Civil War History 47.1 (2001) 85-86
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Civil War Arkansas:
Beyond Battles and Leaders
Editors Anne J. Bailey and Daniel E. Sutherland are to be commended for compiling this collection of essays about lesser-known aspects of the Civil War in Arkansas. Readers of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, the publication of the Arkansas Historical Association, will recognize most of these articles from past issues. However, for anyone not familiar with that publication, this volume will indeed be a treasure. As the title implies, the subjects of these writings avoid the major battles and leaders to discuss such topics as guerrilla warfare, the wartime image of Arkansas, the production of gunpowder, the Federal experiments with plantation management and military farm colonies, and atrocities against African American soldiers fighting in the state. Overall, this book is a welcome addition to the limited but growing record of the Civil War in Arkansas and the trans-Mississippi.
The introduction by Bailey and Sutherland offers an excellent historiography of the Civil War in Arkansas, giving the reader insight into the motives, methods, and results of the historians, both professional and amateur, who have documented the war in the past. Most of the essays concern guerrilla warfare and the divided population in the state. Arkansas contributed about 65,000 men to the Confederate Army and another 15,000 white and black men to the Union army. The resulting violence and destruction of property is explored in Michael A. Hughes's "Wartime Gristmill Destruction in Northwest Arkansas and Military Farm Colonies," as well as in Daniel E. Sutherland's "Guerrillas: The Real War in Arkansas," Kenneth C. Barnes's "The Williams Clan: Mountain Farmers and Union Fighters in North Central Arkansas," Carl H. Moneyhon's "Disloyalty and Class Consciousness in Southwestern Arkansas, 1862-1865," and Jayme Millsap Stone's "Brother against Brother: The Winter Skirmishes along the Arkansas River, 1864-1865." [End Page 85]
Two of the more fascinating articles are James J. Johnston's "Bullets for Johnny Reb: Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau in Arkansas," and William L. Shea's "A Semi-Savage State: The Image of Arkansas in the Civil War." According to Johnston, the Confederate Ordnance Bureau saw the Arkansas niter deposits as a valuable resource and expended manpower and money to develop them. The author using various source materials studies why the effort failed. William L. Shea relies on letters from Union soldiers and civilians to study the perpetuation of the Arkansas image as "a backwater populated by impoverished and uncultured hillbillies." He notes that many Northern soldiers accurately depicted what they saw, but that some were predisposed to notice those features that reinforced the "unhappy antebellum popular image of Arkansas."
Whether an examination of the guerrilla war that swept the state or the controversy surrounding the deaths of African American soldiers at the Battle of Poison Spring, these essays expose the reader to the unique nature of the Civil War in Arkansas.
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park