Friday, July 2, 2010

College Looted!

War swept through the Arkansas plateau known as Cane Hill on November 28, 1862, during the Prairie Grove campaign. Among the communities in the area was Boonsboro (now known as Canehill), the home of Cane Hill College. This institution, established in 1834, evolved into a four year college in 1852. Following the fighting in the area, Union soldiers settled in for several days. Among them was an Ohio artilleryman named Robert T. McMahan who chronicled some “jayhawking” in his diary. In McMahan’s words:

“November 28, 1862….We camped in the boro and buried one or two of the rebel dead. Bookstore plundered. Cane Hill College suffered to the extent of the loss of her libraries (in part) and her chemical apparatus in toto. There was several shells fired by our men into the meetinghouse by the college as the rebels had posted themselves near and around it….

November 30, 1862: On guard last night and today. Search made this morning for Jayhawked property. Four books found in the battery. I had more than that rolled up in my blankets which they however did not see fit to examine?? My first hawking too. Young man in the 3rd Wis. [cavalry] tied up to a tree for three hours because he had the telescope from the Cane Hill College… (3 feet long).”

And what did McMahan jawhawk? Apparently the following items…

“December 1, 1862: Am now flush with Geological works. Have Hitchcock’s Geology, Hugh Miller’s food and fruits and Humbolt’s Cosmos Volumes 1 and 2” (p. 83-84).

Robert T. McMahan’s diary is part of the excellent Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River series edited by Michael E. Banasik and published by the Camp Pope Bookshop of Iowa City, Iowa.

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