Helena Ark Feb 5th 1864
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Their cabins consist of an incongruous assemblage of miserable huts no attempt haveing been made towards introduceing any system whatever Their floors are on or quite near the ground they have no windows and are only lighted by holes in the roofs consequently in rainy weather most of their Scanty Bedding is wet their floors are damp and no wonder that from this little community they have already furnished one hundred and sixteen subjects for the Graveyard notwithstanding quite a number had been sent off sick
And in addition to other inconveniences a recruiting officer or as they termed them (De Pressers) came among them, and carried away twenty of the Best men leaveing some families without any men to assist them
Some of those women thus left alone with little children seemed discouraged whilst others were quite cheerful I will give a single instance one Martha Thompson eighteen years old had a small Babe when asked where her husband was replied he run away the first chance and joined the union army The next question asked was how she come there she replied her brother come with her but that the pressers took him I enquired how she made a liveing she replied that she left her baby with a neighbor and then went and piled cord wood she seemed cheerful and determined
I met with but few Cases of Sickness in camp
The people invariably said Messrs Love & Hugus [the contractors] had measured the wood that they cut and corded fairly and had paid them promtly every saturday night if they wished for their pay they also said that there had been at all times provisions on hand for sale but some of them complained of the prices that they had to pay Beef 12 cts pr lb pork 12 cts pr lb flour 7 cts pr lb meal 6 cts pr lb and some of the people complained of the prices of Clotheing Shoes $3.75 c[ents] pr pair Blankets $5.00 a piece common coarse coats $12.00 pants $7.00 Shirts $3.00 As to the distribution of those donated goods I was careful when makeing the Registration to make a minute of the wants of the most destitute and sickly and if I could have had a room and some one to have assisted me I would have adopted the ticket System but haveing but little room and no assistance I made amongst the needy as near an equal distribut[ion] as I could make Then I gave out as rewards for industry the ballance on hand with the exception of a few articles for Small Boys that was not needed which I have returned
Most of the clothing was very thankfully received indeed but I heard of one woman expressing dissatisfaction with the Smallness of the donation
Those people had at one time begun a meeting house but after so many of the men were pressed they abandoned the undertakeing but they still have some religious meetings have hopes of happiness after death and all of them believe that President Lincoln is their friend
There is no Physician here to administer medicine to the sick neither is there any preparations being made for a school nor have those people had any Rations issued to them from the goverment they have relied solely upon their own industry for a support
The price paid for cutting and cording wood is one dollar pr cord other hands are paid for loading the waggons and 12: cts pr cord is paid for cording at the River after it is halled
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A W Harlan
Excerpts from A. W. Harlan to Maj. W. G. Sargent, 5 Feb. 1864, Retained Copies of Reports, Reports Received, & Miscellaneous Papers, series 379, Little Rock AR Superintendent of Freedmen, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.
Published in The Wartime Genesis of Free Labor: The Lower South, pp. 786–89, and in Free at Last, pp. 214–16.