One hundred and fifty years ago, winter was setting in across the South, leaving the Confederate and Union armies at the mercy of a fickle and sometimes unforgiving climate. While the Yankees in Arkansas were desperate to find General Price, the Confederates were considering intelligence reports coming in regarding troop levels across the region of North West Arkansas.
In a dispatch sent to Major-General Maxey from Brigadier-General D.H. Cooper, the latter noted, “In consequence of intercepted Federal dispatches, sent to district headquarters yesterday (stating that General Price is retreating, hard pressed, having been defeated near Fort Scott, Cabell and Marmaduke, with 1,200 men and 13 pieces cannon, captured), in anticipation that General Smith might order an advance for the purpose of aiding General Price in effecting his retreat, should this news prove true, I sent out notice recalling all absentees, except the sick and disabled.” Cooper related that his command consisted of 1,471 aggregate, “many unarmed and afoot” and continued that he could, if necessary, muster up a total of 2 to 3,000 men.
Among the difficulties both armies faced in November 1864 included the want of forage for both man and beast. As the cold temperatures became a reality, Cooper continued, “The greatest difficulty arises from the want of forage and supplies in the country between this and Fort Smith and in the neighborhood of that place.”
Federal troop levels, according to the dispatch, included 3,000 Federals at Fort Smith, a regiment of men at Fayetteville, 200 at Van Buren, 1,200 at Gibson, 16-18 pieces of artillery in Fort Smith. General Thayer’s troop levels included 4,500-5,000 men, including Native Americans.
As the Confederates mulled over the idea of attacking Fort Smith, Cooper noted that, “Fort Smith is approachable without difficulty on the south and east sides, but well fortified according to all accounts. Timber has been cut down all around the place. Works have recently been commenced on north side of the river. The Federals have no idea of evacuating unless they are starved out. They are hauling in houses from the adjacent country to build winter quarters.”
No military actions occurred this week in 1864. For a complete list of military actions that took place in Arkansas during the Civil War, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com