Monthly Archives: January 2021
The last week of June 1862 found Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Southwest in serious trouble. Reinforcements he had requested failed to materialize. His supply line was over 300 miles long from Rolla to Batesville, rendering it untenable. His men were on half-rations and his meager cavalry force was breaking down from a lack of forage. Having scratched his plan to take Little Rock, Curtis concentrated his army, cut lose from his supply line, and headed down the White River in eastern Arkansas in hopes of reaching Helena and fresh supplies.
On the afternoon of July 6, 1862, Curtis’s army came to an abrupt halt on Clarendon Road northwest of Hill’s Plantation where fallen trees in front of James’s Ferry blocked their advance. Curtis had taken his army on a forced march through a tempest wasteland infested with the enemy. He was not just short on supplies and isolated in enemy country, but had cut himself lose from his line of communication. He risked getting bogged down and possibly surrounded, which could have had disastrous results for his already hungry and weary army.
In June Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman issued Order No. 17 calling for irregular militia units to be formed in order to swarm the invaders and drive them out. As a result the White River region was infested with bushwhackers and guerrillas. If Curtis could be delayed long enough there, Hindman might be able concentrate his forces and hit the Federals while they were in a vulnerable position. To do so, he ordered Gen. Albert Rust and his force of about 5,000 men to move as rapidly as possible to Cache River and halt the Federals there. Locals were called upon to spoil water wells with animal carcasses, block roadways with fallen trees, and harass the Federals as much as possible. “Hold the line at Cache River,” Hindman ordered, and Curtis’s army would disintegrate from want of supplies in a matter of days. Continue reading