After a lapse of more than forty years, events that happened so long ago must have been of a very startling nature to retain still a vivd place in memory. It has been said, that there are three things that leave ineffaceable impressions, excessive joy, grief and fright; and the last certainly did for awhile prevail over all other feelings on the occasion I now recall.
The winter of eighteen hundred and sixty-three was unusually severe at Batesville, Ark., and people were in no condition to face the hardships and privations that steadiy grew worse, as first one army and then the other held this country. They consumed what little was raised on the farms by women and small boys, (all able-bodied men being in the army), and the question of daily rations for the family was growing to be a very serious one. I have known girls to ride horseback ten and often twenty miles to get a peck of meal and a few pounds of flour, and they considered themselves lucky indeed to find a little dired fruit. Early in February, I forget the exact date, the weather grew much colder, and ended in a heavy snow, which added greatly to the discomfort alread prevailing.
One of my brothers was at home sick in bed. One evening, mother, my younger brothers and myself were in the sitting room with him, when mother asked me to go out in the dining room and get a glass of water to mix some medicine. To reach the dining room, I had to go down two steps on the back porch on which both it and the kitchen opened. I went through the door of the former, got the glass and water, and turned to go back when happening to glance toward the window, I saw what literally paralyzed me with fright, and instant death seemed before me, for there at the window were crowded a lot of hideous, grinning "feds," jabbering in Dutch and pointing at me. I was simply scared silly, but had sense enough to run for my life, and burst into the sitting room white as a ghost, with eyes so full of horror, that mother came flying to me, saying "Em, what's the matter?" Just as I gasped out, "Mother, the yard if full of "feds!" in they poured, back door and front door, crowding and jabbering some orders in Dutch, which, of course, none of us understood, at which they were getting very angry with us, until one officer, the first American we had seen, pushed his way in and ordered mother to get supper for fifty men. She calmly (while I wondered how she could tak at all), replied that there wasn't enough in the whole neighborhood to feed that many. He made an angry reply and told his men tohelp themselves, which they lost no time in doing.
First they tied their horses all over the year to a lot of young fruit trees, then broke open the store room, etc., soon demolishing what was on hand. I remembernoticing (after I had gotten partily over my scare) a few big Dutch fellows, ravenously "getting away" with a bag of dried apples, which had quite recently been sent to mother from the country, and for which she had exchanged salt, and the sight recalled a conversation I once heard between two little boys on the dried apple question. One boy had a pocket full of this fruit and the other wanted "a Divide," which being refused, he said, "My ma says dried apples raw will swell up and bust you!" which I fervently hoped might be realized in the present instance.
They took possession of anything they saw, and carried things their own way, we meanwhile being all crowded together in the sitting room, glad to know we were still alive. At twelve o'clock, when Colonel Waring and staff arrived, he took our parlor for headquarters, and ordered those Dutch around, like so many dogs, -"begging a dog's pardon!" After his arrival matters did not look so "skeery," for this officer, though a "Fed," was a gentleman in manner, and was very profuse in his apologies to mother, -said "she should be amply remunerated for any and all damages she had sustained, to which he would attend personally, as he was now in command of this section." (which 'tis needless to say was all "bosh,") as his stay was brief, though long enough to leave a heavy mark wherever that Dutch gang raided Batesville that night. Among other things, I think, they found a large quantity of sugar in the basement of the court house, belonging to Gen Case, which they wantonly destroyed.
That was truly a night of terror in Batesville, and even at this late day a sort of "chill" runs over me when I think of those awful "Feds" at the window, when I realized for the first time, what it meant "to be scared silly."
Towards day-break, the whole command moved swiftly north, and a few hours later, Gen Shelby crossed the river with about three thousand men, and followed them a short distance.
It seems this command was reported to be the advance guard of a large force of Federals coming here, but was in reality about five hundred Dutch, know as "Waring's Command," on one of their notorious raids through southern Missouri and north Arkansas.