War of the Rebellion: Serial 019 Page 0038 MO., ARK., KANS., IND. T., AND DEPT. N. W. Chapter XXV.

Search Civil War Official Records

and, in effect, cut to pieces, losing over 400 in killed, wounded, and prisoners, with all its baggage.

Colonel Parsons and Lieutenant Colonel A. B. Burleson, of his regiment, highly distinguished themselves. Our loss was 30 killed and 58 wounded.

After this affair the enemy confined himself within very narrow limits immediately around Helena. Parsons' command was left to watch that time, and the remainder of my troops were put in camp near Little Rock and their organization and instruction commenced.

The scarcity of supplies now caused great distress. Nearly two months must yet elapse before the new crop would ripen. To lessen the consumption of corn, I found it necessary to dismount four regiments of Texans and three of Arkansians. This produced much dissatisfaction, and there were many desertions in consequence.

The diseases to which fresh troops are subject became prevalent; many died and many deserted for this cause. The men became clamorous for pay. I prevailed on the State authorities to turnover to me the war tax due the Confederacy, amounting to upward of $400,000, and caused it to be disbursed as pay funds, $100,000 to the troops in the Indian country and the residue to those in Arkansas; but the unavoidable delay in doing this gave occasion for many desertions. In a word, desertions took place upon every conceivable pretext.

Frequent arrests were made, but in many instances the offenders were at first pardoned and returned to duty on promises of better conduct in future. Forgiveness was thus extended from different considerations. Many were extremely ignorant and had probably been misled. Others had wives and children suffering for food. Lastly, the regimental organizations made by me were not authorized by law, and under the circumstances I shrank from inflicting the death penalty. This lenity brought forth evil fruits; mercy was mistaken for timidity; desertions increased. My command seemed likely to dwindle to nothing. The raising of additional troops was paralyzed. At length Colonel A. Nelson discovered and reported to me a wide-spread conspiracy to disband and go home. He ascertained that there was a regular organization for this purpose, and that a badge was adopted by the members for distinguishing each other. Within a few hours after this discovery a signal gun was fired in the camp of an Arkansas regiment, and 60 men, headed by two lieutenants, deliberately marched away, with their and accouterments. Orders to arrest them were not executed.

For the salvation of the country I had taken the responsibility to force these men into service. I now resolved, for the same object, to compel them to remain. An order was issued convening a military commission of three officers. Four prisoners were ordered before it for trial. They were found guilty of double desertion, cutting the telegraph wire, and burning a tannery in Government employ. Each confessed his guilt. I ordered them shot to death in presence of the troops, and saw the order executed. Five other men-four deserters and one citizen, guilty of inciting desertion, all of whom had been captured with arms in their hands fighting in the Federal ranks at the battle of L'Anguille-were tried in the same way, found guilty, and put to death. Two deserters were similarly dealt with at Fort Smith and one at Batesville. These summary measures had the intended effect. The spirit of desertion was crushed. It did not again manifest itself while I commanded the Trans-Mississippi District.

In consequence of the virtual abdication of the civil authorities I