Arkansas, the Old South’s last frontier, was forced, after the election of Lincoln, to face the issue of secession. A decade earlier, the state had spurned all efforts from within to withdraw from the Union, but the following ten years drew Arkansas deeper into the economic and cultural community that bound it to the other slaveholding states. Now rumblings of secession were heard even before the president-elect assumed office on March 4, 1861. The question was asked on street corners, in offices, barbershops and living rooms: Would Arkansas leave the Union?
Answers to that question caused a fundamental realignment of politics in Arkansas during the winter of 1860–61. The former political coalition of Democrat and Whig fell away in a geographical split between the uplands and the lowlands. In this important and exciting book, the first to tell the story of Arkansas’s road to secession, James Woods examines the differences between uplanders, whose mountain regions offered little useful farmland for any crop, and lowlanders, whose vast deltas were ideally suited for cotton farming. The southern portion of the state began to rely increasingly upon slavery as it became linked to the economy of cotton and Southern antebellum values, but the northern region of the state did not. Woods focuses upon the resulting social, economic, and geographic divisions that grew within Arkansas before and during the secession crisis. He captures the political struggles of the state as it tore away from the nation, and as it threatened, in so doing, to tear itself apart.