One hundred and fifty years ago, a large number of civilian refugees in north Arkansas were on the brink of starvation. Following four years of war, Arkansas was left bereft of supplies. Major John Levering noted, “There are several thousand families within the limits of this command who are related to and dependent on the Arkansas soldiers in our service. These people have nearly all been robbed of everything they had by the troops of this command, and are now left destitute and compelled to leave their homes to avoid starvation.”
Levering told General Bussey, “Many of them are preparing to cultivate the abandoned plantations in the vicinity of this place [Fort Smith] and Van Buren.” There were over 200 families reported in Clarksville, “which he wants to colonize on the north side of the river near Van Buren.” This concept of colonization became a new experiment with the Union Army. “Colonel Harrison has established colonies at Fayetteville, Cane Hill, Huntsville, Bentonville, at each of which places a company of the First Arkansas Cavalry is stationed, and the loyal people are preparing to cultivate the land in the vicinity of these posts.”
Refugees and civilians generally had been treated poorly and much suffering came their way over the past four years of the war. “Many good loyal people have been shamefully treated by our army. The country is filled with irregular receipts for forage, horses, cattle, and other property which cannot be settled, but in most instances everything has been taken and no receipts given, the people turned out to starve, and their effects loaded into trains and sent to Kansas.”
Other events this week one hundred and fifty years ago included a day of fasting declared by Confederate President Jeff Davis on the 10th and skirmishes on the 11th at Clear Lake and at Washington. For a complete list of military actions in Arkansas during the Civil War go to www.arkansastoothpick.com.