One hundred and fifty years ago, two opposing armies were ravaging the resources of Arkansas and the citizens of the state were increasingly weary of the acts of violence against them by soldiers. In Curtis’ march from North Arkansas to Helena, he left a wake of destruction in his path; the citizens of the state were terrorized by the Yankees: “They robbed the plantations on their route of every pound of bacon, of all corn, fodder, wheat and oats, not leaving one day’s subsistence for the inhabitants on the premises, pastured their horses on the growing crops, butchered all the hogs and cattle that they could lay hands on, took away the horses, wagons, buggies, and carriages, broke open houses and rifled trunks of their contents, stole bed clothing and ladies jewelry, gave free passes to negroes and persuaded them (and in some instances forced them) to leave their masters, by offering them their freedom and high wages.”
Violence against Arkansawyers was not limited to the Federal Army. This week in 1862, Confederate General T.H. Holmes in Little Rock wrote his General Order No. 12. In it, Holmes noted that, “He [Holmes] therefore warns his troops in the name of the holy cause in which we are engaged, and for the honor of the government, which each of us in his appropriate sphere represents, to abstain with scrupulous care from any and every act, that may by possibility trespass upon the property, or in the least interfere with the rights, of any citizen of our government.” The punishment for a Confederate terrorizing a citizen in Arkansas would land him the death penalty.
This would not protect every citizen. As armies on both sides crisscrossed the state over the next three years, homes and fields would be fired by Rebs and Yanks alike to prevent the opposing army any benefit. It would likewise keep it from the mouths of the citizens of the state, who were faring, in many cases, much worse than soldiers on either side of the conflict.