One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas saw a fundamental shift in both Confederate and Federal military strategy. There had not been a major engagement in the state since the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863 but the two armies were converging into a situation that would result in a series of military actions that would land Little Rock in the hands of the Union. That shift was evident in mid-August, 1863.
As Federal forces approached Clarendon, their intent was apparent as the column of blue neared central Arkansas. In response to the increased numbers of Yankees nearing the capitol city, Confederate forces responded by shifting their numbers from South Arkansas, specifically Monticello and Pine Bluff, toward where the Memphis Military Road crossed Bayou Meto near the present city of Jacksonville, Arkansas. Confederate trenches were dug and soldiers in gray prepared to defend Little Rock from Federal occupation.
The Confederate Army, however, was facing the same enemy the Federals were: illness. A normal-sized regiment would have consisted of over a thousand men, but one of the Confederate regiments detailed to Bayou Meto was down to a tenth of its normal strength. A Confederate surgeon wrote home that, “There are only one hundred men for duty in the regiment…Every one almost has chills.”
As the Federal army entered Brownsville, near the current city of Lonoke, Arkansas, a fight was eminent.