One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers were busily preparing for the inevitable winter, the impending attack on Arkansas, and the overwhelming and uncomfortable fact that the Union blockade was posing serious problem for the citizens and soldiers in Arkansas. It was also becoming ever more apparent that the State was in dire need of legislation to provide for her people.
One of the primary sources for this week’s column includes an interesting note from the neighboring state of Texas. An 1861 Arkansas newspaper related that the superintendent of a Texas penitentiary believes his institution can, “turn out one thousand yards of goods suited for winter clothing, every week day.”
Another logistical problem in Arkansas was supplying its citizens and soldiers with something as simple as writing utensils. Because of the Union blockade, the usual suppliers of steel pens had to be replaced with a local approach of supplying such basic necessities. An 1861 newspaper noted “Housewives should save all the quills from their geese… Our country friends should gather broom straws or sedge. We will have to use home made brooms hereafter.”
Perhaps the most pressing issue Arkansawyers faced one hundred and fifty years ago was how to provide relief to families of soldiers. The following passage from a citizen from Pulaski County should serve as an example of the general monetary malaise experienced throughout the State: “We respectfully suggest to the county court of Pulaski county, the propriety, if not the necessity, of levying a tax, under the provisions of the ordinance, of the convention of May 11th and 30th; and to issue county scrip, based upon and anticipating the tax. The families of volunteers must not be permitted to suffer or want… It is a melancholy truth that we have wealthy men in our county who have done nothing, or next to nothing, for the great southern cause.”