One hundred and fifty years ago, the Federal Army in eastern Arkansas, garrisoned in Helena, were playing it safe. They were busying themselves with the capture of the entire Confederate forces under General Sterling Price’s command. Following the Battle of Helena, it was anyone’s guess where the Rebs were heading. A series of dispatches between H.W. Halleck and J.M. Schofield show the Federal concern regarding a careful and timely offensive including “General Prentiss has been ordered to move on Price’s rear.”
To prevent General Price and his Confederates from retreating all the way back up to Missouri, the Federal army in Cape Girardeau planned a southern course while Prentiss sent a detachment from Helena northward in the hopes of stopping Price and his weary soldiers dead in their tracks. Halleck’s communication to the Helena garrison commander included, “The forces in Missouri will prevent his penetrating far into that State, and, if he is cut off in rear, his forces must disperse or surrender. Apply to the naval commander for co-operation with gunboats on White River. No time should be lost.”
Following the Federal victory in Vicksburg, thousands of Yankees were now available to flood into Arkansas to help secure the state for eventual readmission into the Union.