One hundred and fifty years ago, both the Confederate and Yankee armies were preparing to spend another Christmas away from their homes. While Confederates were amassing in south west Arkansas for the largest Christian camp revival in history, the Federal army tried to justify their presence this side of the Mason-Dixon line, calling the Civil War an “infernal rebellion.” A soldier in the 28th Wisconsin noted in a letter home, “Today we are still in Secessia—the rebellion still existing, though weakened we hope and know by the blows inflicted upon it by the armies of freedom & right. But we, too, are weakened. How have our numbers diminished! Disease and death have called away many an one, many of our best, our noblest, men.”
Indeed this soldier was correct. Disease was not just a Summertime problem for the armies. As crowded camps of contraband and soldiers alike produced mountains of refuse, the perfect environment for dysentery and other medical ailments flourished. The Yankee soldier continued, “Look at my own company. Fifteen of those who on the 20th of Dec., 1863, composed my little command are gone, forever gone from the earth! Gone from the homes, the hearts of those who loved them; from those who with weeping eyes them bade them good bye, and waited and watched again for their coming. Brave men and patriots as they were, we will ever remember them, and proudly, too.”
By December 1863, many soldiers on both sides of the conflict were dead. The War had raged for two and a half years with no end in sight. Military actions in Arkansas this week included a skirmish at Jacksonport on December 23, a skirmish at Stroud’s store on the same day, a skirmish on the Buffalo River on Christmas Day, a skirmish at Barronsville in Searcy County the following day, and a scout left from Forsythe to Batesville on the 26th.