William F. Slemons Ch. 977 of the Monticello United Daughters of the Confederacy met for their annual potluck Christmas luncheon in the home of Jan and Harold West where they also took care of some UDC business and heard a program on “The War on the Home Front.”
Hunter Bennett from Star City was the program presenter who spoke on “The War on the Home Front.” She told of many conditions and problems at home in Arkansas while the men were off at war. One was food for both the families and the army. They were encouraged to quit growing cotton and raise wheat and corn instead as supplies were scarce. Food became so scarce in some areas that a wagon train of 1,500 people left Fort Smith in August 1864 for the northwestern states. Others fled to south Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri where the fighting was not as bad. Also, there was danger of being raided by guerrillas, jayhawkers, and bushwhackers.
She went on to say that many social institutions, such as churches and schools, either closed or were deprived of their teachers and ministers. The Arkansas 9th, which had companies from Monticello, was called the Parson’s Regiment as it had 42 ministers in its rank.
Hunter mentioned that in spite of the hardships, dances, parties, and picnics were still held for amusement upon occasion. When the troops were in camp, many of the nearby ladies visited, and dances were held to keep the morale of the troops up. The soldiers also engaged in athletic events to occupy their spare time, and there were horseback competitions by the cavalry, as well as the Army bands entertaining the troops with concerts.
Around the upper White River, mining was done to get niter or saltpeter, which was used to make weapons. Newton and Johnson counties mined for lead before the Union forces overran the area.
Other problems were scarcities of goods. With a very little cotton, cloth mills disappeared, and the home spinning wheel and loom were brought into major use when supplies were available. Shoes became scarce because of the shortage of leather. Because of this, prices rose, and paper currency declined in value until Confederate currency became practically worthless.
When fighting occurred in an area, churches, schoolhouses, and private residences were used for hospitals. Any building in the area often became a temporary hospital. Bennett stated that ladies on the home front and local organizations tried to help, but it was seldom enough because of the shortage of supplies.
Arkansas only had 38 miles of railroad from Hopefield across the Mississippi from Memphis to Madison on the St. Francis River when the war began. Later the tracks reached Little Rock eastward to DeValls Bluff on the White River, but there was a section with no tracks. Steamboats filled the travel gap, as well as stages. Travel from Little Rock to Memphis required at least thirty hours.
The most important means of travel during the war was steamboats as land travel was slow and difficult. Rough and dusty roads turned to muddy and rutted ones with rain, and there were few bridges. Sleeping on the ground and often riding across plank or pole roads were the norm for travel. The stage route was dangerous as bushwhackers were about, and soon the worn-out equipment and accommodations put the Butterfield Overland Stage line out of business.
Bennett finished her presentation on the state of affairs on the home front by saying that with the shortage of paper, there was only one newspaper in the state that was still operating at the end of the war. This was The Washington Telegraph. Mail service also became very inconsistent.
Bennett based her information on the Arkansas History Commission’s “Arkansas Civil War-Life in Confederate Arkansas.”
Twelve members, along with five spouses and one guest, attended the luncheon. The invocation was given by President Beth Thurman.
Dates were given for future 2015 events: Dec. 19 District III Christmas luncheon @ Marlsgate in Scott, AR; Jan. 10, Dedication of the Holly Grove Cemetery in Little Rock , sponsored by the David O. Dodd Chapter in Pine Bluff; Jan. 17, District III’s Lee, Jackson, Maury Dinner @ the Pine Bluff Country Club @ 6 o’clock; Feb. 14, reception for the new President General, Pam Trammell, one of Arkansas’ own members, at the Old State House in Little Rock; March 28, Spring Board in Little Rock; and Sept. 24-26, the UDC Convention in Little Rock @ the Presidential Holiday Inn.
The group congratulated one another on the approval of their marker application through the Sesquicentennial Marker Committee to be placed at the Courthouse in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States. Annette Rawls, treasurer, announced that donations had come in, and the money was in the treasury to pay for the chapter’s half of the marker. Minutes were also read and approved by Secretary Bettye Kellum.
Sue Johnson volunteered to help with the programs for the dedication ceremony, which is in the planning for the marker, and Martha Weatherford of Star City agreed to contact the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Jefferson County about helping with this event. President Thurman and these ladies will do some further meeting about the lineup for this occasion.
Connie Mullis agreed to be the local chairman of the Granddaughter’s Society and collect dues for this club to be sent to the Division Chairman of the club.
Billie Handley and Annette Rawls have some prospective recipients for the Military Service Awards, and they agreed to be working with Hunter Bennett to gather information on these men’s CSA ancestors so that the chapter can honor them for their military service.
At the end of the meeting, the group took our annual pop test about the War Between the States. Billie Handley and Bettye Kellum tied for the winner, so we had to use the bonus question for a tie breaker, and Bettye won. Sara Cottingim from Ohio always sends us some goodies for Christmas. We get three, so the hostess, speaker, and winner of the pop quiz get these neat surprises. This year they were cut-glass mushrooms, which were simply too cute. We cannot thank Sara enough for these surprises.
The meeting was adjourned until the next one, which is also in the home of Jan West. Billie Handley will be presenting a program on the “Role of Confederate Women,” and anyone with a Confederate ancestor is welcome on February 17, at 2:30. Members are from all over Southeast Arkansas.