One hundred and fifty years ago the stark realization of war has hitting home in Arkansas. The past several columns have identified a grave problem of an overwhelmed medical infrastructure in the state in 1862 as thousands of sick and wounded soldiers lie convalescing in the homes of total strangers whose patriotic duty it was to nurse and care for the men of the Confederate Army.
Newspapers across Arkansas were steadily pounding out notices and announcements regarding the recovering soldiers and the work that must be done. Washington, Arkansas had its own newspaper. The Washington Telegraph, in fact, was the only newspaper that remained in print throughout the duration of the Civil War and remains to this day one of the best sources of information about Arkansas during the War.
Among the articles printed 150 years ago in Washington was one outlining the work done to prepare a wagon full of supplies to be sent to the capitol city in Little Rock to the sick and wounded soldiers in need. Among the items of most use solicited from the people of South Arkansas were in the article were basic:
“It may not be generally known that half worn clothes, such as shirts, drawers, socks, underclothes of all sorts, sheets, pillow cases, &c., are very much needed, and also large quantities of soap for washing. Soldiers are brought into the hospital in heavy woolen clothes, generally much soiled. They have mostly no change of garments, and are utterly unfit to be comfortably nursed. The hospital requires large stores to be kept constantly clean for frequent change. Life often depends on it, to say nothing of the comfort of the poor fellow, who lies many a weary day, thinking of home. Any food or herbs suitable for the sick or convalescent will also be acceptable.”
Among the more unpleasant things in print 150 years ago was how to prepare the dead for transportation back home for burial, as it “will, in a great degree, prevent the offensive odor from corpses, and while the remains of so many of our deceased soldiers are being transported from the camps homeward, it may be of service to publish it. Take two pounds of common salt, two pounds of alum, one pound of saltpeter–dissolve in six gallons of water, and keep the shrouding wet with the solution.”