A Divided State: A Civil War Novel
With the start of the Civil War, Willis and three of his boyhood friends agree; if Arkansas, a slave state, secedes as other Southern states have, and if it’s invaded by Union troops, they will defend the state, their homes and farms. While they don’t believe in slavery, they won’t stand by and see a Northern army destroy their beloved state. They eventually participate in the Battle of Pea Ridge. More
Gravelly, Arkansas, was not too different from most small, towns in rural Arkansas. For the most part, there was not a great disparity in terms of wealth between the mostly lower middle class and a sizable lower class. Though poor, and largely uneducated, the hardworking Yell County residents were able to scratch out a living in the rocky soil of the Fourche River Valley. Cotton, the cash crop of the South, allowed most families to live reasonably happy, rewarding lives. Though backward by some standards, the people were, for the most part, honest, hardworking, and God fearing. The standard of living was improving for most, and a brighter future lay ahead. Few people ever left Yell County and moved away. Most grew up there, got little education, selected a Yell County mate, bore children, worked hard, died, and were buried in one of the cemeteries. Since the industrious natives seldom had time for visiting and fellowship, they always enjoyed the occasional gatherings, whether church, revival, sale day, or even funerals or wakes. A segregated society existed, yet some knew not why since there were almost no blacks in Yell County. Of course, very few whites could have afforded to own a slave.
Beginning on May 6, 1861, life would begin to drastically change for most people in Yell County. Secession from the Union would change everything. Four young men, fast friends, would join the state militia. The four friends, all from slightly different social–economic levels and backgrounds, would become soldiers and prepare for the approaching invasion of Arkansas by Federal troops. From a training base at Van Buren, Arkansas, the Arkansas militia would march north to meet a Federal army moving down from Springfield, Missouri. The battle, on March 6-7, 1862, would be the largest Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River. The battle would result in a divided state of Arkansas, with a Federal capital at Little Rock and a Confederate capital at Washington, Arkansas.