With Fire and Sword


Arkansas, 1861-1874
Thomas A. DeBlack
978-1-55728-740-3 (paper)
July 2003


Add to Cart

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.

Thomas A. DeBlack is an associate professor of history at Arkansas Tech University. He is co-author of Arkansas: A Narrative History and the co-editor of The Southern Elite and Social Change: Essays in Honor of Willard B. Gatewood.

“Historian Thomas A. DeBlack’s recent contribution to the field of Trans-Mississippi Civil War studies, With Fire And Sword: Arkansas, 1861-1874, fills a great need in the literature on both the theater and the state. … With Fire and Sword provides a powerful introduction to Arkansas in the secession crisis, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction era.”
—Jeffery S. Prushankin, H-Net Reviews, August 2005

“In his new work, With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861-1874, the fourth in the Histories of Arkansas series, Thomas DeBlack focuses on that period of U.S. history that was the most defining for all of the Southern states: the Civil War and Reconstruction. This particular study benefits from and acts as an amalgamation of over one hundred years of writing on the subject. His overall purpose and scope seem clear: to compile a definitive work on this period of his state’s history. With rich primary sources, such as family diaries and journals, and secondary sources of equally deep focus, DeBlack’s completed work is what will doubtless be the seminal study of this period of Arkansas state history for many years to come. DeBlack manages this feat with an incredibly well-written and easy-to-follow narrative of state events as they transpire against the backdrop of national crisis. … Even outside the scope of state history, With Fire and Sword also emerges as a vital work in the genre of Civil War studies as a whole, funneling the national calamity down to one of its most basic and important levels: the Southern state.”
—Richard A. Hall, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, April 2004

“DeBlack has written a compelling synthesis of the Civil War period in Arkansas, a task that will not need repeating any time soon.”
—Michael Fellman, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2003

“Clear, engaging, authoritative, and eminently accessible to undergraduates, With Fire and Sword is an outstanding overview of a state and its people enmeshed in civil conflict and social upheaval.”
—William L. Shea, The Journal of Southern History, May 2006

“DeBlack offers the first serious synthesis and overview of a field that has seen significant innovative and revisionist work over the last two decades. He has produced a book that will prove fascinating both to historians and to general readers.”
—Carl Moneyhon, author of The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on Arkansas: Persistence in the Midst of Ruin

“A readable, engaging survey of this critical period in our state’s history.”
—Elliott West, Arkansas Histories series editor and author of The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

Histories of Arkansas
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