Often thought of as a primitive backwoods peopled by rough hunters and unsavory characters, early Arkansas was actually productive and dynamic in the same manner as other American territories and states. In this, the second volume in the Histories of Arkansas, S. Charles Bolton describes the emigration, mostly from other southern states, that carried Americans into Arkansas; the growth of an agricultural economy based on cotton, corn, and pork; the dominance of evangelical religion; and the way in which women coped with the frontier and made their own contributions toward its improvement. He closely compares the actual lifestyles of the settlers with the popularly held, uncomplimentary image.
Separate chapters deal with slavery and the lives of the slaves and with Indian affairs, particularly the dispossession of the native Quapaws and the later-arriving Cherokees. Political chapters explore opportunism in Arkansas Territory, the rise of the Democratic Party under the control of the Sevier-Johnson group known as the Dynasty, and the forces that led Arkansas to secede from the Union. In addition, Arkansas’s role in the Mexican War and the California gold rush is treated in detail.
In truth, geographic isolation and a rugged terrain did keep Arkansas underpopulated, and political violence and a disastrous experience in state banking tarnished its reputation, but the state still developed rapidly and successfully in this period, playing an important role on the southwestern frontier.
Winner of the 1999 Booker Worthen Literary Prize
The Histories of Arkansas Series aims to give readers a comprehensive, enlightening, and entertaining survey of the state’s history ably written by our leading scholars. With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861–1874, begins where S. Charles Bolton left off in Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless, his portrait of Arkansas as a territory and youthful state. DeBlack carries the story to the point where Carl H. Moneyhon picked it up in the first volume published in the series, Arkansas and the New South, 1874–1929. Ben Johnson’s recent Arkansas in Modern America, 1930–1999 then takes us from the Great Depression to the near present. This fine quartet of books now follows the history of this remarkable state from its entry into the nation until today. With skill and insight matching that of his three compatriots,Thomas DeBlack fills in Arkansas’s years of fire and sword and thus completes a portrait of two centuries of this fascinating, varied, often troubled, but always surprising part of the American mosaic.
—Elliott West in the preface to With Fire and Sword
“Well written in an uncomplicated style, Bolton covers antebellum Arkansas in a topical manner, dealing with early politics, agriculture, finance, society, slavery, family life, and religion. Whereas earlier his- torians of this era have generally focused on politics or Arkansas’s violent, backward society, Bolton paints with a broad brush to illustrate the complexity of this era.”
—James M. Woods, American Historical Review, February 2000
“This readable volume makes an important contribution to understanding Arkansas’s place in the nation. It makes accessible the ways that national trends of territorial expansion, increasing participation in the market economy by farmers, and changing political alignments developed in this remote but restless frontier region.”
—Angela Boswell, Journal of Southern History, November 2000