The editor of the Arkansas Toothpick has just released his second book just in time for Christmas. This new book includes poems and songs written in Arkansas during the Civil War and includes never before seen sketches/drawings during the war. This book is available through Amazon.com and if you order soon, you will get it by Christmas. It is the perfect gift for the Arkansas Civil War buff in your life! To order your copy, click HERE!
Below is the “Notes from the Author” section of “Songs and Poems of Arkansas in the Civil War”:
Very little remains of literature written by Arkansawyers during and prior to the Civil War. As paper got more and more scarce, even the Confederate and Union armies and navies had to conserve the rare resource and newspapers had to either shut down or at the very least cut back on the number of pages per issue due to the paper shortage. As early as 1860, Arkansasawyers were drafting patriotic poetry and music in the midst of a frenzy of ideologic motives. Secession became the watchword for the South, and as Arkansas became swept away in the moxie of the Southern cause, a flood of politically-motivated literature was created.
This volume begins with a notice from a newspaper editor giving submission guidelines for editorials, including poetry and songs. 1860 saw a tremendous increase in the role newspapers played in Antebellum Arkansas. With an exponential increase in the number of newspapers in operation by the end of 1860 throughout the state, readers became writers and a new lexicon of Arkansas literature was born.
The environment was ripe for this new renaissance in American literature as the number of schools increased, generally. Most schools during the Antebellum period were segregated into boys and girls schools. Many of these educational institutions offered their students room and board. This was also a time characterized by an increase in the number of military academies/institutes across the state. By 1860, Pine Bluff was bragging about having one of the most popular academies in the area. But there was one thing that the military academies/institutes and boarding schools had in common: a classical education. An editorial written in Lewisburg, Arkansas on December 29, 1859 noted, “Literature and the arts in every branch have been encouraged, and school houses and places for public instruction are scattered all over the whole land.”
An editorial drafted on January 9, 1860 from Lake Village, Arkansas notes the public intentions of establishing a female educational institution in South East Arkansas: “A project is on foot here to establish a Female College at Lake Village, with an endowment of $50,000, a considerable [amount] of which is now subscribed, and the day is not far distant, I trust, when Lake Village will be the site of one of the most magnificent and interesting female colleges in the South. This place is one of the most beautiful and healthy in the world, and is of easy access, no school of like character is near, and it is due the enterprise of old Chicot that she should have one first class school within her limits.”
One editorial from Pine Bluff on January 19, 1860 related the significance of political tensions that were erupting following John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in relation to the ever-growing need for more military academies in the frontier state of Arkansas: “Recent developments of a most startling character show that we ought to take some steps in training our young men in the science of war, and in fitting them for effectual resistance in case of emergency.3” The editorial continued, “I hope to live to see the time when the Legislature of Arkansas shall make appropriation for the benefit of military schools, and when we shall have a State Military Institute. For not until then will our education be complete.”
The rise of the establishment of new educational facilities in 1860 was not limited regionally. Across the state from Lake Village the residents of Fayetteville were experiencing the same educational and literature renaissance as seen elsewhere. On January 20, 1860, an editorial was drafted in North West Arkansas dubbing Fayetteville the “new Athens”:
Neat cottages for the residence of families, stately churches for the worship of God, and large school buildings are being finished with a taste that adds beauty to our Athens. Perhaps no portion of our State has done so much in providing facilities for the education of our sons and daughters, as our Athens and the hill country around it. Here then is the analogy: Ancient Athens first gave letters to Greece; and in advance of its other States established schools for the study of arts and sciences. Here her poets sung and her orators thundered twenty-five centuries ago.
As tensions grew and the Civil War began, many schools lost their funding and most shut their doors. One similar fate schools in Arkansas shared was the commandeering of homes, schools, and churches to house soldiers and freed slaves; many became make-shift hospitals. Thus the era from 1859-1861 can be called the “rise and fall of Arkansas classical education.”
The writers and readers of the poetry, songs, and literature you are about to experience is through the hand and eye of someone who was quite familiar with European literature and references to Roman and Greek figures was quite common. Comically speaking, it was also a time when someone could curse someone out by using the most eloquent examples of rhetoric and oratory.
The sketches and drawings were all found in the Library of Congress archives. Toward the end of this volume, I included a few pages from The Dixie Primer, written as a spelling book for young students in the South. The first printing was in 1863 and was intended to serve as the common text book for children in the Confederate States of America, including Arkansas. Though Arkansas students may or may not have seen this particular text during or after the Civil War, they would have certainly been educated from a “primer” very similar.
By no means is this volume to serve as a definitive resource for Arkansas Civil War literature. I wanted to highlight specifically the literature written by the average Arkansawyer during the War and to preserve the Southern moxie found in Antebellum literature in Arkansas.