One hundred and fifty years ago, military units were organizing across the state at a fever pitch while the ladies of Arkansas were gaining national recognition of their hard work in supplying the new recruits with uniforms. While Arkansawyers continued their preparations for War, masses of Federal troops were trekking in a Southerly course toward the Confederate Capitol in Richmond.
Like so many of the flag presentations and all the pomp and circumstance that we have seen through this series, perhaps none was as fitting for the fighting men of Arkansas on the heels of the 1861 Independence Day festivities in, coincidentally, Independence County. As a home-sewn banner was being presented to the “Pike Guards”, an oratory from one of the ladies of Sulphur Rock bellowed, “To offer up so precious a sacrifice upon our country’s altar, is a privilege rather than a bereavement; and instead of repining and lamenting your absence, or deploring the hardships of your campaign, we will rather rejoice that the fire of liberty burns brightly in your bosoms, that you are willing to sacrifice your lives for your country’s welfare and glory.”
Meanwhile in Arlington,Virginia, headquarted at Robert E. Lee’s home, the largest American Army ever assembled was making preparations to take aggressive action against the Confederate Army under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard at the Manassas rail road junction. McDowell’s force of 35,000 Federal troops were comprised mostly of inexperienced new recruits, to which President Lincoln noted to his commanding General, “You are green, it is true; but they are green also. You are green alike.”
Lincoln was not counting on the Confederate soldiers being expert backwoods marksmen, that they were expert outdoorsmen, and that they were as willing to die for their country as the Yankees were for theirs.