Saturday, April 18, 2009

Confederate Widows Paper

For those of you who may have been following my posts about Confederate widows of Dallas County, Arkansas I thought I would give you this final post to let you know how things came out. Of the 20 or so widows that I followed almost all had financial difficulties as a result of the loss of their husbands. No surprise there. Only one, Martha Augustine Gee Holmes, managed to continue with some wealth. The reason for this has to be the will her husband left designating her as the recipient of all his property. He was a very wealthy man. This spared her years of anguish as the probate case passed through the court system.

All the husbands of these women had some property before their demise. Unfortunately only Holmes was able to retain any of that in her name. A few women managed to remarry, which means that any property they might have had reverted to their new husbands. One of the most heart-wrenching cases was that of Charlotte Brewer. Here is what I found out about her:

Her husband, Isaac, died sometime after being discharged in October 1861 and before May 1862 when the probate was first began. In May of 1862 an administrator bond of $4,000 was paid by Stephen Johnson for the estate. In July 1862 he was officially granted the rights to administer the estate. In July of 1863 the widow petitioned for her dower “in certain slaves” but her petition was rejected. The case then continued on through the years and in April of 1866 she petitioned the court for the entire estate and was once again was rejected.

The records for this particular session give insight into the plight of this poor widow. The court minutes note that the administrator was asked to provide her with "provisions to live on to a small amount [and] he is hereby authorized to do so." Surely this poor widow was suffering, not only from the loss of her husband and the deprivations of the war, but from the lack of relief that should have been provided by the courts. This case continued on through 1867.

As Mary Chestnut once wrote, “you can never exaggerate the horrors of war on one’s own soil. You understate the agony, strive as you will to speak, the agony of heart--mind—body.” The Civil War was devastating to the wealth and economy of Dallas County and to the lives of the widows of Dallas County Confederate soldiers who gave their all.

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