This week 150 years ago, the cadets at the newly-built St. John’s College in Little Rock are witnessed on the parade grounds busying themselves with military drill. Last week;s column was based on the diary of a school teacher, whose students this week are seen executing “various manoeuvre of the drill”.
It is no coincidence regarding the timing of the cadet drill, as last week’s column refers to the election of Lincoln, which sets off a chain reaction around the South, ultimately leading South Carolina to secession in less than a month from now, 150 years ago. The reader must make themselves aware of the political and social climate in the South to fully understand the significance of the events surrounding the participants in the drama we know as the Civil War.
With years of bullying the South economically and politically, the reader must come to terms with the fact that Lincoln was not on the ballot, yet he wins the election of 1860. This does not set well with those south of the Mason-Dixon. In fact, the South takes precautions such is noted in the below document as it is noted that these students, even, “at a future day not too distant, take their stand as southern men.”
One must also take into account that Arkansas, on the same day as the below document is written, pro SOuthern and pro-secessionist Governor Henry Massie Rector is inaugurated. In his speech given on the same day as the cadet drill, he noted that if any state were to declare their independence, Arkansas should support her. He also noted in that same speech that the state should revise their militia code to “meet any emergency that might force the state to defend herself.”
In less than a month following this pro-Southern speech, a U.S. Artillery Battery (2nd U.S. Artiller, Battery F) will find themselves occupying the Little Rock Arsenal, whose property borders that of St. John’s College:
[LITTLE ROCK] OLD-LINE DEMOCRAT, November 15, 1860
Mr. Editor.—With many others, I had the pleasure of witnessing the drill of the students of St. John’s College on Wednesday, and must say that their propriety in the use of arms and fine execution of the various manoeuvre of the drill, was most creditable to Maj. Lewis, as well as themselves. Many of them have only been at the Institute since September, but already have the training of the soldier. This Institute has only been in operation a little more than a year, and I hear universal satisfaction expressed with regard to the gentlemen in charge of it as men and professors of the right order. Arkansas should patronize this noble enterprise, and I was happy to see numbered among the students the sons of some of the most prominent men in the State. I observed the names of two sons of Judge Ringo’s, one of Judge English’s, three of Gen’l Hempstead’s, one of Maj. Borland’s, one of Mr. Wait’s, one of Gov. Rector’s, a brother-in-law of Ex-Gov. Roane, and various others who are certainly mighty capable of selecting a proper institute in which to rear those who will, at a future day not too distant, take their stand as southern men.