The Civil War Hub of ArkansasOn September 18, 1861 Brigadier-General William J. Hardee wrote to Major General Leonidas Polk in Columbus, Kentucky that he expects to bring Polk four thousand men, including their arms and twelve pieces of artillery, as he notes, “in tolerable condition.” He continued, “The greater portion of my cavalry I shall feel compelled to leave here [Pittman’s Ferry], and one regiment of infantry, not yet organized, for the protection of the hospital supplies and the inhabitants in this part of the State.”

Because Hardee would be low on cavalry numbers, he wrote that Mississippi’s Colonel Wirt Adams would be joining his command. “One of my regiments of infantry has just been organized, the others are improving in their drill, and are able even now to get from one position to another with tolerable facility” Hardee concluded.

That same day Hardee drafted a dispatch to Major General Albert Sidney Johnston expressing his pleasure at the news that Johnston was assigned to the command of Department Number 2 in Columbus. Hardee relayed, “which I may be permitted to say, without disrespect to your predecessor, gave me great pleasure.”

Hardee then got right to business telling Johnston that he received orders from Polk to move his command to the Mississippi River. The shortest route would include a path recommended by Polk, “by the way of the Point Pleasant plank road, which is the shortest route for me to take in order to join your command in Kentucky by many miles, but at present this route is impracticable for cannon.” This was the reason Cleburne was on detail to repair the plank road: “I shall start Colonel Cleburne with his regiment in the morning to put the road in thorough repair [and] In the mean time I shall get my wagons repaired, my mules shod, and every-thing in readiness for a forward movement.” In conclusion, Hardee told Johnston, “After leaving a sufficient force here and at Pocahontas to guard our hospitals and supplies, I hope to be able to join you with 4,000 effective men.”

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On September 18, 1862, Brigadier-General J.M. Schofield wrote to Brigadier-General Fredrick Steele in Helena, Arkansas that he just received orders from General Halleck to contact Steele for a cooperative effort to prevent an attack into Missouri. Halleck urged upon Schofield the significance of a cooperation with Steele. Halleck told Schofield that a force under the command of Thomas C. Hindman was then invading southwest Missouri, while another force, the strength of which I have not yet learned (but it is by no means small), is moving from Batesville toward Rolla.”

Concerned about a double-pronged attack, Halleck relayed that he would not be able to hold off an attack of that sort. As dynamics shifted in the trans-Mississippi, troops were likewise shifted from one garrison to another or from one camp to another. One example of this included the men in Helena. “I am not able to see any necessity for your force remaining at Helena.” Said Halleck. “If it is not strong enough to move on Little Rock, and thus divert a portion of the force moving into Missouri, it should be united to mine, and thus be made strong enough for the purpose… Indeed, I fear the move on Little Rock has been too long delayed to be effective now, even if made successfully.”

The following is a plan laid out by Halleck to Schofield, which was in turn shared with Fredrick Steele:

Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas

Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas

“I see now only two ways in which your force can be made available to assist in checking the rebel movement upon Missouri, and it is my opinion that one or the other of them should be adopted at once. The one is to retrace your steps to Batesville and strike in the rear the force now threatening Rolla; the other is to move your force by the river to Cape Girardeau and thence across the country for the same purpose. You can judge probably better than I which of these would be preferable; or perhaps some other plan may suggest itself to you. Should you come to Cape Girardeau, your cavalry might, I believe, come by land, taking the route followed by Colonel Daniels, of the First Wisconsin Cavalry. Whatever plan you may adopt, general, I hope you will move quickly. There is more at stake upon it than you can well appreciate where you are. New troops are coming in rapidly, but there is great deficiency of arms. This will be supplied in due time, when we will have force sufficient to speedily regain what we have lost, unless by attempting to hold advanced positions we lose everything.”
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Military actions in this “Today in Arkansas During the Civil War” column can be traced better using the Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas. You can trace the same roads they walked in many cases in this atlas. You can find obscure references to communities mentioned in Civil War records that can be located in this atlas. Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas is the perfect companion book for this “Today in History” series.

If you know of any other military actions or other things that happened that we did not post on a certain day, send us an email to info@arkansastoothpick.com.