When Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861, it was a thriving state. But the Civil War and Reconstruction left it reeling, impoverished, and so deeply divided that it never regained the level of prosperity it had previously enjoyed. Although most of the major battles of the war occurred elsewhere, Arkansas was critical to the Confederate war effort in the vast Trans-Mississippi region, and Arkansas soldiers served—some for the Union and more for the Confederacy—in every major theater of the war. And the war within the state was devastating. Union troops occupied various areas, citizens suffered greatly from the war’s economic disruption, and guerilla conflict and factional tensions left a bitter legacy. Reconstruction was in many ways a continuation of the war as the prewar elite fought to regain economic and political power.
In this, the fourth volume in the Histories of Arkansas series, Thomas DeBlack not only describes the major players and events in this dramatic and painful story, but also explores the experiences of ordinary people. Although the historical evidence is complex—and much of the secondary literature is extraordinarily partisan—DeBlack offers a balanced, vivid overview of the state’s most tumultuous period.