Although Arkansas was generally considered a slave state by the early 1860’s, there was still a large portion of the population that were opposed to secession. The wealthier lowland plantation owners, however, held the majority of the political power, and the state seceded from the Union on May 6, 1861. Because of its geographic position, and the somewhat divided loyalties of its people, the state suffered heavily from numerous military incursions and local guerilla warfare. Never one of the wealthiest states in the nation, this in-fighting put a tremendous burden on the state’s finances and led to the issuance of a significant amount of war bonds and treasury warrants. Executed by a local printer, these fiscal items are among the crudest issued by any of the Southern states. The central vignette, printed in dark red ink, features a representation of the state seal enclosed in a circle, atop which is printed the beginning of the financial obligation. This fiscal statement guarantees that “THE STATE OF ARKANSAS” (the portion printed across and beside the state seal) “Five Years After 1st July, 1861, promises to pay B. C. TOTTEN or Bearer TEN Dollars, with interest at the rate of EIGHT per cent per annum, payable at the Treasury on the 1st of January and July each year. This will be received at par for State Revenue, for Lands, and any debt due the State, in her own right or as Trustee.” This obligation is printed in dark blue ink, except for the name of the recipient and the value of the bond (these were added in black ink). Below this is printed the date, “September 2, 1861”, followed by the signatures of “W. R. Miller” and “O Basham”, the “Auditor” and “Treas.” (Treasurer), respectively (Basham’s signature appears on a light red scroll design, probably for anti-counterfeiting). The imprint of “J. D. BUTLER. PRINT. LIT. ROCK” can be seen at the lower left, while “ARKANSAS WAR BOND.”, in ornate red letters, appears in a wavy pattern atop the financial obligation. A decorative rectangular border, boldly printed in red and blue ink (the same used in the body of the piece), encloses all of the above material, neatly separating it from the nine remaining interest coupons. Each coupon was redeemable for “$40/100” (40 cents) and carried the date of redemption, the serial number of the bond, a stamped signature of “O Basham” and the reminder that this was a “WAR BOND”. The back of the bond, as with most documents of this era, was left blank. This interesting and historic document measures approximately 5.75 x 8.75 inches and would frame nicely with an Arkansas Treasury Warrant.
Oliver Basham was born in Tazewell County, Virginia on April 12, 1820. Cursory research seems to indicate that he was elected State Treasurer of Arkansas in 1860, though his actual term is listed as February 2, 1861 through April 18, 1864. It is noted that during the early part of this period, Basham served as a captain in Company C, 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles. Research also indicates that he served as lieutenant colonel of the 7th Arkansas Cavalry, presumably from the time the regiment was formed in July, 1863. He was killed in action on September 27, 1864 at the battle of Pilot Knob during General Sterling Price’s Missouri Raid (research gives two dates for his death, September 23 or 27, though the latter is probably correct). He is buried in the Rebel Cemetery in Iron County, Missouri.
Similar to many financial documents of the era, the presently offered piece exhibits signs of period use and long term storage. Minor toning is present across the entire surface, somewhat darker along the center horizontal fold and at the top edge of the piece. The toning along the top has slightly weakened the top edge, thereby causing it to bend and fray. Upon examination, numerous folds can be seen throughout the design, though other than the aforementioned center horizontal fold, these are not heavily toned or soiled. Several short tears are noted along the top and left edges, strengthened on the back with archival tape. As one can see from the illustration, when the first coupon was redeemed, the individual who removed it did not cut it from the bond without damaging the next coupon and the border surrounding the principal instrument. The contrast is sharp and bold, with the red being particularly eye-catching. This piece actually looks much better than it sounds, with most of the imperfections being small and easily hidden if the bond was matted and framed. As mentioned earlier, this bond would look great framed with a treasury warrant, especially one of the blue varieties.