T. Clark, Assistant Adjutant-General, Seventeenth Army Corps.



Editor's note: The following official reports are an account of a skirmish at Boeuf Bayou in Chicot County and an expedition from Memphis, Tennessee, into Southeast Arkansas and Northern Louisiana from January 26 through February 11, 1865, in the last days of the Civil War. The reports were compiled by Col. Embury D. Osband, commander of the Third U. S. Colored Cavalry.

Source: United States War Department. The War of The Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Volume 48. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.




10 men from the 4th Illinois Cavalry were prisoners at Camp Ford, Texas.