One hundred and fifty years ago, food and supplies were exponentially harder and harder to come by for both Union and Confederate armies in Arkansas by late December 1864. Following three full years of war, the countryside was largely bereft of any sizable food supply and forage missions were less and less productive. A dispatch written in Pine Bluff gives a manifest of a recent scout for food for the Union garrison there.
According to the dispatch sent by G.W. Davis, Captain of the 13th Illinois in Pine Bluff noted, “I have to report my scout of 100 men in search of beef-cattle returned at 5 o’clock this evening, bringing in 78 head of cattle, 51 head of which were receipted for as follows, to wit: John Simpson (colored), 17 head, estimated weight 3,000 pounds, $120; Catherine O’Neil, 4 head, estimated weight 900 pounds, $36; John O’Neil, 6 head, estimated weight 1,800 pounds, $72; John Harvey, 4 head, estimated weight 1,000, $40; John Patterson, 5 head, estimated weight 1,250, $50; Henry Tompkins (colored), 7 head, estimated weight 1,400, $56; William Moore, 8 head, estimated weight 1,700, $68.”
The dollar amounts correspond to the amount the United States government would pay each source noted above for the forage obtained. Following the Civil War, records were kept by the Southern Claims Commission which reviewed the damages procured by the Union Army on the citizens of the South during the war. Many cases went unpaid due to Confederate loyalties.
Even as late as December 1864, the countryside was riddled with Confederate loyalists and bushwhackers. The dispatch from Pine Bluff continued, “We met with no enemy to speak of except a few bushwhackers, three of whom we encountered on our way down and to whom my advance guard gave chase.”
As the new year began, there was only one military action in Arkansas, including a skirmish at Bentonville on January 1, 1865. For a complete list of military actions that occurred in Arkansas during the Civil War, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com.