The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Re: Forced colonization in northwest Arkansas

Yes, sir, and here's where Bussey dropped the nuke --

Fort Smith, Ark., May 9, 1865.

Col. John Levering, Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Arkansas.

Sir—Your letter informing me that the general commanding had approved Colonel Harrison’s (First Arkansas Cavalry) colony system, and the issue of provisions to the same, is just received. Permit me to state that these colonies are not formed by the people, but by Colonel Harrison, who has virtually driven the people from their homes to these colonies. The people are very much opposed to the manner in which these colonies are organized, and hundreds of them have appealed to me for relief, stating that they did not want to leave their homes, where they were able to live without assistance from the Government. At a public meeting in Fayetteville Major Worthington, now dead, declared in a speech that any man who did not go into these colonies would be shot and have his house burned, &c. Colonel Harrison was present at this meeting, and did not correct the impression which went out—that every man must go into the colonies or be considered a bushwhacker. I have no confidence in any home-guard organization which is compulsory. If the people are oppressed, as I believe they are, they will accomplish no good and their families will starve. I have carefully investigated the facts, and have the testimony of nearly all the officers of the First Arkansas Cavalry, and many citizens who are vouched for as loyal men, and they all express the same view of the subject. I have every reason to believe that Colonel Harrison is organizing these colonies for the purpose of controlling the vote of seven counties to elect him to Congress next fall. He was a candidate two years since and will be again. He has issued full rations to what he styles militia of Arkansas, men who are enrolled as your militia at Little Rock are. This includes all home colonies or labor organizations, and I assure you there is no necessity for it, as I have abundant evidence to prove. In fact, many parties who were enrolled were too proud to take the ration, but it was issued to the sergeant and disposed of no doubt for private gain. Colonel Harrison has been over two years at Fayetteville, and I am convinced he has been there too long. An immense steam tannery has been carried on up there at Government expense, and the leather when manufactured has been sold to citizens. I am having this matter investigated. There is no rebel force in Northwest Arkansas. Colonel Harrison wrote to the Treasury Department at Little Rock a few days since urging that a large amount of goods be permitted to Fayetteville (which I have evidence to believe he is interested in), and stating as a reason that the people were nearly all loyal, and that “an officer in full uniform could ride over seven counties alone without danger.” If this be true the people can organize near their homes for their own protection, when they know that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. I believe I have examined this subject with impartiality, and have had these views forced upon me by the overwhelming testimony of those who are acquainted with the facts. You will doubtless remember that I wrote you two or three letters in March speaking favorably of Colonel Harrison’s colonies. At that time I had heard nothing of them except his letters. I have directed Colonel Harrison to permit the people to organize colonies, but not to interfere to compel them, and to encourage them in every possible manner, but to stop the issue of rations to the militia. Colonel Harrison should have forwarded his communications through this office, as he expected they would be presented to department headquarters, where he hoped, by the assistance of Governor Murphy, to have his policy approved.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Messages In This Thread

Forced colonization in northwest Arkansas
Re: Forced colonization in northwest Arkansas
Re: Forced colonization in northwest Arkansas