Maj. Joseph Graham and his charming family were well known in Camden in the times before the war as leaders in society. Their wealth, education and prominence made the old Graham mansion a notable place. Maj. Graham was a first cousin of Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, and his wife was Mary Washington, who inherited the blood of her kinsmen, George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
The first company of Confederate soldiers to leave Camden, in 1861, was the Camden Knights. They were assigned to the First Arkansas Regiment and were ordered to far-off Virginia. Fathers, husbands and brothers of the principal families were on the roll of this company, and it was a sad trial to the dear ones left behind that two or three weeks were necessary to convey a letter to or fro. But soon other companies were formed and ordered to different commands.
The ladies of Camden, after bidding adieu to their loved ones, dried their tears and began the life that has endeared the Southern woman to the old Confederate soldier. A society was organized to make clothes for the soldiers, gather medicines and write them cheering letters. Mrs. J.H. Graham was chosen president and soon became the guiding light. The writer was a member of that society and well remembers the perfect unity that prevailed, notwithstanding the fact that all religious denominations and all classes of society were represented. Mrs. Graham gave freely of her money and her time. She fed the hungry, clothed the threadbare and nursed the sick back to life. Two soldiers died in her home, whom she had nursed as tenderly as their mother could have done.
Whole suits of clothes and undergarments were made by ladies who had not previously ever made one. A tailor or skilled woman in cutting was employed to cut out garments, which were frequently taken home to be returned in a few days. Many however, preferred to work at the society meetings and exchange the news and gossip of the day.
The woods were scoured for roots and barks to dye the Confederate gray. They resurrected the spinning wheel, carded and spun.
General Sterling Price's bodyguard, one frosty morning, halted long enough at Mrs. Graham's to receive eighty pairs of socks. Mrs. Caroline Burk knitted a sock one day that a poor Confederate soldier might have two pairs as he was hurriedly ordered away. Mrs. Tyra Hill knitted a pair of socks as she rode in her carriage from Camden to Washington on a visit to her son. These women had been delicately reared, but they remembered that they were Southern women and that the South had now need of their work. They frequently toiled all day and far into the night, so that some passing soldier might be cared for or the box for their distant loved ones made ready.
But few are now living that helped Mrs. Graham to pack boxes of clothing for the boys in gray. Mr. and Mrs. Graham and six children are sleeping in the old Camden cemetery. Only one child survives them, Mrs. Laura Toney of Woodberry Ark., a worthy descendant of a noble famly.
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