Shellie, the reason why men from southwest Arkansas traveled so far to enlist in the Union army is because the Confederate forces managed to control that part of the State through most of the war. Except for an occasional patrol, the Union army was never able to penetrate and occupy the Pike-Polk-Sevier county area, much less recruit there. So anyone who wanted to enlist in the U.S. Volunteers had to make their way north to the nearest Union army outpost that they could safely reach. Fort Smith wasn't a good place to aim for at the time, due to the presence of Confederate partisan ranger companies operating in the area. So potential Union recruits often found it safer to cross the Arkansas River further downstream and work their way to Fayetteville. As the war went on, it became easier to reach Union lines by heading toward Little Rock, but the area around Fort Smith was always dangerous ground for Union sympathizers.