One hundred and fifty years ago, the Union army began its last offensive of the Civil War in Arkansas. As the Red River Campaign got underway, the Union army was plagued from the start with intangible obstacles keeping them from achieving a victory south of the Arkansas River in 1864. The plan was for General Steele to move south from Little Rock and meet the Union forces from Fort Smith, continue southward to Shreveport where they would rendezvous with General Banks who was moving his Union forces northward from New Orleans. From there the two armies would take control of the Red River.
General Steele left the safety of the Union garrison in Little Rock on March 23, 1864. His army crossed the Saline River at Benton and they crossed the Wichita River in Rockport and remained at Arkadelphia from March 29 until the first of April as he awaited the arrival of Thayer’s troops from Fort Smith. As Steele’s soldiers wasted time waiting on Thayer, their rations began to run short. Steele’s troubles were just beginning.
As he steadily inched southward, his line of supply to Little Rock became more difficult to maintain with Confederate irregulars through the country side and the constant threat of bad weather that could dampen his travels. Steele knew his days were numbered deep in enemy territory.
There were twenty-three military actions that took place in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago, including a skirmish on the 24th at Oil Trough Bottom and an expedition left from Batesville to Coon Creek, Devil’s Fork, and Red River on the 24th through the 31st. On the 25th there were five military actions including a skirmish near the White River; a skirmish at Rockport; a skirmish in Van Buren County; a skirmish at Dover; and a scout left Batesville to Fairview to return on the 26th. Also on the 26th was a skirmish at Quitman. The 27th of March included five military actions including a skirmish at Ben Brooks’ Mills; a skirmish at Branchville; a scout left for Berryville, a skirmish at Oil Trough Bottom near crossroads; and an expedition left for Mt. Elba from Pine Bluff to return on the 31st. There was a skirmish at Mt. Elba and Danville on the 28th; a skirmish at longview, Roseville, and Arkadelphia on the 29th, and scouts left Bellefonte on the 29th. There was an action at Mt. Elba and pursuit to Big Creek, a skirmish at Camden, and longview on the 30th; and a skirmish at Arkadelphia on the 31st.