September 25, 1862 General Samuel Curtis told Brigadier General that, because he was so far from Helena, any immediate support from General Fredrick Steele would not be possible. He did relate that, however, the best diversion by Steele at this point would be a move onto Little Rock. He wanted to know any reports on spies and refugees. “I do not see how Hindman could raise so large a force and subsist it when I stripped the country.”
His dispatch continued, “Hindman is sharp in deceit and pretenses; his army was in a wretched condition at last accounts.” Intelligence reports that, “Spies direct from his lines gave me full, reliable reports up to the time of my leaving Arkansas. A warning was included in his communication noting to, “be on the alert; the wants of the rebels make them desperate.”
On December 22, 182 a full report was sent to Brigadier-General John M. Schofield correcting errors found in some of the reports written back in the late summer of 1862, “which are not very important, but for the sake of history should be corrected.” The following report written by Major-General Samuel R. Curtis is placed here verbatim:
For instance, you say you sent me two cavalry regiments. You only sent me a part of two.
In regard to Colonel Daniels’ regiment, you are mistaken in saying it found me at Helena. It arrived after I left there, although, apprehending danger to it, I had sent out re-enforcements to bring it in. It was nevertheless attacked and much injured. I ordered it back to Missouri on my return to the command.
Your speak of my detaining regiments at Rolla. Colonel Glover and General Davidson had attempted to stop troops at Rolla and sent out four to Salem to check reported rebels coming up by Houston.
You think a wrong inference has been drawn as to your communications relating to General Steele, saying it was “but to place him in condition to move immediately and effectively on Little Rock.” As some question has been raised as to this matter, it would seem proper for you to place in your report more than a mere reference to an exhibit showing two items of the evidence, and I present to you fuller details. On the 17th September you telegraphed General Halleck that “Pilot Knob and Rolla are threatened.
* If General Steele’s force is not strong enough to move from Helena would it not be well to bring it up to Cape Girardeau?” Next day General Halleck telegraphed to you, “Communicate with General Steele and endeavor to arrange some system of co-operation with your forces.” The same day you wrote to General Steele relative to the necessity of immediate co-operation:
* A force of probably 30,000 men, under Hindman, is now invading Missouri in the southwest while another force, the strength of which I have not yet learned (but it is by no means small) is moving up from Batesville toward Rolla.
* Indeed I fear the move on Little Rock has been too long delayed to be effective now, even if made successful.
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 of 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.
General Steele, in reply, September 23, shown the impracticability of going to Batesville, and saying:
If this command is to co-operate with you, the surest and quickest way would be for us to go to Rolla by way of Saint Louis. The Cape Girardeau plan is impracticable.
This shows how General Steele understood your views of co-operation. In the same letter he says he will probably move on Little Rock. On my arrival on the 24th you specially called my attention to the telegraph of General Halleck, directing you to secure Steele’s co-operation. The remoteness of Steele’s position from you made me doubt the possibility of any salutary co-operation by General Steele, and I telegraphed to you:
General Halleck must have supposed Steele was at or near his old point-Reeves’ Station. Little Rock would be the best diversion by Steele.
General Halleck knew that Steele was at Helena. If he can move on Little Rock immediately it will undoubtedly be the best diversion, if it is not already too late. If Hindman, by a bold move, can get into Missouri he will not hesitate on account of a force in his rear.
* My only fear is that a move may be made upon some point east of him to cut my Rolla line and stop my re-enforcements.
On the 26th you wrote me in reply to my inquiry about the enemy:
Rains states his whole force, including those just mentioned, at 42,000. This statement was made for our ears. It is doubtless from 20,000 to 25,000.
And in the same letter you state:
The force below, under McBride and Parsons, at 8,000, coming up White River.
All these facts show how very natural it was for me to understand that General Halleck and you desired immediate co-operation by Steele; that you considered the best way by Cape Girardeau, but you acquiesced in a move on Little Rock if immediate. Hence I ordered Steele,if when my message reached him he had (as he said he would in his letter of the 23rd) moved toward Little Rock, he should go ahead and try to take it. If, however, he had not moved (falling in with your repeated expression as to time, as being too late to move on Little Rock), he was to adopt your preferred plan of co-operation by coming up to Cape Girardeau. As you were going farther west, the move on Little Rock obviously became less use to you; and when, about the 1st of September, Governor Phelps came to Cairo and telegraphed General Halleck urging the move on Little Rock, and General Halleck expressed views in favor of that move, but still left it to me, I declined the order, as several more days would have been lost, when you considered time the essence of the movement.
I therefore allowed the orders to be carried out, and do not perceive any material danger growing out of it. Mc Bride and Parsons, seeing troops re-enforcing Pilot Knob, moved back and went to retrieve the repulse given by the Army of the Frontier at Prairie Grove. I have a right to ask a statement of all the facts bearing on this subject to accompany your statement, because I acted promptly on suggestions of yours and General Halleck’s, and, as I think, consistent with them, and properly in view of the circumstances.
Also on September 25, 1862 Major-General Samuel R. Curtis wrote to Major-General Halleck, Genera- in-Chief of the United States Army that he took command yesterday (September 24, 1864) and admitted that he knew little about the strength and position of his forces. “They seem to be too much scatted.”
He then asked Halleck for copies of recent commands/instruction distributed to his various commanders in the several districts he found himself over. He noted that the Confederate troops in Arkansas under the command of General T.H. Holmes were moving his way, “probably to invest Helena.”
A communication dated September 25 from Fort Curtis is one of several instances where the Helena garrison was referred to by the name of its fort. Addressed to General Schofield, General Davidson relates information received by Boyd, who reported, “McBride had not advanced yesterday morning from his camp [and that] A very heavy re-enforcement had arrived at Pocahontas, but could not tell where from.” The intelligence report continued, “Coleman is on Eleven Points River [and] Jeffers and Kitchen have moved in several directions…I think a body of them will interrupt the railroad, taking to the Knob.”
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.
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