One hundred and fifty years ago, buildings throughout Arkansas communities were doubling as hospitals throughout the state. According to a January 1864 newspaper article published in Fort Smith, “The General Hospital at this Post consists of six buildings, viz: The St. Charles Hotel, Sutton Mansion, Rector Mansion, Prison, Small Pox, and Colored Wards, containing 240 patients. The Hospital is under charge of Dr. J. E. Bennett, A. A. Surgeon, U.S.A., and three assistants, viz: Drs. J. S. C. Rowland, J. L. Prentiss, A. A. Surgeons, U.S.A., and A. D. Tenney, Assistant Surgeon, 1st Colored Kansas Volunteers.”
Among the various diseases treated in the make-shift medical facilities were pneumonia and small pox. According to the same article, “There are also in Hospital some 40 cases of vaccination with syphilitic virus.” This venereal disease was common, especially among Yankee troops who often would have “relations” with the contraband women as well as women in their respective locales. “This unfortunate and detestable disease has spread among soldiers and citizens to the extent of between five and six hundred cases, presenting all the symptoms of true syphilis.”
Regarding the extreme number of medical cases treated in Fort Smith in December 1863, “263 patients were admitted, 17 died, 3 deserted, and 77 were returned to duty. Whole number treated, 309; of these 64 were cases of Pneumonia, 34 Small Pox, and 39 spurious vaccination. Two thighs were amputated, 1 tumor removed from posterior part of thigh, weighing 7 ounces, and 1 removal of left testis for sarcoma.”
Military actions that occurred in Arkansas one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish at Caddo Gap on January 26; a skirmish in Dallas County on the 28th; an expedition from Batesville to Searcy Landing from January 30-February 3, and a skirmish at Waldron on February 1, 1864.