Many civilians in the border region of the trans-Mississippi had the misfortune to be in the pathway of armies or guerrillas, and a number of soldiers on both sides commented on their fate. Earlier in the month, I featured a passage about a “toe-pick” from David Lathrop’s, The History of the Fifty-Ninth Regiment Illinois Volunteers (1865). His book also contains a poignant passage about the impact of armies on civilians. Occurring in February 1862, Lathrop described the passage of the Federal army from Keetsville, Missouri, to the Arkansas border:
“At Keetsville nearly all the inhabitants fled. From that point to Cross Hollows about two-thirds of the inhabitants on the road have deserted their dwellings. In several houses the tables were spread for breakfast, and in the hurry of flight was thus left. The washtub was seen filled with water on the back of the chair, indicating that the hegira occurred, as it actually did, on ‘wash-day.’ The doors were ajar, the clock on the mantelpiece had ceased ticking, feather beds were piled in the center of the floor, all sorts of furniture were scattered about, and not a sound was heard but the mewing of a cat. An air of lonesome, heart-sick desolation prevailed. One large dwelling was recently burned down, and the ruins were still smoking. Surely the leaders in this cursed civil war will have much to answer for” (page 78).