February 1861

Page from Goodrich's Diary, Arkansas History Commission

February 1, 1861

Rainy. One session [of school]. [Went] down the street. Evening, attended a magician performance at the hall (75 cents).

February 2, 1861

Captain [Syberg] went off early this morning. Wrote letters home, to Manget, [and to] Austin. Went down the street. Afternoon, went with Syberg & called on Dr. Wheat. Took some letters to the [post] office for him. Evening, Mr. Mathews came over & [we] went down to get two bottles of ale. We drank one. I had quite a time finding the new brewery – fell into ditches, dark as could be. [I] knocked at several places & finally stumbled on a negro who showed me [to] the right house.

February 3, 1861

At Sunday school & church. Afternoon, heard that some men had taken three cannons to the wharf, placed them [there] & mounted guards. [Apparently they are] expecting a boat up with armed men. Went down [and] saw a soldier, very drunk, [his] face badly bruised & crying. Evening, reading & went down again. They fired off the cannon & took them away.

February 4, 1861

In school. Feel sick. [I went] down the street [and] got a letter from home saying they had sent my clothes. Commenced a letter to Uncle [Elizur Goodrich].

February 5, 1861

In school. A battalion of men came up tonight from Pine Bluff [Arkansas] to take the [Federal] Arsenal. [They have been] marching around the city – about two hundred men.

February 6, 1861

Warm and pleasant. Two more companies came today. It is doubtful whether they [will] fight. The matter is negotiating. The Governor is acting the fool. He wishes to precipitate the state into revolution.

February 7, 1861

Had one session [of school]. Mr. Mathews [was] summoned to join the militia. They came out about 200 strong [with] the other companies & marched around a little. The Arsenal is given up & Captain Totten is to leave.

February 8, 1861

One session [of school]. Let out at noon. All the militia [were] assembled in the afternoon to a number of about a thousand & headed by the Governor, marched up to the Arsenal. All the [federal] troops were removed. Totten was there. The Governor made a speech & acknowledged that he [had] ordered the cannon to be brought to the wharf. A company from one of the counties swore that if they did not enter the Arsenal grounds first, they would make a charge on the Little Rock company [“the Capitol Guards”]. They went first.

Very exciting times. People think that it was only done to precipitate the State into revolution. They say the secession movement would be more popular if [Governor] Rector was not at the head. The proceedings are treasonable & its leaders are guilty of treason. This whole affair resulted in a drunken frolic. The Governor had some hand in it. The Governor pays all the expenses out of the public treasury. Mr. Mathews [came] here in the evening. Got some beer.

February 9, 1861

Saturday. Went down the street [and] drank several glasses of beer with Captain [Syberg]. Afternoon, took a ride on the pony with him. Not so much excitement; militia out today. Evening, Mr. Mathews here. Went down and got some more beer.

February 10, 1861

At church. Afternoon, went down the street. Went with Mr. Mathews to the wedding of Annie at the Methodist Church.

February 11, 1861

In school. Pleasant. The Little Rock military [the “Capitol Guards”] escorted Captain Totten out of the city accompanied with a large company of ladies & gentlemen. Ashford & [Edmond] Burgevin – two of the leaders of this mass are spoken of as being driven out of town. Burgevin got into a fight & drew his sword on a man. It is said that large companies will be hired when the convention meets & if it is decided that the State shall not secede, they will force the convention so to decide.

Mr. Mathews here in the evening. Got a letter from [cousin] Lucy Stratton.

February 12, 1861

Warm & pleasant. Got my clothes [from Owego]. Got a check for 40 dollars from Uncle [Elizur]. Mr. Mathews here. Evening, the people had a meeting to see about telling Ashford to leave the city.

February 13, 1861

In school. Rainy. Went down the street. Got a letter from [cousin] Lucy Fiddis.

February 14, 1861

In school. Cold. I asked Harry Rector today how to find the velocity of a moving body. He said, “Divide how far he was going by how far he went.”  [I also] asked Jones the meaning of filius [Latin, meaning “son”]. He thought awhile & said, “Oh, a son. I asked a man how many filiuses he had.” I said your Latin is like the boy who said he had a brickibus in his hatibus. But I told it as the last remark made by Harry Rector.

Went down the street. Mr. Mathews came here in evening. Looking glass came for Captain [Syberg]. Mr. Mathews told me that someone had told him that some members were trying to get another man in the place of Captain Syberg to command the Rifle Company.

February 15, 1861

In school. Helping fix the oil cloth. Dr. Wheat & wife here in the evening.

February 16, 1861

Working nearly all day putting down the oil cloth. Got a letter from Handerson. [William Cornelius] Lane [of Bloomingdale, New York] is dead.

William Cornelius Lane, Hobart Free College, 1858

February 17, 1861

At church. Wrote a letter home.

February 18, 1861

In school. Went down the street. This evening, Fred [Syberg] let a fart. Mrs. Syberg laughed & Aunt Lucy too.

February 19, 1861

In school. Rainy in afternoon. This evening [spent] talking. Mrs. Syberg [was] telling about the prostitutes of the place.

February 20, 1861

In school. Warm & pleasant today. At dinner Mrs. Syberg told me to write a notice for Aunt Lucy to put up [saying] “All persons coming to deposit at this bank must leave no change on the counter.”

February 21, 1861

In school. Pleasant day. Afternoon, Mr. Mathews was taken with another fit [and] turned black. I took charge of the school. After school, went up to see him.

February 22, 1861

Down the street. Militia out. Saw Woods. Drank lager with him. Took dinner with him ($1.00).

February 23, 1861

Wrote a letter to Handerson. Went to church & fixed the library. The ‘Greek Slave’ came today. A negro helped take it out [of the crate. When removed] he said, “Yah, it’s a gall, and all bare too!! It would look better if it had a frock on.” He was astonished. Evening, Mr. Mathews here.

February 24, 1861

In church. Funeral in afternoon. Evening, sat up till after 12 o’clock talking with Mrs. Syberg. She was telling her capers.

February 25, 1861

In school. Down the street. Mrs. Syberg went to Dr. Wheat’s. All alone this evening.

February 26, 1861


February 27, 1861

In school. Today, saw Deuel down the street. Went home with Margaret, our Dutch girl. Mr. Mathews over.

February 28, 1861

In school. Pleasant. This evening Newton McConaughey came to recite to me.


Taking no chances, Governor Rector responded to a rumor that Federal troops were moving up the Arkansas River on the steamboat S. H. Tucker by placing three cannon on the Little Rock wharf. Volunteers were gathered at the wharf to repel the invaders but the rumor turned out to be false. Before returning the cannon to the armory, the drunken volunteers fired them off.

This is the suit of clothing made for Ralph by Mr. Platt, a tailor in Owego, New York, which was mentioned by Ralph’s mother in a letter dated 5 December 1860.

On February 4th and 5th, large numbers of men arrived in Little Rock on foot and by boat from the delta counties believing that Governor Rector had called them to seize the federal arsenal which was occupied by a small garrison of federal troops led by Captain Totten. To avoid violence, the Little Rock city council quickly passed a resolution on February 5th opposing “unauthorized seizure of the arsenal.”

Under charges of attempting to catapult Arkansas into a state of rebellion, Governor Rector tried to save face by negotiating the voluntary evacuation of the armory by Capt. Totten.

Newton McConaughey was the 16 year-old son of J. W. McConaughey, a native of Virginia and an attorney in Little Rock.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: