Return to First Page---ARKANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY, Volume 31, Spring 1972, p. 17
The state's inability to feed itself became apparent in 1861 when the crops of the northwest, the state's largest grain producing region, almost completely failed. Coming on top a poor harvest of the previous year, a serious food crisis existed from the outset.
The situation worsened. In 1862 the wheat rusted, the oats were diseased, the corn was "a remarkable failure," and even the acorns (important as hog food) were bad (6). So bad was the harvest that it was said to be "manifest evidence of the displeasure of God (7)." To make matters still worse, an epidemic of hog cholera cut severely into the meat supply (8).
The next year brought some relief. The fields yielded a bountiful wheat
crop, although part of it could not be harvested because of the absence
of manpower. Nevertheless the price of flour declined from $35 to $40 a
The 1864 crops were good, but since Federal invasion had caused much of the state to be abandoned, little could be done with it. Field upon field of fine corn in the Arkansas River valley grew to maturity and rotted. Thus, the last year of the war brought the greatest scarcity. "The spring of 1865," one veteran recalled, "was the most trying time. People ate anything they could get to sustain life, and some starved to death (10)."
The experience of Judge Brown in keeping his larder stocked was illustrative. Although well-supplied with money, Brown sometimes experienced lean times. The soldiers raided his poultry yard, killing the chickens and depriving him of his egg supply.