The only reasons for doubting the truth of these stories were, first, that the Rebels had no force of any importance in Arkansas; and second, that our army, to use the expression of one of its officers, “wasn’t going round surrendering.” We expected it would turn up in some locality where the Rebels did not desire it, and had no fears of its surrender.
General Curtis constructed several boats at Batesville, which were usually spoken of as “the Arkansas navy.” These boats carried some six or eight hundred men, and were used to patrol the White River, as the army moved down its banks. In this way the column advanced from Batesville to Jacksonport, and afterward to St. Charles.
Supplies had been sent up the White River to meet the army. The transports and their convoy remained several days at St. Charles, but could get no tidings of General Curtis. The river was falling, and they finally returned. Twelve hours after their departure, the advance of the lost army arrived at St. Charles.
From St. Charles to Helena was a march of sixty miles, across a country destitute of every thing but water, and not even possessing a good supply of that article. The army reached Helena, weary and hungry, but it was speedily supplied with every thing needed, and put in condition to take the offensive. It was soon named in general orders “the Army of Arkansas,” and ultimately accomplished the occupation of the entire State.
During July and August there was little activity around Memphis. In the latter month, I found the climate exceedingly uncomfortable. Day after day the atmosphere was hot, still, stifling, and impregnated with the dust that rose in clouds from the parched earth. The inhabitants endured it easily, and made continual prophesy that the hot weather “would come in September.” Those of us who were strangers wondered what the temperature must be, to constitute “hot” weather in the estimation of a native. The thermometer then stood at eighty-five degrees at midnight, and ninety-eight or one hundred at noon. Few people walked the streets in the day, and those who were obliged to do so generally moved at a snail’s pace. Cases of coup-de-soleil were frequent. The temperature affected me personally, by changing my complexion to a deep yellow, and reducing my strength about sixty per cent.
I decided upon “A Journey due North.” Forty-eight hours after sweltering in Memphis, I was shivering on the shores of Lake Michigan. I exchanged the hot, fever-laden atmosphere of that city, for the cool and healthful air of Chicago. The activity, energy, and enterprise of Chicago, made a pleasing contrast to the idleness and gloom that pervaded Memphis. This was no place for me to exist in as an invalid. I found the saffron tint of my complexion rapidly disappearing, and my strength restored, under the influence of pure breezes and busy life. Ten days in that city prepared me for new scenes of war.