Illness and Refugees in Civil War ArkansasOne hundred and fifty years ago, hospitals across the state were full with soldiers complaining of everyday camp ailments. A June 1864 Fort Smith newspaper recounted a visit to a hospital in the area: “There are about two hundred and sixty sick men in charge; and most of whom looked hopeful and convalescent.” The article noted that, “Only a small proportion is suffering from wounds, owing to the fact that no general engagement has taken place recently in this region.” Common camp diseases and illnesses included largely chronic diarrhea and dysentery.

The Civil War had left Arkansas bare of agriculture, homes, farms, and anything that could be of use to a passing army. But soldiers were not the only victims of the war. According to an 1864 Arkansas newspaper, by the first week of June, “1,200 refugees had crossed the river on their way north. Many of them are the families of soldiers, and of Union men who lost their lives during the progress of the rebellion, and through the vicissitudes of war, are exiled from their once happy and comfortable homes, and made objects of charity for the benevolent and humane of other States.”

The article continued, “There is a large proportion of them women and children, in a very destitute condition. A few are colored, but most of this class are sent to the confiscated plantations on the Mississippi river.”

Military actions that took place in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish on June 2 at Columbia; a skirmish on the 3rd in Searcy; a skirmish on the 5th at Worthington’s and Sunnyside Landings; a skirmish on the 6th at Bealer’s Ferry; an engagement at Old River Lake on the 6th; a skirmish on the 6th at Wittsburg; and a skirmish on the 7th at Walter’s Plantation. For a complete list of military actions in Arkansas during the Civil War, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com.