One hundred and fifty years ago, Helena was one of the most important cities in Arkansas in terms of military significance. Situated on the Mississippi River, the port community helped in logistical support for the Union army over 100 miles distant in Little Rock and Pine Bluff. In a dispatch sent by the Assistant Quartermaster in Helena, Henry T. Noble related that, “The steamerJ. R. Williams, a ferryboat for Little Rock, is here ready to go up the Arkansas [River] as soon as the water is high enough and she can get a convoy. I wish to ascertain what your intentions and expectations are about sending convoys up that river.”
During the mid-1800’s, there were very few navigable rivers in the state year round and the Arkansas River was among the most fickle streams in the nation. As boats of all sizes and drafts got stranded on sandbars during low stages, spotters would send messages relating river depths upstream to forecast when boats could travel safely. With Confederates and Irregulars keeping a watchful eye on any Yankee river activity, the Arkansas River was the scene of many military actions.
Military actions in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish at Waldron on the 29th of December and a skirmish in Searcy County on New Year’s Eve.