One hundred and fifty years ago in Arkansas, the first secession convention drew to a conclusion as the rest of the nation was preparing for all out war. As states were continuing to remove themselves from the United States, Charleston Harbor in South Carolina began to capture the curiosity of everyone as Federal troops remained in position in Ft. Sumter.
On March 18, 1861, the secession convention in Little Rock came to a head. Though secession was voted down 39-35 by the delegates in attendance, a compromise was struck between the pro-secession and the pro-union delegates: let the people of Arkansas vote for themselves on the issue of secession. The special election would be brought to the general public in August. As one Arkansan noted in a Little Rock paper, “Too much blood was spilt a courtin’ and marryin’ that highly respectable female, the Goddess of Liberty 2 git a divorse at this late day.”
As the delegates began making their trips back home from Little Rock, Arkansas militia units were in full muster. Pulaski County alone boasted of four militia companies: two infantry, a cavalry, and an artillery unit. Other counties continued swelling their numbers with soldiers ready and willing to fight for their independence from the United States.
It was also this week one hundred and fifty years ago that United States Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee was promoted to Colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry by President Lincoln on March 16, 1861- the same day Arizona left the Union. Two days later, Confederate President Jefferson Davis relayed to South Carolina Governor Pickens that U.S. Major Anderson should immediately vacate Ft. Sumter peacefully- the same day that General Braxton Bragg refused to have Ft. Pickens in Pensecola, FL resupplied.
Tensions were mounting in America to levels unseen since the American Revolution. With Arkansawyers refusing to leave the Union, what would become Arkansas’ role in the impending emergency? Would Arkansas remain in the Union until a vote could be put to her citizens in August? There were so many questions to be asked- questions that no one could answer.