Refusing to be lured farther south, General Curtis stopped 16 miles short of Fayetteville, and dispersed his four divisions to outlying areas to find what subsistence the opposing army had left behind. The First and Second divisions under General Franz Siegel encamped four miles Southwest of Bentonville. Col Jefferson C Davis was assigned a position where Sugar Creek intersected the Springfield-Fayetteville road. The Fourth commanded by Gen Eugene A Carr took position at Cross Hollows. Each had to be within supporting distance of the other as well as the primitive mountain roads would allow. Curtis superior Major General Henry Halleck approved the northwest AR dispositions and was satisfied with his subordinate’s sealing the Confederates out of MO. This enabled Halleck to direct all the state’s military resources elsewhere, and Gen Grant demonstrated he wasn’t one to squander them.
General Earl Van Dorn received word at his Pocahontas HQ from General Sterling Price, imploring him to take command in northwest AR. Since his proposed operation against St Louis, depended on those troops, he decided to go at once leaving Col John S McCarver in charge during his absence.
The 250 mile journey was made on horseback except for a steamboat trip down Black River to Jacksonport. (Two miles up stream from Newport) They arrived at Price’s camp on March 1st, and were greeted with a double salute for the Confederacy and the state of MO.
The next morning Gen Price entertained Van Dorn and his staff with a breakfast of stewed kidneys followed by a generous dinner. On the morning of March 3rd the party took a chilly ride across a ridge to Gen McCulloch’s unpretentious HQ. The Texas general impressed Col Dabney H Maury who recognized in McCulloch and his staff “the stern seriousness of soldiers trained to arms.” When informed of the widely separated enemy encampments, Van Dorn resolved to attack at once. If he could destroy them in detail the way to St Louis and glory might soon follow. Orders were drawn up for a northward march to begin the next morning.
Writers Earl Hess and William Shea offer the following critique and assessment on this shorted sighted and impulsive man: “He expected his Army of the West to travel light, move fast, and strike the enemy without warning, that is, to operate essentially as a cavalry squadron stalking a band of irregulars…. He was without a staff of his own other than Maury and Sullivane. He was unfamiliar with the capabilities and personalities of his new subordinates, some of whom had little training or experience. He knew nothing of the two very different military organizations awkwardly joined under his command or the supply systems that kept them in the field. He was ignorant of the primitive frontier roads he must use, or the rugged terrain he must traverse, and he ignored the obvious fact the winter weather still gripped the Ozark Plateau. ….Had Van Dorn spent a week in the Boston Mountains preparing himself and his men for the ordeal ahead, things might have turned out differently.”
On the morning of March 2nd, the remaining units from the Columbus KY garrison supporting the river batteries evacuated silently through Gen Grants screen, southward to Corinth MS. All but two of the 140 guns were taken south to Island NO. 10 as that place and Fort Pillow, just above Memphis were now the guardians to the MS River.
Also on this on this day there was a light skirmish upstream from Memphis as advance units of Federals tested the landward defenses at New Madrid MO.
About this time at DuValls Bluff AR the 18th AR Infantry came together as an organized unit before shoving off to Fort Pillow TN. Most of the staff positions were filled by Pine Bluff men as well as two companies to a large extent. Company E was composed of Arkansas Countians commanded by Captain Felix Robertson.
Captain Robert H Crockett seemed to have refused a reenlistment bounty in favor of a honorable discharge. He enlisted as a Private in Robertson’s Company on February 24th.
Farther east General Hardees’s AR troops began their retreat westward from Murfreesboro on February 28th, and halted at Shelbyville TN and remained in a defensive position for over a week. Their primary duty was to guard a great quantity of supplies gathered at that point.
Over in VA, the Third AR Infantry marched into the Aquia Creek encampment of the First AR on February 28th. It appeared they were to replace the 12 month enlistees who were about to be discharged and furloughed. Early in March, the First they bade farewell to the veterans who had been campaigning under Gen Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson in another sector of VA.
Major Calvin Collier noted in “They’ll Do To Tie To”, “Subsequent to their return to Arkansas, the First Regiment re-enlisted almost to a man and saw many grim campaigns in TN and GA….”