One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers were getting a realistic taste of what war was. Following the Battle of Shiloh, hospitals in Arkansas were full and overflowing into private homes of heroic citizens who stepped up to the plate with compassion and selfless acts of bravery. It was hard and expensive work taking care of the ill and wounded soldiers.
To offset the expenses of caring for convalescent soldiers, a series of fundraiser, akin to the current U.S. military’s U.S.O. programs, began making their way into advertisements in newspapers across the state. A common fundraising event in the mid 1800’s was a military ball. This week 150 years ago, one such event was held at the Episcopal Church in Little Rock, featuring soldiers from the Capitol Guards. According to the Weekly Arkansas Gazette, “The supper, prepared by the ladies of the Episcopal Church, afforded ample evidence that they are judges of the good things of this life. The beaux, with their profusion of Military ornament, made a good display, but they were outshone by the sparkling eyes of the beauteous fair who graced the occasion.”
Another fundraising event that became commonplace during the War Between the States was a concert. As noted above, the Episcopalians were devout supports of “the cause”; Catholics were likewise as supportive in their fundraising endeavors. Known today for its Catholic school education for 9-12 grade female high school students, St. Mary’s Academy, founded in 1851, it was in 1862 a venue for entertainment:
“A Concert of vocal and instrumental music, interspersed with entertaining dialogues, will be given on to-morrow (Friday) evening, at St. Mary’s Academy. This promises to be a pleasant affair, as the ladies of the Academy are noted for their taste and ability in such matters. The concert is given for the benefit of the sick soldiers in this city. Tickets, price 50 cents each, can be procured at the Drug stores of Doctors McAlmont and Brugman, and at Mr. Reardon’s bookstore. Secure a ticket and go early if you want a good seat. “
As spring temperatures rise, so does the casualty lists of sick and wounded soldiers in Arkansas.