One hundred and fifty years ago, Winter was making itself evermore imminent in Arkansas and bivouacs across the South where Arkansas troops were bunkering down for the cold. Other hardships were likewise rearing their ugly heads as the illegal Federal blockade of the South was making it nearly impossible to procure goods in the Southern states.
As seen in an 1861 Arkansas newspaper, Arkansawyers were steadily churning out supplies for their soldiers scattered from local camps in Arkansas to campgrounds in Virginia. Citizens of every age rose to the challenge in providing these much-needed supplies as Winter begins. The following is an account of one of Arkansas’ many dedicated citizens: “Mrs. Lucetta Walker, of Columbus, in Hempstead county, a lady of venerable age, and distinguished, it is said, for her generosity, has donated the goods and made with her own hands for soldiers from that county 110 garments, and knit 46 pairs of socks within the last five months.”
As 1861 nears its closing days, and only about six months following the first major battle of the War Between the States, the Southern people were feeling the harsh reality of poverty. As men by the thousands join the Confederate ranks, coupled with the Federal blockade preventing the usual shipment of everyday supplies, families are seen in Memphis flocking in droves to public assistance. As seen in an 1861 edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “Free soup establishments having been established by the relief committee, they were patronized by hundreds of destitute families on Saturday last.”
Regarding the ill-clad troops destitute of blankets to keep them warm as the nights frequented temperatures well below freezing, the ingenuity of the Southern people cannot and must not be trivialized. Only a few days prior to Christmas in 1861, an interesting note was scribbled by a soldier in Kentucky: “We have seen some of our brave soldiers sporting a covering or blanket made of woolen carpeting, of which a large number have been prepared for the army. The bright colors and singular patterns often give it a very striking appearance. Our heart warmed as we looked at it. This is getting at the thing in earnest, and enables us to see our way through two or three winters. The first winter we can use the new carpets; the second winter we can use the old ones; and for the third winter we can quilt the two together.”