Arkansas was a tough place to live one hundred and fifty years ago. As law and order began to wane, citizens of the state began to worry about their own security; they were not just concerned about the potential lawlessness of the invading Federal army as citizens fell victim to various roaming bands of thieves.
As Commander of the Arkansas Confederate government and military, Thomas C. Hindman did all he could to curtail such lawless behavior in the Rebel army under his command. Hindman was also concerned at the growing number of disloyal soldiers deserting from the ranks. On July 31, 1862, Hindman enacts General Orders No. 35:
“In all cases of mutiny, disloyalty, desertion, plundering, or any attempt at either, or any expression or manifestation of such intention, officers in command of troops will use the sternest and promptest measures for arresting the offenders, nor hesitating to put them to death if they resist or endeavor to escape.”
On July 24-26, 1862, Curtis ordered an expedition from Helena to Marianna and on July 28-31, he ordered an expedition from Helena to Oldtown and Trenton. While foraging available necessities for his worn army, Curtis realizes all too well the significance of the Mississippi River and its part in supplying a vital line of support in troops, food, and military armaments. With contraband steadily building up Fort Curtis only a few blocks from the banks of the Mississippi, the Federal commander intended on holding Helena at all costs.