The Civil War Hub of ArkansasOn October 1, 1862 General Samuel R. Curtis wrote to Brigadier-General John M. Schofield about several topics. He began with telling Schofield to give building a fort in Springfield, Missouri a second thought. Samuel Curtis has experience with this wth the building of Fort Curtis in Helena, which was still under construction when this letter was drafted. “We cannot keep a large force at such an out-of-the-way place, and therefore we may find such works an incumbrance.”

He tells Schofield, “I am fortifying Helena, and do not object very extensively.” Curtis continued, “I suppose 1,000 men would be a sufficient garrison after we driven the enemy back, as we must do; but let me hear from you about this fort building.” Regarding the logistics behind the labor in building a fortress, Curtis tells Schofield, “Contrabands should be used as far as possible. I use nothing else at Helena.”

Another topic of interest in this dispatch regards the trip Governor Phelps made to Cairo, Illinois to attempt to get Curtis to countermand an order: “Governor Phelps came up to Cairo to get me to countermand orders which I sent for Steele to move promptly to Pilot Knob, in conformity with you suggestions.” He continued, “It seems therefore, General Steele did not start before my orders arrived; probably on the 28th.” He related that, “Governor Phelps is anxious for troops to go into Southwest Arkansas, and seems to think the Arkansas troops are still most of them near Little Rock, and not on the borders of Missouri.” Curtis stubbornly related, “However this may be, I do not countermand, but hope Steele is moving up as I can have more force for your army and that in the southeast of this State.”

“Boyd thinks McBride has 5,000 or 6,000, and he ought to know better than Governor Phelps, as he is much nearer McBride.” Continued Curtis. “All accounts concur in the opinion that a considerable force has been added to the Arkansas conscripts from Missouri and Texas; therefore your force must be massed till it is organized and ready to drive whatever the enemy may have.”

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In another matter, General Schofield wrote to Curtis from Osang Spring, Arkansas telling his about a scouting expedition that was sent out yesterday morning that went several miles, “beyond the camp from which the enemy was driven by General Herron, but could find no trace of them.” He continued, “I therefore returned to this place with General Totten’s division.”

Intelligence gathered from the scouting mission revealed that Confederates were believed to be, “concentrating and intend to try aggressive operations in this part of the State, probably along the interior line, from Hartville and Yellville to Springfield.” Intelligence also included, “Hindman brought some arms to Ozark for his conscripts, and I believe one brigade, about 3,000 strong, under McRae, has since come up [and] I make his forces when concentrated from 25,000 to 30,000.”

Before closing, Schofield tells Curtis that he will be, “ watching the suspected movements as closely as possible, and hope to have reliable information soon. I may have to go for it in force. None of my spies return. Colonel Marsh has arrived.”

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The Military Governor of Arkansas John Phelps wrote to Samuel Curtis in Cairo that recent information from Arkansas. Following is the dispatch in its entirety:

CAIRO, October 1, 1862-10 a. m.
Major General SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
Saint Louis, Mo.:

SIR: Reliable and late information from White River that but a small force on borders of Missouri-McBride, 2,200 (only 1,500 effective); large force at Brownsville, Austin, Little Rock, and vicinity–25,000 to 30,000, with about fifty pieces of artillery. Regiment recently arrived from Texas. Arsenal at Arkadelphia, 60 miles southwesterly from Little Rock–make guns, gunpowder, percussion caps, and a force there.

If force your ordered to leave with General Steele shall be withdrawn, force at Helena inadequate to move either into Mississippi or Arkansas and hold Helena. Present more favorable time to move and obtain supplies in the country than at a later period.

Retrograde move will be disastrous, I fear. Orders to move had been given before Steele received your orders. Boats not now sufficient at Helena to move force ordered. Hope you will countermand your order and send Steele after the enemy in Arkansas.

Am sick. Came here to ask order be countermanded and await your reply. Your orders takes more than half effective infantry, and more than half the field pieces, mountain howitzers excepted.

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Also on this date in 1862, by command of the Secretary of War and of General T.H. Holmes, section 2 of Special Orders Number 43 is presented verbatim:

Civil War Arkansas: A Military Atlas

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II. The present production of salt in this department is not sufficient for supplying the army and the people. The price demanded is extortionate, and great inconvenience has ensued and much suffering will result from this cause. It is believed it can be remedied by carrying on the works on Government account; therefore all salt-works within the State of Arkansas and the Indian Territory which are not producing to their greatest capacity will be taken possession of by an agent of the Confederate States, to be designated from these headquarters, who will take steps at once to increase their production to the greatest extent possible. For this purpose he will be authorized to obtain, by hire or purchase, or, if necessary, by impressment, the requisite labor and material. The quartermaster’s and commissary departments will afford him every aid and assistance possible. The agent will set apart monthly for army use such proportion of the salt manufactured by him as may be required by the chief commissary of the department, not to exceed one-half of the amount manufactured. The remainder he will sell to citizens at the price of $1.50 per bushel, or less if the cost of manufacture is below that price, payable in Confederate money, or in corn, wheat, flour, pork, bacon, lard, and such other articles of subsistence as may be necessary, in due proportion of each, limiting the quantity of salt sold to each citizen to a reasonable supply for himself and family. The prices to be paid in salt for articles of subsistence will be regulated by the tariff. This applies when the articles are delivered at the place where produced. When delivered at Government depots the actual expense of transportation will be added. It must be perfectly palpable to everyone that on the successful operation of this order will depend the ability of the ability of the people to provide provisions for another year. As soon as the emergency is past the order will be rescinded. A fair compensation will be allowed the owners of the works seized.
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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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