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

Mrs. A. J. Ward

The writer heard the following incidents related by Mrs. A. J. Ward: When the War between the States began Mr. A. J. Ward was in the mercantile business at Van Buren consequently he stored in his cellar a supply of sugar, coffee, candles and other provisions. This cellar had an outside entrance and one leading from the front hall downstairs. The trap door to the outside entrance was removed and the opening boarded up, and the passage was filled with dirt and rocks until it was even with the ground. The house stood about 100 feet inside of the picket line, the barn stood just inside of the line on Sycamore street and was used by the pickets for shelter while on duty. They often came to the house on a pretense of buying food, but in reality to spy around and see where things were kept. 

At this time General Bowen was in command. One night the pickets dug into the ground and found the opening, went through the cellar and up the stairs. Mrs. Ward's bedroom door opened just at the side of the cellar door. The picket closed it making Mrs. Ward a prisoner and placing one of their number to guard the door so that no one could leave the room. They then proceeded to remove much that was in the cellar, sugar, candles and so forth. 

The next morning Mrs. Ward. on a pretext of needing something, sent the children around the house and they discovered the opening where the soldiers had entered. Mrs. Ward then went up to Colonel Bowen's office to enter a complain:, but was told that he was moving his family into town.. that was. Dr. Thurston's family, he afterwards married Miss Thurston. At the office they promised to have the matter investigated. and did return a few things but some of them did not come from her cellar, as they were not of the same brand, showing that other houses had been entered. 

A few days afterwards Mrs. Ward was calling at Mrs. Thurston's home when during the conversation she remarked that General Bowen had given her some loaf sugar and hew glad she was to get it. as it had been some time since she had had any, Mrs. Ward said. right then she knew that it was some of her sugar as there had been no provision wagons or steamboats up for several weeks previous, but did not dare say so. 

One night a company of the 13th Kansas regiment of which Colonel Bowen was in command, was drawn up in a line of battle below the house. As a Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Ward expected to watch all night the lights were all extinguished, so they could the better watch the movements of the soldiers. 

Mrs. Mason had gone upstairs to put, on a dark dress So they could easily move about without being seen and had hardly gotten upstairs when she called down that there was a man up there, just as Mrs. Ward had gotten up there her daughter called there was a man down there. As she started down the man slipped past her. After two or three such experiences she met him face to face and inquired of him what he was doing there. He said. "Madam I will not hurt any of your family. She told him to leave there which he did, slipping away in the dark. It was believed he was either a deserter or a spy of some kind trying to hide in the house as when first seen he was coming out of a closet. Had he been found here it might have proven a very serious matter to Mrs. Ward and her family.

One day during the fall of 1864 Mrs. Ward received notice to report at the office of Captain Louden of the Federal forces. Captain Louden having lived at Greenwood knew Mrs. Ward, he being a particular friend of her brother-in-law Mr. J. A. Eno. previous to his death. When she arrived she was told that the retiring 13th Kansas troops under Colonel Bowen were planning to burn the town on their evacuation that night. Captain Louden very kindly offered to send her and her children  to a place of safety. She declined as her husband was somewhere on the way home. Mrs. Ward returned home and gathered her most valuable possessions tying them with some clothing up in a sheet. A small push cart was brought up to the back porch, so as to be in readiness for any emergency, deciding if the worst came to the worst she would place the bundle in the cart and with her children go down under the river bank, her home being very near the Arkansas river.

As darkness came on, the smallest buildings in different parts of the town were fired, then the barns; one  can imagine the feelings of the citizens as they saw their property being destroyed and not knowing where it would end and others expecting theirs to be fired any moment.

During the latter part of the evening a great shouting was heard which struck terror to the hearts of the people, but succor was at hand in the coming of the 18th Iowa, commanded by Colonel Morie. The shouting was that of the troops as they came over Pickett Hill and saw the fires. Colonel Morie and some of his officers had arrived  in Van Buren during the afternoon, leaving his command to camp for the night on the banks of Frog Bayou. Learning of the plan to burn Van Buren he sent a courier to his command to come in at once.

Mr. Ward who was traveling under their protection from Little Rock said they were all settled to spend the night, when all at once there was great commotion in camp and every indication of breaking camp preparatory to marching, which was done in double quick time. Mr. Ward arrived home about eleven o'clock at night, when the noise caused by putting his trunk on the porch was heard the family thought it was the troops coming to burn the house, but their anxiety was turned to joy at the sight of the husband and father and to know the town was saved.   

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