Reprinted in Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, Etc. (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1863), V: 12-13.
Freemen of Arkansas
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
Office Military Board
Little Rock, May 5, 1862.
To the Freemen of Arkansas:
Again your authorities, charged with the duty of preserving and defending your State government, deem it imperatively necessary to call you to arms. Northern troops, formidable in numbers and preparation, are in the heart of your State, marching upon your capital, with the avowed purpose of perverting your government, plundering your people, eating your subsistence, and erecting over your heads as a final consummation, a despotic ruler the measure of whose power will be the hatred he bears his subjects.
Will the thirty thousand freemen, capable of bearing arms, yet in Arkansas, look listlessly on, while chains are being riveted upon their limbs by a few thousand Hessians from the North — hireling mercenary cowards as they are, seeking to enslave us, that they may grow rich upon our substance, and divide us and our children as conquered subjects. This cannot, will not be—our people in the government of their choosing — in the sacredness of their persons — and defence of their property must be determined. We can and will defend it; unaided if it must be so, at every cost and sacrifice, rather than live under the domination of the detestable and execrable Lincoln government.
The enemy upon our soil is crushing to earth the proud spirit of our people; presuming upon the temporary absence of many of our brave men, they seek to crush the energy and courage of the remainder. We will drive them from amongst us. Where there is a will there is always a way. An enlightened and brave people will never be subjugated.
The armies of the revolution were at one time under George Washington, reduced to two thousand five hundred men; still with the blessings of God and an undying spirit of resistance, the American colonies, each upon its own account, putting forth its entire energies, conquered a peace from a reluctant and powerful government. So if we of Arkansas are true to ourselves—true to our professions of hatred for the North, and devotion to the South—true in our devotion for constitutional liberty and free government, the sun will never set upon us a subjugated and conquered race. Then by authority and sanction of the Military Board whose duty it is to protect the State from invasion—whose right it is to call an army in the field when the confederate States "refuse or neglect" to protect the people, I call upon each and every man capable of bearing arms to prepare at once to meet the enemy, though it is not contemplated that all will go—some must—a sufficient number must, to free the State and repel the tyrant. The law is, "that every able-bodied free white male inhabitant between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, shall constitute the militia of the State. No person shall be called knowingly for militia duty who has not resided within the State two months, except in cases of invasion, in which case they are subject as other citizens, and subject to the same penalties." Further, the law provides: "Judges of the supreme and circuit courts, secretary, auditor and treasurer of the State, clerks of the supreme and circuit courts, postmasters, post-riders, ferrymen on public roads, all licensed preachers of the Gospel of every denomination, and justices of the peace, shall be exempt from performing military duty, except in cases of insurrection and invasion." Hence it will be seen, by the law above quoted, that all men found in the State, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, if physically able, may be called to the field now, the State being invaded. The State, always sovereign, is sovereign yet, in her reserved rights, one of which is to defend her own soil—her own government— her own people, and to put every one, between certain ages, found in her borders, into the field, if necessary to do it. This is the law, State and national, and if it were not, the people in their potential power, would make it so.
By your authority and sanction, your representatives in convention assembled at the capital in May last, severed the State of Arkansas from the United States of America, upon the doctrine of State sovereignty, from which grew up the confederate States. This, in the retrospect, may be viewed no less a political right than a moral and political virtue. Looking to our happiness, and the transmission of republican liberty for the present age and future generations, an alliance was formed with the confederate States of America. In the support of this government no star in the galaxy has shed a brighter lustre than Arkansas. No people have evinced more valor or a more self-sacrificing spirit, than hers in upholding confederate nationality. Every doorway is stained with the blood of her children, every roof is a house of mourning, and her altars are consecrated to benedictions for the dead and lost in battle. The flower of her youth, the pride of her manhood have without stint been lavished for the maintenance and support of the Confederation. She has done this because of her generous confidence, that when the evil hour came upon her, the national ensign, the confederate flag, would be found floating from her battlements, defying the invader and giving succor to her people.
Untoward events have placed her beyond the pale of protection much impaired, though not incapable of resistance, she will strike a blow for liberty, and continue to be free ; if left to her fate she will carve a new destiny rather than be subjugated. It was for liberty she struck, and not for subordination to any created secondary power North or South. Her best friends are her natural allies, nearest at home, who will pulsate when she bleeds, whose utmost hope is not beyond her existence. If the arteries of the confederate heart do not permeate beyond the east bank of the Mississippi, let Southern Missourians, Arkansians, Texans, and the great West know it and prepare for the future. Arkansas lost, abandoned, subjugated, is not Arkansas as she entered the confederate government. Nor will she remain Arkansas a confederate State, desolated as a wilderness; her children fleeing from the wrath to come, will build them a new ark and launch it on new waters, seeking a haven somewhere, of equality, safety and rest Be of good cheer, my countrymen, there is still a balm in Gilead, the good Samaritan will be found. Strike now and ever for your homes and liberty, against all men who invade the one or dispute the other. The despotic power of the North, which seeks now to crush you, contains in its own creation ripe seeds for its early destruction.
Stand out like men and resist that power, until the hallowed light shed by Southern States rights Democratic liberty shall throw its light back upon the very North itself, from the Rio Grande of the South to the Lake of the Woods; and westward to the Pacific. The God of nations has not decreed, I think, that tyrant hands shall stay the progress of civil and religious liberty upon this continent. The right of the people to govern is an admitted truism. Their capacity to do so is not a fable; but "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance ;" be jealous of encroachments, mindful of your public servants. Take the Constitution of your State as your political text-book, and regard the defence of your homes and firesides as a duty you owe to God and humanity, and all will be well.
Correlative with these views, it is by the Military Board of the State of Arkansas deemed essential for the public safety, that four thousand five hundred men be called as volunteers from the militia of the State, to be organized into companies, battalions and regiments, as directed by ordinances of the State Convention, to serve for twelve months in State service unless sooner discharged. The companies not to contain less than sixty-four nor more than ninety-six men, exclusive of commissioned officers. Twenty companies of cavalry will be received, and thirty companies of infantry, with the right, on the part of the authorities, to assign one or more of the infantry companies for artillery service. Each volunteer must furnish his own gun, which will be valued and paid for by the State, or a certain amount paid for it monthly by the government for its use, as the State may ultimately determine.
Companies organizing south of the Arkansas River will rendezvous at Little Rock, unless other instructions are given. Those organizing north of the river will be advised of the proper point to rendezvous by applying to the Military Board for orders. Transportation, subsistence, etc., etc., will be supplied upon application, for organized companies; no company will be esteemed organized until a descriptive list is filed with the Military Board, showing the requisite number of men; certificates of election for company officers should accompany the descriptive list. Any commissioned officers of the State may hold and certify to company elections. Able-bodied men, sixteen years and upwards, may bo received into service If the requisite number of men is not made up by volunteering by the 25th of May, the deficiency will be detailed or drafted from the militia brigades or regiments having the fewest men in service. Troops raised under this call will not be transferred to confederate service under any circumstances without their consent, and on no account, unless a confederate force, sufficient to prevent invasion, is sent into the State. These are raised exclusively for home protection. Horses, horse equipments and arms lost by the casualties of war, will be paid for by the State.
Men of means and leisure, although advanced in years, now have an opportunity, without sacrifice, to go and fight — too old to walk, they can now go on horseback. Men tilling the soil can be less conveniently spared; something must be produced to eat, either to live or to fight I say to the gentlemen of leisure and wealth, make up this call; leaving the tiller of the soil at home to produce something for our families and the country. There are many more than the number called for here in Arkansas who will not run a furrow this summer, nor do anything else substantially beneficial to the country. Business, in the way of trade, is measurably suspended, and money-making for a time ought to be. To be rich now, is impossible, for if one owned the whole State, it is worth nothing until freed. The wave of destruction has rolled over the north-east portion of the State, and will soon reach the south, unless staid by a rampart of Arkansas freemen. I am for defence — the Military Board is for defence, and if aided by the people, the State will be redeemed.
H. M. Rector,
Governor, and President of Military Board.