One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers concerned themselves with the cultivation of crops. It was simple: if the abandoned fields remained fallow, the available food supply for soldiers and citizens would dry up and create more problems for the pro-Confederate citizenry across the state. As noted in a mid-March Little Rock newspaper from 1863, many “persons removed their slaves and mules to the Red river country, and other places of safety, when they were in danger of falling into the hands of the invading federal army…”
Such was the concern for Arkansas. As slaves were relocated to other parts of Arkansas to prevent them from falling into the hands of the federal army, fields were abandoned that could have been producing food supplies. The editorial continued, “The Arkansas valley is no longer threatened by any federal force.” With the Arkansas River water levels down, this prevented federal gunboats’ ascension up the Arkansas, leaving fields safe (for now).
Relating the significance of returning slave labor to abandoned lands in the Arkansas Rover valley, the editorial continued, “When we reflect upon the fact that a great majority of the farmers of the country are in the [Confederate] service, we will at once see the absolute necessity of making the slave labor available in all parts of the State. The army must be fed and the families of the brave yeomanry of the country, who abandoned their fields to fight for freedom, must be provided for. In short, the farming interest must not be neglected any where. There are many pursuits that may be suspended during a time of war, but that of planting and producing from the soil can never be dispensed with. It was directed by Providence, and it has ever been the main pillar of a country’s struggle, in peace and in war.”