One hundred and fifty years ago, the “Irregular War” was in full effect. The Civil War in Arkansas was much more than two armies chasing each other within the borders of the state, but the civilians in Arkansas were at the receiving end of lawless bands of guerrillas as well as rogue Federal soldiers.
In a dispatch sent by BrigadierGeneral Cyrus Bussey to Colonel M. LaRue Harrison in Fort Smith, Bussey notes, “It has been represented to me that portions of your command have been committing the most outrageous excesses, robbing and burning houses indiscriminately.” The general continued, “This must cease at once, and the property of the people must be respected.”
According to Bussey, “Hundreds of good Union people are left destitute and become a public charge. The citizens who are at home minding their own business must be encouraged to cultivate their lands, and all officers and soldiers will be required to protect them.”
As the war raged into 1865, even the pro-Union citizens were catching trouble by rogue soldiers. Bussey concluded, “Let war be made on guerrillas and not women and children. Madison and Carroll Counties are specially named as the scene of these outrages. Strict discipline must be enforced in your command.”