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‘ [179] in passing their trains over Big creek bottom than were anticipated, and they will hardly get beyond this point to-morrow.’ From Gen. M. M. Parsons to Major Snead, July 1st: ‘I finished crossing this evening at 5:30; worked the men in the water to their waists last night until 10; again this morning from daylight. Men much worried; mules more so—they are without forage; not a grain to be had without pressing.’ From Jo O. Shelby, at Gordon's plantation, July 1st: ‘I have the river road from Helena to St. Francis river well guarded. My command is 8 miles in advance of General Holmes.’

These reports are enough to present the picture of an army struggling through the mud, water and rain, without forage for mules or battery horses, in order to ‘surprise’ an enemy who had every facility for reinforcement or retreat. The movement of the Western army, however, was suggested by an exigency which could not wait on weather. A diversion must be made in favor of Vicksburg. The energies of this faithful army must be exerted in favor of the common cause, even looking to the maintenance of the conflict in the East, although its own borders be left for a time defenseless.

The secretary of war had suggested it, May 23d, in a dispatch to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, commanding in Mississippi. ‘I venture with diffidence,’ he said, ‘only one suggestion. It is, that should opportunity to communicate with Generals Holmes or Price occur, it might be well to urge they should make diversion for you, or in the case of the fall of Vicksburg, secure a great future advantage to the Confederacy, by the attack on and seizure of Helena, while all the available forces of the enemy are being pushed to Grant's aid.’ This letter forwarded to Gen. Kirby Smith, at Shreveport, was sent on by him, with the indorsement, ‘To Lieutenant-General Holmes, to act as circumstances may justify.’ To which General Holmes replied from Little Rock, after consulting Price, ‘I believe we can take Helena. Please let me attack it.’

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