One hundred and fifty years ago, a communication was sent my General McGruder to the Confederate Chief of Staff General W.R. Boggs in Shreveport. The dispatch noted several concerns regarding the cotton trade in Arkansas, “There appears to be a great deal of cotton smuggling going on, and I am of the opinion that this raid is made to send scouting parties out to collect and ship the cotton more easily.” The raid alluded to involves the Federal army launching cotton smuggling parties from the Mississippi River.
The dispatch continued, “The enemy can certainly capture a good deal of cotton there whenever he chooses to send a sufficient force from the river to these localities. Under the recent Federal regulations adopted at Washington, by which only one-third the value of cotton can be paid in supplies for the army, the rest to be paid in greenbacks, it is clear to me that even if it were lawful to carry on this trade with the enemy it would not be beneficial to do so.”
The communication included valuable information regarding the nefarious cotton trade that the Delta became synonymous with. “Every bale of cotton sent to the enemy is equivalent to a bill of exchange on Europe for at least $400 in specie. If, then, any large amount of cotton should fall into his hands or reach him in any way, he will be relieved to that extent from the necessity of sending specie abroad, and his financial condition will improve in precise proportion to the quantity of cotton he receives.”
Throughout the Federal occupation of Arkansas, cotton speculation and its major players even reached the desk of President Lincoln as Generals Steele and Curtis earlier in the war were engaged in this activity in Helena.
Military actions that took place in Arkansas one hundred and fifty years ago include an affair at Hogan’s Farm (near DeValls Bluff) on November 2; a skirmish near Cincinatti on the 6th; and a skirmish at Cane Hill on the 6th. For a complete list of military actions that took place during the Civil War in Arkansas, go to arkansastoothpick.com.