One hundred and fifty years ago, the Federal Army and Navy were ridding the South of valuable river ports on the Mississippi River. Because the “Mighty Mississip” was so valuable for trade and communication in the South, every attempt was made to keep the Southern people, whose existence was based on the lifeline to the rest of the nation and the world, from gaining an economic and military foothold.
As Federal gunboats chugged their way up and down the River, they would occasionally launch large artillery shells onto innocent civilians rendering manufactories and in some cases, entire towns ruinous. Such was the case in mid-September, 1862. According to a Little Rock newspaper, the town of Prentiss, opposite the old river settlement of Napoleon, Arkansas, was torched by the invading Yankees:
“It appears that three federal soldiers were killed in the vicinity and the Yankees came up with gunboats, shelled the town for hours, but failed to destroy it. They went ashore with torches and fired it. The place is now a complete ruin…” The article related that “The behavior of the women is said to have been remarkably courageous. While the shells were flying they remained in the town and when the ruffians landed with torches, the women stood by, reviling them for their cowardice.”
Other military actions one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish at La Grange (near Helena) on September 6, an expedition from Clarendon to Lawrenceville and St. Charles on the 11-13 of September, and an affair at Helena the 19th and 20th of September, 1862.