1861 was a harsh year for the South, even more so in Arkansas. One hundred and fifty years ago Arkansawyers were preparing for their Christmas festivities while countless thousands were scattered across the land in their respective armies in both the North and the South. Though 1861 was a bitter year for Arkansas, the next few decades will, surprisingly, be much worse.
As soldiers from Arkansas bunker down for the winter and families at home make their final holiday preparations, those that celebrated Christmas, woke up in neighboring Memphis, TN on Christmas day to the following editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
“. . . Let all rejoice—the young who yet are all unknowing of life’s sharpest ills; the old who throughout life have found, in many a conflict and in many a pang, their consolation and their strength flow from the beaming star of Bethlehem. Christmas is no time for harsh asperities, morose reproof, and chill austerities. Fill the wine cup! Crowd the table’s ample face with pleasant viands, heap it with alluring sweets! In laugh and glee, with sports where innocence presides, pass the Christmas hours. Only, as the teacher says, to all men let be known your self restraint and careful moderation. But holy joy knows no selfishness; its best delight lies in awakening joy in other hearts. Therefore, think on tables that are destitute of bread; on hearths where desolation chills and cruel poverty allows no cheering blaze, no merry crackling of the welcome fire. Think on the widowed one, whose helper, sleeping lies beneath the ground; think on the fatherless, for whose wants no manly hand is toiling through the day. Look around and seek for these, and while the ringing laugh echoes beneath your own roof tree, be sure that, in some habitation of the poor, that laugh is echoed from a heart in which your bounty has awakened joy.”