Sunday, November 28, 2021

With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861-1874 (Histories of Arkansas)

Arkansas had an interesting role in the US Civil War. The state was reluctant to secede from the union. They initially voted not to. Even as other states were separating, they wanted to remain. However, as soon as the federal government demanded troops to fight against the southern rebels, the state changed its mind and only one person remained in favor of the remaining in the union.

The sentiments were not felt uniformly throughout the state. There were many pockets (especially in the north) that rebelled against the rebels. When caught, some of these were executed, while others were required to serve in the confederate army. (You can just imagine how great these soldiers would have been!)

There were many battles that took place in Arkansas. Plenty of destruction took place in the land, but very little had a significant impact on the course of the war. Arkansas was primarily the place in between Missouri and New Orleans. There were land and sea skirmishes to protect the trade routes. The confederates seemed to do ok at first, but then the federals got the upper hand. When the confederates finally looked like they were going to have some success, troops were called away as reinforcements in other theaters.

Reconstruction was a mess. There was plenty of reports of voting irregularities. (Many of these were in the name of the "good guys" enforcing reconstruction.) There was a time when the "old" prewar leaders seemed to return to their leadership position. That was quickly quashed by the radical reconstruction. During reconstruction, huge amounts of money were spent with some results (such as railroads), but no enough to justify the expense. It was a common case of idealism and "somebody else's money". There was plenty of graft to go around. 

There were some gains for the former slaves. However, these were gradually whittled away as the the old guard took power. Most former slaves ended up as sharecroppers. The old landholders had land. They had labor. The groups worked out a relationship. Alas, the crop prices took a dive, and few of the sharecroppers managed to gain their own land.

The end of the civil war was not the end of hostilities in Arkansas. There were plenty of people that were fighting for their own reasons. The Ku Klux Klan gained popularity and was especially strong in some counties. A state militia was brought up to defend the government. There were spies and casualties. Later there was a contested election for governor that lead to physical battle lines being drawn in Little Rock. There just did not seem to be an end to fighting.

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