One hundred and fifty years ago, interesting information was being printed by the Yankee presses in the state that were confiscated from former pro-Confederate printers. Among the numerous new presses throughout the state included The Fort Smith New Era. This week in 1864, an article was submitted to the editor from a soldier in the U.S. army on the Potomac River.
The article “alludes to the peculiar music made by bullets passing through the air” during battle:
“It is a very good place to exercise the mind, with the enemy’s pickets setting close at hand. A musical ear can study the different tones of bullets as they skim through the air. I caught the pitch of a large-sized minnie yesterday. It was a swell from E flat to F, and, as it passed into the distance and lost its velocity, receded to D, a very pretty change.”
The soldier went on to document the event of firing artillery shells: ” One of the most startling sounds is that of the Hotchkiss shell. It comes like a shriek of a demon, and the bravest old soldiers feel like ducking when they hear it. It is no more destructive than some other shells; but there is a great deal in mere sound to work upon our fears. The tremendous scream is caused by a ragged edge of lead which is left on the shell.”
The Hotchkiss shell is still being found by relic hunters throughout battlefields in Arkansas. It was among the more popular shells fired by artillerymen during the War Between the States west of the Mississippi River. As the shell exploded, over a hundred lead balls would rain down on the enemy and were very effective anti-personnel weapons.
Military actions that took place this week one hundred and fifty years ago in Arkansas include a scouting mission from Pine Bluff to Monticello between January 13-14; a scout from Elgin on January 15-17; operations began in NW Arkansas and lasted through February 15; a skirmish was fought in Branchville on January 17; a skirmish in Lewisburg on the 17th; a scout from Brownsville between January 17-19; skirmishes at Branchville, Ivery’s Ford, and Pine Bluff on January 19; and a skirmish at Lunenburg on the 19th.