One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas was becoming an embattled state hosting large opposing armies and a multitude of concerned citizens caught in the proverbial and literal crossfire of the Civil War. May 1862 was the month that the Federal Army began spreading its overbearing and unwelcomed influence onto the citizens of this state.
As early as May 3, the Federals picked a fight in Batesville. Three days later saw a skirmish on the White River. By the 14th of May, Cotton Plant saw action and another skirmish evolved on the Little Red River on May 17. By May 19th, Arkansas papers were reporting on the skirmish at Searcy Landing:
“A Dutch captain after the late fight at Searcy, told a citizen of that place that he went into the battle of Elkhorn with 103 men, and come out with 101; but in the fight at Searcy he went in with 101 and came out with 2[?] The captain protests loudly against the use of the murderous shot gun, he says “it is too savage;” and that his men stood no chance against such weapons, although they had the most improved patterns of Enfield and Minnie muskets.”
The shotgun was indeed a weapon that feared by soldiers on both sides of the conflict. The articled continued, “The Texans and Arkansians will give them enough of shot guns before the campaign is over. It is said that when Lieutenant McDonald, of Ellis county, Texas, fell at Searcy, the 150 Confederates behaved more like demons than men—they dashed upon the enemy, and actually burnt their faces with the powder from their revolvers. He was avenged.”
Since April 15 1862 when Confederate General Van Dorn was ordered to Memphis to amalgamate his forces with the soldiers east of the Mississippi, Arkansas was left in a political and military vacuum until Jefferson County resident and politician and Brigadier General John S. Roane was assigned to command in Arkansas. Roane will spend the next few months rebuilding the Army of the Trans-Mississippi for the defense of Arkansas.