Arkansas Secession Cockades

Arkansas's electoral votes went to Breckenridge for president in 1860. A large minority favored Bell and a small minority went for Douglas. No one voted for Lincoln because there weren't any Republican ballots in the state!

When Lincoln won the presidential election, the stage was set for Arkansas to secede. But events proved it wasn't that easy.


Wheeling Into Line

South Carolina seceded on December 20, sparking secession fervor across the South. Though a man's loyalty was first to his own state, the Southern states shared a feeling of unity in their culture, their ambitions and their sense of persecution by the Northern states.

A South Carolina newspaper reported on secession feeling in Arkansas:

Arkansas. – The following dispatch shows that Arkansas is wheeling into line with her Southern sister States:
Little Rock, Dec. 21. –The bill for calling a State Convention has passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 81 to 30, and all parties, especially the Bell and Everett party, are for it. The Convention will meet in February, and I can tell you that if the secession feeling increases in intensity from now until then as it has increased within the last two weeks, an ordinance of immediate secession will be passed at once. Even the so called “moderate men” are for action with the Cotton States. There is nobody for unconditional submission.

Blue cockades are to be seen everywhere in abundance. If a man wants a fight, he has only to abuse South Carolina in the streets, and if the Palmetto State should need assistance, be assured she can rely on Arkansas sending her 10,000 men, able and willing to fight for her and maintain the cause of the South.

1860s view of the Arsenal

The Convention and the Arsenal

However, before the secession convention could be held, rumors began to fly. Back in November, Captain James Totten and 65 men of the 2nd U.S. Artillery quietly arrived to garrison the previously unguarded Federal Arsenal in Little Rock. Now the report was that more US troops were being sent. The message from the Federal government was clear: Arkansas was going to remain in the Union - by force if necessary.

As tempers flared and rumors spread, men from around the state converged on the city with the purpose of taking the arsenal. In order to prevent bloodshed, the governor requested Capt. Totten to surrender - and he did.

The convention to vote on secession met in March. Despite the large secession vote and a vast deal of speech-making, Arkansas ended up voting down secession by a narrow margin. Many still feel loyalty to the Union, though almost everyone - Unionist and Secessionist - agreed that concessions needed to be made by the Federal government to the Southern states.

A Declaration of Hostilities

In spite of the surrender of the Arsenal, things seemed to be going smoothly for the Unionist cause - and then the blow came. South Carolinians fired on the U.S.-garrisoned Fort Sumter. President Lincoln promptly called for troops from each state - 780 from Arkansas - to suppress the secessionists.

That was going too far.

Arkansians refused to be forcibly coerced into remaining in the Union. And they absolutely refused to be the tool to forcibly coerce anyone else to remain either. Southerner would not fight against Southerner.

The Governor explained:

Immediately following the proclamation issued by the President, I had the honor of receiving from the Hon. Simon Cameron, secretary of war for Mr. Lincoln's government, a requisition for seven hundred and eighty men to be raised from my fellow-citizens of Arkansas, for the very humane and christian purpose of "wiping out" and desolating the south by fire and sword...To the communication of Mr. Cameron, I returned the following reply—brief but clearly indicative of what I, as the executive of this free people, conceived to be a fitting response to such a piece of presumption and ignorance....

Hon. Simon Cameron,
Secretary of War, Washington City, D.C.
In answer to your requisition for troops from Arkansas, to subjugate the southern states, I have to say, that none will be furnished. The demand is only adding insult to injury. The people of this commonwealth are freemen, not slaves, and will defend to the last extremity their honor, lives and property, against northern mendacity and usurpation.
HENRY M. RECTOR,
Governor of Arkansas.


The Side of Truth and Liberty

On May 6, 1861, the Arkansas secession convention reconvened and voted nearly unanimously to secede from the United States. Three days later, a report appeared in a Little Rock newspaper: 

Neat and Appropriate.-We have received, from a young lady in Burrowsville, Searcy county, a tasteful presentation in the shape of a rosette. It is so simple and pretty that we will endeavor to describe it. A grain of corn is fastened, by means of a hole drilled through it, to a floss of cotton, spread so as to form a circle; this is also attached to a light blue circle, and the whole to a deep blue, of the usual size of a rosette. By using a grain of red corn, we have the colors of the Confederacy flag; red, white and blue, while the corn and cotton are emblematical of the Confederacy. The design and execution are both excellent. –The present was sent with a patriotic note from the true hearted donor. In the revolution of ‘61 as in ‘76, the women are on the side of truth and liberty and, if need be, will show themselves to be  heroines as did their foremothers. God bless them and the Southern Confederacy.

This was a fun cockade to reproduce! Appropriate for both gentlemen and ladies, it's full of Southern pride and sure to be a fun conversation starter. 

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