The history of Van Buren for new residents

Admin | May 22, 2024 @ 12:00 AM

Civil war

Arkansas stands as one of the most unique states to participate in the US Civil War, the newly formed state is among the only territories that produced soldiers for both the Union as well as the Confederacy. Even at the beginning of the conflict Arkansas' allegiance was split, while several states sought to form a new government around the new Confederate Constitution, Arkansas held steadfast with their Union brethren voting to remain in the Union rather than succeeding. Their initial position would change drastically following Lincoln's capture of Fort Sumter, Arkansas held a secession convention hosted by prominent community members and leaders to discuss the ongoing issue of states leaving the Union. The convention was made up mostly of residents with strong unionist sentiments, showing the reluctance with which Arkansas faced the inevitable conflict that would tear a young nation apart. Several factors like surrounding states, political alliances, and its proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line would point to a Confederacy stronghold but in reality, the natural state had to deal with internal as well as external turmoil when deciding whether or not to succeed. Ultimately, Arkansas would join the Confederacy in 1861 raising more than 60 regiments of militia to aid the Confederacy's war effort. The new nation would be thrust into a four-year-long conflict that would end up being the bloodiest conflict in the country's history to date. The memories from a conflict as impactful as the Civil War can be seen in the states that participated in it. From large battlefields to statues of great figures, the effects of America's deadliest conflict are felt around the country and Arkansas is no different. More than a dozen Civil War battles took place in and surrounding Arkansas, soldiers started with small-scale rebellions, such as attacking arsenals following the taking of Fort Sumpter. The Confederacy would see early success against the Union despite their inferior number, equipment, and training. General Robert E Lee was appointed to lead the Confederacy's war effort due to his reputation as a military genius, despite his political shortcomings and well-documented issues the Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The new Confederate States were formed with the stated intention of preserving their states, the institution of slavery, and decreasing federal authority. The four-year-long conflict would come to an end following the reelection of President Lincoln and Sherman's march after burning Atlanta, a disheartened South was forced to negotiate with the Union's "butcher" Ulysses S Grant. Grant was a failed tanner's son who had left the Army before the war and had fallen victim to alcoholism, he would show his prowess and eventually be promoted to the highest rank granted in US history "General of The Army of The United States." The war would be over less than a year and a half following Grant's promotion, "unconditional surrender" Grant earned a reputation for his bold tactics, frontal charges, and his willingness to take losses in order to win battles. However, Grant's military genius would not have been effective without his pragmatism, one such example is the burning of Atlanta. Leading up to the elections, Lincoln sought a public victory he could use to gain support for a now-unpopular war. Grant's best general and close personal friend William T Sherman was tasked with taking the production hub that was the city of Atlanta. With 100,000 men in tow, Sherman marched south and after a short siege took the city, following their defeat General John B Hood destroyed supplies and fled the city before being called back by Sherman. Under threat of burning the entire city, Sherman had ordered the evacuation of one of the south's biggest cities. Hood was forced to take the population of Atlanta as refugees against his protests. Following the total destruction of the city, Grant would receive a telegram from Sherman detailing Hood's retreat and his plan to move his troops off of their supply lines to devastate the countryside to demoralize the Confederate Army. Sherman would use the knowledge he gained from going to college in the state of Georgia to pick and choose the most prosperous plantations to target. By Sherman's own calculations, $100 million was destroyed in his march to the sea when he reached the city of Columbia, South Carolina. Thankfully Sherman never reached Arkansas which was spared the fate of Atlanta, Savannah, and Columbia. Following the war, reconstruction efforts saw Union soldiers occupying Confederate states to maintain order, an order that would create hostility between former enemies living in an already tenuous peace.