One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas’ fickle transportation and communication infrastructure was causing problems for the Union army. The were very few relatively navigable rivers year round in the state and the Arkansas River was being contrary his week 150 years ago. According to a dispatch written by Rear Admiral David Porter, “[The Arkansas River] is a treacherous river at all times, and at this moment is unnavigable, when, by rights, it should be full of water.”He goes on to note that the only route to Little Rock would be via “going up White River and across from Devall’s Bluff by railroad.”
Dry rivers were only part of the Union’s problem in the Delta region. Porter is concerned about the irregular war and the bush whackers that inhabited the countryside: “All the stories you hear about guerrillas are half fabrications. They do fire at steamers sometimes, but I seldom hear of any one being hurt. No vessels have gone up the Arkansas but once this season; they all got ashore and two of them (one a gunboat) were lost.”
Porter continued, “Arkansas is not a pleasant country to travel in just now. Marmaduke has come down with about 5,000, men and seems determined to settle somewhere near the mouth of Arkansas.”
This week one hundred and fifty years ago, there were three military actions within the borders of Arkansas. On June 10 there was a skirmish in Lewisburg; a skirmish at West Point on the 16th; and a skirmish on the Monticello Road near Pine Bluff. For a complete list of over 700 military actions that took place in Arkansas throughout the Civil War, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com.