As the Civil War was wrapping up one hundred and fifty years ago, many facets of the war became known to the Union officers that many of us would have never given a second thought. Case in point was the distribution of food and supplies to starving citizens in Arkansas. Perhaps the most forgotten and overlooked demographic includes the Native American during those trying times.
Brigadier- General Cyrus Bussey wrote to Fort Smith, “The boats that return to Little Rock should be loaded heavily with commissary stores and returned here on the high water. Sales of subsistence stores were made to over 4,000 persons at Fort Gibson for the ten days ending March 31, and 5,000 more reported by the Indian agent and brigade commander in a starving condition.” The report continued, “The suffering of the people is very great. Fort Gibson will require a large amount of stores if those who are starving are fed. Send all the supplies you can and I will relieve the suffering as far as possible. ”
In response, U.S. Indian Agent Isaac Coleman responded, “There is under Major Cutler (now absent) and my agency some 5,000 or more loyal refugee Indians, embracing Creeks, Seminoles, Choctaws, and Chickasaws, who are absolutely on the verge of starvation, no supplies having been furnished within the last three weeks, owing in a great measure to the difficulty of transportation, teams hauling during the winter having been detained here so long that it is impossible to get them to try the trip again under such circumstances.”