Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks
A Website Review by Sharon G. Whitney
The home page of this website aptly describes the focus:
“This collection offers a portrait of life in the Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma between the years of 1850 and 1875. It includes photographs, letters, journals and other artifacts that relay the difficulty of conducting everyday matters amid the destruction of the American Civil War. The accounts in this collection offer first hand perspectives on this conflict from a variety of sources: soldiers and civilians, merchants and farmers, men and women.
Community and Conflict: the Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks collects primary source documents from museums, libraries, archives and private individuals from across the Midwest. Together, these contributing institutions offer their collections as an indispensable resource for researchers. This site examines not only the military history of the American Civil War, but demonstrates the lasting repercussions of the War for citizens, soldiers, slaves, women and children. This project is part of the Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative funded by a Federal Library Services and Technology Act grant administered by the Missouri State Library.”
I found the site user-friendly. I love its homepage. Its audio-visual immediately immerses you into the feel of a live-action social history experience. It allows you to do an advanced “keyword” search or to browse by their collections. Their collections are by “County,” “Theme,” or “Battles.”
I started my browsing by “County.” Browsing by county takes you to a map of southwestern Missouri, eastern Kansas, northern Arkansas, and Indian Territory. From there you can select any county within the map. My own county of interest is Barry, Missouri, just across the border from Benton and Carroll counties, Arkansas, and not far from “Indian Territory.”
Clicking on Barry County took me to a county map with wrap-around text giving the year it was formed (1835), its total population in 1860 (7,748), its slave population in 1860 (257), and Civil War battles (one notable skirmish at Keetsville now called Washburn, February 25, 1862).
Thereafter follows a brief narrative about its agriculture, early settlers, and impact of the Civil War. Such textual material helped me build historical context for my family of interest.
Of course historical context is important. Just as important are tidbits that lead to additional original sources. What I found most relevant for my own Confederate Hedrick ancestors in Barry County—particularly with respect to records that might have been kept at the county courthouse in Cassville—is the following information: “The Battle of Pea Ridge, in Benton County, Arkansas, in March of 1862 put Barry County in Union control. The Union army used the county courthouse as their headquarters, suspending county government for the duration of the war.”
The above paragraph helped me to explain why a marriage that occurred in 1862 could not be filed until 1868 because, as certified by the justice of the peace “the county court clerk’s office was vacant in 1862.” Indeed, during the Civil War, most businesses had shut down and over half of the population had fled the area. Eventually, the county sued the federal government for funds to repair damage the Union army had caused to the courthouse when it was used as Union headquarters; the federal government granted this reparation.
The Barry County page at the Community and Conflict site also provides a link to the resources for Barry County, including family collections of Civil War letters, lawsuits, and proceedings of the short-lived Confederate government in Missouri.
Theme Browsing covers: Agriculture, Economics, Guerilla Warfare, Home Front, Refugees, Medicine, Military Life, Minorities, Politics and Government, Reconstruction, Slavery and Urbanization. The “Home Front” theme gave me insight into what “Aunt Pliney” (my great grandfather’s surrogate mother after his mother died) went through while her husband soldiered for General Price to recapture Missouri for the Confederates.
Battle-Browsing features the following battles: Carthage (1861), Dug Springs (1861), Wilson’s Creek (1861), Zagonyi’s Charge (Springfield, 1861), Pea Ridge (1862), Newtonia (1862), Prairie Grove (1862), Springfield (1863), Hartville (1863), Mine Creek (1864), Newtonia (1864) and Price’s Missouri Expedition (1864).
For any family historian wanting an immediate sense of time and place and impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks, this website is a must. Browsing themes enables you to immerse yourself in the community and conflict. Better yet: the site offers images of original sources for genealogical research. Highly recommended and happy hunting!
 Springfield-Greene County (Missouri) Library District, “Community and Conflict,” article, Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks (http://www.ozarkscivilwar.org : accessed 30 December 2011).