This piece is a continuation of a previous post. The “Total Warfare” series is written by Jerry Lawrence of Pine Bluff. Click HERE to read the first part of the series.
While Steele’s Union Army occupied Camden they suffered heavy losses at Poison Springs and at Marks’ Mill, an about the same time word was received that the Louisiana prong of the Yankee Army had suffered similar losses at Mansfield and at Pleasant Hill, in north Louisiana. Steele knew that he had to act fast if he was going to save his starving army. He ordered his troops to abandon Camden, in the night of April 27th, 1864, and take the nearest route back to Little Rock, due north.
It was during the day, the next day, that the Confederates realized the Union Army was gone they immediately begin their chase in an effort to destroy the Yankee invaders. The Confederates spent the first night, of their chase at the small settlement of Freeo, fifteen or so miles north of Camden. The next morning, at 3:00 o’clock, according Dr. J. N. Bragg in the book, “The Garden of Memory.” He goes on to say that “ ……………we were then on the road again. All day we kept up the weary trump. Not a living animal was to be seen along the wayside ……………. Nothing but ruin and desolation! Woman and little children sometime stood by the road and watched us pass. They did not seem glad to see us, for they were to hungry to be demonstrative, and we had nothing to give them, not knowing ourselves where our next meal was coming from. By and by we came to Princeton. The enemy had camped there the night before and literally sacked the town. They had left nothing to the inhabitants. The ladies with their children and a few old men came out on the square and gave us some flowers and their prayers. It was all they had. Bless the women of that little village! There patriotism never grew cold nor for a moment faltered in all the night of that horrid nightmare.” It would have been nice if Dr. Bragg had went into more detail, but he didn’t, so we read between the lines as to just what went on there that night.
Bragg did not comment on the conditions they found in Tulip, they arrived there on April 29th, late in the afternoon. He did tell that he searched for food for himself and his horse, but found none. A woman finally gave him a cup of sassafras tea and when she found out that the doctor had saved her husband’s life she pulled several ears of corn, from under her bed and gave them to him for his horse.
Hershel K. Smith, an descendant of a resident of Tulip at the time,, makes the statement in an article in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, in 1959, “that it is said that the Federal troops burned portions of the town and molested its citizens. The buildings of the two schools were destroyed along with many valuable items, including the Owen and Stevenson geological collection, which had been sent to the school , from the state capitol for safe keepings.”
There is still a number of descendants living in the Tulip community, today, and all have similar stories that has been handed down to them from their war time ancestors. One states this ancestor hid their children in their corn crib when the Union army came and an officer found them there. It is said that the officer told the children to stay in the crab and they would not be harmed. The family never knew why, but their home was spared of all harm. Another man, of old age, was taken prison and was threaten to be hanged, but instead they took him on to Little Rock. With all the exposure he was a sick man when they reach the capitol city, so the captors released him and he made it back home safe but died a short time later.
Neither army kept records of these kind of activities and those who dared to write about them after the war did not go into great detail. However, the horrors of that night have been told to each generation for the past 150 years.
There are several other factors relating to the fact that Tulip, a town that was once known at the “Athens of Arkansas”, was never rebuilt after the war. One reason was that many of the citizens move away to get away from the war and most never returned. Another reason was that many of the residents were of old age and did not live long after the war. The third factor was that considering the class of people that lived in the area and taking in account that they all owned slaves, before the war, to do all the work while the young boys and girls were attending school learning all the Greek, Latin and music and etc. They were not allowed to learn how to raise a crop, not even garden. So most of the young people had to move away to the larger cities to find jobs that went along with their education.
Today, Tulip is a beautiful little community in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. It is dotted with small farms where a few cows and horses are raised and the only plantation there is owned by some of the several large timber companies and is covered with Pine trees.