Ledger of Support to Confederate Soldiers’ Families, 1863

Take a trip to the Arkansas Studies Institute. Seriously, just go. It’s a fantastic place full of museum galleries and a wonderful research facility. It’s composed of a branch of the Central Arkansas Library System and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Currently, their Concordia Room gallery has a wonderful exhibit entitles Invasion or Liberation that deals with the different ways in which Arkansans understood the Civil War as it happened.

The exhibit consists of a number of photographs and documents, one of which I really wanted to look at for my dissertation research. I actually didn’t realize it was in the display, but the staff at the Butler Center brought it out anyway, so kudos to them. Anyway, this is the document, the Hempstead County Destitute Families of Confederate Soldiers Account Book.

Neato, right?

This is a ledger for supplies provided to the families of destitute and indigent soldiers in Red Land Township, Hempstead County, during the months of June-September of 1863. It records disbursements of beef, corn, bacon, salt, flour, cotton, and meal to 35 families of dead or disabled soldiers living in the township. It also provides the price paid per unit (pound, bushel, etc.) for each and the total value of goods provided. The county paid out $1,227.20 through this program, averaging $35.48 per household.

This little ledger gives us a snapshot of the kinds of goods that people needed and were provided with during the middle portion of the war. The county had enacted a relief system the previous year, with three commissioners per township. Despite the organization and the successful delivery of goods enumerated in this book, Zornow (1955) indicates that this was not enough. The state started paying $5/month to needy families (under certain conditions) the preceding December, and itself started buying provisions to assist families in October of 1864.

How does this bear on Dooley’s Ferry? It was in Spring Hill Township, not Red Land. I’ll point to two different things. First, any document of the kinds of goods being provided by the county is vitally important, as the goods being provided in one township probably weren’t that different from those provided by other townships.

The real hook is that the family of the ferryman, S.G. Carlock, who was dead by that time, might well have qualified for such support, either when they were still at the ferry or when they had moved to Falcon. Given that one of the commissioners for Spring Hill Township was Thomas F. Reynolds, S.G. Carlock’s former father-in-law, such aid, if not needed, would have been forthcoming.

Other families in and around Dooley’s Ferry could have benefited from such support, such as the Bates or Anderson families who appear on the 1864 maps of the crossing. Regardless, it is an example of the efforts to which the people of the county tried to support the loved ones of men who were in the army, or whose service had rendered them disabled.

It is also a remarkable document in the manner of its construction. Its pages were made from a cut up piece of larger letter paper that was then hand-sewed into a cover made of a single piece of paper folded double. The scratch-built quality of the ledger indexes the difficulty of acquiring paper and proper forms, ledgers, and accounts during the Blockade.

REFERENCES

Zornow, William F.
1955     State Aid for Indigent Soldiers and their Families in Arkansas, 1861-1865. Arkansas Historical Quarterly 14:97-102.

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