The New Era, Fort Smith, Arkansas

December 12, 1863


We have before us papers printed at this place at various periods since this war began, and private notes dated back through several years, up to the time the rebel rule was brought to a close in this portion of our country forever. Our thought rarely ever wander back to the dark past without a feeling of extreme repugnance and horror, followed by deep emotions of gratitude to the Almighty for His deliverance from cruel tyranny and bondage.

We cannot conceive any extraordinary merit to be attached to being a Union man in a loyal State, where the current of popular feeling was in that direction, while at the same time the opposite position ought to be visited there on any individual with marks for deep disgrace. But to have been an uncompromising Union man in any of the seceded States, at all times and through every vicissitude of this eventful war, hoping often against hope, and losing, not even for a single moment, faith in the justice of the national cause, as well as the ability of the Government ultimately to triumph over the most gigantic conspiracy ever concocted by any set of men in any country or age- this deserves the fullest admiration and applause of every right thinking man. And such were the Union men of the South.

When the storm first broke in its irresistible fury, sweeping everything before it like the deadly blast of the desert, not a breath of Union sentiment was discoverable any where, each faithful heart keeping its love for its country locked up in the deepest recesses of the heart. Up to the close of ’61 there was scarcely a Union man who did not think himself the only one who had kept his faith inviolate. The National arms had met with terrible disaster, and the rebels flushed with success- a success obtained only by years of thorough and secret organization and preparation against a nation altogether unconscious of the magnitude of the impending danger, and betrayed by those who should have endeavored to avert the impending calamity- expected a complete and easy victory.

Then came a glorious series of successes of the National arms, from the Atlantic to the border of civilization, beginning at Fishing Creek, and including Fort Henry, Donelson, Columbus, Pea Ridge, Island No. 10, Memphis, New Orleans, Roanoke Island, etc., etc., which raised the drooping spirits of all loyal hearts from the depth of despondency to a state of high hopes and glorious anticipation for the future. Nearly everyone in this section of the country, implicated in the work of treason, got ready in the utmost haste to escape to Texas. The greatest consternation prevailed in the secech ranks after the battle of Pea Ridge, in which two best officers the rebels ever had in Arkansas were killed.

Old Pap and Van Dorn did not stop their precipitate flight till they had reached the Arkansas River, and their disorganized and demoralized force could never have made a successful stand, had our army been able to keep them in the pursuit. Then the Union people were exultant, and doubted not that their deliverance was close at hand. So hopeless did their own cause appear to the rebels themselves that they talked about burning the Fort and the town of Fort Smith, to keep them from falling into the hands of their enemies, and bitterly denounced all those who went about their business and did not seem to be very much put out at the prospect of Federal occupation.

But the expected relief did not come so soon, and the bitterest part of the cup had yet to be drained. Despairing for the future to raise armies for their wicked plans by voluntary enlistments, since the artificially gotten up excitement had died out among the masses, and rebel leaders had recourse to the despotic system of conscription, in imitation of the monarchs of the old countries. But before they enforced their tyrannical behests, they thought it necessary to disarm the people, and so rigidly was this carried out here, by the order of brute Hindman, that scarcely a gun was left in the hands of a citizen, unil he kept it concealed or was known to be an out and out secesh.

Thousands of loyal men, liable to conscription, then went north and not a few were taken prisoner in the attempt, and paid for it with their lives. As a matter of course, the majority of the Union people could not leave, and many were compelled to take up arms in a cause which they abhorred. This, and the ferocious conduct of Hindman toward his own men, accounts, in a great measure, for the ill success with which the rebel arms was accompanied in Arkansas. Before the Battle of Prairie Grove, the strength of Hindman’s Army was estimated at 25,000 men. He came back with less than half of that number, claiming a magnificent victory, after encountering but a portion of the Federal Army, vastly inferior in point of numbers to his own, and running away in the dead of the night, with blankets wrapped around the carriage wheels to prevent his flight from being known.

After Hindman’s departure, and with a large and appointed Union Army in our midst, no doubt was entertained by every Union man, but that all troubles were at an end and deliverance certain. But they were again destined to be more bitterly disappointed. It was with feelings of indescribable dismay and anguish, that we, in common with every loyal heart, learned that Major General Blunt had been ordered to fall back again, giving the Rebels once more undisturbed possession of a part of Western Arkansas. Then commenced the most trying time for Union men. Many, in the assurance of deliverance, had made their real sentiments, had had to flee from home, concealing themselves until a favorable opportunity offered for escaping within the Federal lines. Until then, few excesses upon the life or property of Union men had been committed. But now commenced a different order of things. The life and property of every man, known or suspected to be a Union man, was at the mercy of every ruffian, and even the Rebel Indians were permitted to commit excesses on the citizens of this State, which recalled to mind the ferocious warfare in which the early settlers of this country were engaged. The extermination of the Union people seemed to have been determined upon, and the death at the hands of the infamous Fitz Williams and his crew, of a large number of Union men, bid far to verify this supposition, or rather open assertion, for it was a favorite saying among the rebels that Union men, or “Black Republicans” could not breathe the same atmosphere with “loyal” southern men.

For many a weary and anxious month this terrible state of affairs was protracted, and almost daily, reports were received of outrages committed upon Union families, and as the National arms gained victory after victory on the Mississippi and elsewhere, so the persecution waxed hotter and hotter here. But the darkest hour is just before the day break. Relief came at length, and quite unexpectedly, when it did come, though looked for so long and anxiously; for scarcely any information, when unfavorable, was permitted, by the rebel authorities, to reach the people.

The 1st of September, 1863, will long be remembered in Fort Smith as a joyous day when the Union Army, commanded by Major General Blunt, made their entrance into this place, after having, in a short and brilliant campaign, utterly routed the rebel force, superior in number and commanded by three Generals. Thus ended the time of tribulation of men who remained proof for years against every attempt to persuade or coerce, flatter and bride, or threaten; against every consideration of private gain and advantage, against the incessant and most malignant misrepresentation of the Government and people of the loyal States, against al the imputations of shame and disgrace, heaped upon those who declined to be “southern” patriots. Such have been the trials of the “Union Men” in this portion of the South, and we repeat, that the many fiery ordeals through which they had to pass, justly entitles them to the fullest confidence and respect of every loyal man, in every portion of our country.

The booming of cannon awoke the denizens of this place from their slumber last Monday at daybreak. It was, of course, in commemoration of the Battle of Prairie Grove, fought on the 7th of December, 1862, with what result is a matter of history now. The papers of this place, and elsewhere, came out a few days afterwards, with a flaming proclamation of braggadocio Hindman’s announcing to the world of having gained a “magnificent victory”, forgetting to state however, that he ran off in the dead of night with muffled cannon’s wheels, for which purpose he took his poor men’s blankets, and making this latter mean transaction an excuse for stealing all the carpets in Fort Smith.

We had the pleasure of meeting Colonel Johnson, 1st Arkansas Infantry, this week, who is staying in town a few days, on business. he reports Price, Marmaduke & Company no nearer than 180 miles from this place. Guerrillas are the only enemy now creating any trouble, but there will be few left at the close of winter.


The review of the troops stationed hear this town and Van Buren, and intended to have been held on the anniversary of the Battle of Prairie Grove, but postponed on account of unfavorable weather, came off on the 9th inst. The day was most propitious, the weather being more like May than December.

Race track prairie was the place of rendezvous, and about noon long columns of Infantry were seen emerging from the woods, their burnished weapons glittering gaily in the splendor of an unclouded, noonday sun. These were followed by Artillery and horses.

The head of the column, consisting of the 18th Iowa, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, (Colonel Edwards being Commander of the Post,) took position just below the fine mansion, once owned by that notorious rebel, Elias Rector, formerly U S Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

The 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, Colonel Williams commanding, next wheeled into line, followed by the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry, Colonel Crawford Commanding, 2nd Kansas Battery, Captain Smith, 6th Kansas Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel Campbell commanding, 13th Kansas Infantry, Major Woodruff commanding, 3 Kansas Battery, (taken from the rebels), Lieutenant Dudley commanding, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry, Major John C Schroeling commanding, 14th Kansas Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel Moonlight commanding.

There were in all about 10,000 effective men on the ground, ready to meet the foe and battle for their country. A salute of 13 guns announced the arrival of Major General James G Blunt and Brigadier General John McNeil with their staffs. The inspection then took place, the General and staffs passing along the whole front of the extensive line, and after passing up in the rear, posted themselves opposite and center, in front, ready for review. The different regiments then filed past in “common time”, making a fine and most war-like appearance. The mounted part of the command then passed review the second time in “double quick”, giving the initiated a faint idea of the shock produced by a cavalry charge.

The whole affair passed off very satisfactorily to the participants, as well as the spectators. It was indeed the finest treat that could be offered to a loyal man, to witness such a display, after having seen nothing but ‘grey backs’ for years.


We are pained to announce the death, on the 10th inst., at 10 p m, of Dr. Robinson, Surgeon, 2nd Kansas Cavalry, of chronic diarrhea. The Doctor had been sick about two months, and about three weeks ago, had improved so far as to be considered out of danger. Shortly afterwards he relapsed, and sunk gradually under the ravages of the disease which makes greater havoc in an army than almost all other diseases combined. Our acquaintance with Dr. Robinson has not been of long standing, having know him only since his arrival among us about three months since. But being a near neighbor of his kind hostess, we were brought into frequent intercourse with him, and found him at all times to be a gentleman of high tone, refined and cultivated manners, and a most agreeable companion. He was a native of Massachusetts, one of the early champions of liberty in Kansas, of which State he had held the office of Secretary of State, at one time, and when his country once more required his services in the field, left home and all its charmes, to assume the laborious, noble, and often painful duties of Surgeon, for which he, from his professional skill and fine qualities of head and heart, was eminently qualified. No nobler epitaph can be erected to his memory than that “he died in the service of his country”. His widow resides, if we mistake not, in Massachusetts, with her parents; and we earnestly trust that she may be consoled in her heavy bereavement with the assurance that she will meet him again, where sorrows and pains cannot enter, and where there is no parting forever.

It must be a matter of great gratification to his relatives and friends to know that, during the whole period of his long and painful disease, he received the most unremitted attention and motherly care of the Christian lady with whom he had taken up his abode, Miss Sarah Clark. It had had been a son or brother, he could not have been more tenderly nursed, and, though we know that praise or thanks are repugnant to the lady’s feelings, we must say that she did perform her part, as a sincere and devoted Christian only can do it.

HOW TO PROLONG LIFE- The difference between rising in the morning at 6 or 8 o’clock for forty years, amounts to 29,200 hours or 3 year, 121 days and 16 hours, being eight hours a day for ten years; so that by rising two hours earlier, ten years will be added, each day furnishing eight working hours for self improvement or business.

DIED- In this city, December 5th, Mr. Charles A Birnie, Senior, in the 61st year of his age.

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