One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas women and children during the Civil War were toiling in the proverbial trenches on the home front. As the Confederate and Federal armies were concentrating their forces east of the Mississippi River, war was just as real in Arkansas as it was in Tennessee and Virginia. With no army to protect the citizens of Arkansas, Lincoln’s blockade was having an impact on the innocent women and children south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Washington [Arkansas] Telegraph reported on April 2, 1862 that “Our good housewifes will not forget that the grocers, during the blockade, can no longer furnish them with pickles, preserves, fruit in cans, and in brandy; mustard, pepper-sauce, cat-sups, and a hundred other nice little arrangements, with which our cunning and dime-saving northern friends have been wont to poison us.” The article continued, “They must rely upon their own gardens and housewifely skill this year, or go without. That is a good thing. Our domestic articles are better, and have no poison in them. Look to your gardens in time, and be prepared.”
Self-reliance was the watch word of the day for Arkansas in the Spring of 1862. As the men were fighting a war, the women and children back home faced untold dangers, including starvation. According to an article in the same paper in late April 1862, “Happily we have a prospect of large quantities of fruit. These should be saved and dried. They are excellent as army and hospital stores, besides saving much at home. White mustard in large quantities is indispensable in our hospitals.” The article continued, “Pickles are very important in the army. They are necessary to the health of our soldiers, fed mostly on salt meats and farinaceous food. They are easily kept and readily transported. Provision should be made for large quantities of them.”
Arkansawyers, both in the field and at home, found ways of overcoming obstacles, but what was coming was unimaginable; no country could prepare itself for the slaughter that would occur in a week at the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh.