On October 2, 1862 General-in-Chief H.W. Halleck wrote to Major-General Samuel R. Curtis in Saint Louis telling him that the military governor of Arkansas has telegraphed that General Fredrick Steele was ordered to send a portion of his force to Sulphur Springs by water. Halleck comments to Curtis, “I fear that you will regret dividing his army, and that the part left at Helena will be useless or lost.” Halleck continues, “Unless you find it absolutely necessary to withdraw General Steele he ought to operate from Helena.”
Regarding the troops needed to perform military operations west of the Mississippi River, hedoes, however, reassure Curtis that, “The moment Cincinnati and Louisville are relieved I can give you more troops from Illinois and Ohio.”Later in the day Curtis responds to Halleck that General Fredrick Steele’s movements were, in fact, in accordance with a suggestion make by Halleck, “of the 18th ultimo to General Schofield to co-operate with Missouri troops.” Curtis then tells Halleck, regarding the movement of Steele’s troops via water to Sulphur Springs, “ Water is the quickest and safest route.”
Regarding the division of troops from Helena, Curtis explains to Halleck, “I had to divide the Helena force to do anything, as I do not wish to abandon Helena.” Curtis continued, “Phelps has his heart set on Little Rock, which at this time would be only an incumbrance [but] It is easy to re-enforce Helena if you let me have fresh troops, and the health and discipline of the Army will be improved by the change.”
In Curtis’ reply, he also includes intelligence information. He notes that while, “McBride, with 5,000 or 6,000 men, presses upon Boyd at Pilot Knob, where we hold not half the force.” He continued, “I could not draw from any other source but Helena.”
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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