At the outbreak of the Civil War, Susan Bricelin Fletcher Lewis was a young wife with a three year old son, and lived in a slave-holding family in Saline County, Ark. Long-time residents of Arkansas with family roots in several southern states, the males in her family all enlisted in the Confederate army despite disapproving of the act of secession, leaving Susan alone on the plantation with her son, a niece of her husband's and some "faithful" slaves. Throughout the war, Mrs. Lewis and her dependents suffered from the pillaging of marauding northern soldiers, and was able to see her husband by having him hide in the woods and sneak in at night. By carefully secreting her money and other valuables and smuggling in essential goods underneath their hoop skirts, the women managed to survive, though not always easily.
By 1864, the situation had deteriorated too much for Lewis to remain any longer, and under duress and the threat of being burned out by some rough hewn troops from Iowa, she and her dependents fled to Benton, Ark., a town under union occupation where the Lewises had relatives. Carefully sewing all of the hidden family gold into her petticoats, Mrs. Lewis then obtained a pass through the lines from Gen. Frederick Steele, crossed into Confederate territory, and remained there until the close of the war.
After the war, Mrs. Lewis and her husband settled on a plot of land near Little Rock that had been bequeathed to her by her father. Bitter over the defeat of the Confederacy and the new political liberties granted to former slaves, Mrs. Lewis expressed a contempt for the men who built their fortunes in the Reconstruction economy, and she continued to defend slavery as more a northern sin than southern.