Arkansas In The Civil WarThe crossing of the Mississippi River into Desha County by Gen Parsons Missouri State Guard was completed on August 5th. Some St Louis youngsters enjoyed the five day wait fishing nearby Cypress Creek. “We have fish every night” recorded one satisfied diarist.

Much admiration was given the bountiful plantations with their abundance of plums, peaches, figs and watermelons while the march to MO by way of Little Rock continued. On a hot August 7th camp was made on the extensive plantation owned by the widow Irene Jordon. Located about 50 miles below Pine Bluff, on the south side of the AR River, it yielded the more cotton than any in the Valley of the Arkansas. Care was taken to send the sick to Camp White Sulphur Springs near Pine Bluff by riverboat while over 100 wagons loaded with army supplies had been sent overland to Little Rock earlier.

The Federal cavalry thrust previously mentioned reached Clarendon with a lot of show and bluster, the officers loudly proclaiming to the citizens their intentions to advance on Little Rock. Their numbers were outrageously over estimated by TX Col Parsons. Gen Hindman ordered him to deploy his command of 800 down the west side of White River to shadow their movements with scouts and pickets.

Twelve AR Cavalry companies were cobbled together at AR Post and with recently returned Col James F Fagan assigned to command. To counter an army-navy threat from the mouth of the AR River, a detachment was assigned to move down the south side while Fagan moved from Arkansas Post to the cut-off. (The cut-off was a navigable body of water connecting the Arkansas and White River, before both joined the Mississippi.) Gen Parsons with his Missouri veterans was placed in overall command and reported directly to the Major General Commanding at Little Rock. The latter explained these were the only dispositions that could be made until the Federal strength and intentions were understood. (Hindman to Mosby M Parsons, August 9, 1862. Peter Wellington Alexander Papers, Columbia University)

Hindman had been coming under unfavorable review since his arrival on May 30th. “In only 70 days he had created an embryonic army and a rudimentary logistical base in the least populous and least developed part of the Confederacy” claims one historian. When he assumed command he made it clear everyone would have to make sacrifices with a serious commitment to southern independence. Those who were the political and economic elites were outraged by his demand to make sacrifices like everyone else. Wealthy planters for example were embittered when Hindman burned their cotton or impressed slaves to build fortifications. Exaggerated and sometimes baseless complaints made their way to Richmond about the General’s alleged autocratic methods.

President Davis may have thought he had a Major General and fellow Mississippian out of control but something made him reject the clamor for his removal. He instead had his power-house of a district commander placed under the authority of a more moderate officer. This seemed the way to temper him while making the most of his talents. Davis quickly settled on soon to be Lieutenant General Theopilus H Holmes, a West Point schoolmate and like Davis a veteran of the Mexican War. Holmes was 57 years old but appeared much older.

The late historian Shelby Foote speculated he was afflicted with arteriosclerosis. He had such a lackluster performance record dating from the beginning of the war that he was reassigned to the Department of North Carolina. Gen Holmes begged the President to send an abler person than himself and further informed Davis that the burden of department command was too broad for his capacity. But Davis declined to listen to his friend’s painfully honest disapproval and sent him on his way. He arrived at Little Rock on August 11th and was at once impressed with Hindman’s achievements during his 70 days of independent command. (William L Shea Fields of Blood, The Prairie Grove Campaign, University of North Carolina Press, 2009)