Rice Family Papers

22nd Arkansas Infantry Flag
Image courtesy of the Old State House Museum, Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rice family papers consist of five letters written between family and friends of Isaac Tandy Rice and his wife Mary C. Rice. Isaac served in Company F, 35th Arkansas Infantry, CSA during the Civil War. He left home on October 9, 1862 and enlisted as a private in the regiment. The 35th Arkansas Infantry was initially organized at Fort Smith, Arkansas in July 1862. It was later reorganized, and became known as the 22nd Arkansas Infantry. The Regiment participated in battles at Helena (July 4, 1863), Little Rock (September 10, 1863), and Jenkins’ Ferry (April 30, 1864).

Rice was named chaplain of the 22nd Regiment in February 1863. His letters home often focused on family news. The Rice family was extensive, and many left their homes in Arkansas as refugees bound for Texas. As the Rice family struggled, Isaac passionately wrote about his desire for the war to end.

O Lord how long Shall this vile war continue. how long before the turbid waves of Strife continue to beat upon our once happy and prosperous country. how long shall it be, before we shall hear the last echo of the war bugles sound in our midst, and tell to the poor soldier that peace has been conquered, go home to rest once (more)…
Isaac Rice Letter to Mary Rice – May 3, 1863

Rice’s regiment eventually marched to Texas, where he reunited with Mary in September 1864 after being separated for two years. Isaac and Mary were glad to be reunited, but letters between family members often wondered what became of their homes, possessions and livelihoods they left behind.

My Dear Sister…I Seize the present favorable opportunity of writing you a few lines to inform you that we are all well… George said Brother Will & Nath have gone back to Ark. He Said The Feds had burnt his Ma up again. I Sometimes wish I was back there with them I am araid the people will Suffer up there. Oh, that the allwise Creator would put and end to strife and bloodshed and bring the poor Soldiers home to those who so anxiously await their return and permit them to live in peace and quiet till time should end.
Bell Scruggs Letter to Mary Rice – April 16, 1865

After the Confederate surrender in May 1865, Isaac and his family planned their return home to northwest Arkansas. News from home, however, was grim. Friends and family wrote of the destruction of houses, towns and fortunes. Rice lost several family members during the War. “Uncle Jesse, Aunt Polly, John their youngest Son and Mary, their youngest daughter, are all dead. Their house was robbed of its contents and burned. Their Stock was driven off.”1 Rice wrote to a friend that their family’s land was completely destroyed, along with the town where they grew up. Even after the War, the stability of the region was still questionable, and many families postponed their return home.

After a considerable length of time I proceed to drop you a few lines, Tho. I am at a loss to know where to begin, or what to say first. …we have been in this State two years, having been over powered by the enemy. I never thought much of Texas, and Since I have been forced to try it, I think much less of it. Objections, too numerous to mention.  …I expect that we will have to begin at the Stump, when we go back, for we have neither house nor home. our houses have all been burned, farm destroyed, and Stock killed or driven off…I expect that we will have a rough time to get back in, but I’ll meet the raging of a Stormy winter rather than to remain in this Awful Texas.
Isaac Rice Letter to J. W. Matlock – October 23, 1865

Rice’s experience was not unique to his family or confederate refugees. Across the Ozarks men, women and children were displaced by the Union Army and bands of bushwhackers. Regardless of their political affiliation, all refugees faced similar issues returning home. Towns and homes were destroyed, and rebuilding was a monumental task. The Rice family papers document the struggles civilians faced as the war continued to plague their life long after the last shot was fired.

Contributed by Rogers Historical Museum

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  1. Isaac Tandy Rice. Letter to J. W. Matlock. 1865 Oct 23. 1993.49.10 Rice Family Letters, 1863-1867, Rogers Historical Museum, Rogers, Arkansas.