One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansas was feeling the consequences of the Federal blockade, which was preventing resources from being shipped into the Confederate States from abroad. To combat the lack of much-needed raw materials and resources that Arkansas needed to survive, Arkansawyers were not about to throw in the towel; Arkansas was rich in natural resources that could be harvested. Though in August of 1861, Arkansas boasted of three cotton factories in operation, “but we do not know of the number of spindles driven, or their capacity for turning out thread and cloth”, the state was rich in other resources as well.
One of these other natural resources was coal. Though a large quantity of coal had been shipped to Arkansas prior to the establishment of the Federal blockade, an 1861 newspaper related that, “ it appears to us that the coal beds of Arkansas can now be profitably worked.” One place in Arkansas the coal could be found was on the Ouachita River, which would “probably, be managed by a company from New Orleans. There is excellent coal up the Arkansas and plenty of it; that at Spadra being on the bank of the river and easily obtained.”
Another valuable natural resource that Arkansawyers busied themselves in obtaining was salt, which was believed to become scarce and valuable, “unless we avail ourselves of the many salt springs in our State.” Regarding the procurement of the valuable resource, an 1861 newspaper related that “Some of these salines are worked now. Others give a strong brine which would yield sufficient salt to pay for the erection of pumps, boilers, etc. And it should be remembered that the invariable rule is “the deeper the well, the stronger the brine.”
Yet another valuable resource to be taken serious in August, 1861 was animal hides. Hides, used in the manufacture of leather, was paramount to equip both civilians and soldiers alike with the basic necessities, including shoes and other articles of clothing and military equipment; each Civil War soldier regularly donned several pounds of leather accoutrements. According to an 1861 newspaper regarding the scarcity of leather in Arkansas, “We are afraid that there will be a great scarcity of leather and shoes next winter, unless more tanneries are established and better care taken by our farmers of the hides or skins of animals.”
Though isolated from the world market due to the Federal blockade surrounding the Confederate States, Arkansas found means of supplying herself with some of the most needed and most valuable resources to keep her military machine running as smooth as possible. By fully utilizing the natural resources found within the borders of the State, Arkansawyers were not about to give up hope in supplying her citizenry and soldiers with the supplies they needed to survive.