One hundred and fifty years ago, General Fredrick Steele was the commander of Union forces in Arkansas. Headquartered in Little Rock, Steele sent General Nathaniel P. Banks a dispatch in Louisiana. In his note, Steele believed the Confederate forces in South Arkansas would retreat into Texas, “without giving a general battle.” Steele believe that Confederate General Holmes’ entire command of Rebels would dissolve, “part of them will come in and give themselves up to us, and the rest will form into bands for the purpose of making raids along the Arkansas and into Missouri.”
The ignorance of Steele in his letter is comical to an Arkansas Civil War historian. In mid-April as Steele began his operations entitled the “Red River Campaign”, he found the Confederates had not retreated anywhere. Reb forces were thick south of Little Rock.
Steele also noted that “All the rebel families that left here at the approach of our troops are returning and taking the oath of allegiance to the United States, including officers of the State and Confederate States Government. They are tired of the war and freely give me any information that they possess in regard to the movements of the rebels.” The general failed to mention that if the rebel families or government officials failed to take the oath, heavy sanctions would be implemented.
Steele’s dispatch recorded the Union strength at 7,000 men, 3,000 of which was cavalry.
Military actions that took place in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include an expedition from Batesville to Wild Haw’s and Strawberry Creek from March 10-12; a skirmish at Carrollton on the 13th; Union scouts left Yellville to the Buffalo River from March 13-26; a skirmish at Hopewell; and the first reconstruction state constitution was approved on the 14th.