One hundred and fifty years ago, the Federal garrison in Fort Smith left a lot to be desired. A dispatch sent to E.M. Stanton by General Samuel R. Curtis relates that Fort Smith, a community of “several thousand inhabitants” has “no fort here and no ferry worthy of the name.” With the Confederate forces less than sixty miles distant, Curtis then relates that he will fortify the outpost by placing “field-works, and make better arrangements for crossings.”
As the Union army was so desperate to readmit Arkansas back into the union, they were far from welcome in Arkansas. Since the war began, Arkansas citizens were the target of many raids and unwelcomed visits by the bluecoats. In response to the increasing acts of violence on innocent Arkansas civilians, the following was drafted by Brigadier- General Drayton:
“Plundering and marauding, at all times disgraceful to soldiers, when committed on the persons or property of those whom it is the duty of the army to protect, have been so frequent of late that the brigadier-general commanding feels compelled from a high sense of duty to resort to the most stringent measures to prevent the recurrence of them.”
Military actions that took place in Arkansas one hundred and fifty years ago include: skirmishes at Scott’s farm, Caddo Gap, and in the Caddo Mountains from Feb. 12-14; an expedition from Batesville after Freeman’s command from Feb. 12-20; an expedition from Helena up the St. Francis River from Feb. 13-14; a skirmish at Scott’s Farm, Washita Cove, and at Ross Landing on Feb. 14; a skirmish on the Saline River on the 15th; skirmishes at Caddo Gap and Indian Bay on the 16th; and skirmishes at Horse Head Creek and Black’s Mills on the 17th.