The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One that never experienced the terrors and destruction of life and property in Civil War days can hardly realize the awful damages done by either armies. Cities, towns, villages, and dwellings were all liable to go down in smoke and ashes. Mr. Ben Hager, who was a young fellow during the Civil War and who lived in Madison County, Arkansas, relates an account of the burning of Huntsville, the county seat of Madison. He said that he did not see the town while it was burning down but he saw the light of it. Here is how he told it.

We were living on Holmans creek two miles south of town.

The destruction of the place occurred about the last of February, 1863, and was set on fire on account of three men being killed near there. The town burned in the night while the weather was calm, cloudy, and no moon. I stood in the dooryard at home and watched the light of the burning town several hours. A high hill lay between our house and the town. The reflection of the fire was so bright and distinct that my father took his family Bible out into the yard and read nearly a chapter in the Book by the reflection of light from the destruction of the town. The only business houses left were Sam Kenners store house and Tom Berry’s Hotel and Even Polk’s Hotel with seven or eight dwellings among them was a house that belonged to Mr. Polk and one that belonged to Dr. Sanders. There were estimated to be 150 buildings of the town destroyed by fire.

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