One hundred and fifty years ago, large numbers of refugees were having an extremely difficult time in Arkansas. According to a dispatch sent to Lt. Colonel John Levering in Fort Smith, “I am very much embarrassed with the very large number of destitute people who are colonizing near the posts of this command. I fear most of these people will be driven from their colonies by rebel bands, who are already making their appearance in considerable numbers.”
Following several years of war in Arkansas, the land was bereft of any sizable crop nor other food supplies to subsist on. As the irregular war comprised of raids by bushwacker bands of roving outlaws on citizens and Union forces throughout the state, the dispatch noted, “The guerrillas have already made their appearance, robbing people within one mile of my lines. On the north side of the river they are quite numerous; near Fayetteville two or three parties, each numbering 50 to 100.”
Many Arkansas citizens had to relocate within the Union lines for protection from the roaming bands of irregulars. The dispatch noted, “The citizens now occupy every cabin and field within five to ten miles of this place and Van Buren, all of whom expect protection from the Government. The organization of companies for their own protection will amount to nothing. They will be so much scattered that they cannot protect themselves.”
As the war wound down in Arkansas, her citizens were left at the mercy of that same army that invaded in 1862.