The Civil War Hub of ArkansasOn September 28, 1862 United States Major-General William T. Sherman wrote to Confederate Major-General General Thomas Hindman. Aparently Hindman wrote to Sherman accusing he and his command of incidents on the White River and others. Though we do not know exactly what Hindmand’s questions were, Sherman’s response related, “I have no official knowledge of anything that transpired on White River last summer [and] I will refer that letter to General Curtis, now in Saint Louis.” Sherman then continued, “Nor have I any knowledge of the affair of Samuel Beanter, a citizen of Crittenden County, nor do I believe one word of it.” Because, he said, “Certainly the men of my command never do such acts as you describe.”

The accusations were multiple and Sherman addressed each one. He continued, “As to Lieutenant Tollisen, he was in the Irvin Block here, but escaped last week through the negligence of the guard.” He continued, “Had he remained he would have been tried, and, if convicted of murder, his sentence, after approval by the President of the United States, would surely have been executed.”

“So jealous is our Government of life that no general of whatever rank can inflict the punishment of death except by sentence, after approval by the President of the United States, would surely have been executed.” Said Sherman. “So jealous is our Government of life that no general of whatever rank can inflict the punishment of death except by sentence of a general court-martial, and that must be approved by the President of the United States.”

William T. Sherman then told Hindman, “You know the laws of Congress as well as I do. Now, whether the guerrillas or partisan rangers, without uniform, without organization except on paper, wandering about the country plundering friend and foe, firing on unarmed boats filled with women and children and on small parties of soldiers, always from ambush, or and children and on small parties of soldiers, always from ambush, or where they have every advantage, are entitled to the protection and amenities of civilized warfare is a question which I think you would settle very quickly in the abstract.”

“In practice we will promptly acknowledge the well-established rights of war to parties in uniform, but many gentlemen of the South have beseeched me to protect me to protect the people against the acts and inevitable result of this war of uniformed bands, who, when dispersed, mingle with the people and draw on them the consequence of their individual acts.”

“You know full well that it is to the interest of the people of the South that we should not disperse our troops as guerrillas; but at that game your guerrillas would meet their equals, and the world would be shocked by the act of atrocity resulting from such warfare. We endeavor to act in large masses, and must insist that the troops of the Confederacy, who claim the peculiar rights of belligerents, should be known by their dress, so as to be distinguished from the inhabitants. I refer you to the proclamation of your Kirby Smith in Kentucky on this very point.”

He then tells Sherman that he will refer his dispatches onto Curtis at St. Louis, “with whom I beg you will hereafter confer on all matters under a flag of truce.” Sherman concluded, “He commands our forces west of the Mississippi, and I am not aware as yet that any question has arisen under my command at Memphis that concerns your command.”

Before closing Sherman threw one last punch at Hindman before closing, “The idea of your comments on the failure of ‘your efforts to induce our army to conform to the usages of civilized warfare’ excites a smile. Indeed, you should not indulge in such language in official letters.”

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Also on September 28, 1862 Phelps writes to Major-General H.W. Halleck, commander of the U.S. Army. He begins his report reminding Halleck that he has been ill for the past three weeks and not able to take care of business. In hindsight, he tells Halleck that about July 1 of this year was about the best time the U.S. forces could have taken Little Rock, then still in the hands of the Confederates. He tells Halleck that it was at the time, “the conscription law was being enforced; the people were opposed to it, and many have been forced into the ranks of the rebel army.” Intelligence reports showed there were only a few poorly armed Confederate troops in Arkansas. Since, conscripted reinforcements have arrived from neighboring Texas and were, with some reluctance, “are now performing service willingly.”

He then reminded Halleck of the state of things later in the summer of 1862 when, on August 17 he wrote to Halleck, “stating the rumors in relation to the seizure of cotton and the speculations in that article, in which it was said officers of the conduct of some of the officers, and the late commander of this Army of the Southwest is not exempt from such charges.” He noted that he has not investivated the rumors, however.

Writing Halleck from Helena, he notes, regarding that when the U.S. Army marched from Batesville to Helena and while in Helena, the army was, “much demoralized.” He then told Halleck that, “Much property has been taken from the citizens in this vicinity and but little of it has been accounted for the Government.” One example he gies is, “Horses and mules are owned by private soldiers in the army not doing duty on horseback which were taken from citizens, and they justify their conduct by that of their officers.”

When he reached Helena he urged on an immediate movement upon Little Rock to General Samuel R. Curtis, which was declined. Phelps then writes, “The command of the army devolved on General Steele, who is exempt from the rumors to which I have referred (as are also the greater part of the general officers of this army).” Regarding the army he found in Helena, Phelps related that Steele found the garrison at Helena, ”deficient in many supplies such as he deemed necessary… These have been obtained and he now proposes to move.”

The dispatch Continues:

This town is filled with contrabands, who have been forcibly in many instances brought from their plantations–men, women, and children. Much sickness and mortality prevails amongst them.
A fort was commenced by General Curtis at this place, which the engineer in charge thinks will be of no service, and I suppose was commenced in order to give employment to the slaves. One gunboat in the river near the town will be of more service than this fort. There are two if not three hills in the vicinity which command the hill on which the fort is located. Free papers have been given by the late general commanding to many negroes, and in many instances to slaves who have never worked on fortifications, and whose masters have not been engaged in this rebellion. They we generally granted, as I am informed, on the statement of the negroes themselves. Some of these negroes are here and some of them have gone up the river.

The force in the interior of the State is reported 30,000 and upward, of every description. The largest body is stationed north of Little Rock about 20 miles, at Austin, a town on the line of the Little Rock and Cairo Railroad survey.

The rebels manufacture gunpowder, caps, and ammunition at Arkadelphia, on the Washita, about 60 miles from Little Rock. At this time there is no large force on the northern line of this State. McBride was recently at Batesville with 2,200 (1,500 only effective), and marched in the direction of Greenville, Mo., via Pocahontas. Hindman was reported at Cross Hollows, Benton County, but was only about a week ago at Little Rock.

Now let General Schofield immediately advance from Springfield in the direction of Little Rock and this army move in that direction, as it will unless otherwise ordered.

The enemy may give us a fight at some point northeast of Little Rock. He will have a larger force than we shall have, but we must whip him. If so, he will retreat either to Arkadelphia, crossing Arkansas River at Crystal Hill, 20 miles above Little Rock, or retire toward Fort Smith, up the valley of the Arkansas. The rebels declare they will drive this army into the Mississippi River and march on Saint Louis.

Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas

Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas

The longer a movement is delayed in this State the more difficult it will be to obtain forage and other supplies from the country. The longer we delay a movement the less probability is there of recruiting for our army in the State and of desertion from their conscripts. It is rumored cattle are brought from Texas to this State. Now, if so, I believe they are designed for the army east of the Mississippi. General Joseph E. Johnson is assigned to the command of the rebel army west of the Mississippi. His name and presence to their army will be worth 5,000 men. I believe the force we can send from this point can whip the rebel army, yet the disparity in the force will be great. Every day’s delay gives the enemy an opportunity to increase his numbers and to discipline his troops.

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Also on this date in 1862, Special Orders Number 39 was drafted and distributed among the command of the Trans-Mississippi Confederates. There are several parts to this order. This first eleven sections are followed by orders for the First Division then the Second Division, Garland’s Brigade, Colonel W.H. Parson’s Cavalry Brigade. There are a total of eighteen sections to General Orders Number 38. The Order follows in italics verbatim:

I. 1st. McRae’s brigade, consisting of McRae’, Matlock’s, Johnson’s, Pleasants’, McNeill’s, and Morgan’s regiment of Arkansas Infantry, and Woodruff’s Arkansas, Battery, will move on Monday next, 29th instant, and report to Brigadier General J. S. Rains, at Elkhorn.

2nd. Burford’s regiment of Texas Cavalry will move immediately, and take post at Elk Mills, reporting to Brigadier General J. S. Rains, at Elkhorn.

3rd. Etter’s Arkansas battery will move at once to Elkhorn, and report to Brigadier General J. S. Rains.

4th. Grinsted’s regiment Arkansas Infantry will move at once to Yellville, and report to Brigadier General M. M. Parsons.

5th. The infantry of Brigadier-General McBride’s command will move to Yellville, and report to Brigadier General M. M. Parsons.

6th. Colonel R. G. Shaver is relieved of the command of Shaver’s brigade, of Roane’s division, and will assume command of his regiment, at Pocahontas.

7th. Cols. James Deshler and F. A. Shoup are relieved from staff duty, and will report to Major General T. C. Hindman, to be assigned to the command of brigades.

8th. Brigadier General J. S. Roane will proceed immediately to Fort Smith, and report to Major General T. C. Hindman, to be assigned to the command of troops in the Indian country.

9th. Major General T. C. Hindman is relieved from the command of the District of Arkansas, and will assume command of the troops in Northwestern Arkansas, Southwestern Missouri, and the Indian Territory, and will organize the same into an army corps, to be styled First Army Corps, Army of the West.

10th. By authority of the War Department, Cols. J. S. Marmaduke and A. Nelson are assigned to duty as brigadier-generals. Brigadier-General Marmaduke will report to Major General T. C. Hindman for duty. Brigadier-General Nelson is assigned to the command of the division composed of his own and Flournoy’s brigades.

11th. The following arrangement of troops not included in the First Army Corps, Army of the West, is announced, viz:

FIRST DIVISION, Brigadier General H. E. McCULLOCH commanding.
First Brigade, Colonel O. Young commanding.-First, Young’s regiment Texas Infantry; second Ochiltree’s regiment Texas Infantry; third, Hubbard’s regiment Texas Infantry; fourth, Burnett’s regiment Texas Infantry.

Second Brigade, Colonel H. Randal commanding.-First, Randal’s regiment Texas Infantry; second, Clark’s regiment Texas Infantry; third, Roberts’ regiment Texas Infantry; fourth, Speight’s regiment Texas Infantry.

SECOND DIVISION, Brigadier General A. NELSON commanding.
First Brigade, Brigadier-General Nelson commanding.-First, Nelson’s regiment Texas Infantry; second, Sweet’s regiment Texas Infantry; third, Darnell’s regiment Texas Infantry; fourth, Taylor’s regiment Texas Infantry; fifth, Gould’s battalion Texas Infantry.

Second Brigade, Colonel George Flournoy commanding.-First, Flournoy’s regiment Texas Infantry; second, Waterhouse’s regiment Texas Infantry; third, Allen’s regiment Texas Infantry; fourth, Fitzhugh’s regiment Texas Infantry.

GARLAND’S BRIGADE (unattached).
First, Garland’s regiment Texas Infantry; second, Wilkes’ regiment Texas Infantry; third, Gillespie’s regiment Texas Infantry; fourth, Portlock’s regiment Arkansas Infantry; fifth, Denson’s company Louisiana Cavalry; sixth, Hart’s Arkansas Battery; seventh, Nutt’s company Louisiana Cavalry.

CAVALRY BRIGADE, Colonel W. H. PARSONS commanding.
First, Parsons’ regiment Texas Cavalry; second, Carter’s regiment Texas Cavalry; third, Chrisman’s battalion of cavalry, composed of Rutherford’s, Anderson’s, and Corley’s companies, with McGehee’s company, to be mounted (Major Chrisman will immediately report, with his battalion, to Colonel Parsons, at Cotton Plant); fourth, Pratt’s Texas Battery.

12th. Colonel J. W. Dunnington is assigned to the command of the river defenses of Arkansas. He will, with the least possible delay, erect fortifications at suitable points on the Arkansas and White Rivers.

13th. Colonel Dawson’s regiment and Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford’s battalion will report to Colonel Dunnington for duty in the fortifications. Colonel Garland will afford him whatever aid may be necessary, and these officers are charged to act in concert with each other.

14th. Captains Fitzhugh and Williams, Corps of Engineers, will report to Colonel Dunnington for duty. Captain Clarkson’s company of sappers and miners will report to Colonel Dunnington for duty, and be under his orders.

15th. Colonel Garland will immediately issue an order to concentrate his brigade at some point near the Post of Arkansas, and is made responsible for the defense of the fortifications against any land attack of the enemy.

16th. Colonel Flournoy will report immediately, with his regiment Texas Infantry, to Brigadier General A. Nelson, at his camp near Austin.

17th. Major General G. H. Hill, commanding battalion of light artillery, will move from his present camp, on Bayou Metoe, to a position near Austin.

18th. The proper staff officers will provide promptly for the movement, subsistence, and equipment of the troops referred to in the preceding paragraphs of this order.

By order of Major General T. H. Holmes;

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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.

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