Reminiscences of the War Between the States in Crawford County, Arkansas

Mrs. J. M. Harshaw

The following reminiscences were told the writer by Mrs. J. M. Harshaw a few years previous to her death. Mrs. Harshaw was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Whitfield Bourne and it is about them that she related this story:

My father's early life was spent in Kentucky, but fearing tuberculosis and thinking that his health would be benefitted by change of climate. he left there and went farther west. liking Arkansas climate he decided to settle in this part of the country. Wishing to be in the open air as much as possible, and owning a large number of slaves he acted as his own overseer. Having a large number of persons for whom to provide he bought his provisions at wholesale at New Orleans, that city being the market place fur a large expanse of territory.

At the beginning of the war he had much provisions on hand and in order to save it from being stolen, much of it was hidden about the place, the darkeys assisting in burying a great deal of it. but while leaving my father's place, they never disclosed the hiding places, also much was stored in a house near the homeplace.

Rumors flew thick and fast that the Federals were marching toward Van Buren, time passed and as they did not appear, we began to think that it was only a rumor, but we were soon to learn differently.

One day I was out playing with some of the little darkeys, and a darkey about 16 years old was grazing a horse near by; while we were playing we heard shots, but did not pay much attention to them. as there were several pickets stationed above our house. Hearing a horse running I looked up and saw one of them pass bent almost double on his horse, with it going full speed; in a short time another passed in the same way and then a third, by this time we were much frightened and ran as hard as we could to the house, about the same time the darkey boy came running also, very much frightened, crying "Oh, Miss Madaline! the Dutch are coming hide me."  There were several kegs of sugar and some eatables in an outside room so my mother called the darkeys and had them carried into the house. Very soon she saw my father coming from the direction of Dripping Springs with his horse trotting very fast, which was unusual, so she felt there was some cause for alarm, and he confirmed the report that the Federals were really coming. The mare he rode was a very fine one. so he put her in an old blacksmith shop and locked the door.  Very soon a battle line was drawn up. the Federals above the house and the Confederates below, placing the house right in the range, if there was a fight, but it proved only a ruse by the Confederates to allow their artillery time to get away.

When the line was broken, the Federal troops did not keep to the road but came directly through our place, bringing their cannon with them. and tearing down fences as they came. They camped in our yard and part of the camp was directly over where a barrel of molasses and some sugar were buried but they never suspicioned there was anything there; but the soldiers broke open the smoke house and began taking out the provisions.

The officer in command, who was a fine looking man, told my mother that the troops had received instructions not to molest the family room but to destroy all other things, telling her to call the negroes and have the things placed in her room. When the things were all in, the room was so full that one could scarcely turn around.  My father was arrested and made to walk all or part of the way to town. As he always rode it was very hard on him, the officer in command going with him. While the officer was away the soldiers did break into the room and had a great many things out, when he appeared and made them put the things back. A guard was then stationed about the house for protection.  Up to this time I had spent most of my time at play. I studied a little but was only called upon once in a while to assist in the house work. but from this time on I had to do my part as the darkeys soon left.  My father had a great many hogs running at large through the woods, consequently we had plenty of meat. When the hogs were killed. I with the rest of the children had to carry much of the meat into the woods where it was hidden up in the trees. One day my father had all the meal out on scaffolding sunning, when a company of soldiers were seen coming up the road in almost a run. their bayonets shining in the sun as they came up the hill. As soon as they were seen. father called us all and put us removing the meal out of sight, which of course caused a good deal of commotion as every one was running here and there.

The troops were stopped and the officer in command  of the company, who proved to be a perfect gentleman  came forward and inquired of my father the cause of all  the running about, were they hiding someone? He told  them no, they were hiding meat.  It was very warm that day and the soldiers were hot  and tired from their forced march and the officer remarked: "I have been sent on another fool's errand. You were  reported by a woman, who said she had heard a great  deal of "secesh" talk at your house." My father said "yes,  I know the woman. There were a number of women at  my house yesterday and they may have been talking, but  she did not hear anything, as she could be seen for some  distance before she reached the house, and they all knew  the kind of woman she was." The officer then told his men  to turn and march back to town. 

This woman was a half breed and on the Union side.  She traveled between Van Buren and Fayetteville selling  apples and other things. I was afraid of her as I could be.  My father and mother always treated her well as she  was a dangerous person. The day before the troops came  out, she came down the road driving a team of oxen, the  oxen were very warm and seeing a pool of water they  made for it and went in as far as the deepest part, the  woman tried every way to get them out, finally wading  into the pool, but they would not move for her, so my father and mother went to her assistance. He waded in and after a time succeeded in getting them out. My mother brought the woman to the house and gave her dry clothes to put on. but they were never returned. She then went on into Van Buren and reported them to the provo-marshal. Knowing her as he did, if he had been a gentleman. he would have paid no attention to the report.  My father had much corn hidden away in different parts of his place and some stored in a building near the house. The Federals officers in Van Buren learned of it and sent wagons to be filled. When the men arrived they told my father they had come for the corn. He showed them where it was. standing by while they loaded the wagons. One of the men remarked "that he might have known that he could not keep anything hidden from a yankee." My lather replied that he had more hidden and if the Yankees could find it they were welcome to it. My father talking that way frightened me very much and I went into the house and told my mother: after they had left she said to my father: "the officers may send again for the corn and if you do not show them where it is the soldiers will kill you." But they never came.

Hit Counter page visit since October 26, 2002
Page last edited 06/27/2009