Tim Nutt is the interim head of special collections and more at the University of Arkansas Libraries in Fayetteville. Previously, he served as the founding managing editor and staff historian of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture and has been an Arkansas history fanatic since he was 16. Arkansavvy runs every first and third week of the month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAYETTEVILLE — Last year marked the sesquicentennial — or 150 years — of the anniversary of beginning of the Civil War. Commemorative celebrations at battlefields in Arkansas and beyond continue in 2012.
After Abraham Lincoln’s election as President in 1860, South Carolina and six other Southern states passed legislation seceding from the United States. In January 1861, then-Arkansas Gov. Henry Massie Rector called an election to decide whether a convention to decide the question of secession was needed. The election results were favorable, and the convention was held at the Old State House in Little Rock in early March.
It became evident at the convention that the sentiment was to take a wait-and-see attitude rather than rush into secession.
After Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12, 1861, President Lincoln appealed to the states, including Arkansas, for troops to defend the Union. Gov. Rector refused and the secession convention was hastily reconvened. On May 6, another vote of secession was taken in the Old State House, and it overwhelming passed, with only one nay vote cast. Arkansas was formally admitted into the Confederate States of America on May 20, 1861.
While the state did not see devastating battles like Antietam and Gettysburg, it did see its share of ferocious battles—including Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, as well as smaller skirmishes. A rough estimate is that more than 3,700 Arkansans died in the conflict.
This edition of “Are You Arkansavvy” highlights Arkansas’ Civil War history. See how well you know this aspect of the state’s history.
1. This iconic home in Fayetteville served as headquarters for both the Union and Confederates forces during the Civil War.
2. This man from Northwest Arkansas was the lone dissenter against secession from the Union during the state’s Secession Convention in 1861.
3 This small southwest Arkansas town became the Confederate state capital after the capture of Little Rock by Union forces in 1863.
4. Hanged in Little Rock as a Confederate spy in 1864, this young man’s legend has grown and earned him the title “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.”
5. Two of these events, reuniting Johnny Rebs, were held in Arkansas. The first was held 50 years after the beginning of the Civil War, and the second in 1928.
6. This Arkansas general was known as the “Stonewall Jackson of the West.”
7. Although this Northeastern Arkansas town did not see a battle during the War, it nevertheless was occupied by Union and Confederate forces because of its strategic position on two rivers.
8. This engagement in Southwestern Arkansas between Union and Confederate troops resulted in the massacre of former slaves-turned soldiers.
9. Unionists in Northern Arkansas formed this organization to voice their opposition to the state’s secession.
10. This Masonic leader was placed in charge of Native American Confederate forces during the War.
1. Headquarters House (or Tebbetts House). Built by Judge Jonas Tebbetts in 1853. During the War, the Union Army took control of the house during its occupation of Fayetteville after the Battle of Prairie Grove in December 1862. At the Skirmish of Fayetteville in April 18, 1863, the house was badly-damaged. The Confederates took control of the city after the Union forces abandoned the city on April 24, 1863.
2. Isaac Murphy. Murphy came to Arkansas in 1834, to practice law and teach. Two years later, he was elected Washington County treasurer, a position he held until 1838. In 1846, Murphy was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly and reelected in 1848. Around 1849, Murphy joined the exodus of other Arkansans seeking their fortunes in the California Gold Rush. In 1854, he returned to Arkansas, settling in Huntsville, Madison County. At the Arkansas Secession Convention, Murphy, a Unionist, cast the only vote against, despite pressure to make the vote to leave the Union unanimous. In 1864, Murphy was elected Union Governor of Arkansas and served until 1868.
3. Washington. After Little Rock fell in 1863 to the Union Army led by General Frederick Steele as part of his Arkansas Campaign, state leaders moved the state government to tiny Washington, in Hempstead County, where it remained until the end of the War. Visitors to Historic Washington State Park can still see the 1836 Hempstead County courthouse, which served as the Confederate Capitol building.
4. David O. Dodd. Dodd’s family moved to Little Rock in the 1850s, where young David briefly attended St. John’s College, which was located near the Little Rock Arsenal. He also worked as a clerk in the city’s telegraph office. After the capital city fell to Union forces in 1863, the Dodd family moved to Camden in Southern Arkansas. On Christmas Eve of the same year, the underage Dodd received a pass from the Confederates and was able to enter the Union-held Little Rock unmolested. On December 29, Dodd rode out of Little Rock and surrendered his pass to Union sentries, since he did not intend to return. On his way back to Camden, Dodd, once again, found himself behind Union lines, with only his birth certificate and a notebook filled with Morse code about Union operations and military strength. Dodd was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to execution for being a spy for the Confederacy. On January 8, 1864, David O. Dodd was hanged on the grounds of St. John’s College.
5. United Confederate Veterans Reunion. The UCV was formed in 1889 with the purpose of keeping the memory of those who fought for the Confederacy alive. To that end, the organization held annual events around the South. The 1911 reunion was held in Little Rock and drew an estimated 140,000 people, including 12,000 ex-Confederate soldiers. Until the night of Bill Clinton’s election to the presidency in 1992, the 1911 reunion was the largest event in Little Rock’s history. The capital city hosted a second (and much smaller) UCV reunion in 1928.
6. Patrick Cleburne. A native of Ireland, Cleburne moved to Helena in Southeastern Arkansas in the early 1850s and worked as a pharmacist. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Cleburne joined the local militia and worked his way up through the ranks eventually being commissioned as a Major General. He fought in many of the major battles of the Civil War, including ones at Shiloh, Perryville, and Chickamauga. Cleburne was known for his strategic use of terrain during the battles and earned the nickname “Stonewall Jackson of the West.” Confederate General Robert E. Lee referred to Cleburne as “"a meteor shining from a clouded sky". Cleburne was killed during the Battle of Franklin in 1864.
7. Jacksonport. Located near the confluence of the White and Black rivers, the port city of Jacksonport changed hands many times during the years of the Civil War. Its strategic position allowed both sides to control these two important waterways. Interestingly, though, it never hosted a battle or engagement. At the end of the Civil War, General Jeff Thompson—the Swamp Fox of the Confederacy—surrendered 5,000 Confederate troops at Jacksonport.
8. Engagement of Poison Spring. In 1864, Union General Frederick Steele led his forces south out of Little Rock as part of the larger Red River Campaign to secure northern Louisiana and eastern Texas. As Steele’s Army moved southward—in what became known as the Camden Expedition—it fought a number of battles against Confederates, including ones at Elkin’s Ferry and Prairie d’Ane before turning toward Camden in Ouachita County to look for needed supplies. About 18 miles from Camden, troops, including the First Kansas Colored Infantry, went into the countryside to gather corn. Confederate cavalry met the Union troops and engaged them in battle. The Federal forces eventually retreated, but the most disturbing part of this battle occurred after the retreat as the Confederates killed the wounded and captured soldiers of the First Kansas, which was comprised of former slaves from Arkansas and Missouri.
9. Arkansas Peace Society. The Society was actually a loose confederation of individual societies throughout northern Arkansas. Members were often referred to as “yellar rag boys” because of the display of a yellow rag or ribbon on the outside of their homes. The Unionists were either rounded up and sent to Little Rock on chain gangs or pressed into service. Logically, those forced into Confederate units often deserted soon after.
10. Albert Pike. A lawyer and influential Masonic leader, Pike was appointed Confederate envoy to Native Americans at the onset of the Civil War. In November 1861, Pike was commissioned as brigadier general overseeing Indian Territory. His forces fought at the Battle of Pea Ridge, at which his troops were accused of scalping and Pike, himself, was accused with mishandling of money and materials. Evidence was lacking for these charges, but upon an issuance for his arrest, Pike fled into the hills of Arkansas. While on the lam, he resigned from the Confederate Army. Later, he was captured and briefly imprisoned, but Pike was eventually released and released from the military. He died in Washington, D.C., in 1891.