March 13, 1863

March 13, 2013
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One hundred fifty years ago, on March 13, 1863, a Confederate commander complained of atrocities in western Arkansas:

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE INDIAN TERRITORY,
Fort Smith, Ark., March 13, 1863.
Comdg. Officer United States Forces, Northwestern Arkansas:
SIR: Within the past few days a party of Indians and white men combined have visited the northern banks of the Arkansas, and have perpetrated acts only characteristic of savages; among other atrocities an old man some fifty years of age, who has taken no part whatever in the war, was taken from his house and brutally murdered. A youth, some sixteen or seventeen years of age, who was at his home sick with the small-pox, was also causelessly and inhumanly murdered. Murders of other harmless and inoffensive non-combatants by the same party are also reported to me. I am informed that this party was composed of a mixed body of Indians and white men, under the ostensible leadership of a man by the name of Benge, and that they claim to be soldiers of the United States. I would respectfully ask whether or not they are recognized as such, and whether the acts herein referred to are approved and justified by the officer in command of the district in which they operate? In the interview had between Lieutenant Stark,. U.S. Army, bearer of a flag of truce, and my assistant adjutant-general, Captain [J. F.]Crosby, reference was had to the removal of families without either line occupied by the armies respectively. It was understood that there had not been, and would not be, any objection made by the United States commander to such removal. Such a course accords fully with my views and actions in regard to this matter, and if there be no mistake in regard to your views, I would be pleased to enter into an officially mutual engagement to that effect.
I am informed that John Cottrell and William Tendon, soldiers of the Confederate States Army, while at their home sick, in the vicinity of Van Buren, were captured and taken off as prisoners of war. I would ask if these and other similar cases are to be so regarded I Will they be paroled, or are you disposed to arrange for an exchange?
I am in receipt of a copy of communication from Colonel Phillips, U. S. Army, to Col. M. La R. Harrison, U.S. Army, commanding post at Fayetteville, Ark., dated March 10, referring to a prior order in regard to the removal of the hospital at Cane Hill, Ark. The inmates of this hospital will be removed as rapidly as their condition will justify. The implied charge of a knowledge on my part of violations of flag of truce going to and from this hospital is both gratuitous and void of foundation. I must beg leave to protest against the application to myself of the same rule which appears to control the officer in command of United States forces. An agent is surely presumed to be better informed than his principal, yet Captain Anderson seems to have been fully aware of the convention referred to.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
WM. STEELE,
Brigadier-General.

Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission

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