One hundred and fifty years ago, as the Confederate forces in Arkansas were reorganizing following the Federal victory in the Little Rock Campaign, Arkadelphia became the headquarters of the Rebel army in Arkansas as General Holmes regained control of his forces. Arkadelphia was the hub of Confederate supply in the Trans-Mississippi district, employing army workshops and manufactories for Arkansas troops.
According to Confederate Military History, Arkadelphia in October, 1863 was the gathering point of soldiers and citizens. It was here that, “in the flat-pine woods, the digging of shallow wells yielded salt water, from which large quantities of salt were obtained for the army and the citizens by evaporation from kettles set in rows upon crude outdoor furnaces, according to the process of boiling and crystallizing the juice of the sugar-cane. A large number of men, women, and children, whites and negroes, were employed in this industry, camping and enjoying it as a picnic.”
The Arkansas timberlands were indeed the trophy of South Arkansas, as the area as rich in grains and was the eventual target of Federal forces during the Red River Campaign in 1864. The proverbial bread basket of the Trans-Mississippi was firmly in Confederate hands for the time, but General Steele and his Union forces in Little Rock were considering an offensive into the relative safety of the Arkansas River valley.