One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas was the perfect place for the Union army to take advantage of a dire situation. As Arkansas men were fighting the war, women, children, and slaves were left behind on the family farm to fend for themselves. As Union officers saw an opportunity to make a quick buck with reckless abandon, some most certainly took the chance to line their pockets.
One of the most rampant misuse of their positions and misappropriation of resources in Arkansas was cotton speculation. The state was no stranger to this illegal trading of resources, as this had been going on in Helena for some time. In fact, President Lincoln was informed of both Generals Curtis and Steele were engaged in t his trade in Helena as early as 1862. In November 1863, the practice was seen in Fort Smith as well.
Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Campbell of the 6th Kansas Cavalry noted in a dispatch to General Schofield that “This evening a train left this post for Fort Scott. The teams were used in bringing sutlers’ goods to this place; they are now loaded with cotton. Yesterday 50 Government teams brought into Fort Smith 150 bales, escorted by a portion of the Twelfth Kansas Volunteers.”
This dispatch continued, “The train now on transit to Fort Scott consists of about 100 two and four horse and mule teams, and mostly loaded with cotton. From what I can learn, a portion of the same has been purchased at a very small price, and the balance captured; and, from all appearances, I should think some one high in military rank was engaged in the operation.”
Other military actions in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish at Jacksonport on the 21st, a skirmish in Clarksville on the 24th, and a skirmish in Crawford County on the 25th.