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[239] night over wide circuits, dismount and engage as infantry, and if pressed by superior numbers, remount and elude the foe. The trains of the Confederates were very light and employed chiefly for ordnance. Each soldier had his scanty wardrobe rolled up in an oilcloth behind his saddle, and with this for his pillow at night, covering with a saddle blanket, he slept anywhere. The beef and pork killed by the way and his country's cornmeal made his rations; and he marched by the stars as often as by the light of the sun, to fall confidently upon the flanks and rear of the invading army.

The winter quarters of the Confederates were broken up at the first advance of Steele from Little Rock. The pleasant diversions of a few weeks of rest were now only a stimulating memory, and the stern duties and privations of the soldier, with their uncertain consequences, confronted them. General Shelby's brigade, which had been camped near Camden, was ordered to cross the Ouachita river and pass to the rear of the advancing army, between it and Little Rock. It was not long before his comrades heard the old iron guns of Bledsoe sending their messages across the valleys, announcing that he was ‘closing up’ the enemy upon their flank.

General Thayer, in command of the Federal frontier division, moved from Fort Smith March 21st, to make a junction with Steele at Arkadelphia. He moved by way of Booneville, Ark., through Danville and Mt. Ida to Caddo gap, thence down the Caddo and Antoine creeks to the river, and joined Steele, April 9th, at the crossing of the Little Missouri. Thayer, with his force of a little over 5,000, composed of negro regiments and mountain Federals, with his immense train of broken-down teams, some stuck in the mire, others upset, might have been destroyed as he emerged from the mountains of Caddo creek if the Confederates had attacked him in force; but Marmaduke was devoting his exclusive attention to Steele's column.

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