“My wife died this morning, and my friends have come here to see me,” was the answer I received from the proprietor of the house.
Almost at the instant of completing the sentence, he burst into a laugh, and said,
“It would have done you good to see how your folks captured a big drove of Price’s cattle. The Rebs were driving them along all right, and your cavalry just came up and took them. It was rich, I tell you. Ha! ha!”
Not knowing what condolence to offer a man who could be so gay after the death of his wife, I bade him good-morning, and pushed on. He had not, as far as I could perceive, the single excuse of being intoxicated, and his display of vivacity appeared entirely genuine. In all my travels I have never met his equal.
Up to the time of this campaign none of our armies had been into Arkansas. When General Curtis approached the line, the head of the column was halted, the regiments closed up, and the men brought their muskets to the “right shoulder shift,” instead of the customary “at will” of the march. Two bands were sent to the front, where a small post marked the boundary, and were stationed by the roadside, one in either State. Close by them the National flag was unfurled. The bands struck up “The Arkansas Traveler,” the order to advance was given, and, with many cheers in honor of the event, the column moved onward. For several days “The Arkansas Traveler” was exceedingly popular with the entire command. On the night after crossing the line the news of the fall of Fort Donelson was received.
Soon after entering Arkansas on his retreat, General Price met General McCulloch moving northward to join him. With their forces united, they determined on making a stand against General Curtis, and, accordingly, halted near Sugar Creek. A little skirmish ensued, in which the Rebels gave way, the loss on either side being trifling. They did not stop until they reached Fayetteville. Their halt at that point was very brief.
At Cross Hollows, in Benton County, Arkansas, about two miles from the main road, there is one of the finest springs in the Southwest. It issues from the base of a rocky ledge, where the ravine is about three hundred yards wide, and forms the head of a large brook. Two small flouring mills are run during the entire year by the water from this spring. The water is at all times clear, cold, and pure, and is said never to vary in quantity.
Along the stream fed by this spring, the Rebels had established a cantonment for the Army of Northern Arkansas, and erected houses capable of containing ten or twelve thousand men. The cantonment was laid out with the regularity of a Western city. The houses were constructed of sawed lumber, and provided with substantial brick chimneys.