April 11, 2007 Edition

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A personal look
at Arkansas life
during Civil War

John Bland
Publisher

My knowledge of the Civil War is minimal, and I knew even less about how Arkansas was affected by the war. However, thanks to Samuel R. Phillips, I now know more.

He has shared a copy of the book that he edited. It is titled, "Loyalties Divided: The Journal of Young Mary Adelia Byers," Civil War Years 1862-1865 Batesville, Arkansas. Mary was his great-grandmother.

Samuel Phillips is the nephew of the late Clare (Mrs. W.A. "Junie") Dowell, who lived in Walnut Ridge for many years. Mary Adelia Byers was Clare Dowell's grandmother.

His efforts to edit and publish Mary's journal have resulted in a treasure for his family members and an interesting personal perspective on the Civil War years for others.

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Samuel Phillips dedicated the book in memory of Clare (Phillips) Dowell, "with love and thanks for encouragement." Upon seeing the book's title, it was evident that Clare and Junie Dowell gave family names to their daughters, Mary Clare Brierley of Little Rock and Delia Dowell Buffington of Austin, Texas, who both grew up in Walnut Ridge.

******

Mary Adelia Byers began writing the journal on June 23, 1862, when she was age 15. Her entries give much insight to the times. The back cover states, "As young Mary vacillates between girl and woman, she shares the excitement, drama, sickness, death, religious fervor, love and villainy."

The editor enhances Mary's journal with the addition of maps, paintings and an explanation of the main characters and their relation to Mary. He also gives commentary on significant historical war events that occur on journal entry dates.

******

In the publication is an 1860 map that shows Arkansas towns in existence at that time. Most of the towns were located along rivers, which were obviously important transportation routes. The map shows Pocahontas in Randolph County and Smithville, Powhatan and Clover Bend in Lawrence County. Jacksonport is shown, but not Newport in Jackson County.

"Loyalties Divided" is the perfect name for the book, as people in the Batesville area were torn between loyalties to the southern Confederates and the northern Federal troops, who twice occupied the town during the war.

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In the journal, Mary writes of her internal struggles with her religious beliefs and thoughts on her suitors. Her father had died when she was eight, and she, her mother, and three siblings rely on her father's older brother, Uncle William Byers.

Death of the young and old, not to mention soldiers, is almost a daily occurrence. Transportation is by horseback, and she and her family adjust to the many societal changes taking place at the time.

Despite the war and circumstances, Mary and her family seemed to maintain a stable, decent lifestyle. She writes of much socializing with frequent houseguests, dances and soirees, book club meetings and visits to the homes of relatives and friends. I suspect this might have been due to her family's social status as well as the limited forms of entertainment and transportation at the time.

Editor Phillips concludes the book with historic articles that relate to Mary's family and a postscript about Mary and her family. In 1869, Mary married Robert Neill. They had 10 children, with seven living past infancy. Robert Neill would serve in congress during the 1890s.

Note: Samuel R. Phillips is a consulting engineer and management consultant in Grass Valley, Calif.

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