The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Outrage in Johnson County

Harrisburg, Poinsett County, April 12, 1865.

Major-General Reynolds, U.S. Army, Commanding U.S. Forces in Arkansas, Little Rock, Ark.

General—The inclosed papers in reference to outrages committed by the Federal troops in the neighborhood of Clarksville, Ark., have been sent to me from district headquarters, with instructions to take action to bring the perpetrators of such infamy to justice. It might be useless to make demands of the immediate officers of such men, and therefore I hope you will pardon me for sending the charges direct to your headquarters and requesting you to issue such orders in the premises as will wipe out this stain from your flag. I will not presume to make suggestions, but leave the matter entirely to your sense of justice and humanity, for such horrid crimes as are related in the inclosed statements will surely sicken the heart and rouse the indignation of every gentleman in your army, and if the guilty parties can be discovered I feel assured that you will properly punish such fiends or turn them over to me for punishment. I would be pleased to know your action in the matter, that I may know whether other steps will be necessary to carry out the instructions from my superior officers.

I have the honor to be, yours, most respectfully, &c.,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

[Inclosure No. 1.]
February 16, 1865.

Col. E. P. Turner, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Colonel—I have just finished reading a letter from Mrs. Swagerty, of Johnson County, Ark., to her husband, Major Swagerty, of McNair’s brigade. The lady is personally known to me, and I put implicit faith in her statement. She describes the conduct of the Federals in the neighborhood of Clarksville since Brooks fired on the boats as perfectly fiendish. Even the persons of the ladies are outraged. I made this extract from her letter, and while it is modestly said, it has its terrible significance:

Mr. Harris escaped being killed, and has gone south. Tell him his wife was greatly abused, but will recover; Mrs. Major Thompson, it is thought, will not. These things are too horrible to write or think of. Colonel Waugh is in command at Clarksville, with about 600 men—negroes, Kansans, and Arkansans. These outrages are committed by his command, and took place about the 18th ultimo. The letter is dated the 25th of January. This command say they will stay where they are until April. The letter was brought out by hand, as well as others, all concurring, I am told, in describing wrongs to our helpless women committed indifferently by black and white.

I hardly know why I write this to you; but yet I have some hope that steps may be taken to secure the helpless women from further wrong, and that some retribution may be devised that may reach the guilty. Wrongs such as are so delicately alluded to in the extract ask prevention and avengers.

I am, colonel, respectfully, &c.,
Provost-Marshal-General, District of Arkansas.

[Inclosure No. 2.]
Center Point, Ark., March 8, 1865.

Major-General Fagan.

General—Having just returned from Johnson County I write you in order to give you some knowledge of the ill treatment of some of your old friends, outrages committed by the Federal soldiery. After being robbed of all their household, wearing apparel, and subsistence, they are then a subject of search for money. Not being satisfied on searching their persons, they are taken from their beds and placed upon beds of fire and tortured for the purpose of getting money. Aunt Tish (Mrs. Howel) was taken from her bed and burned so severely that there is but little hope of her recovery. All the flesh from below the knee of one leg has dropped off. Mrs. Susan Willis at the same time burned severely on the feet. Mrs. Wiley Harris burned by placing her head in the fire, and then whipped almost lifeless. Mrs. Major Thompson burned on head, arms, and hands. I must yet tell you that Isabell, my wife, was taken from her bed and placed upon coals of fire, and after being burned severely was made to go in the damp of night some 400 yards to get money, and made to walk a part of the way with her feet all in a crisp, Isabell’s mother remaining at the house suffering with like punishment. Notwithstanding these outrages, that of still deeper infamy is now the suffering pangs at heart of some of the helpless ladies of Johnson.

Oh, general, the story is true, sad, and sickening. May God avenge their wrongs. These outrages cannot be placed upon any other than the U.S. soldiery. The deserters from the Federal army occupied the county some time previous to the Federals holding post, and did not commit these outrages.

Shall we suffer all this? Have we no spirit to avenge their wrong? I hope the soldiery of Johnson County will not forget the Federal Second Arkansas Regiment, Second Kansas, Fourteenth Kansas, Col. G. M. Waugh, and Colonel Stephenson, that they may, if ever chance offers, mete out to them like reward.

Hoping that some measures may be adopted that will avert any further outrages, I am, general, as ever, your friend and obedient servant,


[First indorsement ]
Lewisville, February 17, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded to Major-General Magruder, at Shreveport, La., for his information and necessary action.

Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Second indorsement.]
Lewisville, Ark., March 6, 1865.

Respectfully referred to Brig. Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson, commanding Northern Sub-District of Arkansas, who will take such measures as he may deem necessary to have the perpetrators of these outrages brought to justice. He will communicate with the Federal commander at Clarksville and demand the men who are guilty of such inhuman outrages.

By command of Major-General Magruder,
Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Third indorsement.]
Harrisburg, April 12, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded to the commanding officer of the Federal forces in Arkansas at Little Rock, with a request that he either punish these fiends or turn them over to the C.S. military authorities for punishment.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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