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Arkansas in the Civil War: 1861

Most students of the Civil War think Arkansas only had one secession convention when, in fact, the state had two. One hundred and fifty-five years ago, the governor of Arkansas Henry Rector issued a proclamation setting the date for the convention for MArch 4, 1861. This was the day the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.

The Arkansas General Assembly back on January 15, 1861 agreed that a secession convention would be held on March 4 if votes cast during a special election called for February 18, were in the majority for a convention. It is important to note that the vote called for February 18, 1861 was not for secession, but rather for a convention to decide if Arkansas would secede. On March 2, 1861, Rector issued his proclamation follow the vote count: 11,586 for convention.

It is hard to imagine the drama that would soon play out over the next few months in the chambers of what is now the Old State House. Little Rock’s population would nearly double overnight as delegates prepared for debates and discussions that would dictate Arkansas’ course of action in the impending crisis.

Arkansas in the Civil War: 1861 contains over 200 pages of primary source documents that, for the first time ever, tell the whole story of the Civil War in Arkansas from both sides using their own words. Some documents are in print for the very first time, including letters, official correspondence, historical accounts of battles, newspaper editorials, and much more. It took over a decade to compile the documents that help tell the story of Arkansas the first year of the Civil War.