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Arkansas Troops Prepare To Defend State Via Missouri

The day after the July 5th victory near Carthage, MO the dusty ranks of the Missouri State Guards were drawn up outside the town to be reviewed by Generals Sterling Price, Ben McCulloch and State General N. B. Pearce. The Missourians cheered loudly; these grey uniformed and well equipped men from Arkansas were the first Confederate soldiers they’ve seen, and they inspired hope. They also marched under a flag never before seen in MO, the Stars and Bars of the new Southern Confederacy.

If the Missouri volunteers happened to give the appearance of a nondescript mob, they had reason to. Monetary support, meaning the State Treasury, was locked up in state banks in every town occupied by Federal troops who also had control of the railroads, telegraph and mail. The purchase of military stores and convenient transport was non- existent. A large number were unarmed because the huge U S Arsenal at St Louis had transferred all weapons to IL long ago.

McCulloch was appalled at the thought of facing the trained Springfield-based army of Lyon and Sigel with such a rabble and said as much to Price, who promised improvement. Knowing intuitively the best place to defend Arkansas was in MO, McCulloch loaned 615 fine rifles to the Mexican War Veteran and former Missouri Governor, before rejoining his Pelican State contingent near Maysville, AR. It will be recalled the 3rd LA Infantry was detached from the column at this encampment previous to McCulloch’s accelerated thrust to Neosho, MO on the night of July 4th.

General Price took his mostly mounted state guard farther into southwest MO to Cowskin Prairie, of which a portion was three miles from the Arkansas boundary and within close supporting distance of Maysville. This bivouac proved an excellent selection for its many clear water creeks and grazing surface. Abundant cornfields were at hand also. Nearby lead mines answered for much needed firearm ammunition and improvised artillery projectiles. Gen. Lyon was stalled at Springfield for want of a reliable supply system. So, with time on his side Price also assigned prior service officers the tasks of providing drill, instruction and discipline toward converting the raw material into an army. In his book, Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West, noted historian and writer Albert Castel in part presented this description of the rank and file; “All of his troops had taken up arms (at least figuratively) out of a strong and sincere conviction that the sovereignty of their state had been wantonly violated and that their own rights and liberties were in danger….By and large they were young, hardy men of middle class farming families, intelligent and in many instances well educated.”

About this time in July, Colonel Patrick R. Cleburne’s 1st AR Infantry Regiment, (later15th), reached Pittman’s Ferry 50 miles from the Mississippi and 400 yards south of the MO state line. This location was on the beautiful Current River, several miles north of Pocahontas, a town situated where that stream joined the Black River.

The 33 year old Irish immigrant and Helena lawyer had previously led a militia company to Little Rock during the arsenal crises back in January. The event occurred when a conniving government official deceived the Helena Militia into thinking they were summoned by the governor to resist Federal reinforcement.

Farther east the 3rd AR Inf. Regiment was mustered into Confederate service at Lynchburg VA. This regiment was raised by former U. S. Congressman Albert Rust of Union County. From the time of its induction until July 15, the unit was whipped into shape by the VMI graduates who had also performed the same unrelenting service for Fagan’s 1st AR the previous month. The 3rd was assigned to the command of General W. W. Loring and sent to Monterey in North central VA, amid the low rumble of cannonading many miles toward the east.