One hundred and fifty years ago, the Southern Army was gaining momentum in number of troops, companies, and regiments. The city of Memphis was bustling with military goings-on in mid-November, 1861, boasting of forty-eight companies of soldiers in the Confederate Army.
As one 1861 newspaper recalled, “The city resembles a military camp. Armed men are seen every where [sic] parading the streets, marching to the sound of drum and fife.” As troops organized in Arkansas, they would find themselves in Memphis awaiting news of their destination in the War. Many of the Arkansawyers in Confederate ranks made their way from Memphis to Virginia.
The same newspaper noted that in Memphis, the ladies were engaged in whatever activities would help the soldiers. These patriotic women of the South went as far as to establish the “Southern Mothers Home” for ill soldiers; at one point in its operation, the home housed as many as four hundred sick troops at one time: “No wonder that the southern soldiery are invincible; God and the ladies are on their side.”
By 1861 in neighboring Memphis, there existed twenty one public schools, but the same article was noted as saying that though “The citizens pay thousands every year as a school tax, but no city in America has poorer schools.” Regarding Memphis public school education, “Only one session a day is held, and that continues only four or five hours. The teachers are chosen upon the principle of favoritism, and not because they are qualified.”