One hundred and fifty years ago, reports of the first casualties of Arkansas regiments were starting to trickle in. Having not been acclimated with the harsh environments in which soldiers frequently found themselves, the Second Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment lost two of its soldiers to disease in the opening days of the Summer of 1861.
According to a Memphis newspaper, 91 soldiers from the 2nd Arkansas Infantry were reported as sick. Among the vast number of ailments afflicting Civil War soldiers, the following were pointed out by the 2nd Arkansas Infantry’s Surgeon: diarrhea, dysentery, neuralgia, constipation, contusion, fatigue and exposure, measles, gun shot, opthalmia, pneumonia, intermittent, ptyalism, congestive chill, abscess, and cut with bowie-knife. Among the 91 that had taken ill, over 20% had succumbed to pneumonia.
According to the regiment’s surgeon, “The causes of this are readily explained by the facts attending the trip of the 2d Arkansas regiment, colonel T. C. Hindman, commanding, to Knoxville and back. These troops, fresh from the back woods of Arkansas, unaccustomed to excitements, and actuated by the loftiest patriotism, thought it incumbent upon them to cheer at each flag station, village and town upon the road, both going and coming, until their bronchias became inflamed in the highest degree.”
Regarding the two Arkansawyers that had died, Surgeon G.W. Curry likewise noted, “In view of the number of patients and the character of the disease, it affords me pleasure to state that only two have so far proved fatal, and that there is only one man whose case may be regarded as critical. Mr. Gallagher, of the Crocket Rangers, died on the 15th ult., having come under my charge after he had been abandoned by his physician. I immediately called Dr. Hopson in consultation with me, but he had become so prostrated and diseased that our efforts were unavailing to restore him. He died in consequence of secondary hemorrhage. The other, Mr. S. L. Poston, of Capt. Harvey’s company, 2d Arkansas regiment, was attacked with pneumonia in Knoxville on the 14th ult., and arrived here on the 17th. His case was complicated with phthisis pulmonalis, and was in the third stage on his arrival here. He died June 23d.
Over the span of the next four years, the Civil War will see the loss of thousands of its best soldiers to a variety of illnesses on both sides of the conflict. In many cases, the bodies of these young men would never make it home for a proper burial, as many thousands would end up in mass unmarked burial trenches where they remain today.