One hundred and fifty years ago the status of African Americans was unsure at best. While they were considered property in the South, they were not treated any better by their Northern counterparts. Despite the mythological ramblings of current day historians, the Negro was seen as a political pawn used by the North to justify the occupation of invading armies in the South.
An 1862 newspaper related that a riot broke out in Nashville, TN between the Yankees and the Black men trying to join the emancipating Federal Army: “At the theatre, the negroes were ejected, being kicked or thrown from the top to the bottom of the stairs. For several succeeding days, when a negro ventured on the street with federal uniform on, the Ohio troops attacked him, tore the clothes into shreds, and otherwise maltreated him. The result is that not a darkey dares to wear even an army cap.”
As the war raged on and the blockade strangling the economic life out of the South, provisions for both the Federal and Confederate armies as well as the intrinsic population of the state became more arduous and ever-difficult. The Arkansas Gazette reminded Arkansawyers, “As long as this war lasts—as long as our ports are blockaded and the markets of the world are closed, we must depend exclusively upon ourselves for the necessaries for the army. Let us not be weary in well doing—let us not relax in our efforts, but with renewed spirit and firm purpose determine to do our duty and our whole duty, in this matter.”
While the Federals occupying Helena kept their eye on Little Rock as the target of a future campaign, they began making preparations for the oncoming winter.