From the date of the battle of Pea Ridge to the close of the war Benton County was alternately possessed, overrun and devastated by the opposing armies. Provisions, crops and other property was appropriated for the use of the troops; houses were pillaged and burned, and the fences on many farms, especially in the vicinity of the soldiers’ camps, were entirely consumed for fuel. Good, dry rails burned so much easier than green wood, made better fires, and saved the labor of chopping. However, the soldiers only took the “top rails,” but it was understood that after these were taken off the next ones in turn became “top rails,” and so on down to the bottom. Many citizens were wantonly killed, some for their money, and others for no cause whatever. Some were even tortured with fire to compel them to give up their money, or tell where it was concealed. The taking of provisions, horses and other animals for the use of the armies, and the burning of rails for fuel, was authorized by the officers of both; but the burning of buildings, with but few exceptions, if any, the killing of defenseless citizens, and the torturing of others for the purposes of robbery, were not authorized by the officers unless by some inferior subordinates of either army.

War gives an excellent opportunity for thieves and robbers to practice their fiendish profession, and on the occasion of the late war this class of men armed themselves and organized as bandits, and scoured the country, stealing, plundering, burning and murdering as they went. To them and the bushwhackers the greatest atrocities were chargeable. Of the depredations generally authorized by the “usages of war,” the Federal army is undoubtedly chargeable with the greater portion in Benton County, as the citizens were not generally in sympathy with it, while they were in sympathy with the Confederate army, hence the reason. There were bad men in both armies, who committed many misdeeds, for which neither could be held responsible. War is a terrible thing, and it is hoped and fully believed that the people of the United States now living will never see any more of it, especially among themselves. The many individual incidents that occurred in Benton County during the late struggle, if related, would fill a volume in themselves, and consequently cannot be inserted in this work.

Back to: Benton County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.